June 15, 2022 | St. Louis, Missouri, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

For many of the delegates at this year’s General Conference Session in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, it was the first time that they had seen so many Seventh-day Adventists from different parts of the world, witnessed how the world church leads business sessions, and had ever taken part in such diverse spiritual and musical segments.

For four young delegates from the Inter-American Division delegation, the experience at GC session, June 6-11, 2022, changed their perspective and strengthened their commitment to fulfill the mission in the communities where they live.

General Conference Session delegates hold their country’s flag and sign during the “Mission on the Move” parade at the close of the week in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, June 11, 2022. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

“Like a dream come true”

At 20 years old, Zarith Méndez is one of the youngest delegates from the IAD after becoming the top territory-wide bible competition winner of the quinquennium. “This is like a dream come true for me,” said Mendez. She has been impressed by the structure of every single meeting, the number of persons, and seeing how orderly everything has been in every church business meeting has completely changed her perspective.

“Seeing how everything is done in order, that every member’s voice and vote counts, how serious each point in the manual is and affects the world church level meant a lot for me to see,” said Méndez . “I think it’s very important and relevant for our church.”

“I want to go back to my home church and share with them everything I’ve learned, and how the church functions at this level and how it is advancing all around the world,” she said.

“It’s been totally like being in a different dimension to be here,” said Mendez. It’s been quite the miracle to get to session.  Just one month before session she was granted a visa to travel, she said. Studying the Bible many years ago and joining the territory competition in North Colombia and becoming the top bible competition winner in 2016 led her to many firsts in her life: her first airplane ride at 15 outside of Colombia, leaving her farm town to study nursing at the university in Cúcuta, Colombia, and visiting the United States for the first time.

Zarith Méndez from North Colombia Union won her spot as a youth delegate for the Inter-American Division during the GC session June 6-11, 2022. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Méndez returned home to continue leading as Sabbath school director in the Eden District of churches in the Villa Rosario Municipality. She also assists with the Adventurers club and serves as a Master Guide Advisor.

“I’ve seen how God has led my life and provided for me so that I can be part of what the church is doing for God not only in my city and country but through every corner of the world under one mission to take the message of the gospel to every person so that Jesus can come back soon to take us to heaven,” Méndez said.

The diversity was impressive

Darnelle Pierre came from Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She was appointed as a GC Delegate representing the largest union of the 24 unions in Inter-America. Being part of the session all week opened up her mind as to how wide and inclusive of a movement the Adventist Church is worldwide.

“The diversity here has impressed me the most,” said Pierre. “The fact that we are all from different places of the world, but we are one church, a unified church, is amazing.”

Voting for every issue and point presented at session has immediately moved her from being a spectator to an active member in the decision-making process that concerns the life of her church, she said.

Darnelle Pierre of the Haitian Union attends the session as a GC youth delegate from the Inter-American Division. She represents the largest of the 24 unions in the IAD. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

“When I first came here, I wasn’t sure why God brought me here, but I’m so happy and feel so honored to be able to see the cultural diversity in the church and see first-hand  how things move at this level,” she said. Pierre had the perception that the GC was such a high and hard to reach level that whatever church leaders at the GC said, the local church followed. “You hear that the world church is not divided and that we don’t have different opinions, but I was so shocked to see heated discussions the same as I’ve seen at our church board,” she said. “just one issue can bring about so many opinions so I was like ‘I get it.’ We are all humans working to make the best decisions for the church.’”

At 23, Pierre is pursuing a degree in education and plans to pursue a master’s degree in educational psychology. She grew up in the church and currently leads the Pathfinder club at Auditorium de la Bible, one of the largest churches in the capital city. She is also a founding member of a large youth choir, and is a member of the worship team at her church.

“I think the future of the church is promising and we need more young people, who know the church, because most of the time we want the revolution, but we are not armed enough for the revolution,” said Pierre. “I really hope that our generation gets to know the church, its structure, gets to know the gospel, know why we are here, and what our mission is so we can better serve and finish the work.” She is committed to reaching out to her peers, share what she has learned and reassure them of the need of the Holy Spirit to guide them as they serve the church and the community. “The work is of God and everything that comes out of anything we do must be under the influence of the Holy Spirit to make the best choices for our church.”

