The church in South America benefits from the generosity of Adventists around the world.
By Daniel Weber
With a membership of more than 2.5 million members the South American Division is growing at a rapid rate. Yet the church faces challenges that threaten to slow the pace of growth. From big cities to rural areas millions of people still need to hear the gospel. There is also the need to educate pastors and lay members to help sustain the growth that has already taken place.
“We are part of the world church, doing our part, with speed and passion,” says Erton Köhler, president of the South American Division. “With the growth we have had, and the challenges we face, we need the world church to join hands with us in the mission of the church in South America. Financial resources give us the means to preach the gospel.”
Working the Neighborhoods
One of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings in 2006 helped build chapels and churches in northern Argentina, expand schools in Brazil, and start the work of reaching out to the people in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
One of the schools to receive a portion of the offering was Petrópolis, located in the mountains outside of Rio de Janeiro. This school is now home to more than 400 students, more than half of whom live in campus housing. The 2009 offering is now expanding the boys’ dormitory and will be completed in time for the new school year in January 2010. Students on this campus are learning how to witness for Jesus.
The people working in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro also benefited from the 2006 offerings. These crime-ridden neighborhoods are home to millions of people who live in trying and difficult circumstances. The work here is hard and progress is slow. Your offerings have helped buy land where a new church will be built to nurture the new members who have come to live a new life in Jesus.
Pastor Sal Costa began having Bible studies in a garage. His small group started out with three members, and now more than 40 people have been baptized and are attending church each Sabbath. “We are thankful for the offering for the work in the garage and we continue with this small group,” says Costa. “We have been able to purchase a small house to continue the work.”
Affordable and Accessible Education
One of the fastest growing areas of the South American Division is the North Brazil Union Conference, growing at such a rapid rate that in 2010 it will be split into two union conferences. The North Brazil Union Conference has been adding about 45,000 members each year and now has a membership of more than 350,000 people. This may sound like a lot, but the Union covers more than 45 percent of Brazil’s entire land mass and encompasses 3.85 million square kilometers (almost 1.5 million square miles).
This has led to two major challenges for the church in northern Brazil: First, because of the incredible growth that has taken place there is now a great need for trained pastors to shepherd new flocks of believers.
Second is the need to reach out to the outlying areas of this union to touch the unreached people who live in the forests and along the rivers of northern Brazil.
To help prepare workers to support this dramatic growth, the South American Division is building Adventist Amazon College, which will open its doors to theology students in 2010. A portion of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build a dormitory on the campus to house these future pastors. The school will eventually expand to offer five majors, and will be home to more than 1,500 students. The buildings are designed to be environmentally friendly, with the latest energy-saving techniques to keep the cost of education affordable.
Currently Adventist young people have to travel either to São Paulo or Bahía (3,000 or 1,500 kms respectively), to attend an Adventist college-level school. Most attend local public schools, where theology training is unavailable. When construction is finished, the school will be the major source of new pastors to help grow and nurture the church in northern Brazil.
Reaching Out With Radio
On the western coast of South America is the mountainous country of Ecuador, one of the fastest growing regions in the South American Division. Ecuador is home to 13 million people, and the Adventist Church has more than 76,000 members. The church has grown here because of a strong effort to reach people through radio ministry.
The church operates a network of radio stations that reaches an audience of some 200,000 listeners. In the past five years the radio station has been responsible for more than 700 people joining the church, while giving out 4,000 Bible studies in northern Ecuador alone.
The station focuses on programs that deal with health, family, and spiritual growth. The majority of the audience is educated, and some 95 percent are not Seventh-day Adventists. The programs are created and broadcast from a small station in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. The staff of three people is led by Miguel Martínez, director of the radio station.
Jorge Cruz, radio station chaplain, oversees the Bible study program. More than 90 volunteers give Bible studies and meet with listeners who have requested visits in their homes. One volunteer couple, Yolanda and Augusto, work in the town of Alangasi on the outskirts of Quito. Recently they visited the home of María Roque, a single mother.
While visiting with María, Yolanda suggested she listen to the Adventist radio station. Maria liked what she heard and soon asked Yolanda and Augusto to study the Bible with her. Now María, along with her son and daughter, are baptized members of the Adventist Church. Cruz says that the radio station is a great way to enter the homes of the people in Ecuador. “God is in this radio station,” he says.
A portion of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering this quarter will help to expand the outreach of the radio ministry in Ecuador. Miguel Martínez says, “We hope this offering will be a generous one, because it will be used to purchase antennas and repeaters that will link our four current radio stations.”
A three-hour drive from Quito is the small town of Santo Domingo de los Colorados. Here the church runs Colegio Adventista del Ecuador, a K-12 school that is also home to 65 seminary students. More than 400 students attend this school from all over the country to receive an Adventist education. A portion of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help renovate the boys’ dorm, which houses seminary students (the dorm is badly in need of repair), so that the school can continue to help train future pastors of the Adventist Church in Ecuador. As the church continues to grow through its outreach ministries, the need for newly trained pastors also grows.
Ever since Thirteenth Sabbath Mission Offerings began in 1912, Seventh-day Adventists have supported the growth of the church through their faithful prayers and offerings. Today these same offerings help to spread a message of hope in Jesus’ soon return to the people of South America. Thank you for your prayers and support.