After six weeks of online spiritual messages hosted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Jamaica, a total of 4,213 persons joined the church through baptism across the Inter-American Division (IAD).
The Footprints of Hope Online Evangelistic Series, which featured keynote speaker and evangelist Glen O. Samuels, was possible thanks to coordinated efforts by evangelism teams on the ground throughout the English-speaking regions of the IAD. It is a territory that includes the church regions of Jamaica, the Atlantic Caribbean, the Caribbean, the Dutch Caribbean, and Belize.
“Breaking the Evangelistic Glass Ceiling”
“The Holy Spirit has broken the evangelistic glass ceiling in many ways through intercessory prayer, the finest technical team, and a global audience and baptisms,” Samuel Telemaque, Sabbath School and Adventist Mission director for the church in Inter-America and main coordinator of the Footprints of Hope Online Evangelistic Series, said. The online series was the first among five online regional campaigns that are grouping Inter-America’s 24 unions for collaborative, integrated evangelistic efforts this year, as the IAD celebrates 100 years since it was established as an organized division territory.
From January 15 to February 25, 2022, thousands from across the Caribbean, Central America, North America, Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world watched and listened via YouTube, Facebook, and other social media platforms; free-to-air television; cable; radio; and HopeBeyond.net as Samuels spoke.
Believers Traveling to Jamaica for Baptism
One of the hundreds baptized on the final day of the series on February 26 was 86-year-old Maudlyn Linton-Young, who flew from Tampa, Florida, United States, to get baptized.
“What prompted me to come down was Reverend Glen O. Samuels,” Linton-Young said. “This ‘Glen O,’ as my grand-niece calls him, can preach, and he would tell where to find everything in the Bible, and I would write it down and read it the next day,” she said.
It was a watershed experience for the church, said Everett Brown, president of the church in Jamaica and chair of the planning committee for the online series.
“I will remember this campaign for the more than 4,000 baptisms, the efficient and effective utilization of technology in soul winning, the synergy that existed between the leadership and members of the unions in the planning and execution of the series, and the powerful Bible-based preaching of evangelist Glen Samuels,” Brown said. The campaign resulted in 2,267 baptisms in Jamaica. “Indeed, the evangelistic glass ceiling was broken in many areas and, going forward, the way we do public evangelism will never be the same again,” he said.
Committed Work of Digital Bible Workers
Hundreds of Bible workers coined as Digital Bible Workers (DBW) ensured that those who called for prayer, counseling, or baptism were reached every evening during the series. One such person was Shorna Myrie, an elder at the Salem Adventist Church in Montego Bay, who, along with her fellow DBWs, was able to assist 60 persons to baptism.
“I was privileged to serve as a DBW,” Myrie said. Her duty was to respond to telephone calls and requests in the chat rooms. “Persons would call for prayer, and most requests were health issues or for them to recommit to the Lord,” she said. “The lines were especially busy during the sermon and appeal.
Calls came in from all over the world, and in some cases Myrie and her teammate attempted to locate pastors from different countries and locations to arrange for baptism, she explained. “One lady from Connecticut [United States] brought her 13-year-old son to Jamaica for baptism,” Myrie said. “It was quite a rewarding experience.” She learned that persons want to connect with persons who are caring, patient, and have a knowledge of the Bible.
Stefan Murray, an engineer from Kingston, Jamaica, was baptized on February 12, despite the emotional challenge he had of hearing the news that his wife had lost their baby on that same Sabbath morning. When asked what gave him the courage to get baptized, he said, “I realized that I would need extra strength. I would need something else to fight. I may not know what is happening, but I am trusting Him [God].”
Impact Throughout Other Unions
In the Caribbean Union territory, 913 persons were baptized during the online series. Dozens of churches featured the evening programs, and more watched from their home.
“The impact of the evangelistic series will surely bring more interested persons to study the Bible,” Royston Philbert, ministerial association secretary for the church in the North Caribbean Conference, said. Fifty-six new believers joined the church last month when the series ended, but many more are approaching the churches in St. Croix (U.S. Virgin Islands) and nine other islands in the conference. “Just last Sabbath, after church a couple who had been viewing the series came and indicated their desire to be baptized,” he said. “We are going to be baptizing more and more people long after the series because of the impact of the series on their lives.”
In the Atlantic Caribbean Union, which comprises The Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos, 512 joined the church during the online evangelistic series.
“For us the idea of taking part in the Footprints of Hope series was quickly accepted by the leadership throughout the union,” Peter Kerr, president of the church in the Atlantic Caribbean, said. Church leaders in the Atlantic Caribbean Union had planned on taking part in an evangelistic campaign online for their entire territory months before the idea was presented for the Footprints of Hope series, Kerr explained.
“It was very easy for us to quickly transition and coordinate efforts on the ground and with the other unions,” he said. Church leaders and members united efforts; held prayer vigils, seasons of prayer, and intercessory prayer groups early in the morning during the series; and held extended periods for the appeal every evening at local churches after Samuels made his appeal. “The [online] campaign provided opportunities for unity in some areas that members had never seen at this level,” Kerr said. Church leaders and laypersons were active in doing visitations and praying for people in many communities unreached before, he said.
A Model to Follow
For Kerr and his team of ministers and leaders, the online series was a brilliant idea. “This is a model that needs to be followed on a regular basis at least once a year,” they said.
In the Belize Union, 405 persons were baptized during the series, and pastors across the Central American country are still baptizing persons weeks after it concluded. The success of the online series drove church leaders in the South West Belize Mission to organize a team of 10 local pastors to hold a two-week-long in-person evangelistic series through specific churches and communities where there is no Adventist presence. “We had members and visitors watching at churches, at marketplaces, and our pastors were busy Sabbath after Sabbath baptizing so many people,” Appleton Carr, president of the church in South West Belize Mission, said.
“We are continuing with the same Footprints of Hope theme in some of the most remote areas in the deep south close to the border with Guatemala where we have many Spanish-speaking persons,” Carr said. The series has fostered a renewed enthusiasm among local pastors and laypersons to double their efforts in spreading the gospel further. “Rallying the pastors together to join the online series was the key to so many joining the church,” he said. Thirty-nine new members joined the church in the South West Belize Mission in February.
The success of the Footprints of Hope Online Evangelistic Series is evident, Telemaque said. “God helped complete the first-ever six-week series organized in Inter-America with a harvest of more than 4,000 precious [people] and sustained the largest movement of intercessory prayer warriors during the entire six-week period and beyond,” he said. “With God’s help, we were able to create a new paradigm of evangelism in the English-speaking unions.” Training for retention and reconciliation of the new members has already begun online.
Additional regional online evangelistic campaigns in the IAD are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks and months in Central America, the Spanish-speaking islands in the Caribbean, Mexico, and French-speaking territories, leaders said.