Ninive Aguilar is baptized in the outskirts of the Pedregal River near her house by Pastor Agustin Dominguez in Chontalpa, Tabasco, Mexico on Nov. 7, 2020. She was among the 814 who were baptized at the end of a online youth evangelism campaign, held Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, 2020. [Photo: Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union]

November 20, 2020 | Puebla, Mexico | Sharon Dominguez and Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican region baptized 814 people earlier this month, the culmination of its fourth digital evangelism campaign. The campaign saw thousands of active church members connecting with their friends and neighbors to watch the series and enroll in studying the bible.

Coined as Project #Rescate316, or Rescue316, the message of the campaign referred to John 3:16. Evangelism efforts took place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6. Geared toward a younger viewership, the campaign was held on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, and was the latest in a series of online evangelism campaigns which began soon after the coronavirus pandemic hit Mexico.

More than 5,800 people have been baptized as a result of the four online evangelism campaigns held so far. The numbers are remarkable considering how church leaders were forced to switch gears when churches had to close their doors, said Pastor Felix Vidal, assistant to the union president for evangelism in Inter-Oceanic Mexico.

Psychologist Lorena Peñaloza and Pastor Jesús Fernández, are interviewed on set by hosts Jasson
Hernández and Yessica Ocampo, with questions and concerns coming from the chat from social media networks during the online youth evangelism campaign Oct. 31 to Nov. 6, 2020. [Photo: Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union]

“At the beginning of the lockdown, we looked at the pandemic situation as a challenge or a barrier for our evangelism work,” said Vidal. “We thought, once the pandemic is over we will hold evangelisms campaigns, but soon we realized that we needed to think about digital evangelism strategies as a way of reaching people with the gospel.”

Greater use of social media

It was a time to use social media platforms as a means to reach persons who could not be reached any other way, he said.

Rescate316 is part of the evangelism effort to gather contact information from non-Adventist friends who are interested in studying the bible, said Vidal. Previous to the #Rescate316 campaign, thousands of young people were recruited and trained to share bible study lessons to those who were interested during the week, explained Vidal.  More than 7,814 requests for bible studies came in, he added.

L-R: Pastor Félix Vidal and Benjamín Camacho speak online as they encourage young people to be part of the sharing bible study lessons to their contacts. [Photo: Interoceanica Mexican Union]

“We saw more than 3,000 devices connected every night, which represented some 10,000 persons connected live, according to our district reports which have included some gathered in small groups or in churches where it was allowed,” Pastor Benjamin Camacho, youth ministries director of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union.

Impact of youth evangelism campaign

The youth evangelism campaign included psychologist Lorena Peñaloza and Pastor Jesús Fernández of Montemorelos University, who both have extensive experience in youth counseling.

“There were a lot of comments and questions that came in during a special forum held on emotional issues, challenges with addictions, on relationships, abuse, and homosexuality, among others,” said Camacho. “People opened up their hearts to ask questions that are usually not done in public and we noticed that the subjects covered were beneficial to the online viewers.”

Rosa Martínez and her family stand moments before they were baptized in Tetla, Tlaxcala,
in Mexico, Nov.7, 2020. [Photo: Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union]

Ninive Aguilar was among the hundreds who were baptized. She had decided that she wanted to accept Jesus and get baptized several months before but waited for the right moment. That moment came after the #Rescate316 online campaign tugged at her heart. She could not pass up the opportunity even after Hurricane Eta’s torrential rains pounded her home, found in the Enrique Rodriguez Cano community in Tabasco. She and four others were baptized on the outskirts of the Pedregal River near her house on Nov. 7.

Rosa Martínez and her family also decided to get baptized after studying bible lessons and viewing the online youth evangelism week. “I grew up in the Adventist Church but I left the church after getting married,” said Martínez. “Even though I tried to talk to my husband about God and put that seed in his heart, I had to wait 20 years to see the changes.” Her husband decided to get baptized at the end of the youth campaign, and her three children as well.  “We all made a pact with God to continue getting to know Him and become the light to other persons so they can know and believe in God, that He exists and He is wonderful,” said Martínez.

‘Reaching more with less’

The first online campaign week, held in May, was meant to provide hope in the midst of crisis. The second was on the books of Daniel and Revelation held in July, and the third was focused on health and well-being early in August.

Yazmin García of Tuxtlas, in Veracruz, Mexico, shows her cell phone as she follows the online youth evangelism campaign from her home. [Photo: Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union]

It’s been a new way of reaching more people, a proven strategy in evangelism for the church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican region, said Vidal.

So far this year 12,686 people have been baptized into the church, some 5,500 alone during the pandemic period of April to Nov. 7, reported Vidal.  In 2019, the total baptisms for the year stand at about 15,000.  “Our pastors had to resort to baptizing people in their backyard swimming pool or small portable pool, or in rivers.”

“Without a doubt there were some technological advances, new strategies, lowering of costs to reach so many more souls,” said Vidal. “With less you do more and with less you reach more,” Vidal said.

Media team of the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union working on the production of the #Rescate316 online evangelism campaign transmitted on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. [Photo: Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union]

As of November, there are more than 25,000 persons requesting bible studies online.

To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, visit iasd-umi.org

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