A Packet of Seeds and Kingdom Principles
Adventism in the South Pacific Division
By Carol Tasker
One seed. Insignificant and unappealing. Too small to attract attention—but Jesus noticed. In fact, He used tiny seeds to illustrate great kingdom principles. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed—so small some of us need a magnifying glass to see what it looks like. And when we do focus on this tiny brown speck, there is no indication of what it may become.
But the growth itself is nothing short of miraculous—not only in size but in form. When a seed grows, it becomes, not just a bigger speck, but even a massive tree, providing shade for schoolchildren, a home for birds and monkeys. Or it may become a carrot, a pumpkin, or a mango tree bearing hundreds of mangoes—each with the capacity for growing more mango trees, with more mangoes. Kingdom multiplication principles at their best!
Like a Mustard Seed
Like a mustard seed, the Seventh-day Adventist work in Australia and the South Pacific began small. Just seven adults and four children from the United States sailed to Australia in 1885. A printing work began in Melbourne, along with the production of some health foods. In 1897 a fledgling school called Avondale was carved out of the bush by the first 10 students and four teachers, while the first Adventist hospital in Australia (the Sydney San) accepted a desperately ill local resident before it opened its doors in 1903. That first patient began a line of five generations of Adventists with the surname Butler.
Growth and fruit are natural results of planted seed. Five years later, in 1908, the first missionary group of three journeyed to Papua New Guinea. The first 12 years of long, hard, persistent work yielded a record of two converts. But from such unpromising beginnings, baptized church membership in Papua New Guinea now stands at 223,856, besides the thousands of children and young people in Adventist churches.
Surprisingly, the seeming lack of early success in Papua New Guinea did not deter the Australasian Union from sending a mission boat and workers to another island nation—the Solomon Islands—in 1914, as G. F. Jones and his wife sailed the Advent Herald around the Western Solomon Islands, establishing the first mission station at Viru Harbor.
Solomon Island Miracle
Almost 100 years later Solomon Island Mission (SIM) president Wayne Boehm and his son Jacob, annoy village chief Leonard by ruining his Sunday morning peace with the roar of their motorbikes. Chief Leonard’s reception is understandably cool. However, when Wayne presents the village with a simple packet of seeds, it is as though these villagers have just received a million dollars.
A friendship begins. Leonard brings around pawpaw and vegetables almost weekly in gratitude for the gift of seeds. More seeds are exchanged. Seeds mean so much out there—feeding families, generating school fees, paying for books and clothes. Dr. Silent (SIM health director) and other church members begin weekly Bible studies in the village. A Saturday afternoon meeting of 10 people soon turns into a branch Sabbath school of nearly 50. Leonard and his wife begin attending church meetings. They watch the new Beyond the Search video series. They are baptized in late 2012, and baptismal studies continue in his village. Here are true kingdom growth principles in action.
But the story doesn’t end there. Wayne tells us more:
“We were having land issues on the weather coast of Guadalcanal, where we had built a church and needed to extend. Unbeknown to us, Leonard was the spokesperson for that area and had stopped the work on our church long before. Following his baptism, he returned to that other village to let them know that the Adventist Church has his permission to do what they wanted. Other family members now send their children to Leonard’s village for him to raise them in his wonderfully new way of life.”
The mission president’s seeds of love had reached the one person who could resolve a longstanding problem and open the door to further evangelism in this remote area.
The Dorcas Women
Recognizing the needs of others can be a simple act, but with far-reaching consequences.
Take, for instance, the Dorcas women, who thought of having a weekend federation meeting in a hostile Anglican village. Recognizing the village had no drinking water, the Dorcas women raised funds and sent a gift ahead of the planned meetings—a water tank, complete with a group of Adventist men to install it.
The priest and congregation were stunned. Why would the Adventists care about their problem? Hearts were softened, and later when a Seventh-day Adventist youth group went there to camp (and quietly witness to the villagers), they were overwhelmed by the welcome and were invited to hold their Sabbath worship in the Anglican Church—with many locals attending! In turn they attended the Sunday church service, where the Adventist pastor was invited to preach. Many of the local youth told their newfound Adventist friends that they wanted to become Adventists because they are people of the Word and people of action. The head elder observed: “I was plotting and planning all of these ways to make a difference over there, but instead all I’ve been doing is running as fast as I can to keep up with God!”
The Kingscliff Church
At the heart of kingdom growth principles is a personal relationship with God. Seven years ago the members of Kingscliff Church in the North New South Wales Conference, Australia, were challenged to daily spend an hour of quality time with God, in Bible study and prayer. A number of families committed to this suggestion, and the rest is an exciting history of the Holy Spirit at work in the twenty-first century.
As the Holy Spirit has been given permission to work, hearts and lives, theology and behavior have changed. A desire to share Jesus in the community has led to three series of evangelistic programs, and 100 community members registered at the recent community health program. This medium-sized congregation (280-300) has become the second highest in tithe giving in the conference. Young people have put their careers and schooling on hold and committed themselves to three months of on-the-job training in evangelism. The salvation of the children has become a top priority for this church, and both men and women are involved in the seven divisions of children to youth divisions.
Church board operations afford a wonderful evidence of God’s presence at work. Pastor Marcus Mundall reports that in his five years there “only three times has there been even one dissenting vote at a church board or business meeting.” April Mundall, his wife, speaks of Kingscliff having “a wonderful spirit of unity like the early apostolic church.” They anticipate about 50 baptisms this year.
When I think of seeds, I think of the extravagant generosity of a God who gives far more than is necessary or expected. He delights in our company and wants us before He wants our service. From small and insignificant beginnings, God wants to demonstrate what the Holy Spirit can supernaturally do through people totally committed to Him.
Carol Tasker is associate director of education for the South Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists.