January 11, 2016 | Havana, Cuba | Libna Stevens/IAD
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America officially launched its key strategic plans for Public Campus Ministries during a territory-wide congress of more than 700 university students, professionals and church leaders in Havana, Cuba, Dec. 18-21, 2015.
The four-day event was intended to provide leadership skills and training to hundreds of Adventist students studying in non-Adventist universities throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) to recommit their loyalty to God’s Word, become active disciples of Jesus and be transformed into missionaries on their campuses and in their communities.
Public campus ministries directors from IAD’s 150 unions and local fields as well as Adventist professionals also took in specialized leadership workshops during the congress, said Pastor Hiram Ruiz, public campus ministries for the church in Inter-America.
“There has been great need for a unified public campus ministries in our territory and this event was meant to set the tone, to be a turning point for this important ministry,” said Ruiz. “Our goal is to have more intentional work so that our students studying in non-Adventist campuses can be overseen by our local church leaders and professionals, and mobilized to impact their campuses and their communities.”
It’s a three-way partnership that will allow a successful public campus ministries said Ruiz. Students, under mentorship of professionals and spiritual leadership of their local church pastors and members, will have the kind of community impact that will open the door for sharing the hope of the gospel in this post-modern era, he said.
Public Campus Ministries Director for the Adventist World Church Jiwan Moon reminded delegates that community should be a main focus of their campus ministry.
“The [public] university is not going to come to the church, nor will the church will come to the university, our meeting point is the community,” said Moon. “You are to be ambassadors and messengers of the cross in your non-Adventist institutions, living the missionary spirit on your campuses.”
The goal is to create centers of influence on campuses that will go out into the community to share love, joy, and hope, church leaders said.
Part of that joy and love was shared as the hundreds traveling to Cuba took with them a suitcase full of clothes and toiletries to share with hundreds of Adventist students on the island.
“It was important to make of this summit a missionary event as well so we wanted our delegates to be part of benefiting another student in Cuba,” said Ruiz. Summit attendees also took a day to paint and fix, and improve dormitories at the Adventist Seminary in Havana. More than USD$7,000 were collected by the delegates to help remodel bathrooms and rooms in the dormitory on campus.
Cuba happened to be a perfect location to carry out the summit, added Ruiz. “Besides the small Adventist Seminary, Adventist students have no access to Adventist education on the island so bringing support, networking and fellowship to them was a real blessing,” explained Ruiz.
Seminars on how to survive in a secular world, how to testify without arguing, establishing new ministries on campus, how to keep faithful to Bible principles, how to preach the gospel, how to become a mentor, joining Adventist Volunteers Services and more, were taught during the congress.
Beatriz Frometa, a second year dentistry student in the southeast part of the island in Santiago de Cuba, said that learning that there are more than 1.5 million university students like her around the world was a real eye-opener. “This has brought me new hope because I’m not alone. I have learned new techniques on how to motivate others to want to know more about the Word of God.”
Learning how to influence others was a great lesson for Stefania Casa from Baja California in North Mexico. “I’ve learned how we can be on influence in our school, and to our friends, our peers and teachers about the love of God and how they too can learn of His grace,” said Casa.
Robert Soler, a literature professor at Marta Abreu Central University in Las Villas, in Santa Clara, Cuba, said the congress reinforced the need to strengthen the on-going ministry on campus he’s part of called University Adventist Youth (or Jovenes Adventistas Universitarios). The group has done many activities in the community, such as when they gave out free pizzas to the homeless in Las Villas. “That night we were able to share the love of Jesus with men and women who mostly live on the streets,” Soler added.
Establishing an ongoing ministry is what public campus ministries is all about and that’s what will make a difference, said Ruiz who has travelled every month since he was appointed in 2014 to get the word out.
“This ministry is here to stay,” stated Ruiz. “Long gone are the days when each union gathered their Adventist students studying in public campuses once a year for a get together for a few hours on a Sabbath,” said Ruiz. “We have a new direction, a permanent ministry in the church.”
That permanent ministry will consist of the challenge of getting every local church to get involved in ensuring support to those students, according to Ruiz. “Our young people need to be transformed into missionaries in their campuses.”
There are many regional campus ministries which have been running for many years, said Ruiz, but independently from others, but the plan ahead is to engage the church in the ongoing ministry.
The challenge lies ahead as every local church will now begin taking account of all its university students, and Adventist professionals that could team-up for mentoring them and working together to establish a center of influence on their campuses.
It’s a dream coming true, said Ruiz. That dream came from IAD President Pastor Israel Leito while he worked in what was then church ministries department at the Adventist World Church headquarters in 1989. Pastor Leito and then education director of the Adventist world church, Humberto Rasi, thought about the need of establishing a campus ministries for Adventist students who studied in public campuses.
Both leaders were honored for being visionaries of public campus ministries.
“You are a generation that God is training in this secular world,” said Pastor Leito. “Do not conform to the models this world. We have another model. God is calling you to be different, to shine your light where you are.”
For more information on Inter-America’s Public Campus Ministries Department, visit interamerica.org