The move is an acknowledgment of the denomination’s social impact, leaders say.
Several Seventh-day Adventist churches in the state of Sonora, Mexico, have been remodeled and new structures built thanks to an unprecedented initiative by the state government to support religious organizations that positively impact society. The plan, led by Sonora’s Council of Public Works Management, has already helped 11 churches since 2018. Several more churches will get help in the coming months, Adventist leaders said.
“It has been the only church conference in Mexico with this type of support,” Carlos Flores, treasurer of the church’s North Mexican Union Conference, said.
The support for the construction and remodeling projects is a recognition of the Adventist Church’s social impact in the community, according to Guillermo Méndez, president of the Sonora Mexican Conference. “The Adventist Church in Sonora is known for its impact with the ‘I Want to Live Healthy’ community health initiative and the ‘I Want to Grow Healthy’ school health initiative. It is also known for its Pathfinder clubs across the region,” Méndez said. “[Municipal leaders] take it as an important work, and that is why they are willing to invest in the church.”
Four churches in Obregón have benefited from the construction of two multiple-use rooms and rooms for children’s departments. In Hermosillo, five churches have built children’s rooms, remodeled the sanctuary and bathrooms, a pastoral room, and multiple-use rooms, while in Navojoa, an outreach center was remodeled. The same happened to a church sanctuary in Benito Juarez, Méndez added.
In 2017, the Sonora Mexican Conference analyzed its need for development. One of the goals agreed upon was to organize a new church for every district during the following four years, Méndez explained. “In 2017, there were 18 districts in the state, and the conference voted to assign 70 percent of the Development Plan offerings to what the church coined as the ‘I am A18’ [H18] project based on Acts 1:8.”
“We began to dream and began to pray,” Méndez said. “Soon after, with the collaboration of Lorena Martínez, an engineer who for several years worked for the municipal government, we were able to apply to get the resources available.”
When the remodeling projects are submitted by properties owned by the Adventist Church and registered as a Religious Association as such, the municipal government oversees the plans and bidding of the project. “Neither church members nor administrators receive funds for the projects,” Méndez said. According to him, the only contact persons are local district pastors.
“The government has shown great respect to the organizational system of the Adventist Church and has fulfilled its part in each project,” Méndez added. “There’s a clear division between the Adventist Church and the government, and there is no compromise that may risk the separation between the two.”
Because of the pandemic, churches have gone to online worship services, with members meeting occasionally in small groups. Some smaller activities for the community, however, are held in the churches’ outreach centers, Méndez said.
Recently approved projects will see remodeling in the cities of Hermosillo and Nogales, starting in March 2021.
The Sonora Mexican Conference has more than 13,000 church members spread across 112 churches and congregations.
The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.