New believers keep joining the Seventh-day Adventist Church across Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Venezuela after an online evangelistic campaign swept through social media platforms, resulting in over 6,700 newly baptized persons last month. The regional online campaign saw pastors, church elders, lay preachers, and active church members in six major church regions (unions) doubling their evangelistic efforts leading up to and after the eight-day series that took place on April 23–30, 2022.
Nearly 1,000 persons who had been studying the Bible during and after the evangelistic series joined the church as of the second week of May, church leaders said.
Themed “Hope for a Sick World,” the series featured keynote speaker Pastor Arnaldo Cruz, of the Southeastern Conference in Florida, United States, and resulted in millions of viewers on the Hope Channel Inter-American YouTube channel and Facebook accounts.
Different Evangelistic Format
“This is the first time that we have ever had an online series strictly with a specific 35-minute format for social media platforms,” said Pastor Josney Rodríguez, ministerial secretary for the church in Inter-America overseeing the regional campaign. It was not your regular evangelism campaign with the traditional format held at church, with song service, introductions, and the like, he said. “The goal was to feature the spiritual message as the main segment, engage thousands of members in discipleship efforts to lead people to give their lives to Christ, and impact social media networks like never before.”
The online series was designed to mostly reach friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and any persons who did not know about Jesus and may be dealing with depression, anxiety, despair, pain and illness, and more, organizers said.
“You can trust in God, even in the midst of the chaos in your life,” said Pastor Cruz. “God can bring peace in your life, can heal your emotions, restore your marriage, no matter how low you have fallen.”
Pastor Cruz encouraged viewers and listeners to seek God and let Him lead them to places where the love of Jesus and the hope He gives can light up many lives.
In each of the six unions in the four countries, dozens of digital evangelists worked and coordinated to reach persons interested in Bible studies, prayer, and seeking spiritual strength, hope, and answers to their questions. A team of community managers worked daily to promote content on posts, videos, and graphics to grow audiences on social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp, and others during the evangelistic series.
Social Media Reach
The series has had more than 5.2 million views on the YouTube and Facebook platforms. Many of those views included small gatherings of 10 or more or congregations of 80 or more in churches, leaders said. The 71 Adventist radio stations carrying the evangelistic series reached more than 219,000 people. In addition, hundreds of churches with no internet access in Cuba and Venezuela gathered hundreds of members and visitors to view the pre-recorded programs.
“We are so impressed with the social media impact and in-person impact we have been able to collect,” said Rodríguez. “Three of the six unions deal with power outages where most of the day and evenings, there is no electricity available, nor water; however, many were able to watch the pre-recorded series when they could and give their lives to Jesus.”
One way to measure baptism results during the series shows that an average 3.5 persons were baptized in each of the 5,006 churches in the four countries the series targeted in coordination with local leaders and laypersons, explained Rodríguez. “It still represents amazing results if compared to a normal in-person campaign that could yield 3.3 persons baptized during the first two quarters of the year.”
From January to the middle of May, the East Venezuela Union nearly tripled that average to 9.2 persons baptized per church in their 765 congregations and small groups, said Rodríguez. It’s not about trying to measure baptisms or focusing on a specific speaker or evangelist, but ensuring that church members are committed to and engaged in sharing the message of the gospel and winning souls for Christ, he added.
Nearly 20,000 baptisms have been added to the church books across the six unions since efforts began early in January as part of the centennial celebrations across the Inter-American Division (IAD) this year. The series became the fourth of five regional campaigns across the IAD territory scheduled for the first half of the year.
In the Cuban Union, churches were bursting with members and visitors during the online campaign. “Our whole team of pastors and lay persons worked tirelessly to feature the series in 300 places, and it was a tremendous success for us here,” said Pastor Aldo Perez, president of the church in Cuba. There were 1,335 baptisms as of last Sabbath, he said.
“In the whole history of the church in Cuba, we had never reached more than 1,000 baptisms in the first two quarters of the year.”
The evangelistic series stirred so many to flock to churches and small groups across the island on the last day of the campaign. April 30, that nothing stopped them from walking several kilometers to get to the 40 churches in Havana, even when public transportation was not available.
There are many stories of conversion that were heard across the island, said Perez. One of those stories was of a school-age friend of Perez who left the church to study and work outside of Cuba; after 40 years, he returned to God and was baptized. “He is now working to bring his wife and children to give their life to Jesus,” he said. A well-known neurosurgeon in a local hospital was moved by the online series and baptized in the Maranao Adventist Church in Havana.
