South America to raise U.S. $50 Million for “big city” outreaches; Buenos Aires top targetBY MARK A. KELLNER, Adventist Review news editor, reporting from São Paulo, Brazil
Concluding a spring meeting for the South American Division, Pastor Ted N. C. Wilson put his foot down, literally.
First, however, the sole of Wilson’s foot was dabbed with rubber-stamp pad ink. Then the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists — joined by division and union leaders here, each similarly “inked” — pressed down on a map of South America. Then, each repeated the process with their other extremity.
This visual demonstration had a scriptural basis, declared Pastor Erton Köhler, division president: Just as God promised Joshua and the children of Israel the land wherever Moses’ successor trod (Joshua 1:3), Adventists were claiming the Division for Jesus. Each of the 17 unions had its own, enlarged, and each map bore the footprint of a leader.
Backing up the dramatic display was an even more dramatic commitment: the South American Division expects to raise U.S. $50 million to fund outreach in dozens of locations in 2013. Buenos Aires, the heart of a 13-million population metropolitan area, will be the chief priority, but every other union has identified a big city as an outreach target.
FOOTPRINT FOR JESUS: Pastors Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president, and Erton Kohler, South American Division president, pose with map showing footprints on a map, symbolic of claiming a territory for Jesus. [PHOTO: Mark A. Kellner]
The Argentinian capital is of special interest, for the city is one where only 9.1 percent of the population consider themselves “evangelicals,” while 18 percent aren’t interested in any religion at all. Ten challenges have been outlined by the Argentine Union, including the establishment of a clinic, a vegetarian restaurant, Adventist schools and churches in the federal capital, or central city. “Mission Caleb,” a youth outreach, hopes to enlist 3,000 young people, and the church plans to distributed 300,000 DVDs on “The Last Hope.”
These efforts, along with outreach to former Adventists, a special project at Radio Novo Tempo (New Times), and 167 small evangelism campaigns, culminating in a satellite series by Pastor Luís Gonçalves in September 2013, are expected to lead at least 3,000 people to baptism in the city, along with the establishment of four new congregations.
Similar goals are planned for many other cities, including Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro and Manaus in Brazil; Asunción in Paraguay; Cochabamba and La Paz in Bolivia; Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile; Montevideo, Uruguay; Quito and Guyaquil in Ecuador; and Lima and Trujillo in Peru, among others.
In an impassioned message to division leaders, Wilson recalled Jesus looking out over Jerusalem and weeping — not for the buildings, but for its people.
Wilson asked, “Are you weeping for the cities of the South American Division? [Jesus] wasn’t weeping for the city itself, He was weeping for the people of the city. Because you see, the city is made up of thousands and thousands of people.”
During a day of stirring reports about evangelistic outreach and literature distribution — South American church members placed 25 million copies of “The Great Hope” in the hands of residents in nine countries on March 24 — Wilson recalled his own effort that day in São Paulo, and said he’s advertising the success in many places.
“Let me tell you, the world is amazed at what South America has done,” Wilson declared.
He added, “But these big cities, many of them have no idea about Jesus. So the General Conference and the world divisions have focused on mission to the cities, bringing hope to the cities. The hope of Jesus’ soon coming.”
At the same time, Wilson said, evangelism must be grounded in our own personal connection to the One we’re seeking to introduce to others.
“All of these plans, slogans and visuals… will mean nothing if you and I do not know personally that person [Jesus], the One who saved us. The One who will come to take us home. The main reason we do this for all of the cities of the world is to introduce them to Him.”
And while his audience, whom Wilson addressed as “leaders of the church” may have earned degrees and possess influence, “we must be born again,” he declared, recalling the late-night encounter of Nicodemus, a Pharisee, with Jesus.
“This is the reason for ‘Hope for the Big Cities,’ the reason we minister to people, the reason we organize our churches for evangelism, the reason for the mission of the church: ‘that God so loved the world and gave His only begotten Son; that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life,'” Wilson said, quoting John 3:16.
And along with the need to have our spiritual relationships in order, Wilson responded with appreciation as the plans for division-wide evangelism were explained.
“When I see the cities outlined in each of the unions, when I see Buenos Aires as the focal point, when I see the amount of money that is being committed, I get goose bumps,” he said. “It just tells me that the Holy Spirit is moving!”