Seventh-day Adventists across the Inter-American Division (IAD) celebrated thousands of baptisms on October 29, 2022, as they closed a special year of evangelistic campaigns and activities in commemoration of the 100th anniversary since the church was officially organized as a territory. Leaders and members crowded the Higuey Central Adventist Church in Higuey, Dominican Republic, the hub of the territory-wide celebration, to welcome 40 new believers into the congregation in representation of thousands more being baptized across the nation and the rest of the IAD.
The live centennial program, also carried online, included baptismal prayer pronunciations by 24 union presidents as a symbol of evangelistic efforts taking place throughout each corresponding IAD major church region. Elsewhere in the Dominican Republic and Inter-America, mostly church elders baptized more than 12,000 new members into the church.
Church in Inter-America Only Stops to Baptize
“The church in Inter-America only stops to baptize like the chorus song says,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in the IAD, as he invited the congregation of more than 300 to sing during the online centennial worship program.
“There’s joy in heaven for each sinner who accepts Christ,” said Pastor Henry. There is much more work to do, he added. “There are many families destroyed who need hope. Too many around us are suffering [from] hunger; violence is prevalent; social issues keep rising; and it just tells us that this world needs the hope of Jesus, and we must continue to move forward preaching.”
Pastor Henry challenged every member present and every viewer online to continue preaching the gospel, whether as a newly baptized member or a longstanding church member. “You who were just born into the church today, you become a missionary; you become a messenger—a preacher of the Word of God.”
The special day of celebration was part of coming together to celebrate what God has done, said Pastor Balvin Braham, vice president of the church in the IAD and main organizer of the centennial celebrations. “Lay members and pastors of the church in Inter-America are on fire for the Lord. We have seen it not only this special year of centennial celebrations but ever since our pioneers began spreading the gospel throughout this great territory.”
Large Efforts in the Dominican Republic
The efforts across the Dominican Republic alone resulted in more than 3,000 persons being baptized after intense evangelistic campaigns began this month across 1,250 churches and designated sites to spread the message of the gospel and welcome new members. The national efforts included 90 preachers and evangelists from throughout the IAD, the General Conference, and the North American Division, as well as local church elders, reported Pastor Paulino Puello, president of the church in the Dominican Republic.
Pastor Ramon Canals, ministerial secretary of the Adventist World Church, led evangelistic campaigns themed “Victory in Jesus” for dozens of visitors who came into the evening series every night. “Every night, about 30 persons responded to the altar call, and many more will be getting baptized in the weeks ahead,” said Pastor Canals.
During a brief message, Canals reminded newly baptized members and those who will soon be baptized that communion with God is not an option; it’s a necessity to fulfill the mission of the church. “The Holy Spirit will help us to fulfill the mission of discipling others, but we must have spiritual resilience by meditating [on] the Word of God and dedicating time to pray every day.”
Taking a Stand of Commitment
Sheridania Castillo, 24, was among the group who heard Canals speak while attending the evangelistic series at the Higuey Central Adventist Church and got baptized. She had been baptized at 11 years old but left the church in her teens.
“One night, while I listened to Pastor Canals I was struck by the promise that there is life after death—an eternal life that Jesus offers me—offers us,” said Castillo. “I just wanted to find more purpose in my life. Nothing was really meaningful while I was away from God, so I decided to give my heart to Him and took a stand of commitment through baptism today.”
Castillo dreams of becoming a physician but has been undergoing several surgeries. She knows God will guide her as she finishes her basic college courses before applying for medical school.
“I don’t know how God is going [to] lead me, but I have faith and peace about my life with Him.” Castillo wants to tell others of what Jesus means to her and how they need to not waste any more time looking for ways to fill their time.
More Baptisms Throughout the Territory
Many throughout the IAD were concluding evangelistic series on Sabbath as well, like in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, which saw 1,000 baptized on October 29 as a result of evangelistic efforts in hundreds of small groups.
In the South Colombia Union territory, where 52 evangelistic campaigns were held in Cali, led by dozens of pastors, laypersons, and Bible workers from throughout the IAD and outside the territory through an Adventist World Radio initiative this month, more than 300 were baptized on Sabbath. Pastor Alvaro Niño, president of the South Colombia Union, reported that additional evangelistic campaigns will be led by local church leaders and lay members outside of Cali on November 5–12.
Evangelistic efforts led to more than 800 persons being baptized yesterday across the north, central south, and central parts of Haiti.
More than 600 persons were baptized in Chiapas, Mexico, during multiple baptismal ceremonies in churches and congregations, reported Pastor Ignacio Navarro, president of the Chiapas Mexican Union.
Andrea Suzzete and Jarib Méndez were among the hundreds baptized in Chiapas. After listening to several evangelistic campaigns last year and this year, they decided to enroll in Bible studies, where church elder Wilber Velasco Escubedo led during the past few weeks. “From day one, we have been blessed in the church, and we felt overjoyed to know that hundreds more were being baptized in other parts of Inter-America,” said Suzette.
In the Caribbean islands, more than 200 members were added during the centennial baptismal celebrations this weekend. “Several young people from our schools in Barbados were baptized, as well as two deaf persons in the East Caribbean territory,” said Pastor Kern Tobias, president of the Caribbean Union. More than 200 new members joined the church in Suriname, Guyana, Tortola, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas as well.
The South Central American Union, which comprises Costa Rica and Nicaragua, saw 347 baptisms during the day’s evangelism celebrations, church leaders reported.
Jamaica also had more than 200 baptisms on October 29, during centennial evangelism efforts throughout the island, church leaders reported.
Elsewhere in the IAD, churches welcomed hundreds of new members into their congregations during the baptismal ceremonies.
Caring for the Lost and Missing
It’s a joy to see so many giving their lives to Jesus, said Pastor Leonard Johnson, executive secretary for the church in the IAD. Just like in the parable of Luke 15, he said as Christians, we need to have concern for not only those who are lost but also find those who are missing or have left the church. “As pastors, lay leaders, and elders, we must take the initiative to care [for] the members, to keep them in the body of Christ. Let’s build relationships, form relationships, and enter into the joy of the Lord, celebrating the goodness of God.”
The celebrations were part of evangelistic efforts planned at the close of centennial celebrations held throughout the last 12 months in Inter-America.
For updates on Inter-American Division centennial celebrations held this weekend, visit us at interamerica.org.