Never underestimate the power of the gospel to overcome the enormity of human evil.
The brokenness of sinful human beings is on display in every arena of our lives.
In the yard, children bicker and complain, asserting ownership of bits of cloth and plastic they call “toys.”
In the workplace, colleagues taunt and deceive, determined to climb a rung on an employment ladder promising success and wealth.
In disputed corners of the earth, guns and bombs emerge to stake the claims of sovereignty and “nation.”
Even in the church, we watch familiar sins of pride and prejudice inflicting pain on those Christ died to save.
As the apostle so aptly framed it: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19, NRSV).* Christianity stripped of the news of Jesus’ resurrection—and His resurrection power in our lives—is nothing other than unwarranted optimism in the face of deadly facts.
But the gospel we are called to preach—and live—compels us to acknowledge that the resurrected Lord intends His disciples to experience His transforming power even now in our roles and our relationships.
By His grace, controversialists choose cooler rhetoric. Through His power, enemies forgive each other. Inspired by His example, men and women push back the tide of evil by living with kindness, generosity, and faithfulness.
“We are each a tale of grace,” the poet said. Taken altogether, the countless lives healed and made whole by Jesus’ death and resurrection give the world a frankly hopeful vision of the world soon to come.
As you read this month’s cover story about recovery and restoration after horror and violence, resolve to live, because of grace, one of those resurrected lives.
There are things in life we cannot fix. There are moments we cannot get back. There are words we cannot delete or say differently.
And by His Stripes We Are Healed
By Gerald A. Klingbeil
There are things in life we cannot fix—try as we might. There are moments we cannot get back. There are words we cannot delete or say differently.
My wife, Chantal, and I had been married for a little more than a year when I decided to build my own desk for my office. Mind you, I did not actually have an office. We lived as married students in a one-room apartment at Helderberg College, South Africa, in a tiny living room (nearly filled with our bookshelves and some chairs) and one bedroom that fit our bed and my desk with a clunky computer sitting on top. While in school, I had never had the chance to learn carpentry, but I had made friends with the woodworking teacher at Helderberg High School. During summer break, he graciously took the time to initiate me into the mysteries of careful woodworking. We started from scratch—with raw planks that required cutting, planing, and finally, cutting to size.
For two weeks I put in eight-hour days and enjoyed using my hands and learning new skills. It was late afternoon, and I had worked hard that particular day. I was about to finish a job that involved using a powerful electric bench planer. I was tired and did not concentrate—for a split second. My hand slipped off the plank, and two fingers hit the planer. Initially it didn’t hurt, but there was lots of blood. My brother and the woodworking teacher rushed me to the hospital. After the hand surgeon had cleaned everything and looked at the damage, I was told that he had to take off the remainder of the tip of my little finger on the left hand, including the nail bed and bone fragments.
When I finally arrived home late that evening, it suddenly hit me: there are things in life we cannot fix.
The Healing Messiah
The last week of Jesus’ public ministry started with a bang. People were lining the roads leading to Jerusalem. Jesus, the healer from Galilee, was coming to town, riding on a donkey. Crowds were shouting “Hosanna”; palm branches and spread-out garments covered the road leading from the Mount of Olives into the city. Jesus was the “Son of David”; prophecy was being fulfilled before the very eyes of the people (cf. Zech. 9:9; Ps. 118:26). All of Jerusalem seemed to be up and about (Matt. 21:10). The disciples were giddy with anticipation. Finally, Jesus would claim His rightful place.
Jesus moved purposefully toward the Temple. This was His Father’s house (Luke 2:49)—yet the din of shouting moneychangers, yelling merchants of Temple-approved sacrificial animals, and thousands of people haggling over the best price enveloped everything. The outer Temple court looked and smelled like a cattle yard. Everybody was absorbed in doing business; nobody anticipated the real Lamb entering the court.
Suddenly all eyes turn toward Him. In a split second, unexpectedly, Jesus is not just the carpenter from Nazareth standing in the Temple court. “Divinity flashed through humanity, investing Christ with a dignity and glory He had never manifested before,” writes Ellen White.1 As He moves around the court, Jesus quotes Scripture (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11), amplifying the prophetic voices of past generations. The house of prayer, turned into a den of thieves, is rapidly emptying (cf. Matt. 21:12, 13). Tables are overturned, coins spill all over the ground, and animals escape their pens. No one questions the authority of this Man. No one can stop the Son of God.
I imagine, after the rush of stampeding feet, there was silence—then the sound of tentative steps. The curious note in Matthew 21:14 points us to Jesus’ true mission: “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.”
The location of this dense one-verse miracle was most likely the court of the Gentiles. Jewish tradition prohibited any person with a disability from offering a sacrifice “before the Lord.” The texts of the Jewish community at Khirbet Qumran went even further and excluded those individuals from the congregation and the future messianic kingdom.2 Those who were lame, blind, or deaf were not allowed into the inner courts, because they would introduce impurities and imperfection into God’s realm.
Jesus makes short work of this notion. His healing ministry invites all into His Father’s presence. He has time for the marginalized, the sick, the unworthy, the outsider—and the children (verse 16). By cleansing the Temple and healing the sick, He points beyond the stunning beauty and architecture of a building to its ultimate purpose. Sinners in need of forgiveness and restoration are redeemed by the sacrifice of the true Lamb of God.
By His Stripes
Days later, the crowds shouting “Hosanna” have modulated their shouts to “crucify Him.” Three crosses dot the road leading to Jerusalem. The mighty Healer has died; most of His disciples have fled or stand distraught at the foot of the cross. Messiah rests in His grave. Hopeless, yet determined, some of the women following Jesus are on their way to the tomb. They don’t know it yet, but Jesus does not need the embalming spices they bring for Him.
The empty tomb makes their hearts pound faster. Their hopes, their dreams, their expectations are reignited by angels announcing Jesus’ resurrection. Can you see them running back to the city to tell their friends and families—the entire world? No more sacrificial Lego-style illustrations in the temple. The true Lamb of God has carried the burden of an entire world—and lives!
We Are Healed
Suddenly texts such as Isaiah 53 make sense. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; . . . and by His stripes we are healed” (verses 4, 5). The disciples, and those following in their footsteps throughout the ages, finally get it. The Healer was not just interested in restoring our eyesight, our hearing, our ability to walk, or our capacity to speak. No, He looked beyond the apparent problem and focused on the real problem. He took care of our sins—the ugly, dirty acts and thoughts and motives, both great and small. He took upon Himself our iniquities and “[justified] many” (verse 11)—all those who, first with trepidation, but then rushing into His wide-open arms, come as they are to be truly healed.
