South America: Adventist Outreach
Seeks Greater Member Engagement
Lay evangelism was the focus of a 200-person gathering of South American Divisionleaders recently, held at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s headquarters in Brasília, capital city of Brazil.
Luis Gonçalves, who coordinated the meetings, said one of the main discussion topics for the group was the development of training for lay evangelists in all countries and regions. The initial goal is to empower more than 1,400 laypeople, who then would perform more than 2,000 outreach programs.
HOMEWORK: Marcos Alexandre Martins (right) tells about evangelizing his neighborhood.“Members will engage in evangelism in a practical way,” said Gonçalves.
Evangelism is not limited only to prophecy seminars and other topics during a set time period. It has much to do with building permanent relationships, even after baptism, within the context of discipleship.
Discipleship is what motivates Marcos Alexandre Martins, 25, who gave his testimony at the conference’s opening session on August 28, 2012. Along with his mother, Iolanda, Marcos was responsible for contact with a psychologist who was recently baptized into the Adventist Church. In the words of Erton Köhler, South American Division president: “Evangelism is not the mission of a department—it is the mission of a church.”
In the Brazilian states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and Espirito Santo the results of evangelism training are already being seen, leaders report. Raimundo Gonçalves, who coordinates outreach strategies in this region of Brazil, explains that more than 8,000 people were trained in person or via satellite in an 18-month period.
“I see greater mobilization in churches, and consequently baptisms occur with people better prepared for the spiritual challenges,” Gonçalves says. Two of the most challenging goals the Adventist Church has in these states are to confirm the official Adventist presence in 389 cities and increase its evangelism efforts in urban conglomerates such as the Rio Grande (the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro), with more than 6 million inhabitants.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, the challenge is huge too, as evidenced by David Del Valle, coordinator of evangelism. One strategy is to recruit 3,000 young volunteers (Calebs) who will give Bible studies, maintain friendships, and contribute to strengthening small groups. Del Valle and his team are working in advance of a citywide outreach in 2013, featuring up to an aggregate of 187 weeks of messages.
“We also planted four new churches in Buenos Aires, as well as a school for lay evangelists and district pastors,” he adds.
—reported by Felipe Lemos, ASN staff