April 9, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division
As the month of March began, Antonio Casarrubias, a Seventh-day Adventist literature evangelist in the Yautepec municipality in Morelos, Mexico, was sure that the first quarter of the year would be like no other in sales. “It was going monstrously well in just the first two months of the year,” said Casarrubias. “Just crazy unbelievable.” Then the coronavirus warnings came. Schools and businesses began to close, large gatherings stopped, and visits to homes were impossible.
In his 27 years as a full-time literature evangelist, or colporter, Casarrubias has never ever experienced not being able to connect with people and do something that he loves. He has visited students in their schools, businesses, politicians, artists, held large conferences and the list goes on. “Things are terrible because people don’t want you to come near them, they don’t want to listen to you.”
For Casarrubias, 52, that’s extremely unusual. He has been the champion literature evangelist in his conference and union for over five years. He is among a handful of outstanding literature evangelists in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, who buy thousands of dollars worth of books to sell every year. He has put his oldest son through architecture school and has another son finishing high school.
A call from God
“Honestly, I can already tell that April is going to be very dead for sales,” he said. “But you have to be creative, see how you can improvise how to approach people, what you do and say these days.” Casarrubias is practicing social distancing while following up with just a few clients who are willing to listen to him and purchase books. “Many people are losing their jobs and they have no income so they aren’t able to buy much.”
“A crisis situation is a call from God,” said Casarrubias. His faith has not been shaken since he took on ministering through literature evangelism nearly three decades ago. “You feel God in this ministry. I am not afraid of this coronavirus, because God has called me and will see me through as He wills.” He has seen more than 500 persons get baptized through the books and ministry of his literature evangelism.
“Literature evangelism is a call from God. This is the time that you hold on to the hand of God,” he tells his group of literature evangelists nearly everyday through voice and text messages. Casarrubias leads as associate publishing ministries director in Cuernavaca, Morelos, in the South Pacific Mexico Conference. His group of 12 literature evangelists purchase an average of $157,000 US dollars worth of books to sell every year. He said all in his group keep their faith strong but he is afraid that other groups of literature evangelists are getting discouraged and may leave the ministry amid the pandemic situation.
Like Casarrubias, Virginia Jiménez’s faith has not been shaken either. As a literature evangelist of nine years in the Juan Rodríguez Clara municipality in Veracruz, Mexico, she says the changes in book sales are already evident. “I keep to my community these days and try to visit my regular clients, but most are not able to buy because they are not earning any money.” She keeps going out every day, keeping social distancing measures and inviting clients or people she finds on the street to watch her new book presentations from afar. “I love to preach the gospel. I love to give bible studies. I put before God this work and pray that He continues to use me to share this wonderful message.”
Jiménez has put her oldest through university and has two other children in high school, thanks to her work as a literature evangelist. Every year she purchases approximately $12,000 US dollars in books and sells all of them.
“God has blessed me tremendously,” she says. Every time she puts in an order to the publishing house, she pays tithes and offerings before she sells anything. Her husband, who takes care of his aging mother, sells things in the market every day he can.
Jiménez clings to Isaiah 40:31: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” She goes out every day to see who she can impact with a word of encouragement, prayer, and, if the person has money to spend, a book. So far, she praises God that through her ministry more than 50 people have been baptized into the Adventist Church. She dreams of soon being able to visit the other neighboring communities to continue her ministry. She knows she will feel the brunt of the decrease in sales due to the coronavirus effects in her community in April.
She is thankful that church leaders have provided funds and food provisions for her family and those of other literature evangelists.
Casarrubias and Jiménez are among the 120 full-time literature evangelists who received monetary and food assistance last week, says Pastor Martin Olvera, publishing ministries director for the church in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union, headquartered in Puebla.
“We are very concerned for them because they are not receiving a steady paycheck and these are crucial times for them,” says Olvera. He and the publishing team oversee 180 part time literature evangelists and an average of 150 student literature evangelists across the region.
Olvera holds online meetings with his directors to continue encouraging literature evangelists through this slow process during isolation measures. The church plans to continue supporting its literature evangelists through April and extend or provide special credits for them starting in May and beyond, if necessary. “All in all I have seen that their faith is strong and we value them because they are an integral part of evangelism in our union territory,” says Olvera. He stated that the team of literature evangelists are the top sellers among the five unions, or church regions, in Mexico.
Outstanding work of literature evangelists
Pastor Erwin Gonzalez, publishing ministries director for the church in Inter-America, praises the success of the elite group of literature evangelists in the Inter-Oceanic Mexican Union.
“They stand out on top among Inter-America’s 24 unions and rank number one against the rest of the world church in literature evangelism,” says González. But every single one of the literature evangelists across the Inter-American Division, all 1,714 full time, 4,000 part time, and 2,950 student literature evangelists, play a key role in spreading the gospel, he adds.
“The Coronavirus has made the work of literature evangelist much more difficult, because seminars and large events have been canceled, and in-person contact has been severely limited,” explains González. “Many have been able to visit a person recommended by a friend or client, family or work colleague, but it has not been easy.”
González meets regularly with his union publishing directors online and tells them to encourage their literature evangelists and remind them of the promises in the bible.
“All of our unions who oversee the work of literature evangelists have taken actions to assist their literature evangelists and have already distributed funds and food to help their families,” says González.
Faithful literature evangelists
“We know that they have been called to be special messengers of the Lord,” he adds. “They are not discouraged as they face this situation, because they know that the end times will come and their [literature evangelism] ministry is a blessed opportunity to reach others for Heaven.”
Clemente González, 52, is among the 80 literature evangelists in the Dominican Republic who is feeling the effects of social distancing regulations. But he presses on even though he cannot do much visiting at schools, businesses and homes. “I am clinging to God,” he says. In 2012, he decided to close his mini market store to become a literature evangelist. It’s a decision he has never regretted. He goes out every day to see if any of his regular clients or church members need encouragement or a new book. González is the top-selling literature evangelist in his country and lives in one of the largest municipalities in Santo Domingo with nearly one million people. He’s been able to support his five children through school and wonders why he didn’t start as a literature evangelist sooner. “More members should take part in this ministry because it’s so rewarding. This ministry builds your faith everyday,” he said.
The coronavirus does not scare him. “I’m not worried because God watches over us and this is an amazing ministry to carry out for God,” González said.
The church leadership on the island has provided funds as well as food baskets for the family of each full-time literature evangelist, says Pastor Roberto Matos, publishing ministries for the church in the Dominican Republic. “We are working on the possibility of assisting them through April and have strategies in place to have them share more prophetic books and health books as soon as the quarantine measures are lifted.”
In Panama, 82 full-time literature evangelists have not been able to make any visitations during strict quarantine orders by the government, reported Luis Atencio, publishing ministries director for the church in Panama. “Unfortunately our literature evangelists are locked in their homes without any income coming in and this is affecting them and our bookstores,” said Atencio. Leaders are in touch with the government, waiting to hear when the orders will be lift, but Atencio says that in the meantime financial assistance and food is being provided to the literature evangelists.
To learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America and its publishing ministries, visit us at interamerica.org