Resurrection morning is a good reminder of Jesus’ healing ministry. My little finger on my left hand still lacks a nail, and sometimes when the weather changes, I feel some pain. While it is a great conversation starter with kids, it also reminds me of my need for true healing and restoration. Like those who were lame and blind and crippled, who rushed to Jesus after He had cleansed the Temple, I, too, keep running into His arms. My tangled sense of righteousness needs the constant reminder that His sacrifice is sufficient; that the Healer does not need my feeble attempts at self-medicated remedies.
And, yes, while there are things in life we cannot fix, we know the One who can. His grace is bountiful; His forgiveness unconditional; His restoration complete. His call means surrender; His claims are absolute His victory is magnanimous— and changes everything.
1Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn, 1898), p. 591. 2D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), vol. 8, p. 442.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of Adventist World. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A., with his wife, Chantal, and their three daughters.
The growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the East-Central Africa Division illustrates the power of the gospel as expressed in Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed
Like a Mustard Seed Adventism in the East-Central Africa Division By Geoffrey Mbwana
The growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the East-Central Africa Division (ECD), which includes 11 countries of the Eastern and Central regions of Africa, illustrates the power of the gospel as expressed in Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed: “When it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade” (Mark 4:32).
By the end of 2013, the church in ECD had grown to celebrate a baptized membership of more than 2.5 million, worshipping in more than 12,000 organized churches, led by more than 2,000 ordained and licensed ministers. The ratio of one pastor serving an average of 1,260 baptized members has encouraged church leaders to mobilize, train, and equip lay members for enthusiastic involvement in the mission of Jesus Christ.
More than 500,000 students access Adventist education through its more than 2,000 schools, church-accredited and government-chartered universities. The public has received, with great appreciation, health and medical services offered by the church in its six hospitals and 130 rural clinics. An army of literature evangelists, more than 6,000 strong, distributes large volumes of health and religious literature in the region every year.
Beginning the Work
In the rich African soil of traditional religion, with its emphasis on ancestral worship, spirits, and superstition, the seed of the gospel as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church was sown in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Early Adventists entered the continent from its four corners: north, west, south, and east. The eastern gate into this massive yet little known continent was through Tanganyika (today known as Tanzania).
The Adventist Church in Germany was the strongest of European Adventism in the nineteenth century. L. R. Conradi, its dynamic leader, initiated and sustained a strong “foreign” mission work in different parts of the world. Since the German Empire had acquired a colony in East Africa, German Adventists sent missionaries to what was known as German East Africa, which included the current countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.
Conradi raised US$5,000 to send the first missionaries to East Africa. Individual members in Europe and the United States, as well as some church institutions, contributed to the fund. On October 22, 1902, Conradi lodged a request to the German government for permission to send missionaries to Tanganyika.
Abraham C. Enns, a gardener with ministerial preparation, and Johannes Ehlers, a printer working for the Adventist Church in Germany, were appointed as the first missionaries. On October 22, 1903, the two boarded a steamboat bound for East Africa, leaving behind Ehlers’ wife, Rosa, and Enns’ fiancée.
To save money, Enns and Ehlers traveled third class. The original intention was to reach and start mission work around Lake Victoria in north Tanganyika, hoping that lake travel would provide easy access to mission stations. But upon their arrival in Dar es Salaam on November 9, 1903, they were invited for dinner with the governor, who instructed them to go to northeastern Tanzania. On November 25 they sent a telegram to the church in Germany informing them that the first mission center was established on the southern part of the Pare Mountain ranges among the Wapare people. They settled in a beautiful valley they named Friedenstal (“valley of peace”).
The new missionaries did much more than preach; they started schools and clinics. The Adventist educational philosophy, emphasizing the importance of manual labor and industry for the education of the whole person, received lots of commendation from the government.
In one of the schools, Kihurio, students cultivated and harvested 10,500 pounds of cotton and earned US$600 the following year. The governor visited the school and offered a gift of books worth US$150, stating in his letter: “I have noticed the efficiency and the progress of the mission school at Kihurio with satisfaction.”
Not until April 4, 1908, were the first six male converts among the Wapare baptized. Ministerial workers and teachers were trained from among the new converts. As the work grew, foreign missionaries, accompanied by the Wapare people, went to regions around Lake Victoria, specifically in the Mwanza and Mara regions, and opened other mission centers, schools, and clinics.
At the onset of the First and Second World Wars, the work of the church was seriously disrupted. Several German missionaries and converts were killed; others were drafted into the army. At the end of World War I, most of the German missionaries were imprisoned or forced to leave the country because the British had taken over the African colonies.
The transition from German to British rule left the young institutions without foreign missionaries. However, African converts took it upon themselves to continue the work started by the outgoing missionaries. Of the 26 schools that were started by Germans in the Pare region, 15 schools continued to operate throughout the war. Campuses and buildings were maintained using individuals who had their training in those same schools.
In the Lake region, most of the campuses were destroyed during the war. Wapare converts who accompanied the foreign missionaries maintained the work by teaching and preaching without salaries, even though far from home. Local people appreciated them and their services. “The Wapare teachers who were left behind by the Germans during the war did a better and more thorough work than the German themselves. They loved and shared their clothes with us,” said one prominent government leader in Tanzania who received their services. Although the war ended in 1918, it was impossible to send missionaries back to Tanganyika for a long time.
By 1922, the church in Tanganyika had 266 baptized members, 16 mission stations, six churches, and 43 schools enrolling 2,370 students. Although the church continued to face huge challenges during and after World War II, the work did not stop. By 1960, the church had started 176 schools in the northern parts of the country. As of December 2013 Tanzania enjoyed a baptized membership of more than 475,000, with schools, a university, 45 clinics, a hospital, and a larger, newer hospital under construction. Because of its rapid growth, the work in Tanzania has been organized into two administrative units: the Northern Tanzania Union Conference and the Southern Tanzania Union Mission.
Truly the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. So let’s sow the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Geoffrey Mbwana is a vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and a former president of the East-Central Africa Division.
The recent publication of The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia represents approximately 13 years of dreaming, planning, and work. It is on track to become one of the most useful resources about Ellen White and Adventist history and theology.
The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia A new resource for the church By Denis Fortin and Jerry Moon
The recent publication of The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia represents approximately 13 years of dreaming, planning, and work. It is on track to become one of the most useful resources about Ellen White and Adventist history and theology.
Brief History of the Project
George Knight started the project in the late 1990s. At the time, Knight was a professor of church history at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary of Andrews University. He came across an advertisement for the C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia and imagined preparing a similar work about Ellen White, a remarkable woman of the nineteenth century. Despite thousands of pages published by and about her, there was no comprehensive source to which a new reader could turn for easy access to specific information. Ellen White was a prolific writer, successful health reformer, and co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a global religious movement that now claims nearly 20 million adult adherents. Despite this, she remains largely unknown to the general public.
