A report from the South American Division president
In the past five years a word that marked the fulfillment of the mission in the South American Division is “extreme.” Practicing the biblical commission given by Jesus to “go” means, in many cases, going to geographical extremes with dedication and influence, and using resources for the progress of God’s kingdom in this world. This is a cause founded on the great hope of Jesus’ second coming and based on three foundations of discipleship: communion, relationship, and mission.
In the area of communion the church worked through programs that aimed at the development and consolidation of the habit of seeking the Lord in the first hour of the day. In the past five years more than 1 million people participated in the Spiritual Enrichment Seminar that it is now in its fifth phase. Another initiative was Project Manna. The goal of this project was to encourage the daily study of the Sabbath school lesson. At the end of the quinquennium we had 1,010,083 copies of the Bible study guide among our members.
In the area of relationship our focus was to strengthen small groups. Currently we have 83,056 points of hope, which take place every week in the homes of members.
And for mission, members were challenged to use their gifts to lead people to Jesus. In the past five years 1,115,974 people were baptized. Beyond this, approximately 15,000 volunteers and 3,000 pastors received training at evangelism schools.
Extreme! is seen in practical ways in the lives of people who are not satisfied in doing only what is expected of them. They go beyond. People such as 8-year-old Ezequiel Zabala. Influenced by a teacher from the Seventh-day Adventist school in Santa Cruz de La Sierra, Bolivia, Ezequiel cleaned bathrooms and sold gelatin. With this he was able to earn enough money to buy four boxes of The Great Hope books to hand out in his neighborhood. “My teacher said that in heaven no one there will have a crown with no stars,” he recalls.
Since 2006 the distribution of missionary books has happened systematically. A high-quality book with more than 100 pages at a price lower than 50 cents is available for sharing. Empowered and involved, church members have distributed 130 million printed books; and there have been a little more than 32 million downloads of the digital version.
The South American Division territory has approximately 320 million inhabitants; thus, the distribution reaches one third of the total population.
Hector Pérez is another person who spared no effort to take these pages of hope to others. A sergeant in the Argentinian Armed Forces, he challenged the inhospitable climate of Antarctica and shared The Great Hope with everyone who was with him on the scientific base where very few people have access.
Ezequiel and Hector are among the 2,329,245 Seventh-day Adventists in the South American Division. The number of members went up 12.8 percent in the past five years. Adventists in the eight countries that make up the South American Division are spread out in 25,942 churches and groups and are led by an army of 4,409 pastors.
In church planting we also see extremes: 6,444 Adventist congregations were established, which represents a growth of 18.65 percent in the number of new churches in the last quinquennium. Jorge Caldas, a blind man who lives in the state of Rio de Janeiro, is not intimidated by the deficiency that has accompanied him for 16 years. He perseveres with a routine of Bible studies and missionary visits. In addition, he finds strength to occasionally conduct evangelism. He was responsible for the establishment of four new Adventist congregations.
Because they have a project for intentional and planned planting of churches, these congregations are established with financial support, strong missionary emphasis, and are already administratively mature. “It is solid growth, based on precise and systematized reports and records, that give us a real idea of how we are doing and where we are going,” explains Magdiel Peréz, executive secretary of the division.
More Technology, Fewer Frontiers
Extreme impact also happens when geographical frontiers are reached and surpassed. Someone who understands this is volunteer Roberto Roberti, from São Paulo. In only one year he was able to give Bible studies to more than 2,000 people. And everything happened online. Roberto did more than just send files or links with information about the Bible. He constantly talked with this class of students, eager for knowledge. A large group of volunteers also helped him in this task.
Through the Internet, through television, through radio, or in printed pages, the gospel flies high in South America. Hope Channel South America, called Rede Novo Tempo de Comunicação, ended the past five years with more than 100 million visits to its Web sites and blogs. On the Novo Tempo Web site more than 634,000 students participated in online Bible studies, and 693,334 prayer requests were received in the institution’s portal or in their social media, which has more than 7 million followers. Television and radio speak to a potential audience of 170 million, with 81 hours per week of never-before-seen footage in two languages. And 855,211 Bible studies were sent via mail during these past five years.
