June 15, 2022 | Miami, Florida, United States | Miqueas Fortunato
As soon as I entered the place, I could see thousands of people who had come searching for words of hope. Before I sat down, the images of the packed soccer stadium took me back 18 years, when I had visited Peru.
It was July 2004, and I was covering the Caravan of Hope evangelistic meetings, where Pastor Alejandro Bullón would preach in soccer stadiums across 24 cities in just 13 days. We traveled all night by land to get to the next city and by 10 a.m. next day, we found the place packed. Pastor Bullón preached, and, at the end of the meeting, we left immediately for the next city. I remember that Pastor Melchor Ferreyra who was then president of the Peruvian Union Conference, provided me with a satellite mobile phone, so I could broadcast for Adventist World Radio and report for the Nuevo Tiempo network stations across Peru.
The memory of the tasty Peruvian food, the strong smell of fish in the city of Chimbote, the mountains of Puno, the Bora-Bora tribes near the island of Iquitos, and arriving at the stadiums to see thousands of people giving their lives to Jesus all come to mind.The lights of the stadium made me return to the present. Yes, I was now at the Las Flores Soccer Stadium, in Jalapa, Guatemala, and was about to go through a similar experience. I had traveled together with Pastor Ferreyra, Inter-American Division evangelist, as part of the “Don’t Give Up, There Is Still Hope” evangelistic series. This time, we didn’t travel from city to city as we had done in Peru, but from country to country, through Central America and the Dominican Republic, getting up early every other day to arrive with enough time to travel by land to the various venues. In just 15 days, Ferreyra visited seven countries, preaching God’s Word in stadiums like the one I was in now, where a total of more than 21,000 people gave their lives to Jesus and thousands watched the Hope Channel Inter-America and more than 25 Adventist radio stations broadcasts.
During this journey, a verse was foremost in my mind, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
We were barely emerging from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and, after so much uncertainty, people were eager to receive hope, to meet others, and feel human warmth. The caravan started in the Dominican Republic, continued through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and finally ended in Guatemala where I was. Now, at the end of the tour, the faces that had been engraved in my memory came to my mind. I saw them as they responded with tears in their eyes to the altar calls. I thought about the stories of their conversions, that they themselves had told me, and saw how God looks for every opportunity to save human beings.I can’t forget Jeffrey, whom I met in Costa Rica. In his youth, and impacted by the separation of his parents, he became involved in gangs and fell into addictions. God, however, began to speak to his heart through a church member, with whom he began to study the Bible. He was invited to the series “Don’t Give Up, There Is Still Hope,” and that night, he asked God to show him whether he had come to the right place to get the chance he felt he needed. I got goose bumps when Jeffrey told me that that very same night, the preacher said that this was the night of opportunity for a new life, and that it was the time to make a covenant with God. Jeffrey says God spoke directly to his heart, and he immediately decided to request to be baptized.
Throughout the tour, I heard many stories that I will never forget, because they deeply impacted me, as I witnessed first-hand the miracles that God performed. Living such an experience prompted me to reassess my walk with God and remember the miracles that He has also done in my life. I am aware of the wonderful experience that God has allowed me to go through. I can envision how God protected us throughout the journeys by air and land through Central America, the way God used Pastor Ferreyra to say the exact word a person needed to hear to be touched by the Holy Spirit, the way God gave him strength to get up early to catch the various flights and still preach every night with power. I experienced how Adventism has such an ingrained culture of preaching that it combines the strength of the lay members with that of administration and pastoral leadership. It was exciting to see the humble service of so many leaders. Feeling the warmth of a church united in mission as members welcomed us as brothers, regardless of culture, amazed me.I thank God for this opportunity. I ended up a little physically tired from the tour but spiritually renewed. God did His wondrous work, and I was able to witness it and taste it. Thousands of lives were transformed. And as Pastor Ferreyra said every night, “life doesn’t end when you fall; life ends when you give up. Therefore, do not give up, because there is hope.
Miqueas Fortunato is director of distribution for Hope Channel Inter-America.