That’s the stuff of “real mission stories.” For us, “real mission stories” spoke of daring and transformed lives. We grew up in South Africa, and hearing mission stories ignited a desire to embrace missions as our life calling. This is the story of our journey into missions.
Early Lessons Our first cross-cultural mission experience was with a group of college friends in the mountains of Lesotho. We gave a mission school a facelift, painting and fixing the buildings. We also conducted a church service. Our first mission lesson: “Adapt to the situation!” Only much later did we fully comprehend the importance of that lesson.
Later we went to serve as student missionaries in Lesotho. Pam taught for two years at a village mission school. Gideon assisted with Bible outreach and community development, installing wells and doing construction work. It was while working in the Tsoinyane Valley that we decided to unite our lives for the service of others.
In Cape Town, while finishing our university studies, we had a few short-term experiences that kept the mission flame burning. These allowed us to be open when God called us to a cross-cultural church plant among an unreached people group, the Himba, in northwest Namibia. It was a dream come true: We would serve as frontline missionaries.
Learning And Unlearning In 1995 we loaded our pickup and traveled with our two cats 2,500 kilometers (1,560 miles) north to Opuwo, Namibia. A seasoned missionary had given us valuable counsel: “Take time to be with the people.” With this and other counsel we ventured into a new life, one that would last for 17 years.
We arrived in Namibia knowing that we faced an enormous task. Like other missionaries before us, we were convinced that the Himba ways were wrong and that we had to correct them. This assumption, we later learned, was detrimental to our interaction with the people. It implied that we approached the people with answers before taking the time to listen to their questions.
In addition, our interactions with the people were based on our worldview. They focused on the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists in a Western context, not about issues that would matter to someone who was a Himba. We had no idea what it meant to be a Himba, yet we dared to correct their behavior.
We did not really understand the counsel we had received: “Take time to be with the people,” suggesting we approach the people as learners, not teachers. As missionaries, we assumed our role was to teach; in reality, it was to be taught. We encountered people with totally different ways of doing things. The Himba are cattle farmers. Being nomadic, they are always in search of grazing and water for their animals. (Gideon was raised in a city, and Pam comes from a rural community.)
Recording stories for evangelism in a portable Studio
Ellen White says Jesus took time to be with people for the purpose of understanding them.1 Taking time to learn and understand people is an essential principle. This can be done through books, but not exclusively. Learning is best done in community. Tom and Betty Brewster call this community the classroom.2
We assumed that because the Himba could not read and write they needed an education. This is just one of the challenges we addressed without understanding. Learning about the people we serve is an essential mission principle. In fact, it’s a basic public speaking principle: know the audience. We learned only later how to apply it in our ministry.
The second assumption we made was that once they knew about God, their ways would change. After one year of preaching to 10 families with no resulting baptisms, we realized something was amiss. Either our persuasive skills were lacking or the people were not interested.
A missionary friend enquired about our experience. After listening to our frustrations, he asked: “Do you love the people?”
That question forever changed our ministry. Our focus had been on disseminating information (“sharing the truth”). But God wanted us to have a relationship with the people. For the first time, we understood why God’s greatest desire is to dwell among His people. We finally understood the implication of the question: “Do you love the people?” We were representing a God who desired to be with His people and have a relationship with them. This is the Advent message: God coming to humanity through willing instruments.
We spent our first vacation in the library, where we studied as much as we could about the Himba. We returned determined to change the way we did ministry. By taking time to be with the people, loving them became natural. We understood them as they shared with us about themselves and guided us in our understanding of their culture.
New Communication Skills In 1997, while teaching a literacy class, an older woman said: “Help me write my name.” She wanted to see her name by reading it. She struggled for almost five minutes.
Another Mother: Pam with a friend from Ovinjange who they called "Mama"
This experience forced us to ask ourselves: “Do we really expect these people to read the Bible from cover to cover if they can’t write their own names?”
The response was direct and quick. “No!” We were challenged to learn more about their oral culture. This took our journey in a new direction. In the book Christ’s Object Lessons Ellen White wrote about how Jesus used things with which people were familiar to lead people to understand spiritual things.3 When communicating the gospel, we discovered, it’s important to use genre, language, and images familiar to the audience.
We determined to understand Himba communication. We packed away our felts and other visual aids, because they were foreign, unfamiliar to our Himba audience. We wanted to use Himba communication styles to share the gospel.
To affirm the value of what we were learning, God guided us to a Web site that promoted an orality conference. In 2003 we attended our first International Orality Network (ION) conference. Here we saw how other missionaries were using oral communication methods. We identified with Elijah when he learned that 7,000 others had not bowed to Baal. God was using other missionaries in a similar way. We returned refreshed and excited about what God was going to do for the Himba.
For the next five years we developed oral evangelistic material. Oral evangelism is based on stories. Yet it’s not merely telling the Bible story. It’s placing the Bible story within the worldview of the Himba and challenging that worldview.
Oral evangelism isn’t just talking; it’s using genres familiar to the audience. In the case of the Himba it meant using praise songs (ombimbi, omuhiva), poetry (omiimbo), proverbs (omiano), and drama. With Himbas our Western hymns and gospel songs had little relevance. We had to use familiar genres to guide people to understand eternal lessons.
It took a long time to develop these lessons. God’s timing, however, is always best. We were challenged to share the oral evangelistic material with the people.
