Miami, Florida, United States…[Libna Stevens/IAD]
The year 2006 brought many strides for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-American Division (IAD), becoming the driving force for the church for the next five years. Packed with events, the year was marked by evangelistic endeavors and initiatives resulting in several first-ever events and unprecedented successes, church leaders say.
One of the greatest accomplishments was the more than 200,000 new members added to the church in Inter-America, which brings total membership to nearly 3 million.
“This is the first time in our history that this division has baptized over 200,000 new members,” says Pastor Israel Leito, president for the church in Inter-America.
“We are happy for the way the Lord is leading, for it is not only in new conquests, but also the consolidation of the new members is showing promising results,” he adds.
“The work that is being done indicates the earnestness with which most leaders are considering the work at hand. The year 2006 has been another year to clarify the vision, and praise the Lord, this is happening,” Pastor Leito added.
That vision is part of the defining drive that set the pace early in the year for leaders throughout the IAD territory who attended the first-ever summit on launching IAD’s version of the Tell the World Evangelism Paradigm, set forth by the Adventist World Church for 2006-2010. The initiative focuses on church growth, unity and quality of life, all of which IAD leaders committed to improve.
A prayer and leadership conference was held in March for 400 Seventh-day Adventist leaders, pastors and lay representatives. The event was another first for the vast IAD territory. The attendees reviewed leadership practices and the effect they have on the church. They also underwent intensive leadership training for improving the spirituality of the church for stronger growth and consolidation.
A stronger growth became evident as church leaders from throughout the 15 regions of Inter-America reported more than 136,000 baptisms during the first quarter of the year. Never had the church in Inter-America reached such a number in such a short time, as it was reported during the IAD Executive Committee meetings held in May. For the first time in decades, two young people took part as new members of the executive committee at these meetings. Beginning in 2007 and on, three young people representing three different regions will become members for the year.
The launching of the first annual Mega Youth Sabbath in May at Montemorelos University in Mexico was an event that drew large viewership from hundreds of churches in Inter-America and was also viewed by more than 2,500 internet users. Special presenters included Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the Adventist World Church, and other Adventist World Church leaders who emphasized the role of young people in the mission of the church and their communities.
A new appreciation for literature evangelists was promoted as 50 of the top colporteurs of the last four years were awarded with an all-expenses paid trip to Italy. It was a way or recognizing their dedication and encouraging them to continue spreading the gospel through sharing God’s Word.
Reading God’s Word is what thousands of Adventist young people did to prepare for the third annual Youth Bible Bowl. Competitions were held in the summer throughout the territory until 15 finalists representing each IAD region were left. The final competition was held in November in Costa Rica, with prizes awarded to the top three winners, including a full scholarship and laptop computers. The Bible Bowl was begun in 2004 as a way of encouraging young people to study God’s Word.
Inter-America’s first Evangelism Field School gathered more than 100 top evangelists and pastors from throughout Inter-America to Panama City, Panama for a two-week evangelism training accompanied by massive evangelism crusades throughout the city. The field school was led by Pastor Mark Finley, vice president of the Adventist World Church. The crusades resulted in more than 4,500 people joining the Adventist church. Organizers expect greater results as more pastors and lay evangelists are trained in soul winning.
During Inter-America’s year-end meetings in late October, church administrators reported on the fast growth of the church and the high level of commitment the membership has demonstrated through tithing. During these meetings, a newly revised Spanish edition of the church manual for Inter-America was announced and will be printed and available throughout the territory in early 2007.
Regretfully, this year saw the death of two esteemed IAD leaders. Pastor Bender L. Archbold, former president of the IAD, passed away at the age of 92 in September. He was considered to be the father of vision and direction of the current church in Inter-America.
Pastor Ramon H. Maury, who served the IAD as teasurer for 20 years, died unexpectedly while in Mexico on Dec. 2. Pastor Maury was credited for the current financial stability the IAD now enjoys, and was instrumental in the organizational development in the territory.
As 2006 draws to a close, church leaders trust that the momentum of success will strengthen and continue into 2007 and beyond.
According to Pastor Leito, it’s important to concentrate on the near and distant future.
“The future is bright, but we must make sure that there is a generation of leaders to continue with the work. The year 2007 will see many activities to the end of promoting a stable and consecrated church,” he says.
“We began 2006 with great emphasize on prayer and leadership, and have not let up since,” he continues.
For these and more stories of news and events during 2006, visit us at www.interamerica.org.