Must I forgive even the Rwanda genocide killers of my family?
By Isaac Ndwaniye as told to Gina Wahlen
The killers came on a Sabbath, brought onto the Seventh-day Adventist church’s compound by the mission president himself and his son, a physician who served as medical director of the church-owned Mugonero Hospital.
MUGONERO ADVENTIST HOSPITAL: Some people ran toward the hospital, trying to escape the killing, but were caught by people waiting with machetes.
Many people had fled to the compound of the church’s South Rwanda Field after the Rwandan genocide started on April 7, 1994. Pastors and their families joined other church members in crowding into the compound, and particularly the church building, thinking they would be safe.
I worked as director of the Publishing Department for the South Rwanda Field. The office, church, school, workers’ homes, and Mugonero Hospital were all located on the same compound in an area of Rwanda known as Kibuye.
The day before Rwandans began to kill one another I was attending publishing meetings at the Rwanda Union Mission office in the country’s capital, Kigali. That night the Rwandan president’s plane was shot down, and the genocide began. The next day an employee at Mugonero Hospital called to say that my 14-year-old son, Paul, had been killed and that my wife and children had fled to the compound’s church for protection.
Then on Sabbath, April 16, killers entered the compound with the assistance of the mission president and his son. How could this be? My father, a pastor, had worked with this president while I was growing up. I had worked with him as well. I had had no idea what was in his heart.
What saddened me even more was that pastors holed up inside the church with my wife and eight other children had written a letter to the mission president, telling him: “We know they’re coming to kill us. Please help us get a boat to the lake and go to the Congo, so we can be rescued.”
The letter was taken by a soldier who was protecting them in the church to the president’s house on the compound. The president responded that not even God could help them now.
People from all over the country descended on the compound to kill the Adventists. Some of the killers were Adventist. They came with grenades, machetes, knives, anything that could kill a human being.
A pastor was preaching when killers entered his church. They first shot and killed him. Then they started killing the others. My wife and children ran to the president’s house for help, but he turned them away. Others ran toward the hospital, trying to escape, but they were caught by people waiting with machetes. The killing inside the compound continued for several days. Day and night the killers looked for those who might have escaped. They even brought dogs to assist in searching the bush.
By the time the genocide ended in July, I had lost myentire family: my wife and nine children, my father and mother, three sisters, a brother, and a brother-in-law.
Church for Displaced People
The outbreak of the genocide made it impossible for me to return home. From Kigali I was taken by a group of soldiers to a camp for internally displaced people in a northern province of the country.
I was the only pastor in the camp. I found that when you’re busy doing good it makes you forget the bad things that have happened to you. That’s how God strengthened me.
FORGIVING THE UNFORGIVABLE?: Isaac Ndwaniye, president of the East Central Rwandan Conference, lost his entire family in the 1994 genocide.
One Friday evening I was walking around the city near the camp and saw an abandoned Roman Catholic church. I asked for permission to pray and hold services in the church. Receiving it, I went back to the camp and invited people to come to the church on Sabbath.
We began to meet as a congregation every Sabbath. Even though we were homeless, those who had some money gave tithe and offerings faithfully, as if they were still at home. Sometimes people from Uganda came to visit and gave us money, which we also tithed and used for offerings. We set aside the tithe until the church in Rwanda could begin working again, and we used the offerings to help treat people injured in the war.
Many people of other faiths joined the Adventists in worshipping every Sabbath. By the time we were able to leave the camp four months later, 300 people were ready for baptism.
When the genocide was over in July, I traveled to Kigali and found no Adventist church operating in the country. So I went throughout the city, pleading with people to return to church. Slowly people returned to the churches. I was asked to serve as the church’s president for Rwanda for two years. Later I was elected to the Publishing Department of the Rwanda Union Mission.
Five years later I was given the most challenging invitation I have ever received: Would I be willing to serve as president of the very area that included the Mugonero compound, where my family had been killed? I prayed about it and decided to go. This would be the first time to go back and work with the people who had killed my family. I prayed, “God, help me and give me strength and words to say to these people.”
On my first Sabbath back I called for a large district meeting.
The Rwanda Union Mission “has sent me here to preach the good news and to lead this conference,” I said. “I don’t want anyone to tell me who killed my family. I don’t even want you to tell me that you’re my friend. My friend is the one who loves God and who loves God’s work. Let’s work together in that spirit.”
I stayed there for three years, and was then called to Kigali to serve as president of what today is the East Central Rwanda Conference. We praise the Lord that our conference has grown from 65,000 church members in 2004 to more than 110,000 today. Among Rwanda’s total population of 12 million, the church has about 640,000 members, and we are holding Bible studies as we hope to baptize 100,000 people in evangelistic meetings.