Family Matters: Gideon with his Himba father Tate Job Katundu
With the coming of technology (and after attending another ION conference) we learned about the “Godpod,” a solar-powered MP3 player. Unfortunately, these were expensive. God, however, had the answer long before we asked. We were invited to participate in the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering. Thanks to that offering, the world church assisted us in purchasing and distributing Godpods, into which we loaded our oral evangelistic presentations. (Thank you for your mission offerings of August 2012!)
Although we are no longer in the area, God has provided workers to continue the work. We established a church in the area, with a trained minister who worked with us and understands the value of using oral methods.
God’s Heart for Missionaries These experiences transformed our understanding of mission. For us, mission was about going; it was about giving. Our journey from Cape Town, South Africa, to Opuwo, Namibia, was transformational.
We realized that our understanding of God was too small. We learned that God is bigger than the little box with which we defined Him. We had to expand our concept of God. This is where we understood the name God used to identify Himself to Moses, I AM. He truly is I AM. He is God to the Himba, as well as God to city dwellers. We stand in awe of such an amazing God.
We believed ourselves to be agents of change, but God wanted to change us. His purpose was for us to be instruments of His peace, and for us to learn how to experience His peace and love. We learned that mission is indeed a “two-way street,”4 where missionaries enter the presence of the Almighty so He can send them into the world.
First Fruit: Some of the baptismal candidates from 2002, picture from left to right: Belinya, Pastor Sabyn Ndjamba (current Pastor at Opuwo), Wapahurwa Tjposa (Himba from Okapawe), Daniel Ndjamba (brother to Psr. Sabyn), Gideon Petersen, and Pastor Mumbonenwa (Namibia Conference President)
The most transformational lesson we learned was about ourselves. As missionaries we were called to serve the Himba. We were asked to introduce the Himba to Jesus. The more we engaged the people, the stronger the bond became. And the more we fell in love with the people, the more God transformed us as His children.
Mission is transformational when we surrender to the One who sends us daily into the world. Mission begins in worship, and it ends in inviting others to join us in worship. We thank God for the experience of being part of His mission. It was truly our rendezvous with God.
1 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn.,1905), p. 143. 2 Tom and Betty Brewster, Community Is My Language Classroom (Pasadena, Calif.: Lingua House Ministries, 1986). 3 Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 17. 4 Jon Dybdahl, Missions: A Two-way Street (Boise, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1986).
Gideon and Pam Petersen spent 18 years doing church planting in Namibia, and served as training consultants for Adventist Frontier Missions. They now serve at Zurcher Adventist University in Madagascar.
Whenever we read the last two pages of Revelation, we sense calmness. John describes the out-of-this-world gleam of precious stones, plants, and houses that are incomparable to anything we know.
At Home With the Lamb
By Judith and Sven Fockner
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. . . . And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’ ” (Rev. 21:1-5).
Whenever we read the last two pages of Revelation, we sense calmness. John describes the out-of-this-world gleam of precious stones, plants, and houses that are incomparable to anything we know. Everything is stunning, picture-perfect! Then, in two climactic verses, John comes to the very core of the new beginning: “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (verses 22, 23).
In the midst of all the glory and the splendor, this description shines out. It touches us more deeply than all the crystal-clear rivers and sapphire-colored palaces. He will be there. Jesus. The Lamb. He will always be there, and never go away. And He will be all we need.
Free From Ourselves Do you know the feeling of having missed out on something or the worry of coming up too short? “No, I want to have that; no one else should get it.” You can see this play out at the entrance of large retail stores just prior to opening when there are special discounts. People queue outside and wait to clinch a bargain. They may appear calm on the outside, but on the inside they have switched to predator mode. They position themselves strategically and watch the store’s entrance. We call it selfishness and laugh about fistfights over an LCD TV. But ultimately, all of us as sinners care only for ourselves.
Recently we were looking for a home. After 10 viewings we finally found something useful and affordable. But suddenly there was this slightly panicky feeling. What if someone would strike before us? We wanted that house—for us. We did not ask if someone else needed it more, or for whom it would be most appropriate. We didn’t care about the other buyers.
Have you experienced something like this? It will be no more. Foremost, of course, because the Lamb cares for us all, and we will lack nothing. Second, and this is really the decisive reason, because the Lamb has freed us from ourselves (Rom. 7:24; John 8:36). He showed us by example that true happiness comes from giving instead of receiving (Mark 10:43-45; Acts 20:35). Finally, we can let go and learn that we no longer have to fight for ourselves. What an awesome sense of freedom that will be! How much strength will suddenly be available to pay attention to one another, to reach out to others, and to care for them!
Free From Futility Have you ever felt like this? You experience something beautiful—sunshine on your skin in early spring, a tasty beverage, some meaningful and stirring music—yet it only reminds you of better times. Somehow it cannot make you happy now; instead it makes you sadder still, because you cannot feel it. Others around you live happily ever after (at least it seems like this), but to you all seems so meaningless. It wasn’t always like this. You can’t remember exactly when it started, but life is not like it used to be. You have been deeply disappointed. Someone has left you. Or you have lost someone. Or something failed. Darkness and anxiety seem to be constant companions. You just know that you suffer more than others in your life. You can find no sense or joy in who you are and what you do.
Does that sound familiar? Here is the good news: You will never feel this way again, because it is an emotional reflex to the senselessness of suffering, a reaction to our separation from God. However, in the new earth we will never be apart from Him—and never be disappointed again. We will never lose someone, and we will miss nothing. We will live united—strong and secure (John 10:10). Life will have meaning. We’ll know where we come from and where we are going. We will finally be home.
