On Sunday, October 13, 2013, During The General Conference (GC) Annual Council, A Thanksgiving Ceremony For The Great Controversy Project (GCP) Was Held In The GC Auditorium. Jonas Arrais, Editor Of Elder's Digest, Interviewed Wilmar Hirle, Associate Director Of The Published Ministries Department.

Wilmar Hirle was born and raised in Brazil, where he entered the literature ministry. He served as director of the Publishing Ministries Department in Brazil at the conference, union, and division levels. He also served as Publishing Ministries director of the Euro-Asia Division. He is presently associate director of the Publishing Ministries Department at the General Conference. In this role, he works directly with 63 Adventist publishing houses and is in charge of developing new books for the world church. Hirle and his wife Cleni have a daughter, a son, and a granddaughter.

From your point of view, how effective was the Great Controversy Project (GCP)?

I’ve been working for the church for more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen our church members as enthusiastic about a project as they were with this one. Everybody wanted to be a part of it, to do something different. By the grace of God, we far exceeded our goal to distribute 140 million copies of The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White, which has been published and distributed in more than 100 languages around the world. It was evident that the Holy Spirit was leading this project.

What is the philosophy behind these big projects? Why do you refer to the books as “silent messengers”?

As a church, our mission is to reach every person with the good news that Jesus is coming soon. There are different ways of sharing this news. Ellen G. White said, “The silent messengers that are placed in the homes of the people . . . will strengthen the gospel ministry in every way; for the Holy Spirit will impress minds as they read the books, just as He impresses the minds of those who listen to the preaching of the word. The same ministry of angels attends the books that contain the truth as attends the work of the minister.”1 Furthermore, if we only preach to those who attend church, what percentage of the population are we reaching? How many non-Adventists visit Seventh-day Adventist churches each year? An optimistic number is less than one percent. Our goal is to reach not just one percent; we are told to reach the entire world! That’s why we have to go everywhere. Using these “silent messengers” is one of the best ways to spread God’s good news.

The total number of books distributed under the banner of the GCP was impressive. What do you think God’s ultimate goal is for these kinds of projects?

Never before have we had a project that scattered such a huge number of books—more than 140 million! But if our aim is to reach everyone, we are far from our goal. Ellen G. White wrote, “Publications must be multiplied, and scattered like the leaves of autumn.”2

When my wife and I moved to the United States, the first house we bought had a big yard with several trees. Without thinking, I promised my wife that I would take care of the yard. When autumn came, there were leaves everywhere, and every Friday I spent several hours raking them up. That’s when I understood what God had in mind to accomplish His mission. Never have our church members been as enthusiastic about scattering missionary books as they have been with this project. Praise the Lord for that! However, God wants us to do even more than we are doing.

The GCP is coming to an end. What will the next missionary project be?

God gave us the task of preaching the Three Angels’ messages. We have good doctrines that other churches also preach. If we all preach the same messages, people will not feel the need to change their lives. The Three Angels’ messages speak about the conflict between Christ and Satan and how Satan misleads people using God’s Word. The next missionary book will feature the First Angel’s message as mentioned in Revelation 14: “Saying with a loud voice, fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:7).

The world church has designated 2014 as the year to emphasize the Creation Project. The Publishing Ministries Department was asked to prepare a missionary book about Creation in the context of the First Angel’s message. The book Beyond Imagination was prepared for that purpose.

The first part of this book describes the wonders of the universe, including the number of stars and their sizes; the wonders of the earth, including animals, birds, fish, and the human body—wonders that evolutionists cannot explain. Then a question is asked: If a loving Creator created so many wonders, why do people suffer? Why does death exist? The last part of the book talks about suffering and how God is planning to recreate everything at Jesus’ soon return.

Why should a local church elder strategize to involve members in the distribution of missionary books?

Most of our members attend church every Sabbath and enjoy listening to good sermons and good music. But in places where only these are offered, the church is not growing. To have a vibrant, energetic church, we need to get members more involved with the church. One of the challenges we face as leaders is that many of our members are afraid to go out and share the gospel. Most the time they’re afraid because they don’t know how to do evangelism. When we teach members how to use literature for missionary activities, they learn very quickly and are eager to share.

Ellen G. White advised us, “Let the leaflets and tracts, the papers and books, go in every direction. Carry with you, wherever you go, a package of select tracts, which you can hand out as you have opportunity. Sell what you can, and lend or give them away as the case may seem to require. Important results will follow.”3 When she wrote this, literature evangelists as we know them didn’t exist; she was telling all church members to take literature with them wherever they went.

I always challenge people to keep literature with them at all times and ask God what He wants them to do with it. When they do this, they never return home with books. The Holy Spirit always shows them where the literature should go. When church members are involved in the distribution of literature, they are happier and more enthusiastic.

I recently preached at a church and challenged its members to distribute literature. A few weeks later I received an e-mail from one of the members. He told me that one Sabbath afternoon, he and several other church members took 250 bottles of water and 250 missionary books to one of Miami’s beaches; they distributed all the water and all the books. He was so happy with the experience that he wanted to buy more books! Many members become literature evangelists after experiencing the power of distributing books. Ellen G. White wrote that when a person goes out to sell literature, that person becomes a living preacher. Pastors and elders, those who preach in church, are living preachers, too. When a literature evangelist presents a book and talks about it, his work is just as important as the pastor’s. Being a literature evangelist is a very important work; that’s why we as leaders should encourage members to do this work.

Not all members have selling skills, but experience has shown me that everyone can distribute literature.

A friend once said to me, “I cannot sell, or even approach a person to give something. But before I leave a place, I always ‘forget’ a book somewhere. It can be in an airplane, in a hotel room—anywhere! What happens after that is in God’s hands.”

f Ellen G. White, Colporteur Ministry, 100.

2 Ibid.

3 White, Christian Service, 151.