This particular volume has not only been written by experts in the field, it’s also been reviewed several times by those with differing perspectives. . . . A balanced view of Ellen White’s counsel is achieved. It took 14 years and involved nearly 200 experts who wrote some 1,300 short articles and seven major articles.
George Knight, RHPA brochure
Knight envisioned this book as the standard reference work regarding Ellen White, written for an audience that would include scholars, students, laypeople, and the general public. He imagined it as organized in two major sections: general articles and alphabetical entries, featuring signed and peer-reviewed articles with bibliographies written—when possible—by specialists in the various topics. Also important: that the language used would be accessible to a general audience.
Skimming the indices and tables of contents in existing works on White and Adventist history, Knight began a tentative list of articles needed. He promoted the idea to the Review and Herald Publishing Association (RHPA) and set about securing the cooperation of the Ellen G. White Estate.
This was where the project stood in the fall of 2000. As Knight began to plan for retirement, he realized that he had too many books on his list to write or edit. In prioritizing those titles, Knight acknowledged that The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia would be primarily an edited volume with much of the work delegated to others.
In November 2000 Knight asked if we would be willing to coedit the proposed encyclopedia. Knight offered to stay on as a consulting editor, but would turn over to us the editorial responsibilities of choosing and contracting a publisher, recruiting the authors, editing the articles, and seeing the project through to completion. We readily agreed to take on this project, not realizing how much work it would be, and how long it would take.
From the beginning, the purpose of this book was to provide an easy-to-use standard reference that is readily comprehensible to a person without previous knowledge of the subject, yet informative enough to be useful to a specialist. Written by some 180 contributing authors from around the world, the encyclopedia not only provides a concise yet comprehensive guide to the abundant resources already published about Ellen White, but also presents a considerable amount of new research. Both new and longtime readers will find reliable information, often presented from fresh new perspectives. To ensure the accuracy of the data presented, the entire manuscript was reviewed and critiqued by reputable scholars, further revised by the editors, and finally re-edited by editors at the RHPA.
A work of this magnitude could not have been accomplished without the support and help of many people. This project is the result of the cooperation of numerous authors, editorial and secretarial staff, graduate assistants at Andrews University, and colleagues at various research centers, including the Center for Adventist Research at Andrews University, as well as the Ellen G. White Estate and the Office of Archives and Statistics at the General Conference headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The editorial staff at the RHPA contributed significantly to the encyclopedia through their expertise and encouragement during all the stages of this project.
How to Use the Encyclopedia
Ellen White has been the most influential person in Adventist history, and yet there is a lot of misinformation about what she wrote and why she wrote it. . . . [This book is] for thinking people [who want to] gain a better understanding of her life and work.
George Knight, RHPA brochure
The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia is organized into three major sections, easily distinguishable by the reader. The first section includes major introductory articles on Ellen White, including her life story, the major themes of her writings, principles of interpretation, research resources, her theology, and a bibliography of secondary sources. The first section is easily recognizable by the longer articles set in single-column format with endnotes.
The second section is the biographical section, including people White interacted with, corresponded with, or wrote about. A few historical figures that were not her contemporaries, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, are found in the topical portion with a segment on their theological relationship to White. Thumbing through the book, one can recognize the second section by its mostly short articles about individuals—and by many photographs inserted in the articles.
The third section, the largest, contains articles on a great variety of topics, which vary in length from several thousand words to fewer than 100. Also arranged alphabetically and set in double-column format, this section includes entries on themes or doctrines of White, books she wrote, historical events and places, and institutions she was connected with.
Each article in the biographical or topical sections is arranged alphabetically by a boldface heading. Within each article, references are given in parentheses, using standard abbreviations to the writings of Ellen White. Asterisks (*) identify topics or individuals on which there is a separate article in the encyclopedia. Some articles also contain “See also” cross-references. Each article concludes with the name of the author. Unsigned articles are by the editors. The majority of the unsigned articles in the biographical section are by assistant editor Michael W. Campbell, assistant professor of historical/theological studies, at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.
Beyond providing ready access to a vast quantity of information about Ellen White, we hope that, by systematizing current knowledge, this work will stimulate a new wave of interest in and research about this influential religious leader and writer of the nineteenth century.
Denis Fortin and Jerry Moon are professors of theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University.
"‘There are no devils left in hell,’ the missionary said. ‘They are all in Rwanda.’” This was the quote on the cover of Time magazine, May 16, 1994. I remember the shudder that went down my spine as I stared at this cover in the spring of that fateful year. Since my father and friends had served as missionaries at the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) in Mudende
From Hell to Hope, Rwanda, 20 years later of tribal hatred and destruction that left nearly 1 million people dead during the course of 100 bloody days known simply as “the genocide.”
From Hell to Hope Rwanda, 20 years later By Claude Richli
“‘There are no devils left in hell,’ the missionary said. ‘They are all in Rwanda.’”
This was the quote on the cover of Time magazine, May 16, 19941 I remember the shudder that went down my spine as I stared at this cover in the spring of that fateful year. Since my father and friends had served as missionaries at the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) in Mudende, I couldn’t be indifferent to the plight of this beautiful country, tucked away in the mountains of central Africa. In fact, nobody with a beating heart could, except perhaps the Western powers that hardly stirred as this country convulsed in a spasm of tribal hatred and destruction that left nearly 1 million people dead during the course of 100 bloody days known simply as “the genocide.”
Exactly 10 years later, during the first week of April 2004, I traveled to Mudende in Rwanda as part of a delegation from the newly established East-Central Africa Division. We were charged with making recommendations about what to do with the now dilapidated campus. There I stood, amid what Time magazine called “the killing fields of Rwanda,” at what used to be a Seventh-day Adventist institution, in the science building where more than 1,000 people who had sought refuge were hacked to death by a frenzied mob. Thirty-two of our own students lost their lives.
Situated on the eastern slope of the Virunga mountains, at about 7,000 feet, the place is almost always shrouded in mist. Now, to my eyes, it looked like it would forever struggle to dispel the images of the past. Indeed, the whole country seemed as if it had not yet come to terms with the tragedy. A shroud of gloom appeared to hang everywhere. Fields were left untilled; black tree stumps stood as silent witnesses of lost forests; homes everywhere were in disrepair.
Kigali, the country’s capital, seemed lethargic; traffic was nonexistent. More important, the naturally reserved Rwandans were still struggling with their grief, demoralized by unfathomable losses. Entire families had been wiped out. Would the country, would the church, so proud of its Mudende campus, come to terms with the tragedy and move from hell to hope? Little did I realize that God had already put into place the actors who would be the architects for the rebirth of the church in Rwanda.
