Central Andean Venezuela Mission is an administrative unit of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in West Venezuela Union Mission in the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Formerly part of Southwest Venezuela Conference, Central Andean Venezuela Mission was organized in 2015 with headquarters in Merida, Merida, Venezuela.
Territory: The state of Merida (except the municipalities of Cardenal Quintero, Miranda, and Pueblo Llano, and the Lago Sur area); and in the state of Zulia the municipalities of Catatumbo, Colon, Francisco Javier Pulgar, Jesus Maria Semprum, and Sucre.
Statistics (June 30, 2022): Churches, 45; membership, 11,584; population, 1,316,636.1
Origins of Adventism in the Territory
In 1961 the pioneering Durán Becerra family from Colombia and Bishop family from Argentina arrived in the city of Merida. Sister Elisa Becerra de Durán had already known the Adventist faith from childhood, and Dr. Walter Bishop was already a member of the church when he arrived in Mérida to finish his medical studies. Together, the two families organized the first Sabbath School in Merida.2
On August 10, 1961, Juan Antonio Solís was sent to Merida with his family, where he would distribute Adventist publications as a colporteur for several years. Soon after the Solís’s arrival, the Suma Picón Terán brothers and Ana Bustos joined the group of believers in order to attend Sabbath School.3
Pastor Tirso Escandón was assigned to pastor the small group of Adventist believers in Merida. Therefore, on January 4, 1963, he and his family arrived in the city of Merida. Pastor Escandón’s first conferences were conducted during the city’s Holy Week. Later, on June 16, the inauguration of an Adventist clinic took place in the city sector known as la Otra Banda. The clinic was directed by Dr. Walter Bishop for several years.4
The first Adventist church in Merida was organized on August 8, 1964, with 24 members under the authorization of West Venezuela Mission. The ceremony was presided over by Pastor Eduardo A. Escobar, president of the mission, and Pastor Harold Bohr.5 In 1967 Pastor Escandón was transferred to the church in Valera in the state of Trujillo, and his position in Merida was filled by Pastor W. Alemán from Puerto Rico.
In 1974 a plot of land in the La Parroquia municipality was acquired for a value of Bs54,375.00 VEB. The first Adventist church in Merida would be built there. Under the direction of Pastor William Gómez and with State Governor Dr. Rigoberto Henríquez Vera present, the stone-laying ceremony was held on November 19, 1975. Brother Milciades Majarrés and Pastor William Gómez explained the background and objectives of the construction of the Merida church with an attached clinic for future medical and dental services.6
In 1976 Brother Facundo Ardila arrived in Merida and later became ordained to the ministry as a pastor of the Adventist Church. With his arrival the church’s construction was finished, and the Adventist message spread to places near Merida.7
Among the pastors who led the church in Merida were Tirso Escandón, José Hurtado, W. Alemán, Victor Urbina, William Gómez, Facundo Ardila, and Eliseo Magno Freites. The district was divided sometime later to better attend to the church members. Many churches and groups were established, and various pastoral districts were created, providing the strength needed in the formation of Central Andean Venezuela Mission.
In mid-2014 the administration of Southwest Venezuela Conference conducted a study to evaluate the possibility of creating a new field to better attend to the growing membership. The study demonstrated that, based on membership growth, financial resources, and potential leadership in the state of Merida and the municipalities of the state of Zulia that comprise Sur del Lago, a new mission could be established.8 On November 24, 2014, the quadrennial congress of Southwest Venezuela Conference decided to request the union and the Inter-American Division for a readjustment of its territory. On March 1, 2015, the conference’s board of directors took a vote to buy an office building for the headquarters of the new field, Central Andean Venezuela Mission.
In June 2015, the West Venezuela Union Mission board of directors appointed Bladimir Manzano as president of Central Andean Venezuela Mission along with Wilkar Rivero as secretary and Elizabeth Blanco as treasurer.9 The department leaders were also elected; these included Pastor Edwar García as its youth director and Mariger de Manzano as the department leader of women’s and children’s ministry.
On January 2, 2016, the new administration began operating at the headquarters in the city of Merida, which was inaugurated in the presence of the entire administration of the West Venezuela Union Mission and President Israel Leito of the Inter-American Division.
List of Presidents
Bladimir Manzano (2015-2017); Wilkar Rivero (2017- ).
La Parroquia Seventh-day Adventist Church historical book of records, church archives, 80, accessed November 15, 2022. HQ5W+8W5, C. Galeano, Mérida 5115, Mérida, Venezuela.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.
Southwest Venezuela Conference board of directors minutes. July 21, 2014. Accessed November 15, 2022. Av. Zulia No. B-72; Quinta Misia Nena, Urbanizacion Las Lomas; San Cristobal, Edo. Tachira; Venezuela.
“Central Andean Venezuela Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, accessed March 30, 2023, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=53264.↩
La Parroquia Seventh-day Adventist Church historical book of records, church archives, 80, accessed November 15, 2022.↩
Ibid., 84.; and “West Venezuela Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1966), 156.↩
La Parroquia Seventh-day Adventist Church historical book of records, 86.↩
Southwest Venezuela Conference board of directors minutes, July 21, 2014, 006, accessed November 15, 2022.↩
“Central Andean Venezuela Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016), 165.↩