More than 44,700 new Seventh-day Adventist believers made history in the Inter-American region (IAD) of the Adventist Church on Saturday, March 24 when they joined the Adventist faith community. Their decisions marked the largest number of baptisms in a single day in that region since the Adventist church was established there in 1921.
Inspired by the Biblical ‘Pentecost’ in Acts 2, the territory-wide event, called Pentecost and More, featured satellite feeds from all 15 unions which were broadcast throughout the world and the IAD, including the hub of the program in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
“This is a very extraordinary day,” said Pastor Jan Paulsen, president of the Adventist World Church, to thousands of church members as he spoke at the El Palacio de los Deportes in Santo Domingo. “I’ve preached most Sabbaths and traveled all around the world, but I have never done anything like this,” he exclaimed.
More than 10,000 people crowded into the stadium to witness the event, which was the culmination of months of outreach work in the region and took the coordinated efforts of hundreds of pastors, church staff and lay people throughout the 15 main administrative territories.
Outside the stadium, 5,000 more watched as waves of baptismal candidates, dressed in blue robes, stepped forward. Some baptisms took place inside the stadium, while most involved 60 pastors immersing converts in an Olympic-size pool outside.
Spearheaded by IAD’s Ministerial Association, the outreach effort sought to involve pastors and church members in every local church in the territory to share the gospel with non-believers in the hopes of reaching the 3-million-member mark. Two years ago, this milestone was not expected to be reached until 2010.
At the climax of the event was the baptism of Clarissa Pozo de los Santos, a young lady chosen to represent the 3 millionth member of the church in Inter-America. She shared how God transformed her life.
“I was walking in the world and I saw how there is so much evil, pain and sadness and God has something else for me,” she said. “It’s like I have a new life now, I know that I will be different with God’s help.”
As Clarissa was submerged into the baptismal pool set up near the stage, crowds of people gathered around to witness the milestone.
Each of Inter-America’s 15 major church regions was featured in succession via live satellite transmission at specific time intervals throughout the program. The start of each region’s presentation in the program was heralded with a musical video highlight and special baptismal prayer.
At the outset of the program Paulsen, who addressed the convocation during the Sabbath worship service, spoke to the 1,400 individuals seated on the ground floor of the stadium. Pastor Paulsen’s message was carried via satellite to the thousands more across the IAD gathered in local churches and convention centers who were preparing for baptism. “Jesus Christ is the only way,” said Paulsen. “He is the only door into God’s future.”
Paulsen emphasized what he called the four pillars of the gospel that each candidate would embrace as they publicly committed to following Jesus through baptism: first, having the certainty that Jesus Christ is the Savior of mankind; second, that Jesus did not stay in the grave; third, that Jesus is alive, ascended to heaven and is ministering to everyone; and finally, that He will come again.
The world church leader challenged the gathering to recommit their lives to Christ and tell others the good news of the gospel.
Shortly after the event, church leaders and organizers marveled at how this historical event has already impacted the territory.
“It [the program] has brought the churches together,” said Pastor Balvin Braham, who organized Pentecost and More. “It is a sense of spiritual revival that has taken place, not just an event, and it has also mobilized individuals to continue evangelizing,” he said.
“In our case it is not an issue of numbers,” said Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America. “We are happy that we have reached symbolically the 3 millionth member, but we will be far more happy when, with all the saints of the Lord, we can be at the feet of Jesus. This will be our greatest joy,” he exclaimed.
Pastor Leon Wellington, vice president and communication director for the church in Inter-America, said of the event, “We are happy to be part of this program using the technology available today to contribute in fulfilling the mission of the church.”
The program not only sought to achieve its objective of unifying forces in the church by sharing the gospel, said Wellington, but was also part of the launching of the Adventist world church’s Spanish-language television channel, Esperanza TV.
The event was also carried live through Adventist Television Networks, including Hope TV, Nuevo Tiempo and Red A.D.venir.
For church leaders, Pentecost and More is only a glimpse into IAD’s future.
“Pentecost and More has been the awakening of a new direction for the church in Inter-America,” said Leito. Leito expressed interest in making the program an annual event.
“It really speaks to what can happen when we get our membership to work,” said Braham. “If we can get all of our members…actively involved in evangelism, then there is no telling as to the significant impact we can have.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America covers Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and the northern tip of South America, and has some 3 million members worshiping in 9,218 churches.