Saw Samuel Elected SSD President
By Andrew McChesney
Saw Samuel, who was elected president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) on March 22, 2016, said he would seek new ways to reach the many Buddhists and Muslims in his region, even as he seeks wisdom from God to value each day as a precious gift to be used wisely.
The General Conference’s Executive Committee, the top governing body of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, unanimously elected Samuel to replace Leonardo R. Asoy, who succumbed to a rare bone marrow disease in January.
Samuel, who previously served as executive secretary of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, said he had a particular burden to share the gospel with unreached people in his division, which encompasses 14 countries with a population of 1 billion but only 1.3 million church members.
“My main burden is to engage and involve our young people and professional and nonprofessional lay members in reaching out to the unreached Chinese, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and secular urban people,” Samuel said. “I also have a great concern for dropped, missing, and backsliding members.”
Samuel’s remarks indicate that he intends to pursue the course of Asoy, who was elected president at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, last July. Asoy said at the time that he was especially eager to find ways to reach Buddhists and Muslims.
Asoy passed away on January 12, 2016, of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare disease in which the bone marrow is unable to produce adequate healthy blood cells. Asoy, 56, had been elected to replace the ailing Alberto C. Gulfan, Jr., who served as president for 12 years and died of cancer on September 26, 2015, at the age of 64.
Samuel, the first Burmese to serve as an Adventist division president, said his vision for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division was to mobilize, unite, and use its God-given resources of young people, professionals, regular church members, and media and technology to spread the gospel.
His favorite Bible passage is the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90, particularly verse 12, which reads, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (NKJV)*.”
“Life is short and precious,” he said. “We need wisdom from God [to know] how to use our time, health, and strength, and our God-given resources.”
Samuel, who had served as acting division president since January, was first elected executive secretary of the division in 2010. Before that, he worked for two years as ministerial secretary of the Southeast Asia Union Mission in Singapore. The rest of his career as pastor and administrator was spent in Thailand. Samuel graduated with a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines in March. Samuel is married to Orathai Chureson, the Southern Asia-Pacific Division’s children’s and family ministries director. They have two children, Amanda, 12, and Sorawin, 10.
“He is a very spiritual, respectful, humble, and mission-minded servant leader whom God will use mightily as the Southern Asia-Pacific Division team and all members in that great division keep their eyes upon Christ as the leader of the church,” Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson said.
He encouraged Samuel “to be strong in the Lord as he humbly moves forward with the work assigned to him.”
“He will need to lean on Christ daily and claim the promise of James 1:5 every day, just as I try to do,” Wilson said. “It is only through God’s wisdom that we can humbly and effectively work.”