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In Guatemala, major evangelism push yields thousands of new members

Burgeoning growth could mean more resources, infrastructure for mission

In Guatemala, major evangelism push yields thousands of new members

In Guatemala, five pastors baptize new Adventist Church members in Lake Atitlan in Panajachel on April 1. The baptisms were part of meetings in which church leaders from throughout Central America met in Guatemala to coordinate mass efforts of sharing the gospel throughout the region. [photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

The Central American country of Guatemala has been playing host to big evangelism efforts by both training evangelists and holding local campaigns, which have yielded results in thousands of new members.

Leaders for the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division held an evangelism training summit earlier this month to coincide with the culmination of local efforts.

The Adventist Church in Guatemala has been evangelizing aggressively this year, holding more than 1,000 campaigns resulting in nearly 5,000 baptisms in three months, said Gustavo Menendez, Personal Ministries director for the church in Guatemala.

This month’s training summit brought together about 50 pastors for continuing education on conducting public evangelism.

The bulk of local campaigns have also included leadership by lay members. The Adventist Church’s Vision 60,000 program here is part of the division’s call to involve 1 million lay members for discipleship building.

Abraham Tzic, field secretary of the 16,000-member Northwest Adventist Mission office in Totonicapan, said 1,200 active church members have registered in the discipleship program since October of 2011. The region aims to have 3,000 by the end of this year.

Like many ministers in the region, Tzic pastors more than 25 churches.

With a shortage of pastors, Vision 60,000 has drawn more participation from church members and laypeople who have taken it upon themselves to reach those around them with the gospel, with positive results, said Guenther Garcia, president of the Adventist Church in Guatamala.

“So far, this has been a record-breaking year for Guatemala,” Garcia said.

A baptism of more than 300 people in Lake Atitlan on April 1 drew spectators to see the results of their months-long efforts to bring the gospel to their friends and neighbors. The Adventist Church in Guatamala typically holds a mass baptism in the lake each year on the last Sunday of the first quarter, Menendez said.

The fast growth of the church in Guatemala has local and national church leaders talking of upgrading three mission offices to “conference” level status, meaning the administrative region would be financially self-sustaining. Two experimental regions could also be soon upgraded to “mission” status, which would put in place a leadership team for churches in the territory.

There are nearly 240,000 Adventists in Guatemala worshipping in 950 congregations. The church also operates 27 primary and secondary schools in the country.