Story by V. Michelle Bernard
Pastors of Pennsylvania Conference’s 26 Hispanic churches had an evangelism series planned for spring. But with coronavirus pandemic social distancing in place, they were forced to move the event to social media where they took turns preaching on the theme, “Love Written With Blood.”
The weeklong series received more than 19,000 views and was shared 678 times. Organizers believe that more people were impacted by the series than if it would’ve taken place “in person.”
More than 458 Spanish- and English-speaking members also became digital missionaries. Some gave Bible studies to 15 or more people through text messaging, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, reports Pedro Alberteris, pastor of the Lancaster, York and Harrisburg Spanish district. “People who did not share the gospel before are now doing it here,” he says.
Other church members across the union continued to participate in evangelism efforts during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic. Twenty-four churches hosted It is Written’s “Hope Awakens” virtual event. Other churches, like Mountain View Conference’s Logan and Williamson churches in West Virginia, held their own online series and Bible studies.
Chesapeake Conference leaders also recognized a need to reach out online during the quarantine. More than 1,400 people joined their “Forecasting Hope” Bible prophecy series online in April and May. The series was originally only offered to conference churches, but, because of growing interest, members from New Jersey, Iowa, Missouri and Canada also registered, totaling more than 80 congregations.
Allegheny West Conference leaders held their first virtual camp meeting. They also converted a pre-scheduled evangelism and service event, “Impact 2020,” into an initiative where local churches distributed clothing, household items and food for the community.
“People are in need,” says Pastor John Coaxum, who coordinated the initiative. “We have been pushing service and discipleship to our young adults, and God has provided us with this opportunity to serve.”
In addition to hosting an online evangelism series resulting in 21 baptisms in Ohio and more than 30 in El Salvador, staff at Stereo Adventista, a radio station run by Ohio Conference’s Hispanic Ministries Department, shifted the emphasis of the programming, reports Peter Simpson, Hispanic Ministries coordinator.
Before the social restrictions in Ohio, Simpson says the station drew between 1,500 and 2,000 daily listeners. During the first months of the pandemic, there were between 5,000 and 10,000 daily viewers through Facebook Live, YouTube and on the Stereo
Church members are very enthusiastic about continuing to use cyber evangelism, adds Simpson.