Love and Forgiveness
My favorite Bible verse is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If God had not loved everyone in the world, I would have gone and killed the killers. But God loves them, and He gives them time to repent.
The mission president and his son were tried and sentenced to prison for crimes against humanity and genocide. The father has died, and the son remains incarcerated.
When I was in the camp during the genocide, a journalist came to interview me. He had heard about how I had lost my entire family, and asked me, “What do you think about revenge?”
I took my Bible and opened to Hebrews 10:30, 31: “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
The journalist was amazed.
When people speak badly about the killers, I remind them that we have a God who is patient with everyone. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. That’s the only thing that can help someone like me, who has gone through such circumstances. Anytime anyone comes to God and asks for forgiveness, God forgives. There’s no sin God can’t forgive.
Another thing that gives me strength to continue living is that I know that one day I will see my family again. Because of that, I live for Him.
Isaac Ndwaniye is president of the East Central Rwanda Conference. Gina Wahlen is editor of Mission, from the Office of Adventist Mission.
During my first visit to Europe many years ago, I tried to give a brochure to a person in the subway. She rejected it. That shocked me. In my home country this would rarely happen. People here, it seemed, were not as receptive to the gospel. So I wondered, How can I break the cultural barriers and reach people’s hearts?
Soon after, while traveling on a train, my 2-year-old-daughter was “reading” a book about the Flood and the creation of the world. A couple beside her were enchanted with her enthusiasm and listened to her attentively while she showed them the pictures and explained to them their meanings. When we arrived at our stop, we said farewell to the couple with affective and spontaneous smiles, which in other circumstances we would likely not have experienced. That event helped me understand that we can reach the hearts of those who apparently seem “closed” to the gospel message if we use the right “key.”
A Church Is Born In 2011 I went to Madrid, Spain, to continue my postgraduate studies. I began meeting with a small group of Portuguese-speaking Adventists, most of whom were Brazilians. The group organized initially in 2008, was growing slowing, and dreamed of building a church. I offered to help.
We began our campaign with prayer, and God answered our prayers. The European Portuguese Advisory (EPA) (in Portuguese, Conselho Europeu de Língua Portuguesa), a supporting ministry that helps coordinate and foster the creation of Portuguese immigrant churches in Europe, began dialoguing with leaders and pastors of the Spanish Union of Churches Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SUCC), and meetings were held to discuss the possibilities.
The Euro-Africa Division (now the Inter-European Division) released resources of the project His Hands* to facilitate the foundation of the new church, the first Portuguese Adventist church in Spain.
A Church and a Mission The Lord blessed our efforts. We were able to obtain—free of charge—a small facility in which to meet and worship on Sabbaths. This strengthened our faith in God’s leading, and we continued to move forward in faith. The official inauguration of the small group was held on March 23, 2012. EPA representatives from London and Switzerland, as well as church leaders from SUCC, attended.
At first weekly attendance hovered around 30, but the members enthusiastically embraced their mission to reach as many as possible of the more than 20,000 Brazilians and others living in Madrid who spoke Portuguese. They happily greeted Sabbath visitors and welcomed them into their group.
The Key to Success Every human being has spiritual needs, as well as a need for fellowship and companionship with others. A genuine and vibrant Christian group that is biblically oriented can help satisfy these needs. A community of immigrants such as ours can also offer practical assistance, such as providing food to those in need and helping them find jobs or places to pursue their education or learn a second language.
A support network was developed through small-group meetings in church members’ homes. Four small groups prayed with one another and shared sorrows, joys, and dreams. They developed friendships with one another and shared their faith with neighbors, relatives, and others. Sharing Sabbath meals also provided fellowship.
The spontaneity and joy in our social meetings and religious services in the church created an attractive environment for visitors.
A Dream Realized The small groups, visits to members, frequent phone calls, Bible studies, and daily church life fostered friendship and confidence. When I visited other community churches, I shared the story of the fledgling congregation. Eventually the news spread throughout the region, resulting in many prayers and messages of encouragement.
Adventists from other churches soon began to migrate to our congregation. Former Adventists and people interested in learning about the gospel started attending as well. Before long we outgrew our meeting facility and began looking for something larger.
One day, while talking to a church brother at his automobile repair shop, I mentioned that we were praying and looking for a new meeting site. He showed me a place for rent in front of his shop. It was the size we needed and in a good location, close to a subway station and in a Brazilian immigrant neighborhood. It seemed God was leading. We signed the lease in October 2012.
The new meeting place needed much work and renovation. Church members volunteered both time and resources. Refurbishing the place included constructing a second bathroom, acquiring new chairs, organizing a children’s room, updating the heating system, and, of course, cleaning and painting. The SUCC approved the opening of the new church on November 13, and its official dedication was held January 19, 2013.
All those initial months of hard work, sweat, and tears were finally crowned with the slow but sustainable development of the first Portuguese Adventist church in Spain.