Free of Uncertainty Have you ever taken part in a conversation at school or at work, and you actually had no idea what it was all about, but you did not dare to ask? Lightning-fast processes happen in the brain: Huh? What now? H’mm. Should I say something now? Better not—it may be about something fundamental. I don’t want to embarrass myself. I can always google it.
Why is such a situation embarrassing to us? Because we want to make a good impression on others; because we do not want to appear to know less or be able to do less than others. We don’t want to bare it all. We could get hurt. Our self-esteem may suffer. And we are already insecure enough. That’s why we protect ourselves and pretend. When at home, if we hit our head on a door frame, we scream out loud and hold our forehead in pain. Yet at the store, if we happen to run against a glass door, we smile and continue as if nothing happened.
Responses like this will no longer exist. We won’t have to pretend any longer; we won’t have to hide anything. It will no longer be necessary. We’ll know we are accepted and valuable (Isa. 43:1-5). We’ll know it when we see the Lamb (Rom. 5:8). We can just be who God made us to be, without feelings of inferiority.
And suddenly we’ll no longer have to ridicule others to make ourselves feel better. Real intimacy and openness will be possible! The new world will be full of people who accept themselves because they constantly live in the presence of the One who loves them and who died for them.
God’s future awaits: Never fear the dark again; never shout angrily at someone; never again be tempted to do something immoral; never feel awkward and lonely; experience a whole new respect for others. This is the life we were created for—forever. And yes, we will be at home with the Lamb.
Judith and Sven Fockner live and work in Germany, where Sven serves as director of the Hope Institute of Bible Study, located at the Media Center of the Inter-European Division. They have two sons.
A story of migrants and God’s graceA story of migrants and God’s grace
By Efraín Velázquez II
A decade after the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina is perhaps an appropriate time to reflect on one of the untold stories of the worst natural disaster experienced in the history of the United States. The story has been a source of hope and strength for some, especially considering the world we live in, where large-scale tragedies and disasters seem to hit on a daily basis.
Katrina was a mega hurricane that left a path of destruction and suffering in 2005. That record year marked the most damage ever registered in a hurricane season: US$160 billion. The death toll of more than 1,800 lives lost in a single storm, and the story of more than 1 million displaced people still haunt North Americans.
The stories that are better known are about the loss of life or property, the social unrest in New Orleans, the heroes and villains that emerged in the midst of pain and despair. However, there are stories of people who did not have houses to lose, and were too fearful to seek assistance or look for national attention. I experienced Katrina among them, and have changed their names so I can freely share some of their stories of hope and community in the midst of tragedy and despair.
A Storm Is Coming We arrived in New Orleans as “health migrants” seeking medical treatment. This was not a dramatic journey. A plane trip to the U.S. mainland is not a problem from Puerto Rico. We were full of hope. My mother needed a liver transplant and was scheduled to receive the indispensable organ in New Orleans. At the time we were unaware of the storms coming toward us. At the hospital she was taken into the intensive-care unit (ICU).
There I met Andres, a young man who could not move after an accident had left him paralyzed. For 10 years he had been an undocumented alien in the country, seeking his “American dream.” A father of two, he faithfully sent money to his family back home and worked hard, like millions of others in these circumstances. After a fall at a construction site, he had been confined to a bed. Only several weeks later was someone able to let his wife know of his precarious condition.
Maria, his wife, could not get a visa to enter the United States legally, so she managed to hire a “coyote”1 to help her cross a desert and finish her perilous journey to Louisiana. Maria was on a mission of love and hope. She did her best to encourage Andres, who wanted to be left to die. I struggled to read Psalm 91 to him, since I also had fresh wounds on my heart, but felt encouraged by Peter’s admonition: “You have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory” (1 Peter 1:6, 7).2 Indeed, major tests were coming—not with fire, but with water.
The Storm Arrives We have never experienced a deadly, colossal hurricane in Puerto Rico during my lifetime. In fact, most people were skeptical about any “big one,” an attitude similar to many regarding Christ’s second coming. Peter describes it: “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:4).
I had been trained by the Adventist Medical Cadet Corps to be ready to assist others in disasters. However, my training had not prepared me for the aftermath of a storm that packed winds of 280 kph (175 mph) at its peak.
My father was dubious about the arrival of Katrina. He had grown up listening to predictions of hurricanes coming that would cause great devastation, but he never experienced something of the scale anticipated in media reports. He concluded that it was just hype, similar to end-time scenarios that have been proven wrong.
However, when we were told that we were going to be evacuated to the Louisiana Superdome, and hundreds of thousands were fleeing the city, he realized that this was real. We had no alternative. We were able to take refuge in one of the lobbies of the hospital, sharing space with other people from the Caribbean and Central America. We shared all the supplies that we had purchased as if there were no tomorrow. The words of Peter rang true in our ears: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart” (1 Peter 3:8). God would provide.
The storm howled like a train destined to destroy the building. Winds pounded mercilessly for hours; then water breached the levees, covering large parts of the city. This time the warnings had proved right.
Looking for Higher Ground The hospital at which we had taken refuge was not inundated. Half of the electrical power was running, and the building had suffered only minor damages. However, after a few days the National Guard warned us that we had to leave the place.
