The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-American Division (IAD) began the new year with consecration services praising God for His faithfulness and blessings during the decades since the region was officially organized in 1922. The event, which was one of many centennial celebrations, held on Jan. 8, 2022, saw leaders and members commit to solidifying efforts to sharing the gospel in every country, island, city, town and community.
In Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico, more than 800 church leaders, pastors, laypersons and young people gathered at the church’s Convention Center to pray, worship and launch a slate of discipleship, evangelism and community outreach events scheduled to take place in the months to come.Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America, praised the dedicated work of faithful members in Chiapas and throughout the territory, and pointed to the early missionaries who passionately shared the gospel wherever they went.
God’s providence in the territory
“We have seen how God has blessed His work throughout Inter-America, from 8,000 members when the division was organized in 1922, to millions today,” said Pastor Henry. “This has been extraordinary growth and we know that millions of people got to hear the Word of God thanks His grace and the dedicated men and women, who tirelessly spread the love of Jesus.”
From when the IAD was organized in May of 1922, by official vote from the body of the Adventist world church at the time, the church’s headquarters was established in Panama from 1922-1943, said Pastor Henry. The division had to then move to Cuba (1943-1946), but soon after had to move to Miami, Florida, United States, where it remains today. “There were some turbulent times that the church went through, but God continued guiding the church and we just want to reflect on how Great God is,” said Henry.Every church member needs to be involved in finishing the work of spreading the gospel across Inter-America, he said.
Reaching every corner of Inter-America
“I want the church to reach every corner of the territory to announce that Jesus is coming soon,” said Pastor Henry.
It was important for the territory to be organized as a division to better penetrate the vast region with the gospel, noted Pastor Henry. “It’s been more than 100 years since we have been preaching the gospel.”For hundreds of pastors and lay members, doubling their evangelism efforts to reach every mountain peak, valley, and field in Chiapas, will have to involve every one of its more than 270,000 church members, said Pastor Ignacio Navarro, president for the church in Chiapas, Mexico. Leaders, department heads, and ministries directors met at the Adventist Church’s Convention Center where each of the eight conferences committed to the task. The church has divided initiatives during each quarter of the year: the first two quarters led by laity, third quarter by women and children’s ministries, and the fourth by youth ministries.
“We want there to be a permanent evangelism program all year long,” said Navarro. “We want to involve every member and use every possible resource to assist in bible studies, and missionary impact days, using all technology and social media available to spread the gospel as well as focus our financial resources on the fulfilment of the mission.”
Initiatives in Chiapas are only part of coordinated efforts throughout the rest of the unions, or major regions in Mexico, such as the North, Inter-Oceanic, Central and Southeast Mexican Unions. This year will culminate in a nationwide evangelistic campaign to expand the church in the coming months.Local leaders went over specific strategies that will target training for laypersons, focus on bible studies, prayer and fasting activities.
Discipling and testifying everywhere
Pastor Henry addressed leaders and laypersons during his spiritual message focused on Joshua 8:30-35 in remembrance of God’s goodness and providence for the people of Israel, just as He has led the Adventist movement for over 100 years in Inter-America.
“God sent literature evangelists to difficult places during terrible times and there they went reaching out and preaching to others, and the church began to grow and He continued to protect those men and women who never ceased to preach,” said Pastor Henry. “God used school teachers to teach children about the present truth and the church continued to grow in its educational work.” In the same way, God used the medical work to grow the message throughout Inter-America, he added.“We must study the Word of God, teach others about this wonderful truth, discipling and testifying, committing to reaching more for Christ,” Pastor Henry said.
Celebrations across the territory
Elsewhere in Inter-America, churches took part in similar consecration services to praise God and solidify the mission initiatives across the territory.
In Haiti, administrators and local leaders celebrated along with Inter-America’s centennial celebration by praising God for His providence and growth of the church since the Adventist message reached the northern part of the island in the 1890s.
Leaders inaugurated a brand new temple on the spot where one of its first Adventist churches was organized in North Haiti. The dedication of the New Fournier Adventist Church saw more than 400 members and municipal leaders gather for a praise and worship ceremony on Jan. 8, commemorating the building of the first congregation more than 106 years ago.Intensifying efforts throughout unions
In Cuba, hundreds of leaders and members gathered to join centennial celebrations at the Adventist Church in El Cerro, in Havana, built more than 106 years ago. The congregation worshipped and praised God for sustaining and growing the church on the island and encourage its members to share the message of hope more intently this year.
Leaders are aiming to reach more than 3,000 persons with the gospel message this year. “We normally baptize some 2,500 annually without a pandemic,” said Pastor Anoldis Matos, personal ministries director for the church in Cuba. “This could be a challenge for us in the midst of certain difficulties, but we believe that we can reach that goal with the Lord’s help.”
In Guatemala, church leaders celebrated with an online service on God’s providence in Inter-America and the growth of the church since 1894 in the Central American country. Leaders began with spiritual revival activities engaging members in ten days of prayer, 40 mornings of prayer and holding leadership meetings where pastors, as well as elders and local leaders discipling 50,000 members to disciple at least one person for Jesus in 2022. The comprehensive initiative is part of the local church’s recruiting 100,000 Disciples for Jesus initiative, among other evangelistic campaigns scheduled in the coming months.In West Venezuela Union, more than 1,200 members gathered in the city of Valencia, in the Carabobo State, to celebrate the church in Inter-America and launch its I Will Go mission initiatives. The church is seeking to involve its more than 171,000 members across the region this year. Leaders plan to bolster small group ministries, strengthen evangelistic projects through social media, and ensure that each project is mission driven.
Church leaders in Jamaica also joined in the centennial celebration of the day, challenging its more than 330,000 church members to focus on making more disciples in a year filled with dozens of evangelistic campaigns across the island. Two dozen members attended the Kencot Adventist Church in Kingston to worship, praise and pray during the online special Sabbath service.
Other major regions and islands joined in the start of centennial commemorative celebrations this year.The Inter-American Division oversees the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mexico, Central America, The Caribbean and French Antilles, as well as Colombia and Venezuela. The IAD and its organizations look after thousands of churches, hundreds of schools, universities, hospitals, and clinics.
To follow up Inter-America’s activities throughout the year, centennial celebrations and to find resources, visit 100.interamerica.org
For more on the church in Inter-America, visit us at interamerica.org
Uriel Castellanos, Auguste Richner, Dayamí Rodríguez, Gustavo Menéndez, Moisés Aponte, and Nigel Coke contributed information to this report.