The Seventh-day Adventist world church is teaming up with ASI to build 1,000 churches to accommodate the nearly 100,000 people baptized during recent evangelistic meetings in Rwanda — and it wants your help.
Total Member Involvement — the active participation of church members in sharing Jesus with their neighbors — has been credited for the historic number of baptisms in Rwanda. Now Adventists worldwide can help retain the new members by getting involved in providing them with places to worship, said Duane McKey, a key organizer of the May 13-28 evangelistic meetings.
“After having almost 100,000 baptisms, the best thing that the world church can do to help guarantee retention is to help provide new members with church homes,” said McKey, who oversees the world church’s Total Member Involvement program as a special assistant to the president of the Adventist Church.
McKey said it costs $3,000 to manufacture and ship a One-Day Church kit to Rwanda from the United States. In Rwanda, the churches will be assembled by a team of experts from neighboring Uganda. ASI, or Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries, which helped create the popular One-Day Church in 2008, will cover the expenses on the ground.
“Church members, churches, or Sabbath School classes around the world can build a One-Day Church for a donation of $3,000,” McKey said. “People can donate any part of this amount: half a church, a third of a church, and so on.”
Hesron R. Byilingiro, president of the Adventist Church in Rwanda, said the plan was to have no more than 300 members in each new church.
“I want to appeal to everybody who is part of the family of God to support us in any way fit,” he said Wednesday.
Byilingiro said the new church buildings were among many ways that the church was looking to retain new members. He said local church leaders met right after the final Sabbath of the evangelistic meetings, on May 31, to draft initiatives to make sure new members could be part of church activities and to integrate them in youth programs, women's ministries, and personal ministries. Pastors and church elders were chosen to teach new members more about the Bible and Adventist doctrines.
The new churches, however, will be a godsend, church leaders said. A One-Day Church kit fits in the back of a pickup truck and can be assembled in less than a day. The kit contains parts that are often the most expensive and difficult for a local congregation to secure — a galvanized steel frame that withstands termites, rust, heat and Class-3 hurricanes, and a vented roof. Local church members are responsible for installing the walls, windows, doors, and floor.
In Rwanda, each newly built church will be presented with ASI “New Beginnings” DVD sermons as well as DVD players, generators, and projectors from last month’s evangelistic meetings, allowing it to continue the momentum by leading its own meetings, McKey said.
“It will not be long until the church will be more than full,” he said. “The motto in Rwanda is: ‘Each one, reach one, lose none, disciple all.’ This is what Total Member Involvement is all about. Total Member Involvement is about God’s people everywhere being involved everywhere, all doing something, including in Rwanda.”
Speakers who led last month’s evangelistic meetings at 2,227 sites across Rwanda said they saw a desperate need for new church buildings.
“On the day of the baptism in the Galilea church in Karongi, members filled the seats, overflowed outside, and huddled around windows, peering in on the happenings inside,” said Jackie O. Smith, a speaker in Rwanda, who works as assistant director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries for the Adventist world church.
“Others outside could only listen to what was happening via the loud speakers,” she said. “Meanwhile, inside, baptismal candidates were standing in the isles, crowded from front to back. Some stood for two hours or more until they reached the baptismal tank in the front of the church, and then walked outside after being baptized because there was no room inside.”
Smith said the newly baptized members more than doubled the membership in her church.
“Just in that area alone, they could use two to three more churches,” she said.
Nancy Costa, who led outdoor meetings at the bottom of a hill in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, said she was astonished to enter the Kabusunzu church at the top of the hill one day and find that the baptismal candidates filled half the sanctuary.
That led to seating problems on the final Sabbath, when the congregation met in the church for the baptisms.
“On Sabbath they brought all the benches from the preaching site and lined them up on the lawn outside the church so that the overflow could sit outside and listen through the open windows,” said Costa, administrative assistant to McKey. “They were also crammed inside the church. No comfortable seating, just packed like sardines.”
Churches were filled tightly again last Sabbath as more people were baptized, bringing the total number of baptisms connected to the evangelistic meetings to 98,298, church leaders said Wednesday. Now the Adventist Church has more than 818,000 members in Rwanda.
Every local church turned last Sabbath into a celebration day to welcome and integrate new members and to thank church members for faithfully maintaining so-called TMI lists of people whom they wanted to see baptized.
Jean Baptiste Niyonzima, director of evangelism and Adventist Mission for the Adventist Church in Rwanda, spoke of witnessing a celebratory atmosphere in the Matahiro church, which gained 316 members, in the East Rwanda Field.
“One woman, Chantal Kakuze, was so excited to have 11 adults on her list get baptized,” he said.
New members also shared their testimonies, and it turned out that many of them had led people to baptism on the same day that they themselves had been baptized, Niyonzima said.
“Really it’s harvest time,” he said.
Adventist leaders said the church was witnessing an unprecedented time in Earth’s history when the Holy Spirit was being poured out ahead of Jesus’ Second Coming.
“This has never happened before anywhere in the world field to this great extent,” McKey said. “The Holy Spirit was poured out and and God blessed. Praise God for what He has done!”
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