In a minivan and a small car we managed to provide transportation to a group of refugees who had a wide range of experiences and stories. Some members of our group had come from South America, while others came from countries closer to the United States. They had a colorful repertoire of narratives on how they had arrived in the country, Maria among them, as we left looking for higher ground.
It was very emotional to see my father clutching my mother’s hand as we said our goodbyes, even though he had been assured that she would arrive by helicopter a few days later, together with Andres and the others left behind.
What we saw was a picture of death and hope, a time to cherish the “living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). We were the remnant who had to continue the journey through semifunctional roads, where the greatest danger was looting and pillaging. We began our journey as strangers, but finished as family, “a holy nation, His own special people” (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV). We all crowded into two rooms to sleep since lodging was a challenge; but food was always available. Our lives were never in danger; providentially, we did not witness violence. The Lord led our exodus as He has done in the past. In Texas some Seventh-day Adventist families took care of us. Pastors Murillo and Pagán gave us love, care, and lodging, and it felt like the Promised Land.
My mother arrived a couple days later, as did Andres and the others. We lost track of some of our travel companions. However, memories are still clear in our minds and hearts, and we hope to see them again. My mom received a new liver and continues to be a source of inspiration.
From this powerful experience I learned this lesson: Even though we are a holy nation, citizens of the same country, we are still “strangers and pilgrims” in this world (1 Peter 2:11, KJV). Truly, on this sin-flooded planet we are all illegals. We don’t belong here. We are migrants pursuing a holy dream, pilgrims on our way to the New Jerusalem.
Malaria remains a devastating “killer disease.” The World Health Organization* reveals frightening statistics about this parasitic infection.
Malaria: A Continuing Threat
By Peter N. Landless
Malaria remains a devastating “killer disease.” The World Health Organization* reveals frightening statistics about this parasitic infection. In 2013 there were approximately 584,000 malaria deaths worldwide. Of these, 90 percent were in Africa, and 78 percent were children under 5.
In real numbers, malaria remains responsible for the deaths of approximately 430,000 children in Africa every year. This situation is aggravated by the fact that less than 50 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa has access to an insecticide-treated mosquito net. As inadequate as this number is, it has dramatically increased over the past 15 years, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church—through its Health Ministries Department—had the privilege of being part of the advocacy group that worked toward churches being a key component in the distribution of permethrin-treated mosquito nets. We have much more work to do, however, as we labor for the betterment of health for all!
Exciting advances, though, are taking place. Treated nets and mosquito insecticides have helped to bring about an estimated drop in mortality of 47 percent between 2000 and 2013. Another promising breakthrough is the development of a malaria vaccine. This is being pioneered by, among others, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), and may be obtainable for general use by October 2015, once trial results demonstrating unequivocal safety and benefits are available. Results of tests done to date show that the vaccine was effective in more than one third of children when administered between 5 and 17 months of age. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded its development. The vaccine has been tested, starting in 2009, on more than 16,000 children in seven sub-Saharan African countries, with very promising results. The efficacy of the vaccine wears off over time, and booster shots will be needed.
The development of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum, however, especially in Cambodia, is worrying. Artemisinin is the newest and generally very effective antimalarial medication and is derived from a bush indigenous to China. It has been particularly helpful, but one of the most dangerous forms of malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, has become resistant to this medication in Cambodia. This same strain of malaria has developed resistance to quinine in other parts of the world, including parts of Africa. Resistance to yet another drug is very concerning since this form of malaria is commonly lethal.
This highlights two important points: There needs to be (1) persistent and intentional efforts to eliminate the vector (carrier): mosquitos; and (2) global distribution of insecticide-treated nets (ITN) wherever the threat of malaria exists must increase. Health education is also key. Laundering curtains and nets with permethrin can further decrease malaria cases. Equipped with the correct information, church congregations can be very positive influences in the areas they serve, thus helping the dream to become a reality: “Every church a community health center, and every member a medical missionary (health promoter).”
It is important to take malaria prophylaxis (tablets that help prevent malaria, and hopefully soon a vaccine) as advised by your physician/clinic. Be aware of potential side effects. We no longer recommend mefloquine (Lariam) because of its detrimental effects. Other effective agents have far fewer worrisome consequences.
Universal precautions are always helpful. Use mosquito nets and insect repellent in malaria areas. Wear long sleeves and trousers (leg coverings) when outdoors at dawn and dusk. Eradicate stagnant pools where mosquitoes love to breed.
Many opportunities exist to help make a difference in our communities. Malaria awareness and control is one. As we embrace comprehensive health ministry and share the healing ministry of Jesus, “let us not become weary in doing good” (Gal. 6:9, NIV).
What would you answer if I asked you who you are? Do you even know yourself well enough to answer the question?
Would you describe yourself as a nerd, an artist, an athlete, a musician, a rebel, a loner, a comedian, a gamer, a foodie?
Are you a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian?
Do you like music? If so, what kind? Rock, rhythm and blues, hip-hop, jazz, techno, pop, gospel, or classical?
Are you a brother, sister, daughter, son, babysitter?
Are you Christian, agnostic, Adventist, or Baptist?
Are you a surfer, or a boarder?
Do you have swagger? Are you cool, outgoing? Are you loved?
How would you describe yourself? What makes you unique? Who are you?
This is one of the essential questions of life. What is your identity? Is it wrapped up in your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your husband or wife, dad or mom?
Is your self-worth contained in your job, your paycheck, or your degree?
Who are you?
