A pastor in Belize baptizes a young person in a river during what the Adventist Church in the Inter-American Division coined as Pastors Baptism Day on May 27, 2023.  The baptism was one of more than 11,000 new believers who were baptized across the territory, to shed more light on the pastor’s core mission to lead and disciple new believers year-round in preparedness for the Second Coming of Jesus. [Photo: Belize Union]

June 2, 2023 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News

Seventh-day Adventist pastors throughout the Inter-American Division (IAD) welcomed more than 11,400 new members into the church through hundreds of baptismal ceremonies at churches, beaches, lakes, and rivers on May 27, 2023. The territory-wide event saw local churches connecting to a live online program led by IAD leaders hosting from the Mount Zion Adventist Church in Belize City, Belize.

“Pastors, you have to keep preaching what you’ve heard, what you’ve received and continue making sure that you stand firm in God and continue in mission,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the IAD. Pastor Henry reminded pastors to not only lead others to Christ, but inspire and engage church members to engage in mission so others can be ready for the Second Coming of Jesus.

Pastor Elie Henry, president of the Inter-American Division, speaks at the Mount Zion Adventist Church in Belize City, Belize, during the online Pastors Baptism Day event on May 27, 2023. [Photo: IAD Screenshot]

Pastor Henry also encouraged the 33 candidates to be baptized at the Mount Zion Adventist Church to rely on the Word of God always, more so when they face challenges in their life.

Coined as Pastors Baptism Day, the event was meant to highlight the primary mission of local church pastors to disciple members and lead persons to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ through baptism.  The event coincided with the church’s monthly calendar to hold a baptismal ceremony every last Sabbath of the month, church organizers said.

“Pastors set the tone and pace in their local congregations, so if pastors focus on winning souls to Christ, ultimately that kind of inspiration is passed on to the members,” said Pastor Balvin Braham, vice president of the IAD overseeing evangelism. It’s about pastors serving as models in influencing souls towards Christ before their members, he said.

Church members witness the baptism of three  of dozens who were baptized in Catemaco, Veracruz in Mexico on May 27, 2023. Nearly 500 new believers were baptized across the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union.[Photo: Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union]

It was important to hold this coordinated event together as a church in the IAD to create a renewed motivation for the mission, added Braham.

“People are looking for inspiration and this event was one of those times when we called pastors to come forward with at least three candidates on this particular day to celebrate together,” said Braham.

As baptisms began to take place across Belize and the IAD territory, each union connected one-by-one as local church pastors reaffirmed their mission to baptize new believers.

Pastors in Haiti pray for new believers before baptisms at Diquini, Carrefour, in Haiti on May 27, 2023. A total of 494 persons were baptized throughout Haiti during Pastors Baptism Day held in the Inter-American Division territory. [Photo: Haitian Union]

Among the unions with the most baptisms on that day by pastors, included the Southeast Mexican Union with 1,970 baptisms, Chiapas Mexican Union with 1,617 baptisms, Panama Union with 1,448 baptisms, North Mexican Union with 1,144, and South Central American Union with 691.

Aurelio Malpica Cruz is among the 196 local church pastors in the Southeast Mexican Union. He pastors 12 churches with a total membership of more than 400 in the Tulum II district in Quintana Roo.  “We work through small groups ministry and with the assistance of church elders,” said Pastor Malpica. He said his time is mostly spent visiting new believers, discipling them and scheduling them for baptismal ceremonies each Sabbath.  It’s week to week with one, two, three or more getting baptized, said Malpica.

The territory-wide Pastors Baptism Day event motivates Malpica to continue ministering to the members, small groups leaders and the missionary outreach leaders to intensify their evangelism efforts each week, he said.  On May 27, he baptized two persons. The previous Sabbath 45. The rest of June is booked with two to three baptisms each Sabbath.

Pastor Jose Malpica Cruz of Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico, speaks to a couple before they are baptized during a special ceremony on May 27, 2023. The new believers were two of 1,970 who joined the church on May 27, 2023, from throughout the Southeast Mexican Union. [Photo: Corutesy of Jose Malpica]

“We want to reach at least 120 new souls this year,” said Malpica. So far, 71 new believers have been baptized, he said.  “We are moving through a process to work together with each local church, and so far more need to be visited for upcoming baptisms in the month of July.”

Celebrating new members who have accepted Jesus is what will be seen across the IAD in the coming months, said Braham. “Our church across the IAD continues this year emphasizing soul-winning and keeping new converts experiencing a life filled with hope and active in preparing others in Jesus’ soon return.”

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