Thousands of people have joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church across East Africa, including 2,309 in a mass baptism in the Indian Ocean following three weeks of evangelistic meetings.
The baptisms, held on Saturday, February 7, capped the evangelistic meetings at scores of sites, including about 100 in Tanzania’s capital, Dar es Salaam.
To celebrate, 40,000 people from the 11 countries of the Adventist Church’s East-Central Africa Division packed a stadium in Dar es Salaam for a grand finale under the banner “Mission Extravaganza.” Two hundred buses from Kenya alone brought church members to the event.
It was not immediately clear how many people were baptized across the division, which made extensive use of television and radio in its January 10-31 evangelistic campaign. Geoffrey Mbwana, a general vice president of the General Conference and a native of Tanzania, led major meetings that were broadcast on television.
Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson, who is on a seven-country tour, spoke on the final day of the series with a call for church members “to shake Africa for Christ.”
Wilson, who would later meet with the president and other senior government officials in Tanzania, expressed awe at the mass baptism early Sabbath morning.
“A beautiful sight! A wonderful blessing from God!” he said by email.
The newly baptized members headed straight from the beach to the National Stadium for worship services.
Wilson, who took the platform to preach, urged the audience to share the news of Jesus’ soon coming in their own communities.
“God calls you to shake Africa for Christ!” Wilson said. “Be in connection and communion with Him every day, being revived and reformed in Him every moment of your life.”
Many of the 40,000 attendees accepted the challenge, and they divided into small groups at the end of the sermon to pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to proclaim the Advent message back at home.
Later, Wilson was joined on the stage by Foreign Minister Bernard Membe and Agriculture Minister Stephen Wasira, who is an Adventist.
Membe, who gave strong affirmation to the Adventist Church in his speech, tweeted two photos of himself on the stage and wrote that he had felt “humbled” to address the crowd.
President Jakaya Kikwete welcomed Wilson and an Adventist delegation to his official residence, the State House, for an evening meal.
Wilson, who called the meeting “very helpful,” noted that Kikwete has been instrumental in preserving peace in Tanzania and helping to resolve conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi, and Kenya.
“He is very knowledgeable about the Seventh-day Adventist Church and very complimentary,” Wilson said.
The Mission Extravaganza event officially opened on Friday at the National Stadium with a parade of thousands of people, including Pathfinders, Women’s Ministries members, health workers, pastors, and literature evangelists.
Blasious Ruguri, president of the East-Central African Division, gave a keynote address, followed by presentations from a host of General Conference officers, including Linda Koh, children’s department director; Heather-Dawn Small, Women’s Ministries director; Howard Faigao, Publishing department director; and Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, Education department director.
The guest of honor, Tanzania’s vice president, Mohammed Gharib Bilal, told the gathering that the government would guarantee the right to worship but people must also respect one another’s right to worship.
“The doors are open, so we may consult and encourage one another,” he said, according to Tanzania’s The Guardian newspaper.
In conversations with Adventist leaders, the vice president and other government representatives voiced amazement with Mission Extravaganza, saying they had never attended a meeting where people showed such respect and good decorum.
The event was a “great witness for the Adventist message and Christ’s power to bring order to our lives through the Holy Spirit,” Wilson said.