Are you the same person when you’re with a group, when you’re alone, when you’re in church, or when someone cuts you off while you’re driving? Are you the same inside and out? Are you what people see, or is there a different person inside you?
Who are you?
You are on the threshold of being able to define who you are. What building blocks will you use to construct your life? You now have a degree. Is that enough? Your parents have attempted to help guide you. Schools, friends, relationships, Southern Adventist University (SAU), and God have all had an influence on who you will be.
Now it’s up to you. No excuses, no pointing the finger at your past and saying if only . . . You have to move forward. Yes, things in your past have had an influence in shaping where you are, but today you have the ability to move beyond that.
Who are you?
The church, through SAU, has attempted to influence your life. I cannot speak for SAU, and how you were treated here. But I have spent the past 36 years in Adventist education, and I know that at times we get the rules before the person; we worry about what it looks like to our constituents more than how we help you grow in a faith-affirming, loving relationship with Jesus, the Master Teacher. If things or people have hurt you or interfered with that relationship, on behalf of the North American Division I am truly sorry.
Come, engage with your church and make it better than it is. Don’t take a back seat or expect the church to serve you or please you. You are the church! Get out there and make a difference.
That’s what we in Adventist education must be about, that’s why we exist: to help you answer the question Who am I?
First and foremost, you’re a child of the high God of the universe, the Creator and Sustainer of all life. You are loved with an everlasting love. God will love you no matter what you do. Did you hear me? God will love you no matter what you do.
Friends, the question is not really Who are you? but Who is He? He is Jesus, the one who loves you and has promised to be with you no matter what. He wants to be your defining image. When asked, people should say they are Christians, like Christ.
So who are you? You are loved. Your heavenly Father loves you, and so does your church. You have the ability to build on the foundations laid over the past two decades in your life. Remember, the answer to the question Who are you? is Who is He?
May God richly bless you.
Larry Blackmer is vice president for education at the North American Division. This is taken from the commencement address he delivered in May at Southern Adventist University.
Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20).
The potential provided by reaching refugees
By Terri Saelee, director of Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries
Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper” (2 Chron. 20:20). This promise is certainly being fulfilled in the work launched in 2009 by the North American Division to reach and nurture refugees and immigrants in North America.
Some previously little-known nuggets of inspired counsel have guided the organization and development of the structure and strategy of Adventist Refugee and Immigrant Ministries (ARIM), and has spawned remarkable growth as a result.
More than 100 years ago Ellen White wrote: “Great benefits would come to the cause of God in the regions beyond if faithful effort were put forth in behalf of the foreigners in the cities of our homeland. Among these men and women are some who, upon accepting the truth, could soon be fitted to labor for their own people in this country and in other countries.”1
The insight that men and women who have come from other countries, once they learn the truth, can work to spread the gospel among the various language groups has opened our eyes and helped us recognize the talent we might otherwise have overlooked.
Through a series of providences God has put us in touch with some exceptionally gifted individuals from several language groups who not only already know the gospel, but are exceptionally gifted in leadership and in sharing the gospel with their own people. Because these indigenous workers have been empowered—some as local church planters, and some as church planting consultants for their language groups division-wide—the work has grown rapidly.
As of our last annual report, the number of refugee church plants has increased by 14 percent in just one year. There was a 100 percent increase in baptisms, leading to a 45 percent increase in membership over the previous year. In fact, one newly resettled refugee language group, the Karen from Myanmar (Burma), grew from a handful of believers to 45 congregations in just six years.
The number of Zomi congregations (also from Myanmar) has grown from zero to 14 congregations in that time. Many Adventist refugees are now arriving from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The total number of refugee church plants has more than doubled within the past four years.
Several of our church planting consultants have been invited to visit other countries to help organize and grow the work among their language group, sometimes in their home countries, but also in countries with a diaspora of language groups.
Yet other language groups, for whom we have no indigenous church planters or church planting consultants, are still unreached. If they are to learn the good news of salvation, it must be from someone outside their culture. We cannot wait for them to come to us; we must go to them. Once they learn the truth, they will gladly share it with their friends and relatives.
Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees, now numbering more than 80,000 in North America, are the largest, most receptive, yet least reached newly arrived refugee population. Numerous refugee language groups from Myanmar and other countries are still unreached. One of the best ways to impact a refugee community is by providing their children with an Adventist education.
In the words of Ellen White: “There is a great work before us. The world is to be warned. The truth is to be translated into many languages, that all nations may enjoy its pure, life-giving influence. This work calls for the exercise of all the talents that God has entrusted to our keeping—the pen, the press, the voice, the purse, and the sanctified affections of the soul. Christ has made us ambassadors to make known His salvation . . . ; and if we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ and are filled with the joy of His indwelling Spirit, we shall not be able to hold our peace. The truth will be poured forth from hearts all aglow with the love of God.”2
For more information, visit RefugeeMinistries.org.
1 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Oct. 29, 1914. 2 Ibid.
On May 13, 2015, Christian media ministry It Is Written purchased property at 9342 Four Corner Place in Collegedale, Tennessee.
It Is Written Puts Down Roots in Tennesse
On May 13, 2015, Christian media ministry It Is Written purchased property at 9342 Four Corner Place in Collegedale, Tennessee. The ministry is relocating from California after nearly 60 years because of the sale of its former location. The ministry will soon begin building a state-of-the-art media headquarters.
