IAD President Pastor Elie Henry holds the torch to represent the spreading of the gospel across the territory during the opening ceremony of the church’s Festival of the Laity in Panama City, Panama, on Aug. 4, 2022. More than 600 laypersons and church leaders gathered for the three-day event through Aug. 6. [Photo: Ariel Morales/IAD]

August 5, 2022 | Panama City, Panama | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

The Inter-American Division’s Festival of the Laity kicked off last night with the passing of the torch, which had symbolically traveled across the 24 major church regions, targeting 1,300 unentered communities with the gospel during the past four weeks. Coined as the “Centennial Gospel Caravan,” the initiative was part of comprehensive evangelism efforts led by active lay persons and ministries, that swept through the territory with the same passion that moved early missionaries to pass the torch of the gospel at the end of the 19th Century.

Against the backdrop of evangelism efforts commemorating the centennial anniversary since the IAD was officially organized in 1922, the Festival of the Laity’s opening ceremony showcased the rich 130-year Adventist heritage in the territory through a video-drama performance, music, prayer, bright colors, wide smiles and waving flags on Aug. 4, 2022.

The Festival of the Laity included an Adventist heritage video of the history of the movement which entered the region more than 130 years ago.[Photo: Ariel Morales/IAD]

“The torch of the gospel needs to shine brighter and brighter,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in the IAD. “We need to continue advancing the gospel and never stop until the light of the gospel can reach every corner in our territory.”

Pastor Henry challenged the more than 600 delegates representing a core group of lay bible instructors, lay evangelists, lay preachers and church leaders from throughout the IAD to take on the light of Jesus, the flame of His Holy Spirit and shine for Him to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus.

Delegates listen in as they are challenged to recommit to spreading the gospel further in their local regions. [Photo: Ariel Morales/IAD]

“Shine leading people to the light of God,” he said. “This is not about just a moment in time, or a church program, this is about shining for Jesus so that others can see the light in us that comes from our relationship with God by the study of His Word.”

Themed “His Light Prevails”, the festival comes after a 12-year hiatus since the last time the IAD held a Festival of the Laity in 2010, and one that has been overdue, said Pastor Melchor Ferreyra, personal ministries director for the church and main organizer of the event.  “The light of the gospel can never run out in Inter-America.  “It’s a privilege to together commit to keep shining our light in this part of the world.”

Delegates at the Festival of the Laity hold up their phones in commitment to sharing the gospel in unentered communities in their respective territory. [Photo: Ariel Morales/IAD]

That shining light of the gospel has been possible thanks to the role the layperson in Inter-America has played in growing the church hand-in-hand with church pastors for over 100 years to more than 3.7 million members today, said Ferreyra.  “The same passion and drive that characterized early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers since before the division was established in 1922 is evident today by so many dedicated and committed laypersons.”

Sharing the light of the gospel has been part of Jeremy Sabido’s life for over 23 years. Sabido, 41, an electrician from Belize, was among the delegation at the opening ceremony. It is the first time he took part in an IAD Festival of the Laity. He has led more than 300 persons to accepting the gospel, and is among three outstanding lay delegates who travelled with a group of 14 to Panama City. Leading a mall group, teaching bible studies, doing home visitations and distributing food packages, leading public campaigns in communities where there is no Adventist presence and being head elder at the Mount Zion Adventist Church in Belize City occupy a lot of his time. He loves to serve and is excited to have made it to the festival.

Pastor Melchor Ferreyra, personal ministries director and main organizer of the festival, welcomes the more than 600 delegates on opening night in Panama, on Aug. 4, 2022. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

“It’s a wonderful experience to be here,” said Sabido. “I’m inspired and this event reaffirms that sharing the gospel is a calling,” said Sabido. “From the moment I got baptized when I was 18 years old, I had to share the gospel with others.”

Sharing the light of the gospel is part of the life of hundreds of laypersons attending the festival. The festival will provide the opportunity for lay delegates to connect with others, gain insight and tools to continue advancing message of the gospel alongside district pastors.

Jeremy Sabido of Belize is among the hundreds of laypersons attending the Festival of the Laity in Panama City, Aug. 4-6, 2022. [Photo: Libna Stevens/IAD]

The event will include regional progress reports, presentations, seminars, awards, and more through Saturday, Aug. 6.

To view Inter-American Division’s Festival of the Laity, go to webcast.interamerica.org

The online transmission of the program includes:

Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. to 9:05 p.m.

Sabbath, 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 – 7:00 p.m.

For detailed program and keynote speakers, visit festival.interamerica.org

To view a photo album of the event, click HERE

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