Over 1,500 Seventh-day Adventist communicators, digital evangelists, and influencers from throughout Chiapas, Mexico, gathered for a first-ever Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) event in Tuxtla Gutiérrez to be inspired, learn new technologies, and use their skills to share the hope of Jesus with those around them and in their digital communities. The hundreds crowding the Chiapas Convention Center, mostly young people, were encouraged to embrace every opportunity to serve the church with their gifts and tools provided during the February 17–18, 2023, event.
“This is a good moment, a necessary and very urgent one for all of our young people as a well-organized, united army ready to spread God’s message through all possible digital media formats,” said Pastor Ignacio Navarro, president of the Chiapas Mexican Union. GAiN Chiapas was held as part of a comprehensive strategy the church in Chiapas began in 2018 to seek out and provide opportunities for young people to become digital evangelists across the state, Navarro said.
Establishing a Communication Network
One of its main objects was to strengthen communication teams across the eight regional fields in Chiapas, said Pastor Jose Luis Bouchot, executive secretary of the Chiapas Mexican Union. “Digital media has gathered us with a single mission to establish a communication network throughout the territory with evangelistic purposes so we can reach each field with its 31 regional coordinators, 228 district coordinators, and 1,500 local church coordinators.”
Abel Márquez, Communication director for the Inter-American Division, congratulated church leaders and organizers for holding such a large GAiN event—a historic one held across the division. He reminded communicators that the mission of the church is to inform, share, and grow. That means heeding the call to collaborate more with the church to that end. “This event that brought you here is also for you to exchange emails [and] learn about new digital ministries that are advancing the mission of the church.”
Márquez added that Jesus showed that God is creative, and He uses great contemporary ideas that develop marketing enterprises. “Let’s take advantage and return to our churches to inform, to be creative, and be innovators.”
GAiN Chiapas featured digital communication in news writing, cinematography, audiovisual productions, artificial intelligence, creating social media ministries, and topics focused on identity and mission, generating specific content to share, and algorithms, among others.
Advancing the Mission of the Gospel
Pastor Sam Neves, associate Communication director for the General Conference, challenged the delegation to keep focused on advancing the mission of the Gospel, which is at their fingertips. “There are many tools that we can share with others that will streamline your ways to share the message of salvation,” Neves said.
Pastor Arnaldo Cruz, Communication and Digital Evangelism director for the Southeastern Conference in Florida, United States, encouraged young people to be real. “People are tired of seeing things on social media that aren’t real,” he said. “People want to know who you really are. We should not pretend to be something we are not, for Jesus was real, and we should be real as well.”
A Creative Disciple
Among the speaker forums and interviews with “creative disciples” (or communicators) from the region, Carlos Florentino stood out above the rest. At 25 years old, Florentino traveled from the mountainous region of Nuevo Orizaba, a town in Palenque, Chiapas, where power outages are common and the internet is scarce. He likes taking things apart. He came up with a way to receive the transmission signals from a church in Chiapas through specific mechanisms to share with church members and friends. Florentino shared how he loves mechanical engineering, but his mother became ill, so he could not continue his studies. He demonstrated how he makes his computer receive transmissions during the event.
Moved by his creativity and story, union administrators and the owner of the convention center promised him a full scholarship to study at Montemorelos University. Fighting back tears while church leaders embraced him, Florentino addressed the attendees: “If you feel like you are not good at something, just strive to look for what your gift is. For a long time, I was looking for mine until I realized that this is my talent to share Jesus, and if I could, you, too, can.”
Investing in Digital Evangelists
Creative, innovative, dedicated young people like Florentino are those in whom the church in Chiapas will continue to invest and strive to keep them engaged as digital evangelists, spreading the hope of salvation wherever they are, said Uriel Castellanos, Communication director for the Chiapas Mexican Union and main organizer of the event. “The church has equipped every one of the conferences with basic equipment for each team to begin producing since 2020, and that has continued training and providing opportunities to grow.”
“We have three lines of action in our communication strategy: to establish, consolidate, and empower,” Castellanos added. “We will work through this new network of communicators and creative disciples who have been trained to make a difference in support of the evangelistic plans the church here in Chiapas has.”
It’s not about growing your followers or increasing your likes, said Castellanos. “If you take with you what you’ve learned and the tools you have been given to share Jesus every day, you will be blessed and bless others.” The sky’s the limit, he said. “Imagine if 1,500 of those who have been selected by your local church and local field are here for GAiN and you establish contacts with 100 persons who are not part of the church. Just think about the impact of reaching 150,000 people.”
Castellanos outlined the upcoming plans, initiatives, and activities in which communicators would be engaged each quarter of this year in support of the missionary endeavors set out by the church leadership in Chiapas.
Premiere of Masters of Joy Documentary
Featured during GAiN Chiapas was a special premiere of the new documentary film Masters of Joy, which is part of the cross-media Happiness project by the Global Adventist Internet Network in Europe that will premiere on March 20, 2023, through Hope Channel Inter-America as well as other Hope media channels around the world. The film has been awarded the Best Feature Documentary by the Boden International Film Festival in Sweden.
Castellanos was also cheered on as one of the five producers who filmed five-year-old Iker from San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, who, along with his parents, were special guests at GAiN Chiapas.
Promoting Creative Content
A group from the North Colombian Union and North Mexican Union, as well as others from Southeast Mexico and the Dutch Caribbean Union, took part in the GAiN event.
“It’s very exciting to see the fervor of the brothers and sisters in Chiapas, and seeing it in person is so inspiring,” said Abdiel Hernández, Communication director for the North Mexican Union. “Every quarter, we are working as a team in the five unions in Mexico to create content to strengthen our means of communication, and this has proven to be very important in advancing the mission.”
Diego Doria, production coordinator for the Hope Media center in North Colombia, said the team he brought was thrilled to be part of GAiN Chiapas. “These types of events continue to show that the Adventist Church at the world level is a great family, and it brings opportunities to network and be part of collaborative projects from different countries because we are one church with the same mission.”
A special segment was dedicated to give awards for best news story, photography and design, social media ministry, and audio-visual production. “It was important to award those who have been sharing Jesus through every possible digital media, and we are very thankful for each ministry that creates content that may be a blessing to others,” Castellanos said.
Being Consistent in Digital Ministries
For Joel López, a GAiN Chiapas attendee and volunteer from Nuevo San Juan Chamula, the event surpassed his expectations, from the keynote speakers to the organization of the event. “We need to be consistent in carrying out our ministries because we can do so much in this life, and we should trust in ourselves so that the hand of God can fulfill each one of the goals we have set for our digital ministries,” López said.
The event closed with a special calling for every creative disciple in every digital ministry to commit to share hope, impact the lives of three people, and create content that touches lives, not just to be consumers of technology. A special prayer of dedication was led for the communication coordinators of the eight local fields that comprise the Chiapas Mexican Union.
“We all have the privilege to share the identity and mission of the church through our social media platforms,” said Pastor Abner De Los Santos, vice president of the General Conference. “Not everyone can leave the country to evangelize, but we all have a community to impact through what we post on social media, and that’s how we can impact the world.”
To view the GAiN Chiapas event online, click HERE.
The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division website.