by Jeff Boyd
From News Release, November 3, 2014
Nearly 200,000 Seventh-day Adventist members in Central America and the Caribbean have been awarded certificates for completing hours of training in areas such as how to give Bible studies, how to conduct an evangelistic series, or how to share Jesus with children.
The yearlong initiative, organized by the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Inter-American Division (IAD) under the banner “Year of Non-Formal Education,” aims to maintain the rapid increase in church membership in the region, one of the fast-growing in the world.
Division president Israel Leito told a four-hour graduation ceremony for 500 of the graduates in Willemstad, Curacao, that the training of the pastors, administrators and regular church members sought to prepare them to better serve the church and the community.
“The preparation you have received will help you understand the expectations of the Lord for He is ready for you to give everything of yourself,” Leito told the 1,500 people who attended the ceremony, which was also streamed online to include the thousands of other graduates.
“What you will receive is not just a certificate, it is a moment of dedication, it is a moment when you tell the Lord, ‘I want to use it for your honor and glory,’” the Curacao native said. “This will facilitate service, facilitate the mission of the church.”
Church leaders say the Inter-American Division has shown steady growth for decades because of the committed efforts of hundreds of thousands of members in spreading the gospel in their communities.
Myriam Guerrero, 60, was among the 500 dressed in academic regalia to receive the non-formal education certificates at the ceremony. She completed two 40-hour courses on how to prepare an evangelistic campaign and how to lead a Sabbath School class.
“This type of event motivates our church members to be more interested in serving the church,” said Guerrero, a native of Colombia who moved to Curacao 33 years ago and has been active in the Adventist Hispanic Church for more than 25 years. “Our members sometimes feel inadequately trained to teach a Sabbath School, to serve in any other ministry in our church, so the training provides the tools for us to lead others to fall in love with Christ.”
Melrose Cornelia, 39, said she was glad to take a special 32-hour certification program for children’s ministries. The training centered on how to minister to children from infancy to 7, and how to help parents deal with their children.
“Many parents leave the Bible teaching to Sabbath school and church once a week, and we need to help them understand that it is a partnership to raise children for the kingdom,” Cornelia said.
A total of 32,690 church members took the children’s ministries program, said Dinorah Rivera, children’s ministries director for the church in Inter-America.
Elsewhere in Inter-America, thousands watched and were awarded diplomas for completing certification programs this year. In southeast Mexico alone, the church had seven major sites viewing the ceremony and handing out certificates to about 31,000 people.
Leito, the division president, challenged the graduates to continue learning new ways to share Jesus and not specialize in only one ministry.
“Today you can be an elder, and next year you can be a Sabbath School teacher, or a year from now a youth director,” he said. “Be all-around servants of the Lord, wherever the Lord leads, wherever the church needs.”