Growing up, Paola Mora Zepeda had a zest for Jesus and an eagerness to publicly express her beliefs.
“I was always ready to stand up for the invitation of baptism or for the opportunity for someone to pray for my spiritual life,” Zepeda said.
However, as she grew older, she found herself responding to appeals less and less. Then, a spring break trip gave her a new perspective. In March 2019, as a second-year digital broadcast student at Southern Adventist University (SAU) in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States, she went on a trip to the Dominican Republic with SAU’s Evangelistic Resource Center (ERC).
When she learned that she was supposed to make spiritual appeals every night during the sermons she was scheduled to give, Zepeda became frustrated. But a conversation with the local pastor of her host church helped her see things differently.
“He told me, ‘When you call people, you are tugging at their hearts to make a decision. Little by little, the heart of the person is being opened so that Jesus may enter,’” Zepeda said. “This conversation changed everything for me.”
On her final Sabbath preaching, she silently prayed that the Lord would touch the heart of someone during her last appeal.
“As an answer to my prayer, a visitor — one who had come to every meeting but who had never responded to the appeals — walked to the front,” Zepeda said. “God had been working on her heart that whole week, and after many appeals, she was finally ready to accept Jesus.”
About the Evangelistic Resource Center
Every year, thousands of individuals surrender their hearts to God through the work of ERC participants. This volunteer evangelistic program gives students at SAU the opportunity to share their faith and connect with people around the world, leaders said.
“Since the program’s beginning in 2001, more than 1,300 students have participated, and at least 32,000 individuals have been baptized,” they emphasized.
ERC coordinator Raul Rivero gives God all the credit for the amazing work that takes place on these trips.
“It’s not because of what we do,” Rivero said. “We just participate in what God is already doing in the local churches.”
For Samuel Nzoikorera, senior theology major at Southern, the highlight of an ERC trip to Zimbabwe that he joined last year was witnessing how much baptisms are celebrated in that country.
“Following our meetings, I had five people who were going to be baptized, and I thought that it would be just a handful of people at the event,” Nzoikorera said. “But, when we arrived at the baptismal site, I was shocked to see a sea of people coming to support those who were going to be baptized — at least 2,000 people. I had never seen such a celebration of baptism. My soul leaps for joy for such an experience!”
Public College Students Too
SAU students from all majors have been blessed through the ERC trips, leaders said. Now more individuals will have this opportunity, as the Georgia-Cumberland Conference’s Adventist Christian Fellowship (ACF) has recently partnered with the university.
“Adventist students attending public colleges within the conference will have the chance to receive a subsidy and participate in what God is doing through these evangelistic trips,” they said.