November 12, 2023 | Miami, Florida, United States | Marcos Paseggi and Inter-American Division News Staff

The second day of the Inter-American Division (IAD) Communication Summit (CommSummit) in Miami, Florida, United States, opened with a spiritual reflection that called scores of Seventh-day Adventist communicators to rely on God’s power and move forward in faith when working or pitching their projects and initiatives.

Pastor Arnaldo Cruz, Southwestern Florida Conference media evangelist, shared tips on how to keep trusting and moving forward even when some might at first not understand the value of what they do. “Even the message does not change, we must adapt to what is on now,” Cruz reminded communicators. “It might be uncomfortable and difficult to do things that are out of our comfort zone.”

Pastor Arnaldo Cruz, communication director of the Southeastern Florida Conference, addresses Adventist communicators on Nov. 8, 2023, to not get discouraged and keep moving forward in God’s name.  [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD][Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Against that background, Cruz explained that every person that uses social networks to help others find salvation in Christ will face their fiery furnace, quoting the Bible story recorded in Daniel 3. Cruz said that their fiery furnace can come in the form of an administrator or church members who do not support or understand what a blessing social networks can be.

In the next few minutes, Cruz discussed what communicators can do to deal with their “fiery furnace.”

He reminded communicators that people don’t follow institutions, churches, or television channels. “People follow people,” he said. “It means that the success of an institution is that people who are in social networks represent their institution properly.” But if communicators are doing just that, they should keep trusting and working hard until others inside the church see the value in what they do, Cruz said as he provided some examples in his personal experience.

Communicators listen in during day two of the Inter-America’s CommSummit, held at the IAD Headquarters auditorium, Nov. 7-8, 2023.[Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Consequently, Cruz called on Adventist communicators not to get discouraged and keep moving forward in God’s name. “No matter what happens, walk into your fiery furnace in God’s name,” he said.

Subsequent presentations during the Nov. 8 morning session discussed technical aspects of production, the need for increasing collaboration between Adventist entities, and the life story of one of the Adventist Church’s most well-known photographers.

Sam Neves, General Conference associate communication director speaks to more than 180 communicators and media producers to increase collaboration between communication entities much like the world church is working on. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Collaboration and engagement

General Conference (GC) associate communication director Sam Neves shared the rationale behind a renewed push by the world church to increase collaboration between communication entities. He explained that it’s all about recognizing how various organizations can complement each other and build of their respective strengths to reach different target populations, from longstanding settled church members to those who have never heard about the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “In understanding limitations, we recognize the need for collaboration,” he said.

Neves was accompanied by Hope Channel International president Vyacheslav Demyan, who provided examples of how this new approach is helping Adventist media outlets to focus and refocus their activities. “The Hope Channel brand is projected to be used now only for reaching out, for spreading the message” he shared.

Sam Neves, General Conference associate communication director (right) points to collaboration of communication entities as Vyacheslav Demyan (left), president of Hope Channel International  joins him on stage.[Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

This new model of collaboration will require competence and humility, Neves emphasized. At the same time, he said, a formula for media ministry success requires three key elements: content, distribution, and engagement. “Some people love creating content, but then you need to distribute it,” Neves said. Otherwise, he explained, the impact of that content is lost. “And after you distribute it, you need to engage people, to create and build a community around it.” Demyan agreed. “It’s not possible to start creating content before having an idea about how we are going to distribute it and help people engage with it,” he said.

Demyan shared some data about Hope Channel television distribution. Just in North America, Hope Channel has a consistent audience of 1,250,000 people and through Direct TV, they are potentially reaching 25 million people, he reported. Hope Channel brand recognition is almost at the level of Daystar Television and Pureflix, he reported in online platforms. Also, Intelsat (G19) satellite distribution shows Hope Channel is number two among more than a dozen outlets. “Is it a powerful tool to reach out?” Demyans asked. “Of course! And it’s not me who’s saying that.”

Vyacheslav Demyan, Hope Channel International President, shares initiatives and possibilities of the television channel reaching millions of people around the world. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Demyan shared some of the initiatives and possibilities of Hope Channel, as the network tries to become a comprehensive media ministry. They include Hope Studios, “the cinematic arm of Hope Channel to emphasize development and distribution,” digital distribution, which includes the Heroes Bible game, a YouTube channel with more than 100,000 followers, and a prophecy series for young people.

Demyan also referred to Hope Studio, which offers a Bible study course that now has enlisted 400,000 students, and mentioned Hope Cloud, a global Adventist digital evangelism platform. Very soon, Demyan said, Adventist communicators will be able to access video content from any of the 82 regional Hope Channel and select voice-over translation in the language of their choice.

Antonio Lerma (right), communication professor at Montemorelos University, speaks during CommSummit on the new master’s degree program on campus while Matheus Nascimento (left) on Montemorelos University participates on stage.  [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

At the same time, and despite all these developments, Neves emphasized, it’s key to remember that as Adventist communicators engage with media, they must understand that the most important element they have is not their methods but the daily presence of the Holy Spirit. “The only reason why the world church channels are bringing so many Bible studies and baptisms isn’t because of the method,” Neves said. “It’s because there are human beings on the other end filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and the ability to love.”

Inspiration Behind the Lens

Photographer Daniel Gallardo also shared his professional life journey and how God led him to become one of the most well-known photographers in the Adventist Church. He began to take photos as a student, and some of his first projects helped him to pay his studies, Gallardo shared. “I did weddings, celebrations, fashion, children, food, landscape, architecture… I was on a search to find out what I wanted to eventually do,” he said.

Daniel Gallardo, photographer and artist from Mexico and one who covers major events in the Inter-American Division, shares his experience as a photographer, artists and working iwth projects around the world. [Photo: Keila Trejo/IAD]

Gallardo, who despite his relatively young age, has been a photographer for the Inter-American Division for a decade now. He said that some projects for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) led him to find out what he really wanted from photography. “I remember one project in Honduras,” he shared. “I spent days meeting people, sharing stories, learning about a feeding initiative. I returned from that trip more focused on what I wanted from photography. I felt I wanted to get to know people, to learn about their stories.”

Back at Montemorelos University (MU) in Mexico, Gallardo began to develop a technique that combines computer painting with photographs, staging them to tell stories on Bible beliefs and faith themes. “It was a long and arduous process,” Gallardo said. But it was a process that was crowned when, for the 75th anniversary of University of Montemorelos, Gallardo managed to stage an image of the university campus where photos of real people — 300 members of (MU) personnel, staff, and students — and 175 “angels” were incorporated into the canvas.

Delegates from the Belize listen attentively during the second day of CommSummit 2023. [Photo: Daniel Gallardo/IAD]

Gallardo’s journey has had its ups and downs, such as the time most of his camera equipment was stolen. But his ministry was not derailed. “Challenges will certainly come,” he told Adventist communicators. “But if you stay firm, God will raise you up again, not to the place you were before falling, but to a better, higher place.”

Recently, Gallardo was selected as one of the five illustrators for the new Sabbath School Bible Study Guides for children that the Adventist Church will use around the world. “They chose my technique,” Gallardo said. “It’s unbelievable what God can do.”

To  find out more about IAD’s CommSummit event, keynote speakers and presenters, visit commsummit.interamerica.org

To view a photo gallery of the event, click HERE

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