Architects of Hope
They came from four continents. The first, whose character and determination had been tested as president of the Hungarian Union in the aftermath of the totalitarian Communist regime, heard God’s call in 2001 to come to Rwanda. Jozsef Szilvasi, along with his wife, Suzsana, agreed to serve as AUCA’s vice chancellor. His office was then operating out of a small campus in Kigali called Gishushu. When Szilvasi arrived and saw the pathetic condition of the campus, he almost decided then and there to return home. The place did not look like a university campus, but rather like a primary school with no facilities whatsoever. The library was no bigger than the average-size living room in America. His office could barely accommodate a small desk, a bookshelf, and one chair for a visitor. Enrollment was only 320. In spite of numerous threats on his life, however, Szilvasi stayed—because he had a vision.
In 2004, with part of the US$200,000 the church had obtained as a settlement for the damages caused to Mudende when it served as refugee camp for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees following the genocide, Szilvasi bought a beautiful property that the city of Kigali had made available on the hill of Masoro, just across from the international airport. But now what?
That same year, God moved on the hearts of a young couple in the Philippines, Dominique and Angie Pagarigan.
Dominique was an architect; Angie was chief financial officer of the Adventist Hospital of Manila. She accompanied her husband to AUCA to teach classes in accounting, while he drew up plans for what to build on the new property. They didn’t know it at the time, but they, together with Szilvasi, were to lay the groundwork for what turned out to be not just the rebirth of the university, but, in fact, of the entire church in Rwanda. The road, however, proved to be an extremely rocky one. The first major milestone? Deciding what to do with the Mudende campus.
The Turning Point
On May 13, 2004, a historic meeting took place at the Novotel Hotel in Kigali. The East-Central Africa Division executive committee was holding its midyear meetings, and the most important item on the agenda was to receive the report of a study commission to determine the future of Mudende. Under the leadership of Mutuku Mutinga, a university professor from Kenya, it brought recommendations to accept the government’s offer to purchase the dilapidated campus, and with the proceeds to develop the campus on Masoro Hill.
Opposition, however, was fierce. Many on the committee could remember the “glory days” of Mudende. They had been students or staff there themselves. Those who lost their lives had been their friends. How could they turn their backs on such an important part of their lives and the history of the church in Rwanda? The pleas to give Mudende another chance grew fervent, the tone passionate.
Finally, Geoffrey Mbwana, then president of the division and chair of the committee,2 a man gifted with an even hand and a level head, asked that the arguments be summarized and called for a vote. Everybody waited with bated breath for the final count. The recommendations of the committee passed by just a few votes. The road was now open for a brand-new future.
And what a future it is! I now visit a transformed Masoro Hill. The new vice chancellor, Abel Sebahashyi, a Rwandese who was part of the initial commission on the future of Mudende, welcomes me into his spacious office overlooking a beautifully landscaped campus dotted with buildings that make the church proud. They were designed and built by Pagarigan, the architect whose financing was meticulously managed by his wife, Angie.
In 2006, Angie became the chief financial officer charged with restoring a sound financial foundation to a chaotic situation. As Sebahashyi put it: “For four years she had to practice ‘archaeology’: the books were completely unreliable, the accounting systems nonexistent, cash flow critical. But finally we were able to save money and build this beautiful campus, as well as a new campus in Gishushu, debt-free.”
The “primary school” that stood there has been razed, replaced by a large building still under construction, with 24 classrooms able to host the booming IT and business administration departments. Enrollment has shot up from 320 to 3,200. New programs will be added to the Education and Theology departments, including software engineering, health sciences, mathematics, economics, geography, and one more—medicine.
Building the Future of the Country
A few months ago Sebahashyi and deputy vice chancellor for academics Ndahayo Claver were summoned to the office of the country’s Minister of Education. After affirming them for their work and thanking them for the quality education the university provides to the country, the minister made a request on behalf of the government. He asked that AUCA make plans to start the first medical school in Rwanda. The government would help by providing internships, scholarships, and access to other partners. Four million dollars still need to be raised, but plans are now underway to open the doors to a first cohort of 45 students in September 2015.
“The rebirth of the university was the rebirth of the church,” says Hesron Byilingiro, a modest and unassuming individual in spite of being a highly qualified individual with impeccable academic credentials. A Rwandese native, he became a United States citizen after spending many years getting his education in the United States. He holds two master’s degrees (divinity and business administration) and a doctorate in ministry, all from Andrews University in Michigan. He could have had a brilliant future anywhere. Instead, unlike many other Africans, he and his wife, Anna, chose to return to their native country in 2003 for Hesron to serve as associate union treasurer. He spent the first two years setting up systems and procedures that would guarantee a healthy financial future for the church. In 2005, he became president of the Rwanda Union Mission.
At the close of a sunny afternoon in Kigali, I stand with him on the rooftop of a nine-story building under construction, surrounded by embassies, just a block away from downtown Kigali. This will be the new administrative office for the church in Rwanda, most of it consisting of office space to be rented out to generate income for further development: schools that will feed into the university; clinics to bring health to the population, church buildings.
When Byilingiro discusses plans, this normally soft-spoken man becomes unusually animated. He talks about Gitarama, in the center of the country, where a new field office was built to achieve greater visibility. “But that was not enough,” he says. “We said, ‘Add a secondary school, so we can capture the minds of young people.’ So now we have 24 classrooms completed.” They also have two dormitories that can host up to 800 children.
“We want to have the kids acquainted with our doctrine and mission,” Byilingiro explains. “Then, there is land, which was supposed to be sold. So, we jumped in to buy that land. I talked to the mayor [and told him] that the university is going to use that land for an extension of AUCA.
“Pagarigan has already drawn up the master plan. So the moment we have that branch of the university—the secondary school and the headquarters of the mission—I am sure the presence of the church in that city is going to be strong.”
On a tour of the country, Byilingiro shows me the new nursing school next to the Adventist hospital in Mugonero, ready for occupancy as soon as the government certifies it. In Gisenyi, near the border to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he shows me the new field office, as well as a large secondary school. It’s a well-situated property bought with the help of a lay member and complete with a warehouse that had formerly been rented by a congregation of another denomination. When its members learned that the Adventists had bought it, some became upset; others asked to be shown what our church teaches. At the end of an evangelistic campaign held on the premises, 140 people asked to be baptized and joined the church. We now have a flourishing congregation there.
In Ruhengeri, we stop to visit the Galilaya church, organized just a year ago. It has 324 members, but plans for 2,000 within a few years. Construction of a new building is well advanced. Another two churches with a seating capacity of 2,000 or more are under construction in the same town. A school for 1,400 students is receiving finishing touches.
Gérard Karasira, a graduate of AUCA and now president of the North Rwanda Field, receives me and shows me the new field office. It is a modern three-story building with ample offices, complete with its own server and SunPlus accounting system connected with the union and the General Conference.