Eye-opening experience

Kevin Daniel Rodríguez, age 24, traveled from his hometown in Ixhuatlán, in Southeast Veracruz, Mexico, to get to GC session. Right before session began, he was selected by his Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union to be part of the nominating. It was a surprise and an eye-opening experience, he said. To be part of the selected nominating committee from every world church division let him see the order, unity, and spirituality of so many different Seventh-day Adventists.

Kevin Rodríguez, a youth delegate of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union attends the GC session in St. Louis, Missouri. Rodríguez was selected among his union to be part of the nominating committee during GC session. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

“When you’re in your church, you learn how the church behaves and moves, the needs it has and the membership needs therein, but when you get to this high of a level of the church, you learn to appreciate the problems and challenges that the church has worldwide,” said Rodríguez. “The problems or challenges are very complex but everyone is very open about them.”

Seeing how Adventist World Church President Pastor Ted Wilson brings all the ideas together, connecting with the people from different cultures and ideologies to redirect everyone to the goal of preaching the gospel, was quite amazing to see, he said.  “I was so pleased to see how there is so much unity among pastors and leaders from different parts of the Inter-American Division voting for Pastor Henry and the secretary and treasurer with such unity and warmth.

“My whole perspective has changed,” he said. The best way he can illustrate it is by describing how his first objective was to protect his family. Rodríguez is a civil engineer and has two sisters. “I wanted to protect my father, mother and siblings. Then, I passed to another level when I began to lead in my church, so I began to worry about my church. But now when I see the needs at this level, I have this feeling that no matter how small our work may be at our home church, it is important for the church worldwide.”

Session was so diverse with so many people from Europe, Africa, Asia, with beautiful cultures, said Rodríguez, who is a master guide leader, small group leader, and youth director for his church district back home. “I can’t wait to go back and share everything I’ve learned here and encourage young people to continue to advance in the mission.”

More inspired to reach more people for Christ

Andy Paul traveled as a delegate from the island of Grenada, which is nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean north of Trinidad and Tobago. Taking part of the session grounded him more about the mission of the church and helped him understand how the church moves and functions around the globe.

Andy Paul of the Island of Grenada attends session as a lay delegate representing the Caribbean Union. He is a bible worker that has led nearly 200 people to Christ.[Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

“It’s impressive to see how God is leading this movement,” said Paul.  “The session has strengthened my faith because where I am back home, we don’t get the impression of the larger work that is going on around the world,” he added. “When you hear reports from various parts of the world it gives you the assurance that things are advancing so rapidly in so many parts of the world.”

As a bible worker in Moyah, a village in the Parish of St. Andrew, Paul is very clear on what is going to finish the work of spreading the gospel, starting in his country, in the numerous Caribbean islands and beyond to reach the world. He has been giving bible studies to dozens of people, held evangelistic campaigns in Grenada and throughout several Caribbean islands year after year.

A farmer and established beekeeper of over 20 years, Paul, age 41, also takes the time to educate youngsters about the importance of beekeeping. But he says his most meaningful accomplishment is leading persons to accepting Jesus. Nearly 200 people have been baptized, thanks to his efforts as a bible worker. Paul is one of the leading bible workers in Grenada, church leaders from the Caribbean Union said.

“I’m so excited to come here to represent my church and see that my church is much bigger than my local church,” said Paul. “My faith is strengthened even more to work harder to go more into my community because I know we are not finished until it is finished everywhere.”

He’s going back more inspired about the mission of the church. “I wish other folks in my church had the opportunity to be part of this session like I have been but I’m going back ready to tell them my experience and the work we must commit to continue doing.”

The 61st General Conference Session of Seventh-day Adventists was held in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, June 6-11, 2022.

To learn more about the recent GC session, visit us at interamerica.org

Daniela Arrieta, Jean Carmy Felixon, and Cristhel Romero contributed information to this report.

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