“We are so excited to make Collegedale, Tennessee, our new home,” John Bradshaw, speaker/director for It Is Written, said. “We quickly felt right at home in Tennessee, and we are thrilled to continue to share the love of Jesus with the world from our new location.”
It Is Written is best known around the world for its weekly television series, which has aired every Sunday for 59 years. Today It Is Written can be seen on multiple networks, including TBN, the Discovery Channel, Hope Channel, 3ABN, and LLBN. The weekly programs feature Pastor Bradshaw and provide spiritual guidance and encouragement on a variety of biblical subjects.
In 2012 It Is Written began Eyes for India, a humanitarian project that provides life-changing treatments to people suffering from cataracts and other vision complications in northern India. By partnering with an Indian hospital and gifted ophthalmologist, Dr. Jacob Prabhakar, thousands of people have recovered their sight. To date, Dr. Pradhaker has performed more than 100,000 surgeries.
“We are delighted to be able to help the people of India in this way,” Bradshaw said. “We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus, helping the world.”
In addition to its TV and humanitarian efforts, It Is Written also conducts live events such as its Revelation Today series in both English and Spanish. In the past year Bradshaw has presented major series in Switzerland, Malaysia, and Canada. Evangelistic series are being planned for Zimbabwe and other countries, as well as domestic programs in Chattanooga (October 2015) and Boston (2016).
In a historic move, It Is Written’s executive committee voted to appoint a ministry manager for the first time. Until now, a speaker/director has led It Is Written, with other administrative duties being carried out by a manager/treasurer. Now It Is Written’s organizational structure has upgraded, resulting in increased efficiency and improved operating procedures.
Jesse Johnson accepted the invitation to become It Is Written’s first manager, joining speaker/director John Bradshaw and treasurer Charles Reel to form the ministry’s administrative team.
Johnson, who holds several degrees in business, education, and technology, is a businessman and entrepreneur with extensive experience in ministry leadership. He has worked with many local conferences, as well as the General Conference, helping them to bring innovation to their technology departments. He is a past-president of ASI Mid-America.
“Jesse brings a wealth of talent, experience, leadership ability, and Christian maturity to It Is Written,” said John Bradshaw, It Is Written’s speaker/director. “In the past he has helped It Is Written in enormous ways through his wisdom and his vision for ministry. To actually have him on our staff in such an important role is a new day—a hugely exciting day—for It Is Written. His presence on our team has already been a huge blessing.”
“I’m excited about this. I’ve always believed in It Is Written, and I can see the huge potential this ministry has. I’ve been a board member since Mark Finley was director, and have watched It Is Written use the latest in technology for evangelism. I hope to build on that momentum to utilize technology to help spread the gospel to the world,” Johnson said.
“I see God creating the It Is Written of tomorrow,” said Bradshaw. “Having Jesse as part of our team is a truly exciting development; it will allow It Is Written to be a more dynamic ministry, and it equips us to take on the growth the organization is experiencing.”
It Is Written began in March 1956, when founder George Vandeman began a then innovative concept of televising religious programing from southern California. Over the years the ministry has had the opportunity to share the Word of God with many countries, including areas where there are few Christians and great resistance to Christianity.
The nonprofit organization is supported by viewer donations. Contact: ItIsWritten.org for more information.
When La Sierra University archivist Tony Zbaraschuk first looked inside the large, gray-green book with a worn cover and yellowed pages, he couldn’t quite believe what he saw.
Historic Book Sheds Light on Adventism’s Roots
When La Sierra University archivist Tony Zbaraschuk first looked inside the large, gray-green book with a worn cover and yellowed pages, he couldn’t quite believe what he saw.
The hardcover volume, which he originally thought might be an old accounting ledger, contained nearly three years of weekly newsletters called The Voice of Truth published in Rochester, New York, between October 1844 and June 1847. But it was the date on the first newsletter, October 10, 1844, that captured his attention.
“I looked at it, and my jaw dropped,” said Zbaraschuk. “A date early in October 1844? Wow.”
The newsletters, part of the 10,000-volume collection at La Sierra’s H.M.S. Richards Library, contain numerous letters and editorials by individuals involved in the Millerite movement. They served as a primary means of communication for the Christian sect led by Baptist preacher William Miller. The evangelist, along with Samuel Snow and others, predicted the return, or advent, of Jesus Christ on specific days based on their interpretation of prophecy in the book of Daniel. The first newsletter in the aged book Zbaraschuk opened was published just 12 days prior to the most significant of these predicted dates: October 22, 1844. On that day approximately 100,000 Christians waited with hope and expectation for the return of Jesus and the establishment of His kingdom on earth, in many cases disposing of all their possessions in preparation.
One notice republished in The Voice of Truth during the days leading up to the anticipated advent reads “I. T. Hough, tailor and draper, Fifth Street, below Market, Philadelphia. Has closed his store, and placed the following inscription on his shutters: “This Shop is closed in honor of the King of kings, who will appear about the 23rd of October. Get ready, friends, to crown Him Lord of all.”
October 22, 1844 became known as the Great Disappointment, and is part of Seventh-day Adventist denominational history. While many discouraged individuals left the movement, others eventually formed their own groups, including one that became the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which officially formed in 1863.
The Voice of Truth editor and publisher, Joseph Marsh, in a November 7, 1844, issue wrote, “We have been mistaken in a belief to which we thought ourselves conducted by the word and Spirit, and Providence of God. . . . We have an unwavering trust that He will cause our disappointment and trial to work together for our good.”
