ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, UNITED STATES | MARYELLEN HACKO, ANN
Total Member Involvement (TMI) is a core focus of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s strategy, and the cornerstone of this quinquennium’s theme “I Will Go”. The TMI Report presented around 8:30 pm on Friday at this year’s 61st General Conference (GC) Session highlighted the incredible work of missionaries, leaders, and laypeople in bringing people to Jesus over the past seven years and showed how effective the TMI strategy has been for the global church.
OVERVIEW: 240K BAPTISMS SINCE 2015
Presented by Duane McKey, assistant to the GC president for TMI and president of Adventist World Radio (AWR), Ramon J Canals, director of GC Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, and Cami Oetman, vice president for Advancement at AWR, this year’s TMI video presentation recapped significant milestones from 2015 until now and highlighted how total baptisms have accrued to more than 240,000 people in just seven years.
“We know that unions, divisions, conferences and missions have all done their own TMI projects,” began Duane McKey. “Starting back in 2015 … probably the largest health event we’ve ever had happen in Harare, Zimbabwe. Elder Wilson preached a series … this vacated mall, we rented the whole thing. 30K people were treated in a week there.”
From there, the TMI initiative was catalyzed at GC Session 2015 in San Antonio, where leaders held evangelistic meetings, baptized people and planted six churches. Other significant outreach events were held in Rwanda in 2016, Romania in 2017, Japan and Zambia in 2018, India in 2019, Papua New Guinea in 2020 and the Philippines in 2021.
GROWING BAPTISM RATES, INCREASED OUTREACH—RWANDA CASE STUDY
In his presentation on the effectiveness of TMI, Raymon Canals recapped one of the first TMI campaigns to Rwanda in 2016, which inspired “successful models in the East-Central Africa Division, Eastern Europe, Japan and many other countries.”
Organized by the East-Central Africa Division and the Rwanda Union Mission, the project was led by GC president Elder Ted Wilson and his assistant for TMI Duane McKey, and involved lay evangelists from Africa, Europe and America. It resulted in the baptism of more than 100,000 people.
“Through to the essence of TMI, every church member was involved, resulting in the most kingdom growth ever realized from a single evangelistic push in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” said Canals. As a result, almost everyone in Rwanda knew about the Adventist Church.
Focussing on the benefits of TMI, Canals emphasized the “dynamic power” of TMI in mobilizing and growing the Adventist Church around the world.
“We have more people involved in spreading the gospel than ever before,” he began. “Wherever TMI has been implemented, churches are experiencing a tremendous increase in baptism,” Canals said. “There has been a greater awareness of the community and its needs … We are seeing an increase in retention of new members.” He adds, “there is more clarity of vision and unity of purpose.”
In Rwanda specifically, Canals highlighted a 22 per cent growth rate Division-wide, and an increase in membership retention to 80 per cent.
“The reason for this is that every new member is assigned a spiritual guardian,” he explained. “Newly baptized members join a six-month discipleship class. Each one gets involved in a small group or choir, and every member is involved in giving Bible studies and bringing one person to Jesus … the best way to strengthen the faith of new believers is to get them involved.
RECAPPING GROWTH WORLDWIDE
Viewers enjoyed engaging video footage of each year’s evangelism highlight, showcasing the diverse and multicultural nature of the Adventist Church and its members.
Following Zimbabwe and San Antonio in 2015, and Rwanda in 2016, leaders, missionaries and laypeople visited Romania in 2017 where they preached the TMI sermon series “Earth’s Final Countdown”. Using mobile phones to send Sabbath School lessons to isolated farms, this outreach gave birth to Adventist World Radio’s Cellphone Evangelism initiative, which is continuing to grow.
After this, more than 1000 meetings were held across Tokyo and Zambia in 2018, including health events, evangelism and Bible studies, which resulted in the baptism of more than 18,000 people.
Then in India in 2019, hundreds of locals visited free medical clinics set up in Chennai and Calcutta and stayed for evangelistic meetings presented by Elder Wilson and other preachers. Then in 2020, health and evangelistic events were held in Papua New Guinea, which resulted in the South Pacific Division being the only region of the world to experience an increase in baptisms during 2020.
“The people were so excited about doing these huge events of TMI … and then COVID hit … but they were not discouraged, so they still did these events anyways on their own,” McKey states. “We have stories and stories of whole protestant churches and others taking their sign down and putting up Seventh Day Adventist” signs instead.