“It’s been a wonderful and blessed week,” said Ailín Castillo, a church member who commented on the live chats on YouTube. “The San Andres Adventist Church in the Province of Holguín, Cuba, has never been so full of people. The messages were wonderful and practical, short and easy to understand.”
The commitment of the leaders and church members has been impressive, said Pérez. “God has done marvelous things. Our membership is determined even through many challenges since evangelism efforts began in January, and we will continue to keep working to reach more souls before the end of the year.”
In the East Venezuela Union, preparations for the online series mobilized church leaders, the youth, and hundreds of seasoned members to share the evangelistic series through dozens of radio stations, churches, and social media platforms. There were 554 spaces where people gathered every evening to watch the series, reported Pastor Ney Devis, Personal Ministries director for the union. “There were 7,263 persons who received the evening messages through WhatsApp and 1,967 baptisms during the campaign, adding to the 5,011 who have joined the church since January.… We praise God for the arduous work of our conference administrators, departmental directors, lay persons, the leaders in small groups, and discipling couples for sharing the message [of] hope.”
In the West Venezuela Union, the impact of the campaign was very special, said Pastor Orlando Ramírez, president of the union. The challenges of power outages across the region and the lack of equipment or resources to stream the online series or play the pre-recorded version, as well as limited cellphone access, affected the viewership during the evangelistic series. However, Ramírez reported that during the series, 1,279 persons were baptized; two weeks later, nearly 700 additional persons joined the church.
Seventy of those baptized included students, teachers, and parents across the 22 Adventist schools that featured the series each day on campus.
In the first five months, 3,423 persons have been baptized, thanks to the extraordinary efforts by the leadership and active membership in the union, Ramirez said. “This evangelism success so far means a lot to the church because it represents 51 percent more persons baptized in less than half of the year to the 6,000 reached during 2021,”
Evangelistic efforts were doubled through small groups after baptisms were down in the last two years due to the pandemic. “Any type of activity or initiative held at the church is organized by the team of small groups in that congregation, and right now, we have reached a high percentage of members involved in missionary activities at each congregation,” Ramirez said.
Additional evangelistic campaigns under the same theme will take place across churches and groups that were unable to feature the online series last month, said Ramírez. The momentum needs to continue. “We want to continue the theme because the series was so thoroughly promoted here that it made a real impact across the territory.”
In the North Colombia Union, the impact of the online campaign was strong and beneficial, not only in mobilizing the lay members but also because of the social media engagement, said William Barrero, evangelism coordinator for the union.
Thanks to the commitment, evangelism activities, and the reopening of churches, a significant difference has been seen this year, said Barrero. “Leaders and members united their efforts across churches, schools, medical centers, and radio stations in a new culture of evangelism for a greater outreach, both online and in personal contacts.”
To date, more than 4,200 persons have joined the church since evangelism efforts began throughout the region in January, he added.
In the South Colombia Union, the online evangelistic series has strengthened joint efforts across the region and mobilized the church membership to take part in a new evangelistic experience, said Pastor Alvaro Niño, president of the union. The church reached 1,032 baptisms last month.
In the Puerto Rican Union, the church enlisted hundreds of young people who have already been assisting in transmitting online church services since the pandemic hit, said Pastor Luis Rivera, president of the union.
“Pastor Arnaldo has been a real inspiration to our young people, and we are thankful to reach so many people throughout our churches, church-run radio stations, television media, and the community at large.” All churches across the island transmitted the online series every evening and saw hundreds connected.
Rivera met a woman in a church on a mountain in the Sabana Grande, Utuado, community who had been listening to evangelism programs from one of the church’s radio stations on the island. “She brought six members of her family, including one of her sons who had never been interested in visiting church,” he said. Many of them recently got baptized, and others are studying the Bible before baptism, he added.
Church leaders in Puerto Rico reported more than 225 baptisms during the one-week online campaign.
Members Involved in Discipleship
“We are so grateful and satisfied with the outcome of the campaign, and it’s not about the baptismal results we can measure right now but the fact that church members got involved in discipleship to share Christ through social media connections,” Pastor Rodríguez said.
Two weeks after the online evangelistic campaign, more than 1,000 have joined the church for a total of over 19,000 new members since evangelism efforts began earlier this year. In addition, more than 2,100 have registered to receive Bible studies.
For information about Inter-America’s Hope for a Sick World evangelistic online series, visit esperanzaparaunmundoenfermo.com.
To view the series online (in Spanish), click HERE.
Daniela Arrieta, Laura Acosta, Dayami Rodríguez, and Steven Rosado contributed to this report.