On April 18, 2015, during Homecoming Weekend, the La Sierra University H.M.S. Richards Divinity School held a dedication ceremony in the La Sierra University church, officially opening the library, a division of the school, to historians, pastors, students, and other researchers. The historic newsletter volume, which Zbaraschuk carefully handles while wearing white cotton archivist’s gloves, is now available for other researchers to peruse, once they don the gloves.
Richards, a Seventh-day Adventist pioneer radio evangelist, founded the international Christian radio program Voice of Prophecy. During the early 2000s, the Richards family contributed the family patriarch’s 10,000-volume personal library, along with hundreds of letters, sermons, broadcast scripts, and photos to La Sierra University, the alma mater of Richards’ four children. Zbaraschuk and library volunteer Connie Lorenz have been painstakingly sorting, cataloging, and scanning the library’s contents.
Richards began his sermon broadcasts on KNX-AM radio in Los Angeles in 1929. By 1942 the program had become one of the first religious radio shows to air nationwide. By 1980 the Voice of Prophecy operated on a $6 million budget and was aired on 700 stations around the world. The program eventually aired on more than 1,000 stations in dozens of languages, and offered Bible courses in some 80 languages through more than 125 correspondence schools. It operates today out of its studio and offices in Loveland, Colorado.
Richards, a voracious reader, collected books from various bookstores and dealers on topics that spanned many subjects. He strongly advised pastors to broaden their reading repertoire. He was such an avid reader himself he was known to arrange a driver to transport him to speaking engagements and broadcasts so that he could bring stacks of books and read in the back of the car as he traveled.
Also stored in the library are hundreds of Richards’ handwritten sermon notes and letters exchanged with denominational leaders, as well as with other high-profile evangelists of the day, including Billy Graham.
The Voice of Truth newsletter volume was discovered in early summer 2014. It had been given to Richards in 1973 by “Mr. and Mrs. Howard Webb of Huntington Park in memory of my father, William Treichel, who was elder in the Oswego New York Church,” a handwritten inscription on a title page states.
The nineteenth-century letters written to The Voice of Truth by residents of New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and other Northeastern enclaves also open a window into the lifestyle and culture of the day.
“It was how people would communicate, especially if they were too poor to travel,” or had to attend a family farm or business, Zbaraschuk said. “People were trying to understand what happened and this is how they carried out their discussions.”
Of all the historic artifacts in the Richards library, the newsletter volume is among the most significant because of its insights into the very roots of Seventh-day Adventist history. “This is a physical connection to our pioneers,” Zbaraschuk said. “It gives a sense of connection one does not get from a reprint. There may be things here we haven’t previously known about the Adventist movement.”
Jesus told His disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; He then invited them to pray for more laborers (Matt. 9:35-38).
The Great Controversy
A fruitful seed
By Mihai Goran
Jesus told His disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; He then invited them to pray for more laborers (Matt. 9:35-38). The following story is an illustration of the many ways the Lord can fulfill that prayer.
The Gift of a Book Cosmina, a young Orthodox woman, was searching for God. A friend gave her a copy of Ellen G. White’s book The Great Controversy. The book impressed Cosmina, and she read it through twice. But she wanted to know more about the truth. She felt led by the Holy Spirit to visit her local public library, where she found more books written by Ellen White. She borrowed and read them all.
Soon Cosmina noticed a health-assessment booth set up in her town at which a literature evangelist was selling books. She was delighted to see Ellen White’s books for sale and decided to buy some. She soon acquired a collection.
Becoming Involved In time, Cosmina became a friend of the literature evangelist and offered to help out at the booth. She took blood pressure measurements for people who stopped by, and also recommended that they purchase and read the books by Ellen White. Seeing her zeal and joy in the Lord, the literature evangelist recommended her as a participant in the local conference-led book evangelism program, called the Waldensian Student Project, being held that summer. Cosmina joined a team of Adventist young people and worked for three weeks selling books in a nearby city. At the end of those three weeks the students were told about a full-year Waldensian Student Project, which involved a team of students doing medical and book ministry throughout the country. Cosmina volunteered for the job.
Cosmina joyfully worked together with other youth and literature evangelists selling books house to house and in public institutions in many towns. The book she presented most often was The Great Controversy, and she says she always felt happy when people decided to buy that particular book. As the team visited different Adventist churches on Sabbaths, she often gave her testimony, explaining that she was an Orthodox Christian involved in Adventist mission. But Cosmina was obviously too conscientious for the story to end there.
Committing to Jesus At the close of the mission year, while attending the Congress of Literature Evangelists, Cosmina was baptized, along with another girl who was involved in the Waldensian Student Project. Cosmina’s mother was present for the event, and because of all the positive changes that she had observed in her daughter’s life during the previous year, she began to study the Bible and is now planning to be baptized in the near future.
Cosmina is excited about her mother’s interest in studying the Bible, and adds, “I want to serve the Lord for the rest of my life.”
By God’s grace, every copy of The Great Controversy that we share with others writes a story. Those to whom you give a book today may become your colleagues in ministry tomorrow.
Mihai Goran is a literature evangelist in Romania.
Faithfulness is a prominent theme throughout the Bible.
Called to Faithfulness
Now Is the Time
By Ted N. C. Wilson
Faithfulness is a prominent theme throughout the Bible. In the Psalms we read of God’s faithfulness: “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures” (Ps. 119:90, NIV); “O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You” (Ps. 89:8). The prophet Isaiah wrote, “O Lord, You are my God. . . . Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isa. 25:1). In the New Testament we read that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). In Revelation, Jesus Christ is described as “Faithful and True” (Rev. 3:14; 19:11).