Lessons Learned Here are 10 things I learned from helping to plant this new congregation: 1. Success depends on both the heavenly rain and the sweat of those who work in it. 2. Negotiations and administrative formalities can sometimes be dry, slow, and challenging, but they are the inevitable way to plant a new church. 3. Pleasing everyone should not be the goal. But respecting different opinions is a sign of maturity and wisdom, and helps avoid a lot of problems. 4. Words of encouragement can lighten the exhausted soul and strengthen a person’s faith. 5. God often uses humble, weak, and unskilled people to teach us to depend on Him. 6. If we use lack of money as an excuse to do nothing, we don’t understand that God is truly in control. 7. Unless we spend time with people, strive to be close them, and love them, it’s impossible to share our knowledge and experience of God with them. 8. Every pastoral ministry is beyond human capacity, but with God all things are possible. 9. God’s mercy and love toward lost souls allow us be instruments of salvation, independent of our personal strengths and weaknesses. 10. We sometimes need to unlearn things in order to be able to understand other lessons God wants to teach us.
Practical Love The central gospel message is practical love. After breaking through the numerous artificial and cultural barriers that people use to protect themselves, we find hearts in need of love and understanding. Sincere Christians can provide genuine friendships through which others can experience a true encounter with God.
* His Hands is an initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. For more information, go to www.adventistvolunteers.org/HisHands/
Once we understand the “why,” the “how” and the “what” are easy.
By Merle Poirier
The story of Balaam (Numbers 23; 24) might seem an odd place to begin an article on Total Member Involvement. It is remembered most for a talking donkey, but a closer reading reveals more.
Balak, king of Moab, had a problem. Balak has offered Balaam riches if he will agree to curse the Israelites. Balaam accepts cautioning to say only what God tells him. Fast-forward to the end, and Balaam does not curse the nation, but instead, speaks three blessings. Angry, the king refuses to pay him for his service.
Before leaving, Balaam offers one more prediction—this one for free. “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Num. 24:17).
Learning the Why
Promoter Simon Sinek recently developed three words— what, how, why—into a marketing concept. He arranged them into a “golden circle,” where the center circle is “why,” the middle is “how,” and the outer circle is “what.” These three circles moving from the outside circle to the innermost circle represent Sinek’s theory on how people think. First, they ask “What?” followed by “How?” and finally “Why?” Sinek’s point is that inspiring leaders or organizations think, act, and communicate differently—that is, upside down or inside out. Successful leaders begin with “Why?”
Look again at Balaam and Balak. Together they look at the “what,” they develop the “how,” but they never reason the “why.” What they wanted to do was rid the earth of Israelites. How to do it rested in cursing them. Never once do they speak about “why” the Israelites are there in the first place. After Balak’s frustration and Balaam’s ambivalence, God gives Balaam one last prophecy and in it reveals the why: I love them. I want to spend eternity with them. I have a plan.
Applying this concept to God becomes an eye-opening experience. Throughout Scripture, God, from a human perspective, is an upside-down communicator. Think about Jesus and His disciples. During most of His ministry the disciples are scratching their heads. They’d ask a question (what or how), and He’d answer (why). Nicodemus asks Jesus what and how—Jesus answers why (John 3:16). The woman at the well asks what; Jesus answers why (John 4:26).
On the road to Emmaus Jesus reveals the “why” throughout Scripture—I created you. I love you. I want to be with you forever. The “how” is sending His Son to die for you. The “what” becomes easy—living with Him for eternity. The excited disciples run all the way back to Jerusalem. When you understand the “why,” hearts and perspective are transformed. Upside-down thinking changes the world.
“Why” Can Change Everything
Churches can be guilty of thinking more about “what” than “why.” We tell others what we are, we describe how we work, but often don’t communicate why. Does this sound familiar? “You should know Jesus as your Savior” (what). “To know Him, you need to [attend church, become a vegetarian, reform your lifestyle, read more of your Bible, . . .] (how). The implication is “This will make your life better” (what). Some will join, but many will not. It isn’t inspiring.
But what if the order is turned upside down? “I believe that Jesus is my Creator, Savior, and Best Friend” (why). I believe that Jesus is coming soon, He’s creating a home for me so I can live with Him forever, and He grants me an abundance of blessings because He loves me” (how). “Wouldn’t you like to know Him?” (what). This doesn’t suggest that the other method is incorrect, but highlights that it doesn’t necessarily lead to a full heart conversion. Upside-down thinking communicates passion, love, mercy, and grace—and people respond.
When the Bible is read with upside-down thinking, it changes everything you might have thought about God. The “why” of God is found from Genesis to Revelation. The message is about saving you because He loves you. And when you grasp that, you are moved to tell others. You’re inspired to change the world.
