Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders in the Inter-American Division have designated next year’s evangelism efforts as lay-member focused, with officials coordinating the division-wide push with church boards and individual members.
Division leaders last month launched the “Year of the Laity” initiative during a live online program at the Comayaguela Adventist Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Dozens of top leaders participated in the event, while tens of thousands of church board members across the territory watched through some 8,000 connections via the Internet.
“The church has been enriched by the hard work of our ministers and laypersons, and other active members in spreading the gospel in Inter-America, and this is why we have designated 2013 as the Year of the Laity to let work of the church be felt more throughout the community,” said Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America.
The two-hour event opened the division’s Year-End Meeting, a bi-annual meeting of the division’s Executive Committee.
Scheduled events and activities such as spiritual celebrations, special baptisms and community impact events are planned as the church and its ministries unite for next year’s evangelism efforts, said Melchor Ferreyra, Personal Ministries director for the church in Inter-America.
“We are excited to gain full participation from our laity, which includes professionals, men, women, young people and children in the preaching of the gospel,” Ferreyra said.
Already, nearly 1 million laypeople have been specially trained during the Vision One Mission initiative, which seeks to train 1 million disciples in any of five areas: preaching, Bible instruction, witnessing, small group leadership and global mission pioneering.
Ana Aceituno Ortiz of the Tepeyac Adventist Church in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, was among the 30 church board members gathered at the live event. Her church board voted to adopt the initiatives presented during the program.
“This program was such an inspiration because it outlined how all the ministries can work together to have a greater impact in our community,” said Ortiz, who serves as Children’s Ministries director at her church.
Already, Ortiz has organized activities for the 65 children in her church, including music festivals, health brigades, and ministry in local orphanages and nursing homes.
“Next year will inspire us to do more and reach more,” she said.
For Ricardo Barrantes, a church elder and Stewardship Ministries director at the 250-member Kennedy Adventist Church in Tegucigalpa, watching and listening to next year’s scheduled events was exciting.
“These are wonderful plans and activities which means we have to work harder and faster to continue serving God and preparing others to meet Jesus,” said Barrantes.
On stage, Ignacio Navarro, president for the church in Chiapas, Mexico, stood next to fellow top administrators from Inter-America’s church regions in commitment to joining efforts planned for the Year of the Laity. So far, nearly 67,000 laypersons have been trained for outreach in the southern part of Mexico, he said.
“This online program helped bring about renewed efforts for the lay forces in our territory,” Navarro said. The denomination there is planning to hold a massive baptismal ceremony in a 35,000-seat stadium in February as a result of the work of the laity there.
Edgar Redondo, president of the church in North Colombia, said more than 50,000 laypeople have been trained to witness, preach and distribute literature.
“These initiatives will only enrich the church, help individual church members to discover their gifts and talents better and focus on sharing God’s love and grace,” Redondo said.
He said church members in North Colombia have already been active in holding health expos and distributing 200,000 copies of “The Great Controversy,” a book written by church pioneer Ellen G. White, to citizens and government officials.
“Without the laity, the church has no reason for being, so we are certain that God will continue blessing,” said Leito, the division president.
The Inter-American Division reports a membership of roughly 3.5 million. The region includes the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and the five northernmost countries in South America.