The importance of faithfulness is reflected in the words of Jesus: “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10); in His commendation “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23); and in His promise in Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
Faithfulness is identified as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The Bible describes many of God’s faithful followers, and today He still has His faithful ones. Ellen White reminds us:
“Christ is present at every assembly and at every private interview. He has made His people the depositaries of rare blessings. He has given them gems and treasures richer than gold; and every faithful colaborer with God is to work the mine of truth and bring the treasures to view. . . . Amid the scorn of men, suffering worldly loss, they have manifested steadfast integrity. . . . They stand true as the needle to the pole, as faithful workers, as standard-bearers for God, in principle firm as a rock.”1
Prophecy Being Fulfilled As Seventh-day Adventists with a clear prophetic perspective, we can see that the second advent of Christ is fast approaching! We can immediately recognize that Matthew 24 and Revelation 13 are being fulfilled now. The world is in disarray. No one can solve the insurmountable problems facing countries and people groups. Unrest, butchery, and treachery are all around. It isn’t difficult to imagine “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26).
Social trends continue to defy biblical truth and heavenly principles. For those who are carefully observant, recent ecumenical trends are astounding, pointing to the fulfillment of Revelation 13:3.
Call to Faithfulness God is calling His remnant people everywhere to be faithful to Him through our connection and communion with Him each day. It is only through connecting to the Vine that we can be fruitful and faithful in this age of unfaithfulness.
We are called to faithfulness—faithfulness to Christ, to His Holy Word; to His church and prophetic movement; to His biblical plan for the family; to His sanctuary message; to public and personal witnessing for Him; to belief in and use of the Spirit of Prophecy; to the proclamation of His three angels’ messages; to Christian stewardship; to living the Christian life; to Christian humanitarian service; and to sharing the promise of Christ’s soon return. He is our role model and our Savior. Through Christ’s righteousness and grace we can be faithful because He is faithful.
What a privilege to place ourselves in the hands of One who is faithful, knowing that whatever may happen, God is faithful and just. Whatever we face, we can rely on God’s faithfulness to ultimately bring us home to His eternal kingdom when Christ returns.
Your faithfulness is essential to God’s proclamation to the universe. Because of His faithfulness, He has followers who are faithful. Solomon declares that “a faithful ambassador brings health” (Prov. 13:17). Be an ambassador for Christ as you bring physical, mental, social, and spiritual health to others. Share Christ’s righteousness and His comprehensive health ministry as you engage in His plans for mission to the cities and every place on earth. God promises that “a faithful man will abound with blessings” (Prov. 28:20). Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 4:2: “Moreover it is required . . . that one be found faithful.”
Nehemiah’s Example One of the most poignant examples of faithfulness is that of Nehemiah, a faithful man of God serving in the palace of the Persian king. Nehemiah 1:4 records that when Nehemiah heard about the broken-down wall of Jerusalem, he “sat down and wept.” He then turned his pleading heart to the Lord in prayer.
As you face challenges, be fervent in prayer. Plead with the Lord for the latter rain of the Holy Spirit so that we can figuratively repair God’s wall today with Holy Spirit power.
Nehemiah received permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. Three days after arriving, Nehemiah challenged the Jewish nation: “Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer be a reproach” (Neh. 2:17). Their response was “Let us rise up and build” (verses 18).
Beware of Cynics But beware of the cynics of today, represented by Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, who laughed at and despised Nehemiah. Take courage from God and join with Nehemiah in saying, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build” (verse 20). The construction progressed quickly because “the people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6).
When the enemies of God heard of this progress, they made plans to attack. Nehemiah pleaded with the Lord through prayer and then positioned the people saying, “Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (verse 14). They divided the task of defense and construction so that all participated. “Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon” (verse 17).
In your faithfulness to God, with one hand do the work of God, and in the other hold the Word of God, your weapon of heavenly authority. Lean completely on the Lord in your faithful service saying, along with those who worked on the wall of Jerusalem, “Our God will fight for us” (verse 20). Let’s work in that same spirit, with one mind of faithfulness to God’s request that we proclaim the three angels’ messages with Holy Spirit power.
A Special Work “In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists . . . have been given a work of the most solemn import—the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention.”2
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem didn’t give up. Beware of those who try to dissuade or distract you from your great task as a Seventh-day Adventist just before Christ’s coming. Ask God to strengthen your hands and do His great work in faithfulness to Him. God will reward your faithfulness as He did Nehemiah’s. “So the wall was finished. . . . And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it . . . they perceived that this work was done by our God” (Neh. 6:15, 16).
When God shows His mighty hand in your work of faithfulness, give Him all the glory and people will see that He is working through you. “Like Nehemiah, God’s people are neither to fear nor to despise their enemies. Putting their trust in God, they are to go steadily forward, doing His work with unselfishness, and committing to His providence the cause for which they stand.”3
Stand firm for God’s truth and proclaim His Word, as Nehemiah and a host of others have. You are important and critical to the last proclamation of the three angels’ messages. God is counting on you.
1 Ellen G. White, in Review and Herald, Jan. 21, 1890. 2 Ellen G. White, Testimonies to the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 9, p. 19. 3 Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1917), p. 645.
Ted N. C. Wilson is president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.