For more than three months, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Venezuela provided free medical services to thousands of people in Mérida, a city in the Andes Mountains in northwestern Venezuela. Healthcare services were provided by more than 70 medical doctors, 15 leaders, and dozens of church members who volunteered their time and expertise to assist more than 2,700 people.

It is the first time free medical services are extended more than a few days throughout the West Venezuela Union territory and part of a larger strategy to offer assistance to so many who are not able to access or pay for such services, church leaders said.

The dozens of health professionals who took part in the city-wide impact included some from the local region; others traveled to Mérida for specific days to offer services in various areas, including general medicine, physiotherapy, dental, nutrition, psychology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, and gynecology. The group also performed dozens of minor surgeries and laboratory services.

The headquarter office of the Central Andean Venezuela Mission and two centers of influence located in various spots throughout the city were opened for the services, which were sponsored by the union and the Sonrisas para Jesus (“Smiles for Jesus”) Foundation, an Adventist lay organization in the country that has been partnering with the church’s health community impact for years.

“This has been a historic medical journey in this Andean city,” said Pastor Jean Carlos Rivas, Personal Ministries and Evangelism director for the West Venezuela Union. “It was very surprising to see how people in Mérida would come close to us to be cared for, and that opened more doors to better connect with people.” The evangelistic plan was to provide medical services for several months and end the initiative with a week of evangelistic impact, he said.

“The insights we have received [as a church] on the impact of medical missionary work has really allowed us to see miracles and open the doors to an extraordinary [evangelism] work to impact the city,” said Rivas. “This has been a wonderful strategy to reach people.”

As a result of the eight-day evangelism campaign led by church leaders and theology students from the Venezuela Adventist University, a new church was reorganized, and two new congregations were organized, with 106 baptisms and dozens of people engaging in Bible studies.

“We are extremely happy with what has taken place here in Mérida—just an extraordinary work done here,” said Dr. Leo Acosta, dean of the Theological Seminary at the Adventist University in Nirgua, Venezuela. “The coordinated efforts have impacted a city which is fundamentally Catholic, very grounded in their beliefs, but health and evangelism is something that doesn’t fail.” Many would just ask for Bible studies at the different centers. More than 679 visitations were done thanks to the medical impact.

Luis Betancourt, general coordinator of the Sonrisas para Jesus Foundation, said it was palpable to “to feel the collaboration and the teamwork with the Adventist University, the Adventist Hospital, the mission, and the union, united in the fulfillment of the mission.”

The evangelism impact, coined “Living with Hope” and coordinated with the Adventist Youth Hope project, saw more than 11,000 pieces of literature and 6,000 missionary books distributed, as well as 586 Bible studies.

“We praise God for this wonderful medical impact, and we consider that this work must continue strong with the work of discipleship because it’s not just about reaching 106 baptisms, but our purpose is to focus on forming leaders—grounding new believers in the truth that can defend and love deeply this cause,” said Rivas.

The initiative also saw dozens of health professionals and health evangelists form part of the medical missionary ministry to continue impacting different cities throughout the western region in Venezuela.

The original article was published on the Inter-American Division website.