Church leaders at this year’s Inter-American Division Segment Leadership Development Conference listen in during the third and last day of the event in Miami, Florida, United States, Jul. 27, 2022. More than 250 delegates traveled to be in person during the conference while 1,700 registered to watch online.  [Photo: John Garcia/IAD]

July 29, 2022 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

As Inter-America’s Segment Leadership Development (SeLD) Convention drew to a close, top Seventh-day Adventist leaders challenged delegates to become transformational leaders in carrying out the overall mission of evangelizing, educating and serving communities throughout their territories with greater commitment using the knowledge and resources learned.

“Be a blessing to the church, ensuring that you are focused on the mission and proclaiming that Jesus is coming soon,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in the Inter-American Division (IAD). “We must continue to accomplish what God has called us to do with the power of the Holy Spirit and looking for new ways to move to the future with a mindset of using successful methods to fulfill the mission.”

Pastor Balvin Braham, vice president of the Inter-American Division and main organizer of SeLD Conference delivers a challenge to delegates during the closing of the event, Jul. 27, 2022. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Pastor Henry was addressing the 250 church administrators, department and ministries directors, pastors, educators, church elders and laypersons who traveled to Miami, Florida, United States, and the more than 1,700 online leaders during the close of the event on Jul. 27.

Transformational leaders

The July 25-27, 2022 convention was meant to encourage leaders to recognize people for their contributions and support their efforts and growth, while at the same time respecting their uniqueness in an authentic way, free of prejudice, said Pastor Balvin Braham, vice president for the IAD in charge of leadership development.

Dr. Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University speaks to the SeLD delegation on Jul. 27, 2022. [Photo: John Garcia/IAD]

“Inclusive leaders are transformational because they serve people, they embrace creativity and diversity and innovation,” said Braham. It’s collaborative, he added, “and it focuses on cultural intelligence, values, commitment, and always striving to build and lead themselves through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Earlier in the day during the first plenary session, SeLD delegates heard Dr. Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University, highlight biblical patterns of succession planning, as key in the success of the church organization.

Church leaders from the Cuba Union listen in during the morning plenary session on Jul. 27, 2022. [Photo: John Garcia/IAD]

Succession planning in leadership

“Succession planning is critical to ensuring a strong future for the organization,” said Luxton. “We are not alone or indispensable and who comes after us may be better than us.” In her presentation, she encouraged leaders to promote a culture of succession planning focused on developing the potential of all employees and those not currently employees.

Whichever level of responsibility, leaders of church organizations, whether local church or institution succession planning, must be part of it, explained Luxton. “It’s about getting ourselves out of the way and letting God help us value others and grow them for the sake of the church.”

Dr. Ella Simmons (second from left) former vice president of the General Conference, moderates a panel session next to Dr. Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University, and Dr. Delbert Baker, former vice president of the General Conference, while Esmeralda Guzmán (left) translates. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Dr. Luxton, Dr. Ella Simmons, former vice president of the General Conference, and Dr. Delbert Baker, former vice president of the General Conference, spoke during a panel session on their personal leadership experiences and case studies in organizational leadership throughout the church in recent years.

A department director

Edgar Velsai of the South Chiapas Mission in Mexico absorbed every presentation and every devotional and seminar he could get his hands on. It is his first time attending a SeLD Conference and every message has taken his headspace. Velsai was elected earlier this month to serve at the mission office as ministerial secretary, and Sabbath school, personal ministries, and health director. He spends his time traveling from district to district visiting pastoral families, motivating them to follow the evangelistic and strategic plans for each quarter of the year, as well as overseeing the initiatives, plans and activities of hundreds of small groups under personal ministries and the other departments he oversees.

Pastor Edgar Velsai,  departmental director in the South Chiapas Mission in Mexico is happy to attend his first SeLD Conference. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

“A good leader is one that serves,” said Velsai. “I have been so glad to see how servant leadership is being emphasized and how an inclusive leadership is not about micromanaging but a collaborative effort.”

Velsai is going back to training others to be ready to take his place next year if that should happen. “I’ve served 31 wonderful years for the church and I’m very clear that working for the church is about serving God with love and about preparing the way for others to carry on the work when it’s time for me to go.” Velsai loves working for God and is prayerful about being effective as a leader to keep growing the church hand-in-hand with leaders and lay members in his territory.

SeLD delegates take notes during a seminar presentation for department directors on Jul. 27, 2022. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

A conference treasurer

For Simone Gilkes, treasurer of the Turks and Caicos Conference, SeLD has been a convention she has not missed since it started in 2016. She left the corporate sector in Turks and Caicos to serve as treasurer in January 2016. It hasn’t been easy but working in the church brings a peace and satisfaction beyond compare, she said.

This year’s conference has reminded her to be grounded in her relationship with God.  As the financial administrator, she is a staff of one in her department. “I can’t be everything and do everything,” said Gilkes. It’s about “putting self-away and focus on God so that I can be able to achieve what is expected of me for the fulfilment of the mission.

Simone Gilkes, treasurer of the Turks and Caicos Conference has attended every single SeLD Conference since 2016. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Gilkes oversees the finances of nine churches, one company, and one secondary school. Interacting with the 4,500 members on the island and making decisions for the well-being of the conference is what she is passionate about and dedicated to, she added.

She’s glad she heard about succession planning at SeLD this year and learning how to have a clear mind in facing unemployment or reassignment after a session. “As a leader, you have to be patient, be humble and ask God for wisdom,” said Gilkes.  “You just have to be good, do good and lead good, regardless of what happens. Our legacy will move on and your influence will live on.”

Adventist World Church Executive Secretary Erton Kohler delivers a devotional message for SeLD leaders on Jul. 27, 2022.[Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

Being used by God

Pastor Erton Kohler, executive secretary of the Adventist world church, challenged leaders to keep on being used by God, seek the best strategies, and plans to further the mission of the church, grounded in God’s truth, sure of the church’s identity, united in efforts to do great things for the Lord. “Put your energies into fulfilling the mission no matter how challenging it may be. The Lord will triumph and obtain victory as promised.”

SeLD delegates prayed together, attended general session and dozens of seminars on effective servant leadership, transformational leadership, leading with emotional intelligence, managing organizational finances, strategic innovations, crisis management, minimizing conflicts, and more.

Pastor César Hernández of the Central Mexican Union translates a seminar on zoom on Jul. 27, 2022. He was part of the nearly two dozen translators who facilitated English, Spanish and French translations during SeLD Conference. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

SeLD was possible this year thanks to the technical staff that oversaw each general session and 14 seminar sessions, each with a team of translators in remote locations and in person to provide English, Spanish and French audio. “This has been a historic event and we are confident you will go back as spirit-driven leaders to fulfill the mission,” Braham said.

For more on Inter-America’s SeLD Conference information and resources, go to

To view photos of the event, Click HERE

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