124K BAPTIZED INCLUDING 700 ASSASSINS
Following six years of growth and TMI, the movement reached a significant milestone in the last quarter of 2021 when 124,000 people were baptized in Mindoro, Philippines.
“Unbelievable,” said McKey. “In Mindoro itself, this war had been going on … up in the mountains, the rebels had killed 40,000 people in the past 50 years.” He added, “ The war is over because of TMI, because of health evangelism and sharing the gospel.”
Thanks to television and radio evangelism, two islands in the Philippines heard TMI sermons preached by Elder Wilson and others, including 700 assassins who killed people in the war, and who were also baptized. They are now building a church and inviting others from their community to help them and also be baptized.
This year, Mexico City is the target of TMI initiatives. “TMI continues by God’s grace,” said McKey.
THE HARVEST MODEL OF EVANGELISM
A video presentation entitled “Grow Your Church” by Associate Director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries, Jim Howard, explored the growth cycle of planting and harvesting to illustrate the Church’s mission of making disciples. The stages outlined were: prepare, plant, cultivate, harvest, preserve.
“We praise God that Seventh-day Adventist church members around the world are answering the call and engaging in every phase of disciple-making,” Howard said. “They’re preparing the soil of the heart with friendship and service, they’re planting seeds of spiritual truth through conversations, invitations, literature and media, cultivating spiritual interest with personal and small group Bible studies. They are harvesting decisions to follow Christ and be baptized with both personal and public appeals, and they’re preserving that harvest with ongoing and systematic discipleship.”
Expanding on this model, each stage of the harvest process was illustrated through a video testimony by Adventists around the world who are actively involved in reaching their communities for Jesus through creative and innovative ways. Some highlights included friendship evangelism in Romania (prepare), distributing truth-filled messages through the GC’s Great Controversy project planned for 2023-2024 (plant), as well as Bible studies, baptisms, and community events to nurture new church members in various countries.
“Wherever you are, and whatever your position in life may be, God is calling you to be part of His mission. His message to you and me is an invitation: ‘Jesus is coming soon— lets get involved!’” Howard said.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM ADVENTIST WORLD RADI
Bringing the entire presentation together with beautiful images and testimonies of her travels with AWR, Cami Oetman shared a presentation consolidating some of the ministry highlights her team has experienced over the past quinquennium. Having preached more than 350 sermons, Oetman has become a recognized presenter and much-loved influence for God around the world.
“For over five years, I have witnessed first-hand, the might and magnitude of God’s truth changing lives.” Documenting over 100 testimonies from across the world of laymen getting involved in Great Commission, Oetman notes how as a result, “rebels, witches, mediums, drug lords, prostitutes, thieves, and many more who were once unreachable … have now accepted Jesus and the Adventist message.” Reigniting a fire for mission in the hearts of many individuals, many young people and adults alike have dedicated their lives to mission and “witness the ripple effects of one person getting involved.”
In addition to her powerful message, Oetman recounted the testimonies of four individuals who were baptized live during the Friday evening GC Session report. Willy, a member of the Philippine army with 16 years of service and the star of the short film The Executioner, gave his life to Jesus due to the work of AWR in Mondoro.
Jerome, also a 16 year member of the Philippine army, entered the baptismal waters. Fueled with anger after murder of his brother, he sought to obtain vengence from rebel forces in Mondoro. However, upon spying on the AWR team, he was impressed by the number of rebels laying down their weapons and giving their lives to Jesus. Upon witnessing the baptism of his former target and enemy, Jerome acknowledged “what Adventists are doing is a complete message from God.”
Dequan, raised in a non-denominational church and orphaned at a young age, was baptized by pastor Byron Wright. Reflecting on past moments of hopelessness, he stated “I used to use marijuana, alcohol, and worldly music to bring me comfort, when I should’ve been using God for that … It wasn’t until I lived in God’s word, that my life seemed brighter than ever and simple but more fulfilling.”
Pathfinder Omarielis was baptized by Pastor Gabriel Polino, as a result of her experience with Adventist Youth Ministries. “In today’s day when youth have so many things pulling for their attention, this beautiful young lady chose to give her attention to God’s word.”
Whether young or old, big or small, “God can use anyone”. Oetman stated. “All you need is a willing heart.” She added, “Everybody can do something.” By inviting Jesus to do His work through you, many around you can come to know the saving grace and transformative love of Christ. Jesus is coming. Get involved!
Watch the live stream of the full report here.
- Angelica Sanchez contributed to this report