More than 650 Seventh-day Adventist communicators across the church in Panama took part in a special online congress to bolster and unify their efforts to better reach viewers, readers, and listeners with the message of hope across the nation. The communication congress was the first of its kind organized in Panama and took place Aug. 14-16, 2020.

It came at a time when the church wants to ensure its pastors, communication leaders at all levels, young influencers, and creative members throughout its 600 congregations get actively involved in the mission of the church, organizers said.

“We must remain connected to Jesus, connected to the spiritual nets from heaven…to better preach the gospel,” said Jose De Gracia, president of the church in Panama. De Gracia challenged communicators to adopt the message of Philippians 4:8, to communicate all that is right, all that is pure, all that is kind and of a good name. “Join us, let’s communicate ethically, with values, with the DNA of Jesus so that persons can see and live the truth.”

Themed Connections of Hope (Conexiones de Esperanza), congress sought to unify the communication system within the church organization, take advantage of digital resources and provide tools to communicators and leaders as well as strengthen the identity of the church in Panama, church leaders said.

Keynote Speaker Pastor Sam Neves, associate communication director for the Adventist world church, emphasized that digital evangelism initiatives are more personalized and carry a more unique way of connecting with the audience compared to technological initiatives. “Digital evangelism initiatives have the objective of helping others find us [as a church], then help them find Jesus and as the last step to help others find other people, thus creating a field of action,” Neves said.

Williams Costa, communication director for the Adventist world church, reminded delegates of the importance of relevant content, guided by God. Costa said that one image or video can share the pain or be a blessing.

In one of several plenary sessions, Abel Márquez, communication director for the church in Inter-America, challenged delegates not to limit themselves by only using a means of communication, but also to understand the responsibility communicators have of being the means to share the message of salvation. “It’s amazing that the message of salvation is limitless,” Márquez said.

The online congress included half a dozen plenary presentation sessions and a dozen seminars taught by leaders from the Adventist world church, the Inter-American Division, and Panama Union. Seminar topics included cinematography, streaming for storytelling and scriptwriting, podcasting, corporate image, media relations, news writing, and photojournalism, producing for Hope Channel and digital strategies, among others. Registered attendees received an initial certification for taking part in the online presentations and seminars.

Tiffanie Clarke, 23, from the Berea Adventist Church in Panama City, said she learned so much about social media, even as active as she is in on it. “I learned that managing social networks is not only about posting content but planning the messages to win souls,” said Clark. She was happy to learn that good photos with clear messages are indispensable when creating content, announcements, and messages.

Henry González, 21, who coordinates social media for the church’s Nuevo Amanecer radio station in Colon, Panama, said what impressed him most about the congress was the focus on digital communication. “[It’s good] to know that with few resources and with the appropriate tools, we can create strong and more effective content to communicate our idea,” said González.

Joel Gálvez, a pastor of six churches in Colon, Panama, was excited to be part of the congress. “We want to take this training to our members so that in a more effective and dynamic way they too can be digital missionaries and can win others for Jesus through the many social platforms,” he said.

The online communication congress had as its main objective to create urgency among the membership on collaborating together in the task of sharing hope, said Jose Smith, treasurer of the church in Panama and the main organizer of the event. “We must unite and put to work all available resources God has given us so that the work of the gospel can be finished here in Panama,” he said. It’s all about being one communication team, all willing to do our best for the Lord as we make connections of hope,” Smith said.

Church leaders plan to continue training and work to create more content and programs in various formats, enlisting hundreds of digital evangelists and creative disciples to share hope in the nation in the coming weeks and months.

To learn more initiatives and activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Panama, visit uapanama.org

This article was originally published on the Inter-America Division’s website

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