Pastor José Bello with the newly baptized couple at a river in the mountainous city of San Cristóbal, in the State of Táchira in West Venezuela, on Sep. 12, 2020. A total of 575 believers were baptized during an online evangelism campaign on Sep. 5-12, 2020, after month long efforts by leaders and members to share bible studies online and promote the live evening meetings. [Photo: West Venezuela Union]

October 2, 2020 | Barquisimeto, Venezuela | Yosainy de Colina, Moises Aponte, and Inter-American Division News Staff

More than 500 persons were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in West Venezuela following an online evangelistic campaign held Sep. 5-12, 2020. The eight-day campaign drew more than 1,000 visitors every evening on Facebook and YouTube and saw more than 4,200 persons taking bible studies online, church leaders said.

At the end of the evangelistic efforts, more than 53,300 persons expressed interest in taking bible studies across West Venezuela.

“There are no words to express how successful this evangelistic effort has been here in our church territory,” said Pastor Orlando Ramírez, president of the church in West Venezuela.  “This is a completely new experience for us here and in particular this year that our country has faced such challenges with the internet across the country.”

Pr. Jose Rivero, evangelist of the North Central Conference baptizes Celia Villena at the Calvario Adventist Church in the city of Valencia, Sep. 12, 2020. [Photo: West Venezuela Union]

Challenges in the country

According to Ramírez, some days the power is down for four, six, or even 12 hours throughout different parts in Venezuela, especially in West Venezuela. Holding services online during the pandemic crisis has proven to be difficult, along with other complications that come up in the planning of a week of evangelism efforts online, he explained.

“It’s been a challenge but miraculously many persons accepted Jesus and decided to be baptized. We praise God for that,” he said.  There were no technical complications during the time of each evening transmission of the campaign.

The campaign was also carried live on the 50 Adventist-operated FM radio stations in Venezuela.

Coined as “Let’s Talk About Him,” the campaign emphasized the life of Jesus, His forgiveness, love, peace, healing, power, and salvation.

Pastor Orlando Ramírez, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in West Venezuela. [File Photo: West Venezuela Union]

“We had great expectations since we had already had experience in online evangelism campaigns, but none like this effort,” said Pastor Fernando Toala, assistant to the union president for evangelism in West Venezuela. “It’s really impressive to have baptized 575 persons under these circumstances of the pandemic and under the conditions we face in this country.”

Plan and execution of the online campaign

Normally after a two-week evangelism campaign held at a local church, baptisms could reach up to 350 persons, he said.  “To have reached so many new believers with the work online and in just one week was really good and we praise the Lord for His goodness.”

Prep work took nearly two months, and included promotional work which was coordinated by church leaders, pastors, media teams and church members. The event was advertised via WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube and other platforms.

The evening program lasted up to an hour and included music, prayer requests and a spiritual message by Pastor Arnaldo, Cruz of the Peregrinos Seventh-day Adventist Church in Miami, Florida, United  States.

Arnaldo Cruz, pastor of the Peregrinos Adventist Church in Miami, Florida, United States, speaks during one of the evening meeting sessions during the online evangelism campaign, Sep. 5-12, 2020. [Photo: West Venezuela Union screenshot]

Results and follow-up plans

According to church leaders, an average of 70 prayer requests were received every day online from viewers based not only in Venezuela, but also in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, The United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Argentina, and many other countries.

“There were so many testimonies that came our way online from so many around the world,” said Pastor Ramírez. The difference in this campaign had a lot to do with an intensive promotion strategy and in-depth preparation.  “We are thankful for all the hard work of each person involved, our radio stations in Hope radio Venezuela.”

Ramirez encouraged the church members to continue being part of fulfilling the mission of spreading the gospel with everyone they know.  Pastors and local church leaders have continued to monitor all of the persons who have taken part in the online bible studies, and more baptisms have taken place since the campaign ended.

A special program is scheduled online for Sabbath, Oct. 3, 2020, as a follow-up evangelistic message by Pastor Arnaldo Cruz, to reach to the dozens of believers who have made the decision to get baptized.

A group watches the online evangelism campaign from a laptop at a home in West Venezuela. [Photo: West Venezuela Union]

Church leaders are already planning for the next online evangelistic campaign scheduled to take place in the second quarter of 2021.

To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in West Venezuela, its initiatives and activities, visit uvoc.com.ve

Moises Aponte contributed to this report.

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