Marise Farias Mateus has dedicated the last years of her life to talking about Christ with others full-time. Her love is such that she even founded a church after studying the Bible and discovering that the seventh-day Sabbath should be kept. This is what she began to teach.
One day, Mateus received a visit from a person who was impressed that this church, based on another Sunday-keeping Christian denomination, was observing the Sabbath. Therefore, she was invited to meet an Adventist pastor. When the meeting took place, she received books and decided to delve deeper into the biblical beliefs of Adventists.
“I started to study even more, only alone,” Mateus describes, when she says she tried not to be influenced. Day by day, she discovered new teachings contained in the Bible, which she shared with her congregation. When the pandemic arrived, and in the midst of other situations that worried her, she called that pastor. Her message was direct: “Does the Adventist Church accept this whole group?” To her delight, the answer was positive.
With that, Cleber Acels, an elder from another Adventist church, was sent to support them. Previously, he was praying that he could study the Bible with someone. With that, Mateus and 32 other people were baptized, and the church changed its name.
A Network Formed to Save
A few years before, Andréia Faria was part of the denomination founded by Mateus, but it was far away. Hearing her sister's accounts of the Adventist Church, which she now attended, she decided to visit her to understand what all those members had discovered. As a result of the new study she did with Mateus herself, Faria was baptized on Friday, November 5, at the Annual Council of Seventh-day Adventists for eight South American countries, which took place in Brasilia.
The meeting brought together administrators, district pastors, and volunteer members to discuss initiatives to strengthen areas such as evangelism for the coming years. It also showed the growth and challenges of the denomination on several fronts and presented strategies for more people to come to know Christ. This year, the four emphases defined for the five-year period 2021–2025 to be strengthened are: Sabbath School and small groups, biblical studies (which was highlighted on the first day of the meeting), new generations, and stewardship.
“We want to have 1 million members giving Bible studies. Giving Bible studies is a project of heavenly origin, and God only needs one thing: an available human being,” points out Pastor Herbert Boger, director of Personal Ministries for the Adventist Church for eight South American countries.
With a revamped Bible study guide in Spanish and a new one in Portuguese, discipleship is now featured throughout the entire journey of learning about the Bible. The goal is for the student to understand it is necessary to teach others about Christ as well. Therefore, when someone is baptized, the plan is for the one who guided that new convert to form a missionary duo so someone else knows about Jesus.
Life Change; Life Changing
This is precisely what Eduardo Dueñas did. He was discouraged in his faith and even considered leaving the Adventist Church. It was an invitation to attend a seminar that made him understand that, in addition to studying the Bible, he needed to share this knowledge with others. Therefore, his pastor encouraged him to give Bible studies and participate in Project 100.
This initiative, led by the Adventist Church in Southern Peru, has encouraged each pastoral district to have at least 100 Bible instructors. “I started studying the Bible with some of my neighbors. I realized that my spiritual life had improved significantly,” says Dueñas.
Sabina Torres is one of the people with whom Dueñas studied. The nurse became interested after seeing that Marco Estrada, her neighbor, had a life transformation after meeting Jesus. Before, he lived on the streets and was involved in criminal activities and addicted to alcohol and drugs. The one who paid attention to him and showed him his life could be different was, in fact, Dueñas.
Today, Dueñas and Estrada are a missionary duo, and Torres decided to be baptized because of their influence. During Annual Council, she said she now needs to give Bible studies to others, like her co-workers and family members, and already has a missionary duo to make that happen.
“We need to get involved and give Bible studies. We need to pray to the Lord that He will show the people we are going to give Bible studies to. We need to live this and invite other people to do this,” said Pastor Stanley Arco, president of the Adventist Church for eight countries in South America, still inside the tank after baptizing Torres.