Members of the Nueva Villahermosa Choir sing with the Adventist Deaf Ministries group of Tabasco, Mexico, during a performance of the opening ceremony of Inter-America’s Special Needs Ministries Congress, which opened in Villahermosa, Tabasco, June 26, 2019.  Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

June 27, 2019 | Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico | Libna Stevens/IAD

“When it comes to persons with special needs, how inclusive are we in our churches? Are we involved in their lives? Are we striving to expand God’s kingdom?” Those were just a few questions Inter-American Division President Pastor Elie Henry posed as he spoke to church leaders and delegates gathered for the Seventh-day Adventist’s opening session of its first Special Needs Ministries Congress, last night.  The event gathered more than 200 from across the IAD territory in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico, June 26, 2019.

“We have people here with different capabilities and you are here to strengthen this [special needs] ministry, because you’re important to us,” said Pastor Henry as he also addressed those hearing impaired, vision impaired and physically disabled delegates at the gathering.

Pastor Henry encouraged everyone to look at the life of Jesus and follow His example in dealing with all peoples. “If someone is in need, we have the ability to minister to that need,” said Pastor Henry, “and nothing should keep us from helping those in need. Jesus came and got involved in our lives, our broken lives, so must we with those with special needs.”

Inter-American Division President Pastor Elie Henry challenged leaders to cater to the needs of members and those in the community. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

At the core of the caring message as Christians is the fact that “we are all perfect in God’s eyes and we are all part of the family of God,” said Pastor Henry as he highlighted the theme of the congress: In God’s All Inclusive Kingdom, All are Gifted, Included.

Pastor Henry challenged union presidents, special needs ministries directors at union and conference levels as well as church members present to provide better accommodations in churches and schools. He encouraged them to include the disabled in the life of the church, build closer relationships and not just bring more awareness in their church territories but cater to the needs of members and those in the community.

“It is my vision to make our Division more inclusive and relevant to all our members,” said Pastor Henry. “We need to have a better church, a better home, a better life transformed by the love of Jesus who teaches us to welcome all those around us, to grow the family of God.”

Pastor Samuel Telemaque, special needs ministries director for the church in Inter-America encouraged congress delegates to make each church territory inclusive to all people with special needs. César Hernández, ADRA Mexico director translates. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

The four-day congress is about learning new knowledge, new skills and new attitudes, said Pastor Samuel Telemaque, special needs ministries director for the church in Inter-America and main organizer of the event.  “We want you to become an all inclusive union, all inclusive conference and all inclusive [local] church.”

That’s been the message resonating since the Special Needs Ministries was established in the IAD in 2014.

“Through this congress, we want to assess the needs and challenges of persons with disabilities in our churches and communities,” said Telemaque, “so every delegate needs to think critically about appropriate interventions to assist persons with disabilities.”

An interpreter signs to a group of hearing impaired individuals. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

The opening program saw many of the delegates with special needs take part in musical presentations, prayer, and more.

Church leaders and all delegates were presented with a Special Needs Ministries pin by Dr. Larry Evans, special needs ministries director for the Adventist world church, as a challenge and commitment to expanding the ministries throughout Inter-America.

The rest of week will feature speakers from the Adventist world church, experts, seminar presenters, special forums and more.

To learn more about Inter-America’s Special Needs Ministries Congress, visit us at interamerica.org

Hans Ponte, executive secretary for the church in the Dutch Caribbean Union, hugs Carlos Mario Perez of Tabasco after placing a pin on him during the opening ceremony. Perez is one of the many hearing impaired celebrated during the congress. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

View the opening ceremony in English and Spanish HERE

To see a photo gallery of the event, Click HERE

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