Thousands of lay Adventist members throughout the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America were celebrated for their commitment and dedication to sharing the gospel and discipling new believers. Coined as the Inter-American Day of the Laity, the special celebration took place during a live online program on Sep. 4, 2021.
“There are not enough words to express all the outstanding work you as laypersons throughout the Inter-American Division are doing,” said Melchor Ferreyra, personal ministries director and main organizer of the event. “You are very important to the church at all levels for you’re always ready to give your talents, gifts, and energy to spreading the message of hope and redemption where you are.”
The extraordinary task of sharing the gospel
“This is about our thousands of extraordinary lay members in Inter-America who take on the beautiful task of preaching the gospel, something that has characterized the territory for decades, expanding the church into what we have today,” said Ferreyra. United with pastors, laypersons are undoubtedly the lifeblood of the church, he said.
The celebration marked the annual day in the territory, which was reinstated this year as a division-wide day to celebrate the laity. More than 20 years ago the annual day was celebrated but for some reason, it was left behind amid other designated days across the church and its ministries, said Ferreyra. Lay members have been celebrated every year, locally, regionally and at major Inter-American Division (IAD) events but it was reinstated to be a permanently designated day throughout the IAD, he added.
Church leaders greeted viewers as the online event was launched from La Mesa Adventist Church in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
Inter-American Division President Elie Henry encouraged the laity to continue fulfilling the mission of the church. “We have been called to proclaim the message of salvation and now with greater urgency,” said Henry. “Blow the trumpet, sound the alarm and share the great news that the Lord Jesus is coming soon.”
Teaching, preaching, and baptizing
In his keynote message, Ramon Canals, personal ministries director for the Adventist world church, boasted about the hard work of the lay members in Inter-America for teaching, preaching, and baptizing so many new believers even through the pandemic.
Canals encouraged lay members to cling to Jesus as they minister to others. “To win souls we need a special ingredient, to live in Jesus Christ,” said Canals. “To be alive we need the power of the Holy Spirit, a spiritual awakening.” He continued encouraging them to be key players in reinvigorating the church through revival, reformation, and reclaiming those who have left the church and also to foster an atmosphere of love, acceptance, and harmony in the church.
“Christ calls us to fulfill this mission to preach the Three Angels’ Messages to prepare the world for His Second Coming so preach the precious message with more intensity,” Canals said.
Most of the 24 unions, or major church regions, in Inter-America, used the special day to pay homage and reaffirm the mission to continue working hand-in-hand with pastors and local church leaders to reach out and disciple new believers into accepting Christ and joining the church.
Honoring outstanding laypersons
In the Baja California Conference, where the event was hosted, several churches gathered outstanding lay members in the region to be honored and gifted plaques and certificates, while nearly 1,500 lay-people watched online during training seminars throughout the day.
Cristina Gines of the Maneadero District in the city of Ensenada was among the dozens of laypersons who were recognized in Baja California for sharing her faith and ministering to those who were recently baptized. Among the 30 bible studies she has been conducting, 15 accepted Jesus through baptism. “I never thought I would receive this gift, but I serve God with love,” said Gines.
Like Gines, there are 1.2 million hard-working lay members, defined as lay preachers, lay evangelists, small group leaders, and bible workers across the IAD who help grow the church every year.
In the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, the more than 9,300 laypersons are divided each by leading a small group. The small group, which usually has eight persons, follows a calendar year of bible studies, planting, reaping, harvesting, and retention segments and activities. Each can be categorized into three levels of outreach depending on the number of persons baptized and bible studies reached. Lay members in the territory followed the online celebration from their homes and received certificates and gifts, reported Pastor Martin Olvera, personal ministries director for the church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union.
In the Dominican Republic, churches across the island watched the afternoon celebration and honored the most outstanding lay members with certificates, books, medals, and more. In the South Dominican region, more than 100 outstanding lay members were honored by local and conference leaders at the Central de Azua Adventist Church. Church leaders of the Southeast Dominican Conference gifted three laptops, cash prizes and other gifts to the most outstanding laypersons there.
In Honduras, dozens were recognized with certificates and a special discipleship bibles across churches during the afternoon program.
In Cuba, thousands of church leaders and lay members tuned in to listen to the celebration program through the church’s online radio station.
In East Venezuela, dozens of lay members were gifted certificates and a missionary packet with food and goods to assist them and their families.
Other unions across the IAD had to postpone onsite celebratory activities for the lay members until pandemic regulations allow large gatherings.
Celebrating the Mission into 2022
The one-hour event, themed “Celebrating the Mission,” also featured regional leaders greeting viewers from the IAD territory and encouraging laypersons to continue reaching more believers as the church in the IAD celebrates its centennial in 2022. The church plans to hold 100,000 public evangelism campaigns, add 100,000 small groups, and involve 213,000 bible instructors and 139,000 missionary couples in spreading the gospel.
“We must continue to honor and support our laity across Inter-America for they are dedicated, loyal, and committed to giving their money, time, and talents to preaching the gospel,” Ferreyra said.