Top Seventh-day Adventist leaders from around the world church recently toured five major regions across the Inter-American Division (IAD), to witness evangelism initiatives in action, learn about church growth, and look in on the community impact taking place across the territory. The 10-day tour brought executive secretaries from the Adventist world church headquarters and from 12 division headquarters around the globe to visit Miami, Jamaica, Panama, Haiti, and Mexico.
The tour was part of an initiative proposed by top world church leaders in an effort to foster more integration among division leaders and learn methods, initiatives and activities that make the difference in each regional territory, explained Pastor Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America. Earlier in May, top administrators from IAD unions visited the Northern Asia Pacific Division to learn of their evangelism methods.
“Most [church] divisions today are in national hands, and leaders don’t know much of each other, except when we meet for committee meetings at the General Conference,” said Pastor Leito. “So, it is important to understand how the church moves and works elsewhere.”
Elie Henry, executive secretary for the church in Inter-America, said the secretariat tour was a great opportunity for church administrators to witness the rich cultural diversity that makes Inter-America so special.
“We wanted them to experience Inter-America how we live it, and witness the commitment of hundreds of thousands of church members working together to share the gospel in their communities,” said Henry.
The tour included visits to the English, Spanish and French speaking territories in the Inter-America.
Leaders visited Jamaica, a country with the closest ratio of Seventh-day Adventists per population–one of every 12 persons is a Seventh-day Adventist.
Leaders from the Seventh-day Adventist World headquarters and Inter-America leaders were deployed throughout churches in Kingston, the capital city, and St. Catherine to preach on June 10. They were part of a symposium highlighting activities taking place across the union’s five conferences and two institutions, Andrews Memorial Hospital and Northern Caribbean University. The visit also included a tour of the church’s Good Samaritan Inn, which serves the needs of street people in Kingston.
“What we see happening at NCU is a perfect example of what it means that Seventh-day Adventists should be the head and not the tail through its Information Technology department and in Business model competitions,” said G.T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist World Church. Ng also described the work at the Good Samaritan Inn as one that should be emulated by other regions of the world.
Leaders headed to the tail end of Central America to Panama to learn about the membership and financial growth of the church since it was reorganized into a union mission less than two years ago.
Haiti was the next two-day stop where the tour group of 31 persons visited the Adventist university, hospital, and union office in Port-au-Prince. Local church leaders and members gathered at Temple No. 1 for a fellowship meeting and praise worship program. The group learned about the challenges, needs and faithful work of committed church members who make up the largest church region or union in the Inter-America territory with a membership of over 454,000.
The next stop included a visit to Mexico City, a cosmopolitan area with more than 21 million inhabitants, where the church faces one its biggest evangelistic challenges. The group learned about the evangelism initiatives and challenges, as well as toured a new center of influence operated by the church in Central Mexico.
The tour climaxed with a festival of small groups growing rapidly in Chiapas, Mexico, on Sabbath, June 17. Visiting world leaders met at the Flor de Sospo Stadium in Chiapas, where more than 13,000 members witnessed a festival on the growth of small groups, witnessed hundreds of baptisms and learned of the joint efforts of local pastors and church elders. The group joined church members in distributing literature during the Sabbath.
“We wanted them to have the sense of belonging to a larger family that’s moving forward together fulfilling the mission of the church,” said Henry.
John H. Thomas, associate secretary for the Adventist world church, stated in an email the group was moved to expressions of silence after the experience they witnessed.
“We have been positively changed as a result of this experience,” stated Thomas. “The itinerary, finances, union and institutional administrators have all overwhelmed us with love and appreciation as fellow brothers and sisters. All have taught us what it means to be happy, loving and generous Adventists.”
To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church Experience in Inter-America, visit us at interamerica.org.