In April 2014 it will be exactly 20 years since the genocide, and what a contrast! Back then, hatred had nearly destroyed the country. Today the country is booming, and the church is too. Its people have learned to forgive one another and to work together. Corruption has been diminished, law and order restored, discipline rebuilt.3 The country actually works. It is rapidly becoming a role model in Africa. And within Rwanda, our church is becoming a source of inspiration, spiritual strength, and intellectual development.
1See also Nancy Gibbs, “Why? The Killing Fields of Rwanda,” Time, May 16, 1994; http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,980750,00.html#ixzz2rUsszqKi. 2Geoffrey Mbwana is now a general vice president of the General Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. He has exercised this function since 2010. 3Read Below this article.
Claude Richli is associate publisher of Adventist World.
More Than 1,000,000 Sabbathkeepers in Rwanda By Claude Richli
It is 9:30 on this last Sabbath morning of January in Kigali, and the roads are practically empty, except for police officers here and there. My driver, Adventist pastor Karangwa Nephtal, has warned me that it would be difficult to make it to church without being stopped. And indeed, stopped we were. Three times in three miles, always with the same question: “Are you a Seventh-day Adventist?”
“Show me your card.” Dutifully the pastor produced a card issued by the church, proving he is a Seventh-day Adventist. Had he not had it, he would have been detained on the roadside until 11:00 before being let go.
Today is “Umuganda,” the national day of communal work. Once a month, the entire population must provide volunteer service on Saturday mornings to build social housing or schools, clean roads and public spaces, pick up trash, plant trees and shrubs, and otherwise improve the environment. Everything, except Adventist churches, is closed. Nobody, except for emergency services and Seventh-day Adventists, is allowed on the road. Seventh-day Adventists are expected to work on Sunday mornings instead.
When the government introduced this program in 2006, the church was mandated to issue identity cards to its members. Within a month 980,000 people requested the card in Kigali alone, as well as hundreds of thousands more outside the capital city. Not all of them are listed on church membership rolls, but all claimed to be Sabbathkeepers. They may not all attend church, but they know about the Sabbath from having grown up in an Adventist family, and they refrain from working on that day.
Today the church reports “only” 604,000 members in Rwanda. But we know at least twice that many claim to be Seventh-day Adventists. According to government statistics, 11.1 percent of the population of 12 million are Seventh-day Adventist. That is more than 1.3 million Sabbathkeepers, making it one of the highest concentrations of Adventists anywhere in the world.
Fear God and give glory to Him” (Rev. 14:7). The message of the three angels in Revelation begins with this crucial call.
Fundamental Belief Preamble Big-Picture Theology Understanding the preamble of the Fundamentals Beliefs By Lothar Wilhelm
Fear God and give glory to Him” (Rev. 14:7). The message of the three angels in Revelation begins with this crucial call. God’s glory is of central concern for all who are faithful to God during the time of the end. How do we glorify God? we may ask.
Glorifying God should be reflected in all aspects of life, and should encompass our thinking, feeling, and doing. It is based on respect for the Word of God. Seventh-day Adventists express their special reverence for the Holy Scriptures in the preamble to the Fundamental Beliefs, with which they describe the biblical teachings that are of particular importance during the time of the end.
Scripture and Fundamental Beliefs
The introduction to the Fundamental Beliefs is particularly significant, as through it Adventists confess: The Bible alone is our rule (credo) for faith and life.1 Although the Bible contains teaching, its diversity of history and stories, laws and poetry, admonitions and promises cannot be condensed into one credo or dogma by which faith could be defined. Those who accept the whole Bible as the Word of God and as the only guideline for faith must therefore recognize the distinction between the Holy Scripture itself, its teachings, and the understanding of its teachings.
The Holy Scripture as God’s Word is unchangeable. Yet even a comparison of different versions shows the bandwidth of meaning of different texts. Biblical truths are timeless. However, the circumstances and the thinking and behavior of people change with time. Biblical teachings can therefore meet the requirements of time having a different focus or a different level of importance. When God’s church is not focused on a single set of statements and uplifts the whole Bible as the standard of faith, there is room for necessary changes in the understanding of its teachings.
Seventh-day Adventists affirm that the Holy Scriptures contain important teachings that can be understood, described, and affirmed by the church. How we understand these teachings is described in the articles of our Fundamental Beliefs. However, this does not exclude new insights for a specific time or more suitable formulations of doctrine with regard to the eternal biblical truths. Therefore, the text of the Fundamental Beliefs can be changed “when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God’s Holy Word.”
Creeds and Adventist History
Church history illustrates numerous examples in which believers were obligated to follow a formulated creed. This credo was then made the standard of orthodoxy; in practical terms it often was set above Scripture. Those who did not agree with the credo could thus be excommunicated and condemned as heretics.
There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed.
Adventist pioneers knew their church history and rejected a fixed, written creed out of reverence for the Word of God. James White already wrote in 1847: “The Bible is a perfect, and complete revelation. It is our only rule of faith and practice.”2
As discussion over a formulated creed ensued in 1861 and thereafter in connection with the organization of the first General Conference, John N. Loughborough published his “Five Steps of Apostasy”: “The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is, to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And, fifth, to commence persecution against such.”3
When individual beliefs become the norm of faith, there is a danger that the truth of the Bible is limited; we may limit God’s Word and forget that we are called to search for present truth.
This is why Ellen G. White wrote: “Do not carry your creed to the Bible, and read the Scriptures in the light of that creed. If you find that your opinions are opposed to a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ or to any command or prohibition He has given, give heed to the Word of God rather than to the sayings of men. Let every controversy or dispute be settled by ‘It is written.’”4 She also wrote: “We must not think, ‘Well, we have all the truth, we understand the main pillars of our faith, and we may rest on this knowledge.’ The truth is an advancing truth, and we must walk in the increasing light.”5 “There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.”6
Back to Scripture
The fact is that no single belief can be taken as a test for orthodoxy, though the whole of Scripture may give the Seventh-day Adventist Church an openness that can protect it against dogmatic rigidity and ideological narrow-mindedness.
This places a special responsibility on church leaders, pastors, and every individual believer, since discussions about necessary changes can threaten the unity in the church. Therefore, all believers are called to listen with a spirit of humility to the advice of the Spirit of Prophecy: “The Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be our creed, the sole bond of union.”7 “We cannot then take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same shade of light. The church may pass resolution upon resolution to put down all disagreement of opinions, but we cannot force the mind and will, and thus root out disagreement. These resolutions may conceal the discord, but they cannot quench it and establish a perfect agreement. Nothing can perfect a perfect unity in the church but the spirit of Christlike forbearance. . . . The great truths of the Word of God are so clearly stated that none need make a mistake in understanding them. When you as individual members of the church love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself, then there will be no labored efforts to be in unity; there will be oneness in Christ.”8
1Also in the latest version of the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1996) this statement remains unchanged: “Seventh-day Adventists have no formal creed. . . . [They] consider the entire Bible to be their creed” (vol. 10, p. 418). 2A Word to the Little Flock, p. 13, cited in ibid. 3Protocol from the General Conference session on October 5, 1861, in Battle Creek. Report in the Review and Herald, Oct. 8, 1862. J. N. Loughborough expounded further on these points in 1907 in his book The Church, Its Organization, Order, and Discipline, particularly in chapter 15, “Submission Versus Creed, Power, and Force,” pp. 76, 77. 4Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1990), vol. 2, p. 89. 5Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Mar. 25, 1890. 6Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Dec. 20, 1892. 7Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Dec. 15, 1885. 8E. G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: E. G. White Estate, 1993), vol. 15, p. 150.
