October 25, 2022

More Than a Decade Focusing on Mission

The latest edition of the ‘I Will Go’ initiative gathered 5,000 missionary hopefuls.

Jefferson Paradello, South American Division, and Adventist Review
[Photo: South American Division News]

Braving hot temperatures, thousands of people arrived on the campus of Bahia Adventist College in Cachoeira, Bahia, Brazil, from October 19-22, 2022. Hailing from more than 50 countries, they came to the 2022 I Will Go convention with a common goal: to learn and share ways of better contributing to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Some among the thousands in attendance already had some kind of volunteer and missions experience from serving in other cultures. Others were taking their first steps to discover opportunities for using their gifts and talents to meet specific needs and talk about Jesus.

Miguel Mamani, a 24-year-old student from Bolivia, has been involved in several missionary projects in his country as well as in Argentina and Paraguay. For him, this event held a special meaning. “Mission is more than being in a specific location; it’s rather a lifestyle,” he says.

Mamani’s goal is to learn more about mission and get acquainted with the missionary projects the Adventist Church currently carries out across South America and around the world. He would also like to understand how he can be useful in his community and in other regions.

Student Clara Liz also saw in the program an opportunity to better serve others. “I have always enjoyed helping other people. When I found out about Maranatha [Volunteers International]’s projects on TV, it inspired me. I felt that I also wanted to do that,” she says. 

Liz, however, almost didn’t make it to the convention in Bahia. She was hesitant to attend after recently facing some personal challenges. “In the end, I decided to come because I want to help my neighbor, and I know I will find myself in this place” she says.

Heart to Hearts

The initiative that drew 5,000 people together in Bahia this year was born in the hearts of two young people who breathed mission. While studying medicine at River Plate Adventist University (UAP) in Argentina, Rigoberto Vidal and Daniel Hansen were leaders at the Mission Institute on campus. Their desire was to involve more students in mission activities, so mission service would become part of their academic and professional background.

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While completing a medical residency in the Philippines, Hensen met Lester Merklin, then world director of the Mission Institute, and shared how he would like the UAP to be more immersed in mission. His dream was that people would have the opportunity to attend training at the Mission Institute and return with knowledge that they could share with others. However, soon another idea came to mind: to provide the training on the university campus in Argentina itself.

In August 2010, Hensen and Vidal proposed a convention plan for university students who desired to enter the mission field. Their plan was discussed and approved. A year later, the first I Will Go convention took place in Argentina, with 700 participants. Two years later, they met again, and this time 1,000 participants attended.

In 2015, the convention took place at Brazil’s Adventist University in São Paulo, with 2,000 participants. Two years later, the convention returned to Argentina, and again was attended by 2,000 missionary hopefuls.

In 2019, more than 3,600 participants gathered in Peru for the convention. And in 2022, the event returned to Brazil, for the current edition.

To the Whole World

According to Stanley Arco, president of the Adventist Church in the region comprising eight countries in South America (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay), current generations are depositaries of a longstanding missionary spirit. In fact, the Adventist message arrived precisely because families were willing to leave their homeland to share what they had discovered, he says.

For Arco, Adventist institutions, especially teaching institutions, must train people to serve. “We have a debt with the world, and so we can’t just keep staring at ourselves. We need to make that hope reach other places, such as the 10/40 Window, China, and so many other places. We are forming a generation of professionals with a missionary focus,” Arco says. “We want these women and men to leave a legacy elsewhere and come back to influence locally.”

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Portuguese-language news site.