What drives the Seventh-day Adventist Church to preach the gospel is a clear awareness of its mission to share the message of salvation in Christ. 2020 was a challenging year to achieve this goal; fear, insecurity, and legal restrictions due to the pandemic altered the routine of church and community life for most people.
Even so, a prior assessment of Adventists shows that in 2020, 159,075 people were baptized as members of the church (data counted until December 22). Another surprising fact is that more than 825,000 people started to receive Bible studies this year, whether through the personal work of an Adventist or a Bible school project in digital format. The number of those who claim to be giving Bible studies (volunteer instructors) has reached 425,366.
The movement did not stop
If the number of baptisms was almost 160,000, it is important to note that, in this context, at least 25,174 returned to the Adventist Church. That is, they are people who had once been part of the denomination, but had at some point left, in some cases for many years.
The executive secretariat's report also showed that in 2020, according to the survey conducted until mid-December, 373 new Adventist congregations were planted. The total number of Adventist churches and organized groups exceeds 28,000 in the eight countries of the South American Division of the church.
Mission in the veins
2020 was a difficult year for nursing technician Estevão Barbosa, who lives in Tatuí, in the interior of São Paulo, especially since he works with the rescue team SAMU (Mobile Emergency Service). Even so, Barbosa, who was baptized four years ago, was able to give eight Bible studies.
“It was the biggest number I ever had in the year,” he comments.
Barbosa's life illustrates the numbers on the 2020 Adventist missionary balance sheet. As a leader in his congregation, he took charge of helping to organize at least 30 missionary pairs. The idea was to form an army ready to go out and share the message with impetus. Everything was scheduled before the pandemic. With restrictions and isolations, plans changed.
“Realizing the current need, we started to evangelize through kits that we made with items such as masks, magazines, books, CDs, and DVDs. We chose the poorest neighborhood in the city and formed 15 pairs. We managed to reach 300 people with messages of hope and looking for interested friends,” he recalls.
Decision in 2020
As Barbosa turned a difficult year into an opportunity to preach, butcher Mailson de Sena Gonçalves, from Orizona, Goiás, took the opportunity in 2020 to make the decision to give his life to Christ. Baptism is scheduled for January next year, but this year he intensified his studies of the Word of God.
“With my studies, I learned more about Jesus and his teachings,” Gonçalves says. “I became a better person and started to understand things more. I began to really grasp the concept of loving your neighbor, and loving God more. The only thing I want is to seek the kingdom of God and his justice.”
For Pastor Herbert Boger Jr., the church's Personal Ministry director in South America, it is wonderful to see all these Bible studies and spiritual decisions in 2020 despite the difficulties. It is gratifying to see, for the leader, that personal and virtual missionary initiatives of the missionary pairs and small communities (Sabbath School action units, small groups, and ASA) took into account Christ's method of meeting people's needs, and then took them to God.
"I see the essence of the church in this method, having a prominence in the middle of the pandemic, which must continue until Jesus returns," he sums up.
Pastor Luís Gonçalves, director of evangelism for the Adventist Church in South America, feels similarly. He says, “In a challenging year with unexpected situations, when the whole world stopped, when doubt and fear dominated people's lives, we saw a church that rose with power and responsibility, as a voice of hope, to announce the message of salvation.”