Lothar Wilhelm is a retired pastor, former conference president, and union departmental director who lives with his wife, Erika, in Celle, Germany. For many years he chaired the church manual translation committee of the Inter-European Division.
Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God’s Holy Word.
It’s vital that you understand the problem of high blood pressure in order to make the best choices regarding your health.
New Guidelines for Hypertension By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
The clinic nurse tells me that I have high blood pressure and should have treatment. I don’t recall the actual readings. I feel well and don’t want to take tablets the rest of my life. Is there another option? My mother was disabled by a stroke at the age of 60, and she also had high blood pressure. This is a very important question. It’s vital that you understand the problem of high blood pressure (hypertension) in order to make the best choices regarding your health.
Hypertension is known as the “silent killer.” This is because you may have raised blood pressure and not be aware of the problem. The first symptom—a stroke—may be very severe and disabling, which, sadly, happened with your mother. Your family history is worrying; we don’t know the exact cause of hypertension in most cases, but there’s good evidence to show that hypertension has a genetic component related to a number of genes. Additionally, so-called environmental factors play a part. These include smoking, alcohol, obesity, lack of exercise, and uncontrolled stress.
You need to know your numbers! By this we mean that you should have a record of your blood pressure readings so you can document changes and be managed accordingly. The guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure have recently been revised. Blood pressure is measured with two readings, and 120/80 mm Hg (mercury) is regarded as normal. The upper reading corresponds with the pressure generated by the contraction of the heart as blood is pumped into the blood vessels and circulates around the body. The lower reading is the diastolic pressure and is maintained by the muscle activity in the smaller arterial blood vessels (arterioles). This represents the pressure in the vascular system when the heart is in the resting phase and being filled with blood for the next contraction.
Persistently elevated blood pressure results in heart muscle strain and damage, as well as damage to the blood vessels and the kidneys. The blood vessels of the brain are commonly damaged, resulting in stroke (area or areas of brain death because of the uncontrolled hypertension). Even the largest blood vessel in the body, the aorta, may be damaged and perhaps rupture. This can be rapidly fatal.
The diagnosis of hypertension is usually made on three blood pressure readings done on different occasions. This helps ensure that treatment is really needed. So, we urge you to return to the clinic to have your blood pressure rechecked and to begin needed treatment.
Treatment has two aspects: lifestyle and medication. Lifestyle changes are foundational to the treatment of hypertension. These include regular exercise, weight loss to achieve ideal weight, dietary changes, and avoidance of tobacco and alcohol. It’s been scientifically proven that a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, and low in saturated fats and salt, helps to reduce blood pressure. Exercise should be initiated in consultation with your medical advisor to ensure that it’s safe for you to engage in regular and increasing physical activity.
There are several medications for hypertension, and the guidelines advise various steps in treatment. In individuals who have moderate hypertension, two or more medications may be required. It’s important to faithfully take the medication when needed. It’s also absolutely essential to implement the lifestyle changes.
The goal: The new Joint National Committee (JNC 8) guidelines recommend that in patients over 60 years of age the goal is a treated blood pressure of less than 150/90. In patients between the ages of 30 and 59 it’s less than 140/90 mm Hg.*
We advise everyone to engage in healthful lifestyle behaviors, even if they don’t have hypertension. If hypertension is present, lifestyle changes, regular monitoring, and medications where needed are essential to prevent the unwanted and often catastrophic consequences of uncontrolled hypertension.
*JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.284427. Published online December 18, 2013.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.
Allan R. Handysides, a board-certified gynecologist, is a former director of the General Conference Health Ministries Department.
While traveling and meeting with church members around the world, I am sometimes asked how the Seventh-day Adventist Church is structured, and how it was organized.
How Your Church Works Understanding its unity, structure and authority By Ted Wilson
While traveling and meeting with church members around the world, I am sometimes asked how the Seventh-day Adventist Church is structured, and how it was organized. How are changes made, and who has authority to make changes? What unites the church? How does the church work? While I could spend a long time discussing these important issues, in this month’s column I will look at how and why the church was officially organized. Next month I will address, in a practical way, issues of authority, unity, and how you can make a difference in the church.
EXECUTIVE SESSION: Seventh-day Adventists from around the world met for a General Conference session in San Francisco in 1936; the last session before the outbreak of World War II.When we look at today’s well-organized, 18-million member Seventh-day Adventist Church, with a presence in 208 countries represented by 13 world divisions and one attached field, tens of thousands of churches, thousands of schools, hundreds of hospitals and clinics, numerous publishing houses and more, it’s hard to imagine that just a little more than 150 years ago none of this existed. Nothing.
Nothing, that is, except for a small group of believers who “searched for the truth as for hidden treasure,”1 wrote Ellen White of those early years. “We would come together burdened in soul, praying that we might be one in faith and doctrine; for we knew that Christ is not divided. . . . The Scriptures were opened with a sense of awe, . . . earnest supplications went up to heaven that God would help us to see eye to eye, that we might be one as Christ and the Father are one.”2
As the little group of Advent believers diligently studied God’s Word and prayed, they became one in mind and spirit, and their numbers gradually increased. At first they met in private homes, in large kitchens, in barns, groves, and schoolhouses. Before long, with God’s blessing, they were able to build “humble houses of worship.”3
Organization Essential for Mission
As the group continued to grow, it became evident that organization was needed “to provide for the support of the ministry, for carrying the work to new fields, for protecting both the churches and the ministry from unworthy members, for holding church property, for the publication of the truth through the press, and for many other objects, organization was indispensable.”4
But some were strongly opposed to any official organization, fearing that it might lead to the closed-minded creedalism they had faced in the established churches they had left, or in some overly-complicated structure that would inhibit their mission. However, they soon learned that carefully organized church structure was very important and heaven-inspired, as Ellen White indicated.
When faced with controversy, believers once again “sought the Lord with earnest prayer” that they might understand His will, “and light was given by His Spirit that there must be order and thorough discipline in the church—that organization was essential. . . . Order is the law of heaven, and it should be the law of God’s people on the earth.”5
Order. Now that doesn’t mean that everyone behaves as automatons, moving without thinking. But it does mean a submissiveness to the Word of God, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy, and the decisions made by the collective, worldwide church in its representative settings, such as the General Conference Executive Committee and General Conference sessions, to bring about order so that its mission can be accomplished. So although some were strongly opposed, Adventist pioneers moved ahead in establishing an official organization with the assurance that the Lord was guiding them by His providence.