Magazines, books, and DVDs produced by the Brazil Publishing House and the South American Spanish Publishing House arrive at thousands of houses through the work of more than 3,500 full-time literature evangelists and 10,600 student literature evangelists. The number of books and magazines sold in this period was 52,525,571, which represents US$322,712,840. As a result of the work of the publishing ministry, 14,843 individuals were baptized during the past quinquennium.
The official church Web site in the South American Division (adventistas.org), developed both in Portuguese and Spanish, had 35 million visits to their pages during the past five years.
Institutions That Serve
In the perspective of the South American Division, its institutions give examples of extreme evangelism. It is in the details that a company’s concern with spiritual values is noticed.
Superbom (Brazil Food Factory) and Granix (Argentina Food Factory) food factories established in Brazil and Argentina, and managed by the division, have a combined number of 1,152 employees who fulfill the mission through the production of healthy food. Among the products manufactured is 100 percent pure grape juice, with no chemical additives, in harmony with biblical health principles. This caught the attention of a university professor, Maria Auxiliadora de Oliveira. Maria Auxiliadora wanted to prove that all companies lied about the use of harmful substances in their products on the description labels of the cartons and bottles of the products.
She was surprised with the veracity of the information shared about our product. Known as Dora, she discovered that the labels were factual, and she discovered that behind the product there was a church. And behind this church she learned about God in a most extreme way. On the label of each of the products appears the name of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the evangelistic Web site, esperança.com.br in Portuguese and esperanzaweb.com in Spanish. She was baptized, and today she is a Seventh-day Adventist.
Fulfilling the mission is also the focus of the 870 South American educational institutions, with their more than 299,466 students, in addition to the community of parents who also benefit from Christian education. And 20 health institutions, such as clinics, health life centers, and hospitals, go to extremes in mission. “We are not here only to earn profit and have stable institutions as an end in itself. Our entire revenue is invested in evangelism,” assures Marlon Lopes, treasurer of the South American Division.
Data shows that South American Seventh-day Adventists increased their faithfulness in tithe by 50.2 percent and gave 102.1 percent more in offerings than in the previous quinquennium.
People Who Make a Difference
Ruth Tesche, or Mother Ruth, as this missionary in the south of Brazil is better known, incorporated in her daily life the expression “love your neighbor.” She goes to extremes and risks her own life to save others.
Ruth dedicates time to spiritually help prison inmates and their families. She spends from 12 to 15 hours every day in contact with prisoners of all kinds. Ruth is part of a group of people who live the love of Christ in acts of kindness.
Another group, with more than 100,000 young people, does good in different ways. These are the participants of Mission Caleb. These young people use their vacations to serve the community and do evangelism.
In 2014, 19 young people in the project One Year in Missionbrought a real spiritual revolution to the city of Montevideo, in Uruguay. And in 2015, 24 young people are making a difference in Rio de Janeiro. This project spread to the unions and now involves 402 more young people. These are men and women who left their professional and educational activities behind for a year so they could completely dedicate themselves to the gospel.
ADRA volunteers and professionals also go to extremes when caring for 2,645,868 people in need, providing not only food and provisions, but also spiritual support to help them survive these difficult times.
Adventurer clubs grew 45.24 percent and Pathfinders grew 15.23 percent in the past quinquennium, and they are responsible for keeping an entire generation connected to God, to nature, and to work for other people. An army made up of 192,000 Pathfinders and 75,000 Adventurers is prepared to be church leaders. The last big South American Camporee had more than 35,000 Pathfinders in the city of Barretos, Brazil.
In Difficult Lands
But challenging limits can be much more daring than what we thought. In this quinquennium the division sent 28 missionary families, chosen and prepared by the church, to go to countries where Christianity has little or no influence on society.
Jesus Christ became one of us in the greatest demonstration of going to extremes when He took on humanity and died so that each human being could have eternal life. The disciples and apostles did not spare any effort and gave their lives so that more people could learn about salvation.
In the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church we also find this same level of commitment. People went to the extremes of their capabilities and financial possibilities to proclaim Jesus’ soon coming.
The South American Division recognizes the work of pioneer missionaries in its territory in the past, and today it gives back to the world and sends these families to do in other places what once was done for South America.
The South American Division continues to do extreme evangelism.