By Lilliana Jimenez
At first, it seemed discouraging. On March 11, employees at the Central California Conference (CCC) received an email with the information that the 2020 Soquel Camp Meeting had been canceled because of the pandemic. It was understandable; nevertheless, the news was met with disappointment and collective sadness when it was announced throughout the conference. This would have marked the 72nd year for the camp meeting, which gathers up to 10,000 people to the Santa Cruz area.
However, the cancelation of camp meeting and the crisis of the pandemic provided an opportunity for innovation and action. Perhaps there was a new way to become “fishers of men” and spread the message of reassurance to multitudes that had been left shaken, angry, or confused by recent events. The CCC motto, “Church is not closed, just the building,” provided the catalyst to creatively explore opportunities that would advance evangelism. Indeed, why not see how God, in His mighty power, could turn a tragedy into a blessing? Little was it realized at that point how amazing this blessing would be.
Believing that this was the time to “cast not the pole but the net” to reach as wide an audience as possible, the Hispanic pastoral team put plans into action for the first-ever CCC biblical theological symposium. With the help of Erik Jimenez Milla, the Hispanic biblical investigation coordinator, and several other pastors, the Primer Simposio Biblico-Teologico would revolve around the theme of “La Biblia y los eventos finales” (the Bible and last-day events). Well-known and respected Adventist scholars who were considered experts in their fields would provide the seminars.
CCC Hispanic Ministries Director Ricardo Viloria explained, “Our principal goal was to present a relevant and balanced message. Many sources of information on the internet or social media do not present our beliefs correctly. It can cause our members to become confused, divided, or even worry about what they see or hear. It is vital for us to bring clarity and unity to our members. The future may still bring more hardships and uncertainties. It is important that we know what we believe in order to arrive safely at our destination.”
The symposium, held from July 11-18, had amazing results. Using social media applications such as Facebook and YouTube, promotion for the event started two weeks earlier. Within 60 minutes of the first promotion, the Facebook post had reached 3,000 people—and the numbers continued to climb. People were not only viewing from the local conference territory but from South America, Europe, Asia, and Canada. The many messages of support and appreciation encouraged the organizing team to continue. Praying and working harder than ever, while working through some technical glitches, the team heard amazing news: viewership was now over 500,000 people and continuing to climb! There is no doubt that God does not use a single pole when He can use a net.
The powerful messages of salvation touched the hearts of those who watched. Bringing tears to the eyes of the team, one listener commented, “Hearing the messages that were presented helped me reconnect to the Adventist roots that I had lost. It has filled my heart, fortified my faith, and returned to me my identity as an Adventist.”
Relationships were frequently formed through the comments and chats. During the question-and-answer segments after every program, viewers were able to ask any question that related to the topic of the day. As a result of the symposium, those churches, conferences, and unions who participated have seen a revival and unity among the Hispanic church family around the world.
The success of this event was achieved through the power and opportunities that God provided. It has now expanded to a live program every Friday evening entitled “Echoes of the Symposium.” In the same way that a fisherman needs assistance if fishing with a net, the team is certain they can only complete God’s mission by helping one another. As the early Christians learned, there is strength in unity and the results will be multitudes coming to Jesus. “More and more people believed in the Lord, and many men and women were added to the group of believers” (Acts 5:14, ERV).
All of the seminars given in the symposium were recorded and are archived on the YouTube and Facebook pages. Find and follow at @CCCHispanicMinistries. (Programs are in Spanish.)