More than 620 Baptized During Caravan of Hope
After 16 stops across the Columbia Union Conference and countless hours of prayer and preparation, 626 new members joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church during the Caravana de la Esperanza 2015: “Jesus, La Gran Esperanza” (Caravan of Hope: Jesus the Great Hope) event.
Story by V. Michelle Bernard
“It has been overwhelming to experience the joy of congregations celebrating the fruits of their dedicated, loving efforts to reach their family, friends and co-workers for Christ,” says Rubén Ramos, Columbia Union vice president for Multicultural Ministries and event organizer. “To bring a dear friend to Christ is the greatest joy that disciples of Christ can experience in this life.”
International evangelist Alejandro Bullón, a praise team, singer Sarah Capeles and Ramos traveled for 10 days to celebrate the evangelistic and small group efforts conducted by more than 100 local churches, and to encourage attendees to give their lives to Christ through baptism.
Jose Esposito, Hispanic Ministries director and coordinator of the Richmond and Manassas, Va., and Silver Spring, Md., events, reports that 122 were baptized into Potomac Conference churches. Leaders in those areas worked with home churches and held 13 evangelist meetings prior to the caravan. “The churches worked extremely diligently. The collaboration between the conferences was wonderful,” he adds.
Gabriel E. Montalvo, Hispanic Ministries director for the Pennsylvania Conference, reports that 88 were baptized during meetings held in Pennsylvania. Leading up to the caravan, conference leaders held several rallies and a “Faith for Family” event in September, where more than 1,000 members and friends distributed literature in Reading and Philadelphia. Local members and leaders then held Bible studies with those new contacts.
Montalvo is now planning a program for Easter weekend with the goal of having 150 small groups and more than 300 baptisms next year.
Pastor Saud Elias of the Lawndale (Pa.) church, prepares to baptize a candidate as Pastor Gabriel Montalvo, the Pennsylvania Conference Hispanic coordinator, looks on. Photo credit: Ray Hartwell
Before the Caravan of Hope conducted its final stop at Chesapeake Conference’s Atholton church in Columbia, Md., 70 percent of the conference’s small groups and 60 percent of their congregations hosted at least one week of an evangelistic campaign, reports Orlando Rosales, Chesapeake Hispanic Ministries coordinator. On the night of the meeting, 39 were baptized and eight joined the church through a profession of faith. As he finished his sermon there, Bullón made a call for people who had not been baptized to come up front so he and other leaders could pray for them.
Jeiny Rivera, who started attending the Baltimore Spanish church activities in June, went to the front and requested baptism. Rivera had felt the calling of God, but her job, which required her to work on the Sabbath, among other things, held her back. When her pastor, Rosales, asked her what was going to happen to her job, she said “I’ll quit, because I can’t continue with it. I trust God will help me find another job because I won’t wait any longer.”
People respond to an altar call at the Southern Asian church in Silver Spring. Photo courtesy Potomac Conference.
These baptisms also serve as inspiration for even established members, say leaders. “I was fascinated by the many people who were baptized. I think this was the best motivation to continue working with more commitment in the Great Commission of reaching the lost,” says Wilmer Ocotan, head elder at the Columbia Spanish Company in Columbia, Md.
Rubén Ramos and Orlando Rosales speak at the final stop of the Caravan of Hope at the Atholton church in Columbia, Md. Photo credit: Chesapeake Conference.
Ramos hopes to keep the momentum going. “Next year will be another year of strong emphasis on evangelism in our territory,” he shares. “We are dreaming of every ministry of our congregations meeting the needs of community, [and] to have 1,000 lay evangelists prepared, tooled and energized to hold weeks of evangelism in small groups and churches. We dream to see every believer praying for five friends. [Can] you imagine what the Lord could do?”
Read a story about the first half of the Caravan of Hope here, and full reports, in English and Spanish, on the event in the January/February issue of the Visitor.