Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist laypersons and leaders across the Caribbean Union and the Inter-American Division territory gathered for the opening night of the church’s Festival of Cross Cultural Mission on Aug. 8, 2018, in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Delegates will learn to better understand how they can reach the growing multi-cultural groups in their communities during the coming three days. Photo by Curtis Henry/IAD

August 9, 2018 | Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago | Royston Philbert/IAD Staff

Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist laypersons and leaders across the English Caribbean and throughout the church in the Inter-American Division (IAD) gathered for the very first Festival of Cross-Cultural Missions to better understand how to reach the growing multi-cultural groups spread throughout the vast territory. The historic event brought more than 600 church planters, pastors and volunteer lay people to take in the historic opening ceremony in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

“We want to challenge you not to focus on traditional evangelism only, but appreciate the diversity of our cultures and share Jesus to them,” said Pastor Samuel Telemaque, director for the Office of Adventist Mission for the church in Inter-America and main organizer of the event.

Themed “Celebrating the Past, Reaching All People for Christ,” the four-day conference is aimed at exposing leaders to the transforming power of lay involvement in evangelism, inspiring missionary enthusiasts to continue sharing Christ by developing meaningful interaction and respect for people of all socio-economic backgrounds and religious persuasions, and teaching delegates how to effectively cross barriers and establish centres of love, according to Telemaque.

Pastor Samuel Telemaque (center), director of Adventist Mission for Inter-America opens the festival session Aug. 8, 2018. Photo by Curtis Henry/IAD

The conference was meant to pair up with the Caribbean Union territory’s more than 500 lay preachers for a Festival of the Laity training as well.

“You are the greatest and most valuable asset the church has, to transform lives,” said Dr. Kern Tobias, president of the church in the Caribbean Union as he specifically addressed the lay delegates from the Caribbean region.  “We appreciate you and thank you for your hard work and sacrifice.”

The Honorable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, member of Parliament and Minister of Community Development Culture and Arts in the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, invited the delegates to explore the diversity around them and to allow “unconditional agape love” to thrive where they are.

Hundreds of delegates from across the Caribbean and Inter-America take in the sounds and sights during the opening ceremony at the University of Southern Caribbean.  Photo by Curtis Henry/IAD

“For too long, we have allowed race, religion and cultures to inhibit our development.  Discard labels and stigma that increase our sense of separation; never allow discrimination to override love for people,” said Gadsby-Dolly.

Pastor Telemaque believes that the seamless blending of these two unique activities has been positively affected by the diverse make-up of the Caribbean Union.  Dr. Tobias affirmed: “The reality is that people from different cultures, ethnicities, and languages are now living in close proximity to each other.

In the Guyana Conference, the church is confronted with numerous people groups so the church must find a way to confront the enormous challenge to reach the different groups for Christ, said Tobias.  “It is your attitude that will make the difference in reaching these people for Christ, so mingling with them can produce outstanding results.”

A young steel drum group plays during the opening ceremony. Photo by Curtis Henry/IAD

“What we do is for people and about people,” said Pastor Easton Marks, a pastor from the Northeastern Conference in New York, the United States. “A church that is invisible will have a hard time blessing and ministering to the influential and wealthy, many of whom work and reside across the territory of the IAD.”

Devon Carkoo, who is a delegate from Trinidad, said that he grew up in a Hindu community. “I sense the need now to reach out to them for their salvation.” Carkoo graduated this year with a bachelor’s of arts degree in theology and said attending the festival for is important as additional training on reaching people for Christ is important to his ministry.

Eliadis Fermin from of East Venezuela anticipates an impacting convention:  “It looks like we will have a great weekend,” he said.  “There is a church planting project in Venezuela and I am here to receive the training and impetus to face the challenge.”

A quarter from Venezuela sing a song during the opening event. Photo by Curtis Henry/IAD

God created diversity, said Telemaque. “The need of enlisting lay missionaries who are skilled, dedicated, faithful and passionate about the mission of the church, and desire to be equipped, is paramount in our minds, and this conference will deepen the missionary spirit around this vast territory in this division.”

Attendees will have the opportunity to tour some of the host nation’s religious, cultural and scenic sites and take part in seminars, presentations and networking among the delegation from across Inter-America.

The Festival will continue through Sabbath, Aug. 11, 2018.

To view a live stream of Inter-America’s Festival of Cross Cultural Missions, visit webcast.interamerica.org

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