Last year, as we remembered the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, we were reminded of some of those organizational milestones. In 1860, a publishing association was formed and an official name for the church was chosen. In 1861, the first state conference, Michigan, was organized, and during the next year several other state conferences were formed. In 1863, delegates from the state conferences met in Battle Creek, established the General Conference, voted a constitution, and elected a president and other officers.
Many important policies were also voted at this first General Conference session, including a procedure for paying ministers a regular salary out of “systematic benevolence.” A policy was established requiring ministers to carry with them official credentials, identifying them as “spokesmen for the movement.” Additionally, a policy was put in place requiring that calls for ministers be processed through both conferences involved, rather than a minister traveling from one conference to another at his own request or the desire of a local church.
Blessings Through Organization
God’s blessings were seen through the process of organization and structure, and His church continued to grow. Schools were organized where students were taught in harmony with God’s Word. Health institutions were established that would serve as a blessing to many. Ellen White called these new developments “missionary work of the highest order.”
Additionally, the church realized the importance of not only bringing the third angel’s message to the land of its birth—the United States—but to Europe and beyond, thus establishing important missionary work that spread the Advent message throughout the world. Today, missionaries from many different continents serve in various regions of the world church.
As the movement continued to grow, more churches were established, more conferences formed, more schools, hospitals, and publishing houses were built, and union conferences were formed to oversee the mission of the church in given geographic locations in harmony with policies established by the General Conference in session or the Executive Committee between sessions. Today there are 122 unions, and more than 500 local conferences and missions.
A Spiritual, Biblical Foundation
It is important to remember that the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is based on a strong spiritual and biblical foundation. Rather than quickly cobbling together a plan for the sake of expediency, our church pioneers thoughtfully and prayerfully asked God for wisdom, and through His clear leading by Scripture and through the prophetic gift, church order and organization were established.
The church is truly a spiritual organization, and it must be that. Everything must be founded upon God’s Word and the wonderful counsel we have received in the Spirit of Prophecy. The church is the object of God’s greatest attention. He could have used other means to accomplish the task of bringing His message to the billions of people upon this earth, but He has chosen to use the church—and you and me.
In order to accomplish our God-given mission, leaders and members must be involved in a very spiritual approach—in Bible study, in following the counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy, in intense prayer, and in listening to the leading of the Holy Spirit. That’s why revival and reformation are so important—not just for local church members, but for ministers, leaders, General Conference personnel, GC divisions, unions, and local conferences.
This is true for all of us, because we are all sinners at the foot of the cross. Christ must be first and foremost. We must focus on Christ’s righteousness and our submission to Him; then His power working in us will develop the final end-time movement.
Not An End In Itself
Although organization is important, we must be careful not to allow it to become an end in itself. The purpose of order and organization is to accomplish the church’s ultimate mission of proclaiming the three angels’ messages and heralding the Lord’s second coming. Everything we do has to be filtered through that perspective.
Next month we will look at how the church works today and how you can become involved in bringing about change within your church. No church member should feel cut off or separated from church structure, feeling as if they have no voice. Nor should anyone feel intimidated by position. It is important to remember that all of us, at whatever level, live in a servant relationship to God’s church.
1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies to Ministers (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1923), p. 24. 2 Ibid., pp. 24, 25. 3 Ibid., p. 26. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Adventist Leaders Connect With Thousands of Teachers During Historic Online Event
“Virtual Council” connected 120 educators across 22 regions; thousands more watch online.
By Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division, reporting from Miami, Florida.
Seventh-day Adventist leaders in Inter-America connected with thousands of teachers, principals, and educators to reaffirm an ongoing commitment to Adventist education during a virtual council held on November 16, 2013, at the Inter-American Division (IAD) headquarters.
The five-hour program brought together more than 120 educators from Adventist schools throughout the 22 church regions in the territory. Thousands more watched the online event from dozens of primary and secondary school sites, as well as auditoriums and conference rooms throughout the IAD.
“Today we acknowledge and strengthen our commitment to God, our commitment to the church, and our commitment to leading children and young people to the feet of Jesus and preparing them for the kingdom,” said Gamaliel Florez, education director for the church in Inter-America, as the online program began.
Teachers were encouraged to continue seeking God’s wisdom and commit to elevated responsibility and accountability as they continue to grow, develop, and expand Adventist education and impact the lives of thousands of students.
“The IAD has dedicated this quinquennium from 2010 to 2015 toward improving education and working to give every Adventist child and young person the opportunity to receive an Adventist education,” Florez said. He recognized administrators for their committed efforts to strengthen education by improving school campuses, strengthening the quality of education, training teachers, offering new Bible textbooks, and more.
Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, education director for the Adventist world church, congratulated church leaders and educators for the strides made in improving education across the Inter-American Division and spoke on the core principles of Adventist education.
“Adventist education imparts more than academic knowledge; it transforms, it fosters a balanced development of the whole person, spiritually, intellectually, physically, and socially,” said Beardsley-Hardy.
Inter-American Division president Israel Leito reminded teachers of their role as key partners with parents in building the character of students in a challenging world.
“Parents entrust their children into your care every day, they are trusting the church and the organization in this partnership of the home and school,” said Leito. “Your church recognizes your value and knows that without your influence this generation would be difficult to save.”
Ensuring a strong Adventist education is what prompted top church administrators to tackle challenges and pour millions of dollars into supporting educational institutions throughout the IAD territory.
Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer for the church in Inter-America, presented the growth of Adventist education throughout the IAD since the 1920s and the challenges facing the educational system. Verduzco also highlighted the commitment of church administrators to confronting those challenges.
Among the 30 commitments made to improve Adventist education were: increase student enrollment, study membership growth patterns, prepare students to learn the mission concept, increase the number of Adventist teachers with Adventist preparation, improve school campuses, offer leadership training for teachers, incorporate more community outreach projects into the curriculum, promote professional development, improve integration between faith and learning, market schools better and make them more affordable, and make every school a center of influence in the community.
The educational mission has driven the Adventist Church in the Dominican Republic to improve their schools and school administrations, said Cesario Acevedo, president of the church in the Dominican Republic.
Hundreds of teachers have left the Adventist school system in the Dominican Republic for higher-paying public school jobs. This has led to the restructuring of the church’s school system on the island, said Acevedo.
“Our objectives were to improve our schools academically, provide better salaries for the teachers, and protect the philosophy of Adventist education all managed under an administrative body of educators,” said Acevedo. A national Adventist Church office of education responsible for regional offices will manage all of the 90 primary and secondary schools—much like a government would run its ministry of education. The national office would unify funds and ensure payment to its 1,000 teachers consistently and allow for more direct professional development and incentives, he explained.
