Euro-Africa Division: Adventists Meet At
Lay ministries convention honors early sabbatarians
By Corrado Cozzi, Euro-Africa Division
The end of summer—August 30 to September 2, 2012—was the beginning of a season of inspiration for nearly 400 Seventh-day Adventists from across the Euro-Africa Division (EUD), as participants in the region’s first-ever lay ministries convention gathered at a Waldensian church in Bobbio Pellice, Italy. Adventists and others regard the Waldensians as early Christians who kept the seventh-day Sabbath.
WALDENSIAN CHURCH: Exterior of Waldensian church in Bobbio Pellice, Italy, where hundreds of Adventists from the Euro-Africa Division gathered for the lay ministries conference.Attendees came from Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, and Switzerland, as well as Italy. Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conference president; his wife, Nancy; Adventist Mission director Gary Krause; and division leaders were guests at the event, but center stage was reserved for lay members themselves.
“The main goal of this event is to share testimonies on evangelism experienced by lay people in their local country,” said Paolo Benini, personal ministries director for the Euro-Africa Division and an organizer of the event.
Three-minute presentations were allotted to each lay project. Each country was introduced by a report that presented the major programs and projects supported by the church members in that nation. The presentations centered on innovative means of outreach to a Europe that is largely “postmodern” in its philosophical outlook.
Said one delegate, “I will go home with a lot of ideas, and with God’s help I will be able to put some of them to use.”
Youth delegate Gabriele Taddei added, “The laypeople’s testimonies have been uplifting and inspiring; it’s encouraging to see how God is working through His people all around Europe. Sharing our experiences gave us the opportunity not only to know what is happening in other countries but also to get new ideas for evangelism.”
PRAYER PAUSE: Division president Bruno Vertallier (right) prays alongside General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson and Nancy Wilson.Krause shared a church planting report and a Global Mission overview. In one of his presentations, Taddei noted, “he showed a clip about a couple from Atlanta with three children who moved to a dangerous neighborhood of the city. They used Jesus’ method of reaching the people, mingling with them, and ministering to their needs; the missionary’s words really moved me.” (To read the report that appeared in Adventist Review, go to:http://www.adventistreview.org/issue.php?issue=2011-1528&page=16.)
Christian Altin, another youth participant, attended a workshop entitled “Creation and Evangelism.” He said, “Can we believe in evolution without our faith being affected? Do people have an interest in creationism? Is there something going on to present these issues to the public in a captivating way? This workshop caught the attention of those attending because the speakers shared exciting experiences of how each one of them is bringing creationism to the public.”
The health message presentations were well received in the towns of Torre Pellice and Bobbio Pellice. The Romanian Union presented an interesting “health bus,” made just for health expos, reminding us that indeed the right hand of Adventist outreach is the health message.
MORNING WORSHIP: Participants answer a call to service during lay ministries conference.“I knew the program, I knew the guests, but when I set my eyes over the beautiful mountains and the little stony roads of Bobbio Pellice, it made me think back to the days when these rocks protected the religious freedom here in Italy,” said Salvatore Cutrona. “I’ve found it very appropriate to have these meetings right here in the Waldensian valleys, especially after the message that Pastor Wilson shared with us on revival and reformation.”
These kinds of meetings give the opportunity of communication between the church and the lay members who are involved in personal ministries. As Wilson said: “Church leaders cannot do it all by themselves.”
“The Lord has been good to us in Bobbio Pellice, sending more than 400 witnesses from different European countries to this special Waldensian valley, the scene of so many memories of their faithfulness to carry the truths of the Bible,” said Bruno Vertallier, EUD president.
Along with the hundreds of participants, the event drew the attention of at least one significant media outlet: L’Osservatore Romano, the official daily newspaper of the Holy See in Rome, published a report of nearly 1,000 words noting the Adventist event and commenting on the discipline and evangelistic fervor of the participants. It’s not the first time the newspaper has spoken well of Seventh-day Adventists: Following the 2011 earthquake in Japan, L’Osservatore Romano noted the reaction of Adventists there and Pastor Wilson’s comments of support for victims.
—with additional reporting by Adventist World staff