3,158 Columbia Union Hispanic Members Baptized in 2017
Story by Ricardo Bacchus and V. Michelle Bernard / Photos by Leander Tomazeli
Brian Hernandez (pictured), a 13-year-old member of Potomac Conference’s Seneca Valley Spanish church in Gaithersburg, Md., stood by the baptismal tank of Alexis Argueta last Sabbath, as his eighth-grade classmate from the Gaithersburg Middle School publicly accepted Christ through baptism. Argueta made a decision for Christ after Hernandez introduced him to Jesus and gave him Bible studies.
“I prayed to God to give me courage to talk to him about God. ... I was scared because I didn’t feel like I could do it, but I felt with God, we could do it together,” says Hernandez, who states that he plans to continue to “preach” to all the kids in his school and his family members and neighborhood.
Hernandez is one of the thousands of Hispanic Seventh-day Adventists across the Columbia Union Conference who shared their faith in 2017 by giving Bible studies, hosting small groups in their homes, starting church plants and inviting friends to church.
More than 3,000 Columbia Union Hispanic church members recently gathered at Vivangelismo in Ocean City, Md., to celebrate a year of evangelism with stories of conversions and inspiring sermons from Jose Esposito, Peter Simpson, Orlando Rosales, Rubén Ramos, Dave Weigley, Jorge Aguero, Sergio Romero, Saud Elias, Walter Cardenas and Ramon Escalante (pictured praying) and other speakers. Attendees also celebrated 3,158 baptisms that took place in the union this year.
“We are celebrating the miracles of God through personal outreach of thousands of brothers and sisters,” says Rubén Ramos, vice president for Multilingual Ministries. He also noted the work of the more than 900 weekly small group meetings and 60 church plantings since January 2016. “We come not only to celebrate and to exalt Jesus for what He has done, but also to get energized and motivated to proclaim with more power and more conviction that Jesus is coming. Our theme is “Exalt Him: Jesus is coming. ... We are celebrating the joy of experiencing the mission.”
At the event, many people chose to be baptized, including the baptism of Keisha Batlle (pictured with Pastor Lail Fuentes), a member of Ohio Conference’s New Columbus Spanish church plant church.
Walter Cardenas, Multicultural Ministries leader for Mountain View Conference shares, “Our members are constantly seeking to do what is best for our neighbors. We are using Christ’s method: meeting the people’s needs ... then we invite them to follow Jesus. No one who is warming a pew can experience the joy of winning a soul for Christ ... this is something powerful.”
Member Javier Santana from Ohio Conference’s Bosworth church plant in Cleveland, says, “I become strengthened spiritually as a result of helping others.” Pennsylvania Conference’s First Philadelphia Youth Ministries director Jackeline Quevedo (pictured) adds, “My mission is to get my youth involved in spreading the gospel by hosting a small group in my house ... and share with others.”
Ramos hopes that this year’s focus on evangelism will inspire other Hispanic members in 2018 who are not actively involved in sharing the gospel. “People don’t need to conduct a crusade, but everyone can reach their circle of influence, become friends with a new person, and sooner or later, can have the joy of bringing them to Christ. ... Can you imagine the potential if every believer is praying for someone else?”
Dave Weigley, Columbia Union president, says, “This wasn’t just any convention. This was really a religious convocation. People’s lives were changed. People got baptized. People took their stand for Christ. Some people came forward in altar call. …I hope that people leave here with a real inspiration and desire to share Jesus.”