The following is the Inter-American Division president’s quinquennial report during the 61st General Conference Session published in Adventist Review. A video report based on this report will be featured during the June 10 morning session.
June 8, 2022 | St. Louis, Missouri, United States | By: Elie Henry, president of the Inter-American Division
Since the arrival of the Adventist message in Inter-America, thousands of members discovered their passion for Jesus and dedicated their lives to spreading the gospel to expand the kingdom of God. That passion continues to pulsate in the hearts of many today who, selflessly, inspired by the Holy Spirit, share hope for the honor and glory of God.
We praise God for His infinite mercies and providence for His church and for preserving the spirit of countless pioneers. These men, women, and children, moved by the conviction of having received a divine calling, and with the certainty that each step was led by the Lord, left their native countries and traveled long distances to proclaim the good news of salvation.They came to Inter-America exemplifying a spirit of hard work, courage, devoted service, and determination.
Growth since 1922
It is with that heritage that the Inter-American Division (IAD) was organized in 1922 with a membership of 7,500 and 221 organized churches, grouped in nine mission fields. Although the Adventist message entered the region in the early 1880s, it wasn’t until May 26, 1922, that Adventist world leaders officially voted it as a division at General Conference Session.
Today the church continues moving forward with more than 3.7 million members, worshipping in more than 23,000 churches and companies, organized in 156 conferences and missions, administered by 24 unions.
Each of Inter-America’s Adventist schools and educational institutions, clinics and hospitals, food factories, publishing houses, Hope Channel Inter-America television and media centers, radio stations, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) offices, and centers of influence remains dedicated to crowning the mission not here on earth, but in the heavenly kingdom.Members’ Faithfulness
Without a doubt our church members’ faithfulness and commitment keeps the mission going throughout Inter-America. In spite of health, social, and economic challenges facing the countries in our territory and the world today, we see miracles and the manifestation of divine grace. Church members continue to share their tithes and offerings, advancing church growth by leaps and bounds.
We are inspired by 1 Samuel 7:12 in declaring God’s goodness this centennial year: “The Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer saying, ‘Thu far the Lord has helped us’” (NIV).
The assurance from the Spirit of Prophecy continues to resonate in Inter-America: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”*
The growth of the church in the 42 islands and countries that make up the IAD territory can be seen in the approximately 150,000 people who give their lives to Jesus every year. From 2015 to the present, 2,400 new churches and companies have been organized. That represents one church organized almost every day during the past seven years.Educating, Serving, and Evangelizing
Inter-America has extended its legacy of educating, serving, and evangelizing throughout the territory.
During the past seven years the church in the IAD has focused not only on providing formal Adventist education for children, young people, and adults through its nearly 1,000 primary and secondary schools, 13 universities, and its theological seminary, but also ensuring that its leadership and members are trained through various in-person and online training programs, certifications, adopting best practices for ministry, discipleship, and leadership.
Since 2016 thousands of administrators, pastors, educators, department directors, church elders, and laypeople have been certified through Inter-America’s territory-wide Segment Leadership Development (SeLD) Conference. This annual conference aims to equip leaders on how to manage the various entities of the church, understand their role, and effectively carry out the mission as they lead.
More than 43,000 church elders have been certified to assist pastors in ministering to the growing congregations and the more than 74,000 small groups within our territory. Throughout the 24 unions thousands of men, women, adolescents, and children have been equipped through training and certification in the various departments and ministries of the church.ADRA offices in Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras have expanded their efforts to assist thousands of people who have migrated in recent years from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, and other countries, as they travel north in search of a better life for their families. Additionally, the church and ADRA have assisted thousands who were affected by the numerous disasters that hit the territory nearly every year.
New centers of influence across most of the IAD unions have been providing assistance, services, and training to communities across cities and neighborhoods.
During the past seven years, through Possibility Ministries, intentional focus has brought more awareness and care for those with special needs, ensuring that anyone with challenges can have access to church. Professionals and trained member volunteers have been ministering to the hearing-impaired, vision-impaired, orphaned, those with mental health issues, the bereaved, as well as those who function as caregivers.
Hope Channel Inter-America
With a growing population of more than 308 million people in its territory, the IAD since 2016 has been strengthening its Hope Channel Inter-America network of three television channels in English, Spanish, and French, and 19 media centers. Hope Channel Inter-America continues to inform, teach, and transform lives through satellite channels as well as through cable companies in hundreds of cities and regions.The heartbeat of the church in the islands and countries of the Caribbean, in Mexico, Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana can be seen in the smiles, hugs, and tears of members, totally involved in leading others to be disciples of the Master.
As a division family we experienced pain and sadness as we mourned the loss of many of our workers and hundreds of members struck by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. We prayed with and for families, pointing to the wonderful hope we have in Jesus to see our loved ones and dear friends on resurrection morning.
