After a set of challenges, policy changes, and a dwindling number of literature evangelists affecting the publishing ministries in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guatemala, church leaders gathered to reestablish a permanent literature evangelism school. More than 150 literature evangelists and active church members met to be equipped, inspired, and recommitted to spreading the gospel through books and publications in their communities during the event, which was held on February 13–16, 2022, in Chiquimula, Guatemala.
The new literature evangelism training school, coined as “Messengers of Hope,” drove the group, mostly made up of dozens of new, interested members, who want to become full-time or part-time literature evangelists in the country. They were challenged to be the force that will strengthen publishing ministries, working closely with pastors in the mission of evangelizing thousands of people who are in need of hope and salvation in Jesus.
“I know the church will benefit greatly with this army of workers prepared to enter new territories with the message of the three angels,” said Pastor Guenther García, president of the church in Guatemala. There have been many talks with the administrators and department leaders at each of the eight conferences and missions, revising policies and benefits that literature evangelists will be eligible to receive, said García.
“It had been ten years since we had
note organized a national school of literature evangelists, ”said García. There were some regional events held sporadically, but because literature evangelists in Inter-America were taken out of the retirement benefit system for regional local events, many lost the interest, he explained.
Twenty years ago, the church in Guatemala had approximately 150 literature evangelists; 50 were full-time, the rest worked occasionally, and there were some students as well, said Pastor Moises Vidal, publishing ministries director for the church in Guatemala. “With 25 part-time literature evangelists left, we now have a total of 150 enrolled.”
There is a new system in place, and each field will work closely to mentor and train literature evangelists on the job in coordinated efforts with the Inter-American Division’s Publishing Association (IADPA), said Vidal. The plan will also see each district pastor involved in recruiting a layperson or professional to work as a literature evangelist there, explained Vidal. The church wants to recruit some 200 student literature evangelists near the end of the year as well.
“Our goal is to have a literature evangelist in each of the districts with credentialed gold status so they can be eligible for retirement benefits,” said Vidal. “Because we did not have a strong publishing system established, mixed in with high-cost issues, there was not a clear plan for the new literature evangelists.” Now the task is to move forward with the new plan and ensure that literature evangelists are clear on their mission as they go out and connect with and minister to every home they visit.
It’s about forming a new generation of literature evangelists as missionaries and not as merely salespersons, as many had thought, said Vidal.
With the church throughout the country focused on strengthening its publishing ministries, leaders are aiming to ensure that regional literature evangelist schools are established within the next six months, more literature evangelists can be recruited, and each one can reach more homes every day with the message of hope.
Pastor Isaías Espinoza, publishing ministries director for the church in Inter-America, congratulated church leaders and the newly enrolled literature evangelists for accomplishing what many unions in the IAD still need to accomplish in publishing ministries.
“The Inter-American Division recently established new policies where new literature evangelists can be classified as licensed and credentialed and be eligible to fall under the benefit plan of the church,” said Espinoza. That retirement benefit plan will draw funds from the division, IADPA, the union, and the local field each year to assist eligible literature evangelists with their basic expenses and for when they adhere to retirement benefits, Espinoza explained.
“It’s the case in the church in Guatemala which adopted the division’s policy recently. [The church in Guatemala] has seen a renewed interest from leaders and members to become ‘messengers of hope.’ ”
It’s all about sharing awareness that the literature evangelist is not just a salesperson visiting homes and selling magazines or books. “He or she is a messenger of hope who can become self-employed while he [or she] is ministry, ”said Espinoza.
Entering New Territories
Espinoza praised the goals of literature evangelists in the Central American country who will strive to visit 25 homes every day. That means 150 literature evangelists will visit over 3,700 homes per day — a total of 112,500 every month.
“What an extraordinary move by the church in Guatemala today,” added Espinoza.
The event saw IADPA leaders share family, spiritual, health, and self-help books, as well as incentives and new projects to assist literature evangelists in their mission to be messengers of hope.
“This is going back to how it used to be for literature evangelists,” said Espinoza. “Literature evangelists are a huge blessing for fulfilling the mission. They assist the church in entering new communities, lead Bible studies and evangelistic efforts, and establish small groups so that people can accept Jesus as their Savior, ”said Espinoza. “Guatemala has been a launching pad, and we hope that the rest of the unions will follow in establishing stronger publishing ministries so that literature evangelists can continue to fulfill the mission of sharing the hope of salvation.”
With 1,800 active literature evangelists in Mexico and 1,330 more throughout the IAD territory, leaders aim to enlist more than 5,000 literature evangelists by 2025.
To learn more about Inter-America’s publishing ministries, policies, initiatives, and activities, visit interamerica.org.
Gustavo Menéndez contributed to this report.
This article was originally published on the Inter-American Division’s website