Administrators of Inter-American Division (IAD) institutions reported on how, despite being hit hard during the pandemic, things are looking brighter in the first quarter of 2021. Four of the boards reported budget and management adjustments, and loss of personnel, as well as development plans to grow their institutions. Several of the boards elected new administrative leaders in a full week of business meetings held Apr. 28-29.
As the only division institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada, offering higher education degrees in theological, biblical, and ministerial areas for pastors in Inter-America, the Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary transitioned quickly from on-campus teaching to online classes last year, reported Pastor Efrain Velázquez, president of IATS. IATS is also accredited by the Adventist Accrediting Association and the Council of Education of Puerto Rico.
The year 2020 saw 404 students enrolled in the different graduate degrees, lower than previous years which averaged 450. A conferral ceremony of 100 pastors completed their post-graduate degrees with IATS on Feb. 27, 2021.
Substantial adjustments to the budgets had to be made in 2020 that carried through a decreased budget for 2021, reported Juan E. Villanueva, vice president for finances at IATS.
In addition, the construction of the new IATS headquarters office located on the campus of the Antillean Adventist University in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, will be completed later this year, according to Velázquez.
Board members elected its administrative leaders for the next five-year term to include Velázquez as president, Angel Guzman of Dominican Adventist University as vice president of academic affairs, Abilio Cima of the Guatemala Union as vice president of finances, Josney Rodríguez as vice president of spiritual affairs, Carlos Robles as institutional effectiveness and strategic planning, and Ketlie Henry as director of records and admissions. The board also thanked outgoing leaders for their dedicated service.
As one of two publishing houses of the Inter-American Division, GEMA Editores provides publications and resources through its 44 bookstores across Mexico. The publishing house provides books and materials for more than 700 literature evangelists and nearly 800,000 members spread out in the five unions in Mexico.
GEMA administrators reported that 2020 was a year that the publishing house struggled in sales, especially in the months of April and May, but that sales began to pick up in December. There was a drop in sales in February 2021, but there was an increase of 1.6 percent in sales last month.
“As sales have decreased, so have our costs increased to about 10 percent more,” said Pastor David Javier, president of GEMA Editores. “But still we have managed to offer a 15 percent discount to literature evangelists.”
In their 2016-2020 period, GEMA Editores reported outstanding years in sales, thanks to the 198 new books published for the church and 98 books published for the ministry of literature evangelists as well as several magazines.
The publishing house has remodeled dozens of its bookstores, opened two additional ones, and launched its online store in September 2020. In addition, GEMA is planning to complete the construction of additional bookstores throughout different states in the country.
“I want to congratulate GEMA administrators for their excellent financial behavior, careful discipline, and strategic management in fulfilling its mission in Mexico and maintaining a solvent financial situation even in the midst of the crisis,” said Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer of the church in Inter-America.
GEMA Editores announced its latest six-volume Bible stories project called “Maravillosas Historias de la Biblia” (Wonderful Bible Stories). The new set of books features stories from the Old and New Testaments and includes a large collection of original illustrations and will be available later this year.
Javier thanked the board, fellow administrators, and executive committee members for their support during his 48 years of service in the church. Previous to his service in GEMA, Javier served as union president in southern Mexico for many years. “I have been a member of the executive committee for more than 25 years and I praise God for being part of it and for his guidance throughout the years,” said Javier as he announced his retirement as of September 1, 2021.
A group of Inter-America’s Executive Committee met to nominate Moises Reyna, president of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, as president of GEMA Editores. In addition, Fernando Quiróz was elected as vice president of finances.
Board of Higher Education
In their report of the Board of Higher Education (BHE) which oversees the 14 Adventist Universities across Inter-America, leaders began reporting the devastating loss of teachers and students who had passed away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This past year has been a terrible year for we have lost teachers whom we loved and at least one student, but I know more students have passed on,” said Pastor Gamaliel Flórez, education director for the church in Inter-America for the past 11 years. One by one, Flórez, read the names before the board paused to pray for the families and friends they left behind. “There is a great hope that very soon Jesus will come and we will meet again,” he said.
BHE unveiled its new web platform software coined as CALED and will be managed by Inter-America’s education department. The software program will provide a registry of schools and university data related to accreditations and approvals of programs, as well as management of accreditation calendars for schools and universities in the territory.
The web platform helps keep track of the tasks related to accreditation and programs authorization processes. Education directors, university presidents, school principals, and accreditation committee members will be able to access the platform, upload crucial information, and have access to pertinent documents and other resources. CALED is available in English, Spanish, and French and has seen a group of individuals trained in usage and additional training will be provided in the coming months.
Executive Committee members thanked Flórez for his outstanding leadership in education and his support throughout the years in Inter-America.
Board members approved a new professional program in marketing and digital communication to begin at Colombia Adventist University.
Inter-American Health Food Company
In their report, Inter-American Health Food Company (IAHFC) leaders shared how the 14 food factories located in eight countries were impacted by the pandemic.
“Amid the difficulty faced by our food factories, God poured out enough blessings to continue to provide financial support to the church,” said Juan Martin Meza, general manager of zone 1 of IACFC which oversees food companies in Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Colombia, Venezuela, and others.
Adolfo Ruiz, general manager of IAHFC in zone 2 which covers Mexico, said Alimentos COLPAC with its four large food factories struggled a bit in 2020 but continued providing its products across the country and took on mission projects to benefit communities in need. COLPAC is planning to build a larger facility soon on the campus of Montemorelos University which will house factories and offices.
Although sales went down in 2020, food companies doubled their efforts in offering health expos, distributing food baskets, live streaming cooking classes, and more.
For more updates on Inter-America’s Mid-Year Executive Committee meetings this week, visit us at interamerica.org.