Without a doubt it is dedicated church leaders and members that make the difference for Jesus in Inter-America.
Making a Difference
Lyneve McLeish of Kingston, Jamaica, facing a diagnosis that her 1-year-old daughter was hearing-impaired, taught her to detect vibrations under her chin to learn about sounds, taught her sign language, and taught her how to read and write and love the Lord. Left a single mother while her daughter Ma-Ester was a toddler, McLeish put herself through college to become a social worker.She taught sign language throughout Adventist churches across Jamaica and was instrumental in organizing the first Seventh-day Adventist Church for the deaf in Jamaica in 2017. She is the head elder of the Portmore Seventh-day Adventist Deaf Church in Portmore, Kingston, and ministers to the 85 deaf and hearing-impaired members in the church every Sabbath. Her daughter, now 31, will complete her university studies in social work at the end of this year. She leads the church service and program every Sabbath and is currently giving Bible studies to many who visit the church.
Karina Castillo de Palacio of the West Venezuela Union motivated hundreds of women in her conference to shine the light of Jesus in their workplace, neighborhoods, and communities during the pandemic last year. As Women’s Ministries director for the Southwest Venezuela Conference in San Cristobal, she invited women from different pastoral districts to participate in the IAD Women’s Ministries certification program.
In September 2021 they organized programs using social media platforms to connect with others, perform community service, and start studying Spirit of Prophecy books. Castillo soon introduced Bible journaling, encouraging her Women’s Ministries colleagues to invite their nonchurch friends to study Steps to Christ. Every Wednesday at 6:00 a.m., groups met either on Zoom or through WhatsApp to read, pray, and discuss a chapter. They each chose three of their favorite verses mentioned in the chapter and, on their own time, illustrated them in their Bibles. With the most basic of resources, such as crayons and colored pencils, the group grew from 50 members to 1,200 studying the Bible and journaling. At the end of the year, thanks to this initiative, more than 600 women in that group were baptized into the Adventist Church in West Venezuela.On January 12, 2010, a tragic earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing more than 200,000. For Greger Figaro, witnessing for God became an unquestionable mission. As a university professor and an ophthalmologist with his own practice,
Figaro escaped death on that evening because he could not make it to class. People were so afraid to be under any type of structure after the earthquake that they began to sleep in the streets, which were impassable because of debris. Many gathered on the street outside Figaro’s home. Touched by the apparent need, he began to offer worship services every week for anyone who wanted to participate.
For more than five years they worshipped under a tent with wooden pews right in the middle of the street, in front of his house. Figaro felt a burden to find property and build a church. He helped raise funds to build one, and today the Église Adventiste Galaad is bursting with more than 500 members worshipping every Sabbath. Figaro said that the terrible trauma of the earthquake gave birth to a beautiful new congregation in their neighborhood who praise God every week.Centennial Anniversary Evangelism Efforts
The IAD is celebrating its centennial anniversary with many grand activities. Leaders and laypeople have intensified evangelistic efforts in the spirit of the early pioneers, sounding the three angels’ messages and pointing to Jesus’ soon coming. Our 24 unions grouped together by region to conduct evangelistic campaigns; since January 2022 the gospel has been proclaimed through in-person events and on radio, television, and social media platforms.
More than 4,000 new members joined the church in March following “The Footprints of Hope” six-week series, hosted online from Montego Bay, Jamaica, throughout the English-speaking unions in Inter-America—namely the Atlantic Caribbean, Belize, Caribbean, Jamaica, and Dutch Caribbean.
More than 21,000 new believers were baptized in the Dominican Republic, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala during the “Don’t Give Up, There Is Still Hope” two-week series that visited each country live every evening and broadcast on radio and social media platforms from March 25 to April 9, 2022.The first of two French evangelism series took place in Haiti, resulting in more than 8,000 new members baptized into the church. Additional online regional campaigns took place in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, and Venezuela, as well as in the French Antilles and Guiana territory. An upcoming online evangelistic campaign is scheduled for Mexico, June 18-25, 2022.
Church leaders and members in Mexico are working together to exceed the 23,478 new members who joined the church last year during the first online regional evangelism campaign coordinated by the five unions in the country.
Accepting The Call “I Will Go”
Whether in English, Spanish, French, Creole, Papiamento, or any of the dozens of dialects in the jungles, deserts, and mountains, there are sons and daughters of God who have accepted the call “I Will Go.” They serve, educate, and preach the Word of God so that others can become transformed individuals in Jesus. Inter-America is full of life, happiness, color, excitement, and zeal.
Inter-America embodies a solemn commitment to the heritage of the King of the universe. Today we give glory and praise to Him who called us to follow Him.
We believe in Him, we wait for Him, looking for the glorious day when we will be “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Eph. 1:13).
* Ellen G. White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1915), p. 196