When the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy on the subject of church elders and deacons, he does not refer to their duties to the Church, but rather highlights the personal qualities that should be sought when electing these leaders (1 Timothy 3). He clearly states that whoever aspires to that position must know that it is a noble task and be trustworthy. Apart from describing him as a role model concerning family and society, he says that he should be apt to teach and worthy of respect. In the context of Paul’s writings, a person worthy of trust and respect is a person whose life is hidden in God, and therefore his works are those of the Master.
Jesus’ passion and main task was to testify about His Father through His life and teachings. This, then, should be the main task and the passion of those who are leaders in the churches.
The Hispanic Department of the Southern Union Conference, as well as the counterparts in each of the conferences that comprise the Union, has been busy creating this concept in the churches. Through retreats and training seminars especially prepared for the elders, a culture of service and spiritual preparation has spread, so that the elder does not perceive himself merely as the one who makes the announcements to the church on Sabbath, is responsible for the organization of worship services, and visits sick church members. Whoever occupies this noble position must also have the great desire to bring souls to the feet of Christ, and to be a motivation to the congregation in this regard.
With this vision in mind, the Hispanic ministries leaders of each conference spoke to their local administration to present an evangelistic plan that was approved by most of the conferences. Sabbath, October 20, 2018, was designated a day of baptisms for those brought to Jesus Christ as a result of the elders’ dedicated work, and they had the privilege to baptize each individual. Multiple baptisms took place that day — nearly 150. It was a Sabbath of joy and inspiration. The testimonies presented in each event brought many people to tears, and allowed them to witness the joy those elders experienced, as they could clearly see the works of the Spirit in them and the people they worked for.
José Martinez had been arrested due to his illegal status in this country. When his wife, Esther, found out, she desperately begged her friends to pray for his release. She knew it would be almost impossible, and only a miracle could do it. As a child, she had attended an Adventist church with her grandmother, and had even been baptized. Nevertheless, when coming to the United States, adapting to her life in a new country and all the stresses that usually come attached to this situation had driven her far from God. As José waited in prison for a decision on his case, he met an Adventist arrested for the same reason. This man had been a church elder until his arrest. They became friends, and soon this man begun to pray for José. He asked the Lord to grant him freedom to be able to be with his wife and his two-year-old daughter. After a few weeks, he offered him Bible studies. José did not show much interest, but still accepted. Little by little, José started to take interest. The passion showed by this man in sharing Jesus’ love impressed his burdened soul.
Two months later José’s Adventist friend was deported. Before leaving, he gave him his Bible and left the set of Bible lessons they had been studying together, and José continued what they had started. The weeks continued to pass, and after some time, the officer in charge told him that he would be released the following day. With a poor understanding of English, he understood enough that he was going to be released. However, he was not sure if that meant he was going to be able to stay in this country or would have to go back to his. He was afraid to ask. That night he prayed hard. No matter what happened, he wanted to be sure that his wife and daughter were going to be all right. He gathered his belongings and the Bible he had been given, and rested with the assurance of God’s care. The next morning, he was taken to the front door where someone spoke assuring words: “You are FREE!” Those words were so clear to him, and the fact that this had been a miracle was even clearer. When he finally reunited with his wife and daughter, they decided to follow God.
While he was in prison, one of his neighbors had taken care of Esther and his daughter. He happened to be the elder of the Breath of Life Church in the city of Memphis, Tennessee. They agreed to continue studying the Bible with him, and on October 20, this man had the joy of baptizing José and Esther.
This was one of the testimonies of the work of two elders. One of them held God’s work deeply in his heart. No matter the situation he was in, he continued to teach about God’s love. The other one took care of a mother and her child when they were in need, and then presented the message through Bible studies. The result was salvation for an entire family.
There were multiple baptisms performed by church elders in the Southern Union territory on October 20. Being able to actively participate in the ceremony in which the people they had been working with sealed their pact with God has motivated them to continue this work of love. They all want to bring more people to the Lord next year.
Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, these elders are planning for 500 baptisms in 2019.
is the SURF customer service and accounts manager at the Southern Union Conference in Norcross, Georgia.
Southern Union | December 2018