Record 95,890 Baptized as Evangelistic Meetings End in Rwanda

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ABelgian citizen visiting relatives in a corner of Rwanda.

A 19-year-old woman who will lose her job.

A police officer assigned to protect Seventh-day Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson.

These are among the record-breaking 95,890 people who accepted Christ in baptism during a two-week evangelistic series that wrapped up this weekend, church leaders said Sunday.

Additional baptisms connected to the meetings at 2,227 sites across the African country are expected to take place over the next few weeks, bringing the total to more than 100,000 and making the May 13-28 event the largest of its kind in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“You are an example for the entire world. We praise God for that,” Wilson told a crowd of 6,000 people at a final Sabbath worship service in the resort city of Gisenyi. Among those in attendance were 1,971 people baptized in nearby Lake Kivu in the morning.

Local church leaders credited the Holy Spirit and Total Member Involvement for the unprecedented number of baptisms.

“When each member is involved, there will be a big harvest,” said Sophonie Setako, president of the Adventist Church’s North-West Rwanda Field, which includes Gisenyi and had 10,778 baptisms. “By visiting people and assisting people in need, we have gained many members.”

Total Member Involvement is the name of a world church initiative that encourages each of the church’s 19.1 million members worldwide to find ways to share Jesus with friends and communities. The previous record was 30,000 baptisms after a two-week evangelistic series in Zimbabwe in May 2015.

In Rwanda, church’s 720,000 members took Total Member Involvement to heart. Many studied the Bible with neighbors and went door-to-door, inviting people to the evangelistic meetings. Members also donated money for food, cows, and health insurance policies aimed at improving the lives of impoverished people in their communities. Medical clinics at three locations provided free services to nearly 6,000 people over the course of a week.

Thousands of people packed the sandy shore of Lake Kivu to witness Sabbath’s baptisms. The elderly and disabled were baptized first, followed by pregnant women and long lines of men and women. Eight pastors baptized 1,971 people in about 2 ½ hours.

People emerging from the lake couldn’t have been happier. Wide smiles filled many faces as they exited the water and made their way to white tents, where they changed out of their water-soaked baptismal robes.

“A change has taken place in me,” said Steve Nsabimana, 16, a Belgian citizen who was on vacation, visiting relatives near Gisentyi, when the evangelistic meetings began.

Nsabimana said curiosity brought him to the meetings, and the message about the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation convinced him to give his heart to Jesus through baptism. He will return to Belgium as a Seventh-day Adventist.

“After baptism, I feel like all my sins have been forgiven,” he said with a smile.

Obed Twagirasu, 51, a former Adventist with a toothless grin, told how he had felt impressed to seek rebaptism while listening to Nancy Wilson, wife of the Adventist Church president, who was preaching her first evangelistic series, speak about how each person would receive his or her just reward at Jesus’ Second Coming.

“I needed to be baptized so I could renew my relationship with God,” Twagirasu said. “I am very happy to be entering the family of God.” Continue Reading

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