Dinorah Rivera, children and adolescent ministries director for the church in Inter-America speaks on the hard work of children across the territory to witness to others with “The Talking Backpack” initiative during the Year of the Child and Adolescent during the online program celebrated on Dec. 8, 2018, in Miami, Florida. Children from the Jamaica Union and Dutch Caribbean Union share in their experience during the program. More than 12,000 children were baptized this year thanks to the 12-month initiative. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

December 12, 2018 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens/IAD

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America celebrated the culmination of its Year of the Child and Adolescent initiatives and activities during an online program held last weekend in Miami, Florida. The event drew church leaders and regional directors from across the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory on Dec. 8, to wrap up a year that reinforced Christian values and encouraged youngsters to study, live and share the message of the gospel with their friends and neighbors.

The 12-month-long initiative took children and adolescents through a journey into the 66 books of the Bible. It also featured “The Talking Backpack”, a program which allowed children and adolescents to earn patches and pins as they studied and learned character building traits such as truthfulness, courtesy, respect, gratefulness, forgiveness, punctuality, service, responsibility, obedience, integrity, optimism and kindness through various activities at local churches as well as Adventist schools throughout the territory.

The patches and pins were displayed on special backpacks worn by youngsters giving an opportunity for friendship and witnessing wherever children go, explained Dinorah Rivera, children and adolescent ministries director for the church in Inter-America.

This initiative was about creating more awareness as to the importance of involving children in all facets of the church for mission, according to Rivera. “It’s about preparing children to uphold values and principles that a Christian should have, help them strive to possess a character like Jesus, learn to have a spirit of service and mission as well as become part of the church’s commission to reach others for the kingdom of God,” she said.

Pastor Elie Henry, IAD president congratulated regional church leaders and teachers who labored to make the initiative so successful. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America, congratulated regional directors, teachers and all who served in making the initiative a successful one in Inter-America.

“What a wonderful way to preach Christ by sharing what children have learned in schools, churches and at home throughout this year to lead a Christian life,” said Pastor Henry.  “God needs to be important in our lives and He seeks faithful witnesses in adults and children as well.”

Initiative leaders followed a manual, used a box of values, patches, pins, backpacks and a mobile application called VE.app which provided activities, verses, messages, and games that reinforced the monthly character trait emphasized every week and month of the year.

According to Rivera, more than 12,000 children and adolescents accepted Christ as their personal Savior through the efforts of this initiative. “We have been blessed beyond measure with this initiative and we give God the glory,” said Rivera.

Sandra Pinto (left), children and adolescent ministries director in South Colombia reports on the more than 11,000 youngsters who took part of the initiative this year resulting in 1,157 baptisms. Zorayda Pérez, children and adolescent ministries director in North Colombia looks on. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Rivera explained that the initiative falls under the IAD’s “Lord Transform Me” initiative which includes connecting and sharing the hope of salvation across communities as well as help focus on getting every member involved in the mission of the church.

The online event featured regional, or union, directors reporting on the success of the initiative in their respective territory and the impact children had in their neighborhoods and schools. Sandra Pinto of the South Colombia Union reported that more than 11,000 children and adolescents took part in the initiative, resulting in 1,157 baptisms so far. In North Colombia, Zorayda Perez reported that more than 10,700 registered to the program through schools, vacation bible schools and churches during the year’s initiative.

Among the children featured during the program included Katie Willie of the  Waramadong Upper Mazaruni Village in Guyana, who at 10 years old witnessed in the only public school in her village. Katie said all she did was share with others what she was learning.

“Katie would pray and encourage her classmates to be good and learn about character traits that could make them a better person like Jesus,” said Debra Henry, children and adolescent ministries director for the church in the Caribbean Union territory.  Some 30 children took part in the initiative in Katie’s village as well as her mom returned to church, said Henry.

Katie Willie, age 10, of Guyana shares how she witnessed with her backpack in school. Children and adolescent ministries director Debra Henry (left) of the Caribbean Union and Cheryl Rolle (right) of Atlantic Caribbean Union look on while Roberto Brown Jr. translates into Spanish. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

In El Salvador, more than 8,000 children took part in the initiative, which resulted in 2,224 baptisms.  Perla Cardoza, children and adolescent ministries director in El Salvador, reported that six public schools in each of the church’s conference and mission territories adopted the program and will continue reinforcing the character traits studied in “The Talking Backpack” initiative.  What’s more, there’s a district with 13 churches that each is adopting a public school to lead the initiative once a month during the next school year which begins in February.

Children and adolescents from each union, who stood above their peers after completing the initiative, were honored with certificates, trophies and brand new backpacks to continue witnessing for Jesus.

To view the online program, follow the links below:

English: HERE
Spanish: HERE

View a photo gallery HERE

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