The experience that the literature evangelists are living in this crisis of COVID-19 testifies to the fulfillment of what pioneering Seventh-day Adventist Ellen White said in the year 1900:
"As long as probation lasts, there will be an opportunity for the canvasser to work" (Testimonies for the Church 6:478).
Despite all the limitations they face, these literature evangelists (also known as canvassers or colporters) continue to carry out their activity empowered by God, prepared by their leaders, and motivated by their unwavering will.
In the San Andrés de Giles city of Buenos Aires state in Argentina, there’s a literature evangelist who embodies this approach. It’s a small city of about 25,000 inhabitants and is about 71 miles (115km) from the federal capital. Like so many interior cities in Argentina, it does not have an Adventist church. In fact, there is currently only one member there: Héctor Belucci, 57 years old.
A 30-year veteran of the real estate business received an Adventist missionary book in 2006, but did not read it immediately. Time passed, and circumstances changed. “Already in 2017, I felt a deep need for God,” he recalled. It was at that moment that church members gave him a Bible and the Faith of Jesus correspondence course, which would be the freshwater that his heart needed. As the Bible studies progressed, he promptly began meet with a small group of Adventists in San Antonio de Areco, 15 miles (25km) from his home. In September 2017, he was baptized at the Baradero Adventist Church. Thus began a new life for him, but the changes were just beginning.
The Adventist family who had given him the Bible encouraged him to get to know literature evangelism and accompanied him to presentation on the subject. Héctor liked it so much that he later participated in a weekend training for colporteurs. At the end of that instruction, he began canvassing. He was the first beneficiary since the books taught him how to live in a healthy way, enjoying its benefits in a personal way.
ANN: What motivates you most to pursue literature evangelism?
Héctor Belucci: The ultimate goal of my ministry is for an Adventist church to be established in San Andrés de Giles. I would like to form a small group and in the future help establish a congregation. That is why I seek to win people for Christ through canvassing, so that one day they can join the church.
In these days of a pandemic, I started a new Bible study with a lady who had left a missionary book at her home because they had not bought me canvas books. She contacted me and we began to study the Bible. We talk on WhatsApp and that's how it progresses. She has her struggles where the Holy Spirit is manifesting.
ANN: How did you have to adjust your ministry during the pandemic?
Héctor Belucci: Before the pandemic, I used to spend 7 or 8 hours on canvassing, on the street. Now I cannot do that, although people can go out in my city. But I can't knock on doors, so this forced me to modify my strategy.
When compulsory isolation began it was impossible to sell, because it was forbidden to go out. What I did was establish contacts to visit in the future. I told them we were preparing to start a series of health meetings when we can have contact again. In this way, I kept my active service. The goal was to identify stakeholders whom I could visit visit when possible. I was scheduling various stakeholders who became clients once I was able to go out again to make those punctual visits.
I use my Facebook account, which I have totally dedicated to canvassing, to promote the books to my friends and also to offer them to groups in my city about sales, meals, etc. In WhatsApp I publish information from the books. I usually use the materials published by the Instituto Vida & Consultores Asociados (IVCA) on their social networks. Then later I look at who saw those items and I write them privately. By this means, I also maintain contact with my clients on a regular basis. I talk to them and try to discover their needs. I send them a voice message with health information, trying to allow me to go to their house to present the books [when permitted]. In this way I establish already agreed visits, which I normally do at the door of the house, without entering, taking all the precautions.
For example yesterday a lady who already has books told me that her daughter was affected by the pandemic to the point of leading to depression. So I offered him the book "A Positive Mind," which deals with emotional health.
ANN: Did you have to change the content of your presentations in this new context?
Héctor Belucci: Since the pandemic started, I did not have to change the content of my presentations. As we all know each other here, I present the message from my testimony as a former smoker. People ask me how I was able to quit that vice. So I share the information about the lifestyle that I learned with the health books.
I also talk about alcohol, food, mental health, and spirituality. All this in the context of the coronavirus, warning that the most affected people are those who have other previous health problems, which can be prevented or treated. The only thing I had to change was the sales technique, including digital media.