The Inter-American Division (IAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church began the new year with dedicatory services praising God for his faithfulness and blessings over the decades since the region was officially organized in 1922.
The series of events, which kicked off centenary celebrations coming months, took place on January 8, 2022, across the region.
Thanksgiving services saw leaders and members committing to strengthen their gospel sharing efforts in every country, island, city, town and community.
South of Mexico
In Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico, more than 800 church leaders, pastors, laity and youth gathered at the church’s convention center to pray, worship and launch a slate of discipleship, evangelism and community outreach planned for the coming months.
IAD President Elie Henry praised the dedicated work of faithful members in Chiapas and throughout the territory and remembered the early missionaries who passionately shared the gospel wherever they went.
“We have seen how God has blessed His work throughout Inter-America, from 8,000 members when the division was organized in 1922, to millions today,” Henry said. “It has been tremendous growth, and we know that millions have been able to hear the Word of God because of his grace and the dedicated men and women who tirelessly spread the love of Jesus.”
From the day the DIA was organized in May 1922 by official vote of the then Adventist world church body, the church’s headquarters was located in Panama from 1922 to 1943, Henry said. The division then had to move to Cuba (1943-1946), but soon after had to move to Miami, Florida, USA, where it remains today. “There have been turbulent times that the church has been through, but God has continued to guide the church, and we just want to reflect on the greatness of God,” Henry said.
Every church member should be involved in completing the work of spreading the gospel in the region, he stressed.
Reach every corner
“I want the church to reach every corner of the territory to announce that Jesus is coming soon,” Henry said.
It was important that the territory be organized as a division to better penetrate the vast region with the gospel, Henry noted. “It’s been over 100 years since we preached the gospel.”
For hundreds of pastors and lay members, doubling their evangelistic efforts to reach every mountain peak, valley and field in Chiapas will have to involve each of its more than 270,000 church members, Ignacio Navarro, president of the Conference of the Mexican Union of Chiapas (CMUC) of the Adventist Church, said. Leaders, department heads, and directors of ministries gathered at the Adventist Church’s convention center, where each of the eight conferences in the CMUC territory has engaged in this task. The church has defined initiatives for each quarter of the year: the first two quarters led by lay people, the third quarter by women’s and children’s ministries and the fourth by youth ministries.
“We want there to be an ongoing evangelistic program throughout the year,” Navarro said. “We want to involve every member and use all possible resources to help with Bible studies and missionary impact days, using all available technology and social media to spread the gospel, as well as focus our financial resources on the accomplishment of the mission.”
The initiatives in Chiapas are only part of coordinated efforts across unions, or major church regions, in Mexico, including unions in the North, Inter-Oceanic, Central and Southeast Mexico. This year will end with a nationwide evangelistic campaign to expand the church in the coming months.
Elsewhere across the IAD, churches took part in similar dedication services to praise God and solidify missionary initiatives across the territory.
In Haiti, local administrators and leaders celebrated the centennial by praising God for His providence and the growth of the church since the Adventist message reached the northern part of the island in the 1890s.
Leaders opened a brand new temple where one of its first Adventist churches was organized in northern Haiti. The dedication of the new Fournier Seventh-day Adventist Church saw more than 400 members and civic leaders gather for a ceremony of praise and worship on Jan. 8, commemorating the construction of the first church more than 106 years ago. .
In Cuba, hundreds of leaders and members gathered to participate in centennial celebrations at El Cerro Adventist Church in Havana, built more than 106 years ago. The congregation worshiped and praised God for the support and growth of the church on the island and encouraged its members to share the message of hope more intensely this year.
Leaders aim to reach more than 3,000 people with the gospel message this year. “We normally baptize about 2,500 people a year without a pandemic,” said Anoldis Matos, personal ministries director for the church in Cuba. “It might be a challenge for us in the midst of some difficulties, but we believe we can achieve this goal with the help of the Lord.”
Church leaders in Guatemala celebrated with an online service focused on God’s providence in the IAD and the growth of the Church since 1894 in the Central American country. Leaders began with spiritual revival activities, engaging members in 10 Days of Prayer, 40 Mornings of Prayer, and holding leadership meetings. Pastors, church elders and local leaders have pledged to train 50,000 members so they can reach at least one person for Jesus by 2022.
The global initiative is part of the local churches’ 100,000 Disciples for Jesus initiative, among other evangelistic campaigns planned for the coming months.
In the Western Venezuela Adventist Church Union, more than 1,200 members gathered in Valencia, Carabobo state, to celebrate the IAD’s centennial and launch its I Will Go mission initiatives. The church seeks to involve more than 171,000 members across the region this year.
Leaders plan to strengthen small group ministries, strengthen evangelism projects through social media, and ensure that each project is mission-focused.
Church leaders in Jamaica also joined in the day’s centenary celebration, challenging its more than 330,000 church members to focus on making more disciples in a busy year. dozens of evangelistic campaigns across the island. Two dozen members came to Kencot Adventist Church in Kingston to worship, praise and pray during the live-streamed Sabbath service.
Other major regions and islands joined in the start of the centenary commemorative celebrations this year.
The Inter-American Division oversees the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and the French West Indies, as well as Colombia and Venezuela. The DIA and its organizations serve thousands of churches and hundreds of schools, universities, hospitals and clinics.
Uriel Castellanos, Auguste Richner, Dayamí Rodríguez, Gustavo Menéndez, Moisés Aponte and Nigel Coke contributed to this report.