June 6, 2014 – Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico…Libna Stevens/IAD
With a smile on his lips and twinkle in his eyes, Emilio De Leon wears a medal around his neck. That medal suspended by blue ribbon represents the 39 years that De Leon has carried a passion for sharing the gospel.
A native of Guatemala, De Leon, 69, was among hundreds of literature evangelists who were honored and celebrated during Inter-America’s territory-wide Literature Evangelist Congress, held in Riviera Maya, Quintana Roo, Mexico, May 28-31, 2014.
“Canvassing is a special work that God has given us to do,” said De Leon. He has lived in the same town of San Marcos, in the western part of Guatemala, and has dozens of clients to whom he sells books. He visits schools, municipalities and offices throughout the week and studies with clients who want to know more about the Bible.
“It’s not about selling books,” said De Leon, who put his three daughters thru school canvassing–or selling books, prepared by the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s publishing houses. “It’s a work that can only be effective when you dedicate your life to God and commit to a missionary endeavor that prepares others for heaven,” he added.
“I’m not a preacher,” said De Leon. “I befriend people, show them books that can help supply physical, moral and spiritual needs and then build a relationship and check in on them weekly and or monthly.”
De Leon said every opportunity to share hope and the truths of the Bible is a miracle from God, every single time, he said. During the past year, De Leon has brought eight new members into the church, and more than 80 in his lifetime as a literature evangelist.
According to church leaders, De Leon is a classic example of what a literature evangelist should be: a committed disciple who shares the good news of the gospel with special missionary opportunities and the same mission a minister has of shepherding his flock.
During the four-day conference top Inter-American Division (IAD) church leaders unveiled the new publishing ministry structure, which will benefit literature evangelists across the territory.
Themed “Sent to Save,” the conference sought to inspire literature evangelists to take hope to each home, each enterprise, each school, and everywhere in between.
“We have come up with plans that will show literature evangelists that their work of canvassing goes hand-in-hand with the work of ministers,” said Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America as he addressed the delegation.
Literature evangelists who meet certain criteria under the new policy will be able to enjoy educational allowance for their children, get assistance for medical expenses, receive retirement benefits and more, declared Pastor Leito.
The new publishing ministry policy comes as a result of a two-year in-depth study set in motion after top IAD church leaders visited each church region to study regional needs, look at financial possibilities, and vote approval by executive committee members, said Pastor Leito.
“We saw a great need to strengthen our literature evangelists in our publishing ministries,” said Pastor Leito.
Two decades ago, the individual church regions oversaw the benefits of literature evangelists, but this did not strengthen the publishing ministry, said Leito. The number of literature evangelists actually decreased by the hundreds compared to decades before.
“The work of our literature evangelists is just as important as that of our ministers because they carry hope where ministers cannot, so we committed to unifying funds and policies to be effective throughout our Division,” said Pastor Leito.
The new policy goes in effect this year and includes stronger management by Inter-America’s two publishing houses, IAD Publishing House and GEMA Editorials. Both publishing houses shared new resources available in their online catalogues.
Pastor Erwin Gonzalez, publishing ministries director for the church in Inter-America, unveiled the comprehensive study and the revamping of the department and its plans for the coming years.
“It is a new day for the church members in Inter-America to spread hope through publications,” said Pastor Gonzalez. “You are an integral part of fulfilling the mission of the church, for the gospel entered in most of our countries in the IAD through publications and continue so until the Lord comes,” said Gonzalez.
In his comparative report, Pastor Gonzalez showed how the church has some 3,200 pastors and only some 2,700 full time literature evangelists to a 3.6 million membership worshipping in 11,645 churches and 8,000 more congregations.
“Our dream and vision is to reach more than 15,000,” said Gonzalez. To reach that, Gonzalez challenged leaders and literature evangelists to double their efforts in recruiting other members to do canvassing and ensure that at every level there is a publishing ministry director and one literature evangelist down to each church and congregation.
“We want our church membership to be fed and encouraged by our publications, not only those who don’t know the wonderful life in Jesus,” said Pastor Gonzalez.
Plans are for publishing councils to train publishing directors and strengthen literature evangelists to seek out and train new ones and consolidate Adventist universities on providing training for student literature evangelists that can fund their schooling.
“We seek a new generation of literature evangelists, mission oriented and professional that will be ministers of the printed page,” challenged Gonzalez.
Adventist World Church Publishing Ministries Director Pastor Howard Faigao, congratulated the delegation for being part of the 50,000 literature evangelists across the world church. Pastor Faigao challenged them “to maintain a constant communion with God, trust in His promises, stay strong and of good courage and remain committed to God’s calling and mission of spreading hope everywhere you go.”
“We want to increase the number of literature evangelists around the world, and we need your help,” said Pastor Faigao, as he announced that 2014 has been declared the Year of the Literature Evangelist across the world church.
During the congress, Elva Corina Morales of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union was honored for being the literature evangelist with the most sales of US$240,000 in 2013 across Inter-America. Octavius Saintel of the Haitian Union was recognized for bringing more than 600 new members into the church through his literature evangelism ministries in one year. Sebastian Marquez Luna of the Southeast Mexican Union was recognized for recruiting 36 literature evangelists in a single year.
In addition, Pastors Ricardo Rodriguez, Mirto Presentacion, and Horacio Taracena, accompanied by their spouses, were honored for their leadership in strengthening the publishing ministry in Inter-America during the past 30 years.
Hundreds of literature evangelists, ranging from five to forty years of service, were decorated with special medals and pins for their years of service.
Literature evangelists and church administrators were reminded of their role of publications in the time of the end, taught advanced techniques of canvassing, were given tools to keep motivated in connecting with potential clients and more during the congress.
IAD leaders are excited and confident that literature evangelists will multiply from an army of 5,000 to more than 15,000, ensuring that every church and congregation across Inter-America becomes active in sharing God’s love and hope in every corner of the territory.
“We are here as a church because the printed page entered our territory, and we are here so the work can end with the publishing ministry,” said Pastor Gonzalez.
To view a photo gallery of Inter-America’s Literature Evangelist Congress, click HERE
To view video reports of the four-day event, click HERE