by Jay Wintermeyer
Spokane, Wash., October 18, 2012-
Twenty-six Hispanic congregations in Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) are working together to find out what comprehensive evangelism looks like. The two-year effort seeks to involve every member at some level, sharing the life they have in Christ.
The multi-year Share the Life campaign began in January 2012 when leaders from around the conference gathered for an evangelism and strategy training session with Bob Folkenberg, UCC president.
Following the winter training, members gathered in June during camp meeting for a special week of consecration with international evangelist Andres Portes. Once individual members captured the Share the Life vision, the next step was to intentionally cultivate kingdom friendships. Friendships often yield opportunities to share Jesus, and that's the goal: keeping Christ part of every aspect of our lives.
The campaign entered the midway public phase in September. It began with a week-long series of meetings with Alejandro Bullon. Bullon, an international evangelist, has been working with the Hispanic churches in the UCC for the past five years. His leadership, preaching and audio sermons that members have distributed have resulted in more than 1,000 baptisms.
Bullon's visit this year had a three-fold purpose. First, he came to visit the seven new churches established over the past five years by local members he trained. In addition, he worked to train church leaders in motivating people to return to Jesus. Finally, Bullon, like John the Baptist, laid the ground work for the main reaping meetings with José Rojas, North American Division volunteer ministries director.
Rojas arrived in mid-September for a week and a half of nonstop meetings in three Washington cities: Pasco, College Place and Yakima. "It was exciting to be part of the first-ever outreach specifically for second-generation Hispanic young people," says Austin Nystrom, youth pastor for the Hispanic churches in the Tri-Cities area. "Rojas' mix of languages and varied approach was brilliant." Second-generation Hispanics are a rapidly growing American demographic, largely unreached by the Adventist Church.
This groundbreaking series of meetings met its mark. People responded every night to Rojas' down-to-earth presentation of the gospel. Typically more than 100 people came forward during the closing appeals. "The core message that we are relentlessly loved by a good God really hit home," says Nystrom.
Of those making decisions for Jesus, two young people stand out. From non-Christian backgrounds, they only recently began hanging out with the Tri-Cities Adventist youth. At the end, they came forward and expressed a desire to start digging deeper.
The churches teamed up with the North Pacific Union Conference media evangelism team led by Todd Gessele, new outreach media director. Gessele says, "Beyond being a live reaping event for the local churches, our goal is to reach an additional 20,000 people online and through numerous Spanish-language broadcast outlets around the world."
The final stage of the Share the Life campaign takes place next year. First of all, local pastors are identifying people in each church to serve as preachers, public evangelists, in-home Bible study teachers and in-church Bible instructors. In addition to this critical lay involvement, each congregation has plans for three week-long evangelistic meetings in March, September and December 2013.
As this unified effort to Share the Life progresses, your prayers are vital. Please pray that the vision members have captured will continue to burn brightly. Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to be poured out on hearts seeking to know the one Friend who never fails and is the true Source of Life.