L ima, Peru ... [ANN] Seventh-day Adventists in Lima, Peru, are gearing up for a week-long program which aims at revitalizing the way the church reaches out into its communities. "We cannot continue in a business-as-usual manner in the way we present the gospel to the world," said Raul Gomez, leader of the 300,000-member Seventh-day Adventist Church in Peru. "The Bridges of Hope initiative offers us a new way of doing things together as a church."

Adventists in Peru will be first to bring about a comprehensive program created by a world Communication Strategy Council to focus on a theme of bridge-building as a way to communicate hope in the communities where the church is present. The Peruvian church leaders are working out details of a series of events and activities which will engage the local churches and institutions in the capital of Peru, Lima, at the end of March, 1998. The Lima team is assisted by the communication staff from the World Church Headquarters and the South American Division of the Church in Brazil.

"The idea is to present creative ways of making the church work together in a concerted way with an objective to communicate hope to the world," explained Alberto Valenzuela, communication strategy coordinator at the Church’s World Headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. "The church in Peru is excited to try out new approaches to share the good news of the gospel through a variety of events and activities. Everything will center around presenting the Bible to the community. It will involve local churches, pastors, church departments, institutions and the media. All will focus on a public awareness of what the Holy Scriptures can mean in our lives," he explained.

Though specifics are still being worked out, the Bridges of Hope initiative will include a Bible reading marathon, exhibitions, and a Bible distribution program, and the building of a literal bridge in the city.

The events will concentrate on a concept already well-articulated in the life of the Christian church: the Word of God is the "bread of life." Special activities are planned to involve the entire church in living out the "bread of life" by collecting aid for the needy and by reciprocating with Bible distribution. Church leaders, in cooperation with the Bible society, are aiming at distributing 50,000 copies of the Bible during the Bridges of Hope week.

"The church must always be a place where people can find help, physical and spiritual. That’s the bridge concept in its most profound symbolism," Valenzuela commented. According to a comprehensive plan discussed by the church leadership in Peru, the Bridges of Hope initiative will lead to launching a public lecture program through the media and in public halls.

"All these plans are enthusiastically embraced by the church leadership in Peru and we witnessed a myriad of ideas and activities proposed during the planning sessions," said Ray Dabrowski, communication director at the World Church Headquarters. "During our visit to Lima, we saw the anticipated outcomes of the initiative, namely that the church is working together on a mission-driven program and communication is being utilized in its mosaic of functions—PR, public affairs, media relations, news and information, and marketing."

While in Lima, Dabrowski and Valenzuela discussed the Bridges of Hope initiative with one of the Peru’s congressmen, Edilberto Diaz Bringas, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, and who expressed his interest to become a part of the program. Three members of congress in Peru are Seventh-day Adventists.

The Bridges of Hope initiative is part of the overall communication strategy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Its stated vision is that "Seventh-day Adventists will communicate hope by focusing on the quality of life that is complete in Christ." [Ray Dabrowski]