Senator Lorena Ríos  Cuéllar of Colombia holds a special recognition by the Senate Committee of the nation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church as Pastor Alvaro Niño, president of the South Colombia Union receives it during a gathering at the Bolivar Plaza in Bogota, Colombia, Feb. 11, 2023. More than 12,000 church members gathered after a day of city impact in commemoration of the church’s centennial activities throughout the city in 2022. [Photo: Mateo Orozco]

March 9, 2023 | Bogota, Colombia | Laura Acosta and Inter-American Division News

Senator Lorena Ríos Cuéllar of Colombia awarded a special recognition by the Senate Committee of the nation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church for the spiritual, social, and humanitarian contribution throughout its 100 years of existence in Bogotá, the capital city. Senator Ríos presented the award to Pastor Alvaro Niño, president of the church in the South Colombia Union, during a special ceremony which gathered thousands of church members at the Bolivar Plaza in the heart of the capital city on Feb. 11, 2023.

The special gathering in Bogotá was meant to have been held in November as the church ended its centennial initiatives and impact activities held throughout 2022, but because of political setbacks, the culminating event at the city’s main plaza took place earlier last month instead, church leaders said.

Young people march through the main avenues in Bogota, Colombia with banners highlighting the church’s impact in the city during the past 100 years, and spreading message of hope and health. [Photo: Mateo Orozco]

More than 12,000 church members marched through the main streets of the capital city holding banners promoting health, family values, religious liberty, and distributing literature to onlookers and businesses to gather at the Bolivar Plaza, where dozens of impact activities had been held throughout the centennial celebrations before.

“We are here as the Seventh-day Adventist Church with two very specific, very special purposes: firstly, to recognize and proclaim God as the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of our lives, and secondly, to manifest to the world through this event that we believe in the Bible, in the Word of God as the only rule of faith and practice of the believers…that His Word guides us in our personal experience as a religious community and that we are committed to proclaiming the principles of the Holy Word of the Lord,” said Pastor Niño.

Niño stated how historic the recognition by the Senate to the Adventist Church was after the nation has kept in its constitution the Apostolic and Roman Catholic religion as the State religion for 200 years.

Thousands of church members and their friends enjoying the program at the Bolivar Plaza on Feb. 11, 2023. [Photo: Mateo Orozco]

“This is historic and important for the Adventist Church because it makes the existence of a non-Catholic religious organization visible, recognizing its contribution to the social fabric and well-being of citizens in the spiritual life, humanitarian aid and social impact through educational and health institutions,” he said.  In addition, Niño said that in the past the Adventist Church was seen as a sect, but is now recognized as a highly organized and structured church, a historic church offering valuable spiritual and social work to the nation.

The Adventist Church has been present in Colombia for 127 years, but 100 years in Bogotá, church leaders said.

Launch of first Adventist radio station in the capital city

The event also saw a special inauguration ceremony of Esperanza Colombia Radio 96.3 FM station which was acquired in 2022, thanks to the support of Adventist World Radio (AWR). The station reaches 14 million people in Bogota and its metropolitan region.

Pastor Duane McKey (left) president of Adventist World Radio, speaks before cutting the ribbon to inaugurate the first Adventist radio station in the city while Eduardo Canales (center), AWR Director for North America, Inter-America, and South America, translates and Pastor Alvaro Niño (right), president of the South Colombia Union, listens in. [Photo: Mateo Orozco]

Duane McKey, president of AWR, spoke to the large gathering before he cut the ribbon.

“By cutting the ribbon, this station is being inaugurated in the city of Bogotá, trusting that many people in the city will be blessed and will receive hope in Christ Jesus,” said McKey. “Adventist World Radio has more than 1,800 stations around the world and this new station is very special, because it was not supposed to reach all of Bogotá, but the signal is very strong and we are very excited about it.”

Long-standing members recognized

Union leaders praised the work of church members throughout the hundreds of churches organized in conferences in the city which have seen much church growth. In addition, church leaders honored the work of committed laypersons who were significant in the growth of the church in Bogotá, including: Fernando Taborda, age 82, Maria Alcira Martínez, 82, Misael Blanco, 98, and Leonilde Díaz, 101.

Members of the “I Want To Live Healthy” cycling club of Bogota,  stand ready to ride their bikes through the city on Feb. 11, 2023, with thousands of members behind them. [Photo: Mateo Orozco]

Diaz, who was unable to attend the ceremony, stated via video that her missionary work had touched more than 100 persons for Jesus. “I continue to be firm in the Lord and with God’s help, I will continue in the gospel until the day that God calls me to rest,” she said.

Centennial activities

The year saw church members involved in numerous social impact activities including health expos, blood drives, sports activities, cycling teams promoting the “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative, and planting of trees, as well as children’s and youth activities, distributing literature, praying for people, and acts of kindness.

The South Colombia Union has nearly 146,000 church members worshiping in 1,118 churches and congregations. The church oversees six conferences and four missions and dozens of primary and secondary schools.

Young people hold up a banner that says “My silence does not mean my absence – God” as they walk through the city streets toward Bolivar Park, Feb. 11, 2023. [Photo: Mateo Orozco]

To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Colombia, visit unioncolombianadelsur.org

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