The revolutionary strategies to improving education in the Dominican Republic led top leaders to award church leaders on the island with a special plaque of recognition.
The North Mexican Union leadership received a special plaque recognizing its investment in education, for establishing a new educational model, for standardizing salaries for teachers through the overseeing local fields, and for making a serious commitment to improving education.
The online event also saw finalists of a math challenge competition that took place throughout Adventist high schools in 12 unions in Inter-America earlier this year. More than 300 students participated in the competition, said Faye Patterson, associate education director for the church in Inter-America and organizer of the challenge.
As a sign of dedication to improving Adventist education, teachers from primary and secondary level read and signed a commitment on behalf of thousands of teachers in the Spanish, English, and French territories.
For more than 35 years Rachelle Romain has been a teacher in the Adventist system in the French Antilles territory. She traveled from College Lycee La Perseverance junior high school in Guadeloupe, and is glad to hear that church leaders are serious about hiring more Adventist teachers in church schools. “Our mission has never been clearer as teachers,” said Romain. “Our passion continues to be about touching the lives of our students with God’s love.”
Iraida Lopez of Andres Bello Adventist School in Bolivar, Venezuela, was excited to travel to Miami for the event. She has taught in the Adventist system for 21 years and is convinced that the love of Jesus she portrays makes a difference in a student’s life. As a first-grade teacher, Lopez has seen some of her students become doctors, and seen the children of students come through her classroom. “I praise God for giving me the opportunity to mold children for the eternal kingdom,” said Lopez.
Brief reports came in from dozens of sites viewing the live program online: More than 400 teachers gathered in several regional sites throughout Guatemala, some 420 teachers gathered throughout Chiapas, in Mexico, more than 39 schools were connected across the Inter-Oceanic region in Mexico, and hundreds connected in Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, the Caribbean, the French Antilles, and more.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Inter-America operates nearly 1,000 primary, secondary, and tertiary schools, and oversees nearly 10,000 teachers and more than 153,000 students.
Ghana’s Million Seventh-day Adventists Mark 125th Anniversary
Massive stadium rally caps year of remembrance
By Solace Asafo-Hlordzi, communication director, Ghana Union Conference, reporting from Accra, Ghana
Waving white handkerchiefs and singing songs of praise, more than 20,000 Adventist worshippers in Ghana concluded a year-long 125th anniversary with a thanksgiving service on December 7, 2013. The theme for the event, held at the Accra Sports Stadium, was “Proclaiming and Living the Christian Life.” CELEBRATION CROWD: Part of the massive congregation gathered at the Accra Sports Stadium in Ghana's capitol to celebrate the 125th Anniversary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Ghana.
In a worship service televised live nationally, the Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama, whose speech was read by Greater Accra Regional Minister Julius Debrah, praised the church for its contribution to the socio-economic development of the country, especially in the provision of education and health facilities that serve all without discrimination.
“Indeed, the church in Ghana is always with our people wherever help is needed. This is the real essence of Christianity—touching people where it hurts and bringing hope to people in obviously hopeless situations. We appreciate your sacrifice and hard work, and encourage you to continue to do your best for humanity,” Mahama said.
Samuel Adama Larmie, president of the Ghana Union Conference, gave all the glory to God for growing the Church and helping it to touch lives in Ghana.
“From a single pamphlet and a single soul, Francis Dolphijn, the Adventist Church in Ghana now has more than 700,000 worshippers, more than 600 schools from basic to tertiary level, 25 health institutions serving all Ghanaians. What a mighty God we serve,” he said.
Delbert Baker, a vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and guest speaker at the service, challenged worshippers to look beyond their pain, obstacles, and circumstances, and strive to build on the foundation of those who have worked in the past.
Citing the story of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4, he said this was a lesson that a person can overcome any obstacle, pain, failure, and become a source of blessing to the glory of God.
“Your prayer as a church or individual should be: ‘O Lord, bless me indeed and expand my territory.’ Ask for God’s blessing not for personal gain but for the expansion of His work and for His glory.”
Joyce Bortey, a worshipper from a local district of the church in Accra, said after the service, “My heart is filled with such great joy; this is a Sabbath worship I will never forget.”
“The service was good, and the sermon inspiring. The live national broadcast was an advert for Christ and the church in Ghana,” Rose, another member, said in a text message to the church’s communication team.
The church also honored deserving members whose dedicated services had helped on the growth and development of the church on Ghana. Notable among them were church leaders such as Matthew Bediako, former executive secretary of the General Conference; Andrews Ewoo; and Madam Evelyn Boateng. Emmanuel Kwesi Anyimadu, clerk of Ghana’s parliament, was also honored for representing the church well in his service to the nation.
Other religious figures, including the Catholic and Muslim leaders, who attended the service, praised the work of Seventh-day Adventists in Ghana.
Earlier in the week a Muslim member of Ghana’s Parliament, Alhassan Mumuni, said he was alive because of the services he received from an Adventist hospital in 2012.
“In November 2012 I fell sick and was rushed to the Tamale Teaching Hospital. Unfortunately, I was not admitted because of a shortage of beds. At that time the hospital was under expansion. Mr. Speaker, when I was not admitted by the Tamale Teaching Hospital, I was rushed to the Seventh-day Adventist Community Hospital, and I can say today that I am still alive because of Seventh-day Adventists,” the member of Parliament said.
The remarkable thing about how Adventism came to Ghana is that while other churches were introduced through missionary activities, the message came to Ghana through literature. In 1888 a Ghanaian, Francis Dolphijn, picked up a tract along the coast of Apam in the Central Region, read it, and embraced Adventism.
In 1894, six years after Dolphijn discovered the Adventist message, the first missionaries, Edward L. Sanford and Karl G. Rudolph, arrived in Apam. In 1895, the General Conference sent another group of missionaries, led by Dudley U. Hale, to Cape Coast, the then official headquarters of the church in West Africa.
From the first baptism of four in 1897, there are now close to 1 million members, including children, in Ghana. Through media evangelism the Adventist message is promoted weekly on 48 radio and four television stations.
The church has also impacted Ghanaian social-economic lives through its schools, hospitals, and the humanitarian services of ADRA/Ghana. The church operates more than 600 basic schools, 14 high schools, three nursing schools, and a college at Asokore. The Adventist Valley View University is the first private government-accredited university in Ghana.
The Adventist Church in Ghana operates 13 hospitals, 12 clinics, and a pharmacy. In addition to providing health care, it is also involved in the training of health-care personnel in its two nursing training schools, and providing preventive health education nationwide.
The thanksgiving service marked the last time the church in Ghana will meet as a single administrative unit. Effective January 2014 Ghana operates two union conferences.