Seventh-day Adventist leaders assigned me to lead evangelistic meetings at an Adventist university during a 2016 outreach effort that resulted in an unprecedented 110,000 baptisms in Rwanda.
The pastor approached me after 173 young people were baptized at the end of my meetings.
“Now that we are friends, I can tell you this,” he said. “When I was told I was going to have an American preacher come to my site, I was very excited. I was expecting a big, strong, tall, white man. But when they presented you, a small woman, as our speaker, I was very disappointed. So, I didn’t expect much. But my dear sister preacher, I’m so sorry for my little faith. You have done a work that none of us has been able to do at this school.”
Truthfully, I don’t have much to offer. But when you have a willing heart, God will do extraordinary things. What made the mission to Rwanda so successful? The answer is simple: Total Member Involvement—having every church member do his or her part in sharing Jesus.
In Rwanda, I saw that local church members made it their personal duty to reach out to their communities. They put aside the idea that evangelism is the pastors’ job alone. Church members had no special training; they simply used their God-given talents to reach those Christ came to save. They realized that Jesus is coming soon and that we as Seventh-day Adventists have a higher calling. They said, “Here am I, Lord, send me.”
I met many Rwandans, young and old, who said, “Vanessa, I have been in the church for so many years and never have I seen the church do something like this. But now I realize I don’t have to wait on the church. It simply starts with one person. It starts with me.”
Young people came to me and said, “I’m not a preacher. I’m not a singer. But I have many friends and a lot of influence. My life will be the sermon. Because of everything I’ve learned during this evangelistic series, I will start giving Bible studies.”
The sincerity of these church members changed Rwanda in much the same way that Jesus and His 12 disciples changed the world in three years. How much more could we do if we took hold of this mission of Total Member Involvement in our local churches? How much sooner would we see Jesus?
Vanessa Rocha, 23, is a Bible worker and musician in southern California.