The Caravan del Poder began its long journey in January 2003. Cars, vans, and trucks loaded with people eager to witness and with equipment to support the witness made up the caravan as it wound its way from the border of Bolivia to Crucero, the highest point in Peru. Crucero threw open its arms to welcome the Adventists, and the mayor declared a holiday. More than half the population of the city turned up at the local stadium to celebrate the spiritual power that the caravan brought.
One of the principal leaders of the caravan was its main preacher, Alejandro Bullon, ministerial secretary of the South-American Division. He held meetings in 17 cities along the route of the caravan, and at times he had to speak three or four times a day. Assisting him were scores of other evangelists, pastors, and lay members. As the caravan concluded its journey, the power witnessed was Pentecostal in proportion: Between September 16 and 23,10,534 people were baptized, nearly a third of them in the beautiful Huencalla beach of Lake Titicaca, others in the cold waters of Unocoya River, near juliaca, the largest city in Peru. Compare this massive achievement of the Caravan of Power with the total baptisms for the same mission in all of 2002: 9,024 baptisms.
The Caravan of Power was not a one person show. The Lake Titicaca Mission, headquartered in Puno, recruited and trained over 112,000 lay persons from every part of the mission territory for several weeks prior to the caravan's passing through. The training included prayer ministry, Bible studies, preparing for discipleship, and identifying and using various spiritual gifts. Every church entity and department was involved in the adventure, including ADRA, the Odonto medical Clinic, and the Nuevo Tiempo radio network. In addition, 94 Adventist schools and colleges in the area, many pastors, Adventist youth volunteers, and 41 theology students lent their presence and support to the caravan's evangelistic adventure.
The project took several months of organization and preparation, from the original vision conceived by the local mission administrators to its successful conclusion. The Union organization fully supported the venture. The local mission also recruited the assistance of an experienced professional team in public relations, and with their help the event received maximum exposure and promotion, secured support of civic and political authorities, and received press coverage. Thanks to this team, before the caravan arrived in a particular city, the entire city was made aware of it.
Right from the outset, the caravan witnessed so many incredible stories that whatever success we had in soul winning can be attributed only to the power and presence of the Spirit. Consider Limber Cavino, a music teacher at the state college. Wanting to be part of the caravan but unable to move from his job, he chose to study the Bible where he was. He invited 35 of his students and five parents for intense personal Bible study. They all were baptized when the caravan passed through their place.
Carlos Carpio lives in Lima. After being invited by some friends to attend vespers, he joined a regular Bible study class. When he heard about the caravan, he decided to be baptized along with his daughter, Edda, even though they had to travel 930 miles.
Pastor Agostin Ticona, part of the caravan staff, conducted baptisms every day of a week, and on one of them, the ceremony lasted from 6:00 p.m. to midnight. During that one week, he baptized 214 people.
At Choquehuanca there was a particularly touching moment. In the early 1920s, the local priest tried to chase out the Seventh-day Adventists and their pastor. Now, when the caravan arrived, the mayor gave Pastor Bullon the keys of the city.
The last sermon and altar call were delivered in Puno, the state capital, to over 20,000 people at the local stadium. Following that, the mayor requested that at least "one week promoting Christian values" be held every year by the Adventist church in that city, where the Adventists constitute some 12 per cent of the population.
A venturesome project
"The impact of the Caravan of Power cannot be measured in numbers; it will have long-term consequences," exclaimed Melchor Ferreyra, president of the Peru Union, who actively participated in the project. Ferreyra now wants to hold something similar in 2004 at national level, christened Mega Impact: Mission Possible, and hopes to baptize 50,000 people by July.
The Caravan of Power was the most ambitious evangelistic campaign ever undertaken by the Adventist Church in Peru. The caravan focused on the Lake Titicaca Mission, whose territory embraces the state of Puno. Located on the Peruvian plateau around Lake Titicaca, at an altitude of 13,100 feet, Puno has a population of one million. The four major cities—Juliaca, Puno, Have, and Ayaviri—account for almost half of the country's population.
Adventism entered Peru through this state almost 100 years ago, and today it is the religion of 12 percent of its population. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is the second major church in the country, following the Catholic Church.
The Caravan of Power is integrated evangelism. It included people and pas tors at all levels; it attracted church leadership and departments; it had a well-focused and time-framed organization. Above all it was many groups, multiple witnesses, cemented together to take the gospel from one end of the conference to the other—a steady stream of witnesses that formed the Caravan of Power.