Guatemalan Adventists Celebrate
Century of Growth
Paulsen challenges believers to “pass the torch” to next generation.
By Libna Stevens and Juan Francisco Lopez, Inter-American Division, reporting from Guatemala City
Nearly 9,000 church leaders and members packed the stadium to participate in a daylong program. Guest speakers included Jan Paulsen, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and Inter-American Division president Israel Leito.
FINISH THE WORK: “We must hand the torch, the assignment, on to younger people and we will finish the mission,” said General Conference president Jan Paulsen (left) and Israel Leito, president of the church in Inter-America, who joined the thousands of Seventh-day Adventists gathered for the church’s centennial celebration in Guatemala.“The spirit that we see here this morning is the spirit that more normally I associate with [a] GC session [meeting] when the large number of the church celebrates their faith,” said Paulsen. “They celebrate what Jesus Christ has wrought. They celebrate the commission that He has given us as a church as they declare publicly their commitment to finishing the task. I hear, I see your commitment clearly stated today.”
Paulsen encouraged the gathering to ensure that the youth are involved in the finishing of the work.
“We must hand the torch, the assignment, on to younger people, and we will finish the mission,” he said. “Let us go into tomorrow with a stronger intention, and we will finish the work.”
Highlights of the program included the honoring of church leaders, distinguished lay-people, and a group of the oldest Seventh-
day Adventists still living; four generations of Adventist families; a pastoral ordination of 19 ministers; and a musical concert.
Among the oldest Adventists honored were Policarpa Lopez, age 105 and a church member for 78 years, and Javier Sosa, 96, who has been an Adventist for 71 years.
During the morning program, Leito delivered the spiritual message to the thousands gathered at the stadium, and encouraged the thousands more radio and Internet listeners following the live program.
“One hundred years is firstly to remember—to remember our brothers and sisters from the past, who suffered, cried, went through difficult times but … didn’t give up, and that is why we are here today,” said Leito. “This is our time, our era; they pass the torch on to us until the coming of Jesus.”
Leito encouraged the church membership to continue proclaiming the message of Jesus’ second coming, just as the Adventist pioneers in the country had begun proclaiming.
“The church is inspired today with the Lord, because of receiving the torch of the past, receiving the call and the challenge of our pioneers … we have grown because of the steps they took.
“Let us strengthen the steps today for the future generations so that when Jesus comes, He can find a vibrant church in Guatemala waiting for the Lord. Be faithful, strong with a purpose, moving forward passing the torch until the second coming of Jesus,” challenged Leito.
CROWD OF WITNESSES: Nearly 9,000 Seventh-day Adventists gathered at the Polideportivo Dome in Guatemala City on July 12, to celebrate the growth of the church during the past 100 years in the country.“The predominant dream of the church in Guatemala is to conquer the entire territory for the Lord’s honor,” said Mario Calderon, president of the church in Guatemala. “We should not rest, for there is much land to still possess; there are victories to reach, so we must continue moving forward to conquer Guatemala.”
Earlier in July, Adventists in Guatemala literally took to the streets to mark the milestone.
More than 60,000 Seventh-day Adventists throughout Guatemala marched on July 5 and 6 to tell their fellow citizens that Jesus is coming soon. It was one of many centennial celebration activities the church has participated in this year.
There were some 30 marches organized during the two days throughout the country. Participants held signs and banners proclaiming the benefits of an Adventist lifestyle, the importance of studying the Bible, the active work of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency there, and the second coming of Jesus. One of the marches took place in Puerto Barrios, the site of the first Sabbath school established by missionaries in Guatemala.
The church also unveiled monuments featuring an inscription of the Ten Commandments in Puerto Barrios and Chiquimula. Local government officials were present to witness the unveilings.
Since June some 20 billboard ads had been placed throughout the country announcing the Guatemalan church’s centennial celebrations and promoting the July 12 event. In addition, the church published a special magazine about the church’s growth and development in the country throughout its history.
Boasting more than 200,000 church members today, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guatemala began in 1908 as a branch Sabbath school organized by E. L. Cardey and C. A. Nowlen in Puerto Barrios. The church now operates five church conferences, nearly 700 churches and groups, 25 institutions, and a publishing house.