Vision. Identity. Development. Acceptance. These are elements of the collective theme for VIDA gps, the evangelistic small group campaign for Spanish-speaking members initiated by the NAD Multilingual Ministries Department. As a result of this evangelistic effort within the Southern California Conference (SCC) Hispanic Region, 35 congregations participated, 178 small groups were formed, and 150 souls have so far been baptized.
Initially introduced last year, the evangelistic series came to fruition during a two-week period in April this year. When the program was brought to SCC Hispanic Region Director Luis Peña, he worked to unite pastors and lay members in this shared mission. He first trained interested pastors using prepared materials from renowned pastor and evangelist Alejandro Bullón. From there, pastors selected members to train who would organize and lead out in the small groups.
The evangelistic series took place April 13 to 27 and was divided into two parts. The first week consisted of small group leaders inviting friends, neighbors, family members, people from work—anyone in their community—to join the meetings at their homes.
“Before launching the small groups, we had training that focused on specifically targeting the needs of friends in their networks,” said Carlos Acosta, pastor at Spanish American church. “We made a list, and the majority had one main need that needed to be addressed: health. We launched a health initiative called ‘I want to live healthily’ for adults and another called ‘I want to grow healthily’ for kids under 12 years old.”
The second week, all 35 participating congregations held evangelistic meetings at their respective churches. Those who were undecided at that point about dedicating their lives to God were specifically invited to join. Many baptisms took place during this week, and baptisms are continuing.
“After every evening, people were deciding to accept Jesus,” said Juan Osorio, pastor at Central Spanish church. “It was a huge blessing and was more than we expected.”
The evangelism series concluded Sabbath, May 18, with a celebration at White Memorial church. Peña encouraged pastors to attend the ceremony with their newly baptized members. There were three reasons for Sabbath’s celebration, according to Peña: “To celebrate, to let them know they are members of a family, and to inspire them to go and make disciples.”
The theme for the day, “The one who is wise saves lives,” was taken from Proverbs 11:30. This message in Spanish, “El que gana almas es sabio,” was engraved on a pin that newly baptized members and their leaders received, as well as on a medallion that pastors received in recognition of their efforts.
SCC President Velino A. Salazar’s message focused on that central idea. “Soul-winning is much more than sharing our Christian experience with others, or giving away literature, or knocking on doors,” said Salazar. “Soul-winning is bringing people to know Jesus Christ, to be brought into the Christian community.”
The work does not end with this program. Pastors are energized for further evangelical outreach in their churches. “I believe the small groups will continue,” Peña reflected. “The leaders are inspired.” David Merino, pastor at Long Beach Spanish church and La Amistad Spanish company, already has plans in place to bring additional people to Christ. “The groups are revived,” said Merino. “Evangelism is not just an event. The groups will continue their regular home meetings during the week. We are planning to have another evangelistic series in October this year.”
“When we bring our family, friends, and acquaintances to know Jesus, and we receive them into our church,” added Salazar, “we are all winners.”