Total Member Involvement
Total Member Involvement is about evangelism. It’s about enthusiastically telling others about Jesus. It should be easy, but it isn’t. Mostly because we’re stuck in our thinking. When the “why” of Jesus is understood, things happen. When the “why” of the Sabbath is understood, the day is amazingly joyous. When the “why” of worship is understood, you want to be with fellow believers.
One church in Maryland, U.S.A., was transformed by “why” thinking. Those from outside perceived the church as large and unfriendly. Members decided it wasn’t their problem, but everyone else’s. Pastors now and again would endeavor to fix the issue, but nothing endured, and membership support was lackluster. Yet one day something changed everything—upside-down thinking.
During nominating committee about a dozen individuals were placed together in a room with the challenge to create a plan for a friendlier environment. The leader repeatedly spoke to them about discovering the “why” of hospitality. The group continued to respond: What is hospitality? How about doing this? But the leader continued to encourage their “why” thinking—“Why be friendly? Why are we here?” Three weeks later it clicked. That day they got excited. Twelve members changed their church.
In less than three months these 12 individuals recruited more than 300 members to participate in a new program called HIS Team. HIS Team members help, inform, and support their church and each other because Jesus loves them (why). They do this in a variety of creative ways incorporating every person’s gifts from the moment a person enters the campus (how). And the what? Former members are returning, an evangelistic series resulted in baptisms, youth and young adults are talking about their church to their friends, and pastors from other congregations are asking how they can make this happen in their church. The success comes from thinking like Jesus—upside down.
A church in Massagno, Switzerland, had a similar experience. They had dwindled to six members. They lacked vision, leadership, and church growth. In May 2010 one of the youngest members decided, with God’s help, to take the lead. Having no experience as a pastor, but having studied principles of business, he decided to apply them, along with prayer, to church growth.
The new young pastor put the well-being of the people over the programs. He delegated responsibility to the members according to their giftedness. He increased communication to the members offering spiritual encouragement. Sabbath mornings were transformed by offering a genuine welcome to each person. In three years the group grew from five to 40 regularly attending, with nine baptisms and members of all ages. In March 2015 the small group was officially established as a church.
Certainly the Lord has blessed these churches. They transformed their thinking from “what” and “how” to identifying “why” then developing the “how.” Both were so successful that they didn’t need to define the “what”—people were encouraged and inspired, so they joined and committed.
Total Member Involvement is about using the gifts that we have been given for Jesus. It is, however, more than that. It is identifying the “why” of our Christianity. When we do this, we transform not only ourselves but also the world.
The Bible says, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink” (Col. 2:16, NIV); however, the symbolic and cultural idea of food extends beyond what we eat.
Power of Bread
By Jeff Couzins
The Bible says, “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink” (Col. 2:16, NIV); however, the symbolic and cultural idea of food extends beyond what we eat. Eating involves both biological and cultural elements, and sociologists believe that “human meal practices can be understood as a kind of language system.”1
This idea can be applied to families in the Apostolic Era, where every member of the household—family or otherwise—was subject to the authority of the father. The father was patron to all. A powerful symbolic representation of being under the headship of the father was captured at mealtimes, when all were dependent upon the father in order to eat. Consequently, some powerful practices were built up around eating and drinking.2
More Than Sustenance
The apostles’ devotion to sharing food together (Acts 2:42) can be said to describe a first-century Christian’s normal way of life.3 Here, food provides more than sustenance; it is the means to achieving a deeper fellowship between believers and their Lord.4 Furthermore, with repeated references to eating and drinking in Jesus’ teachings, alongside His desire to share meals with people marginalized by mainstream society, we get the impression that to Jesus, eating and drinking together has significance beyond its biological and cultural functions.5
When we look further, we find that food is everywhere in the Bible. It’s almost everywhere we look in Scripture. The place of food and fellowship in the Bible is sometimes overlooked when we focus on the commandments and doctrines, yet so much in the Bible seems to happen around the proverbial dining table. Are these references there just as a record of practical necessity, or is there some spiritual relevance to food and fellowship?
Food and Salvation
Food has a place in the plan of salvation. For example, it was eating the forbidden fruit that led Adam and Eve into sin through an appeal to the appetite.6 It was also through food that God taught us about the means of salvation.7 The Communion emblems are just one example of the symbolic link between food and salvation.
Another example is the Old Testament sacrificial system, which pointed to the sacrificial ministry of Christ in its varied forms and functions. For instance, all the main feasts in the Old Testament point to the ministry of Jesus. A feast isn’t just a small portion of food; it is a large meal. The main feasts were (1) the Passover, which pointed to the death of Jesus Christ; (2) Pentecost, which pointed to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; (3) Tabernacles, which pointed toward the second coming of Jesus; and (4) the Day of Atonement, which pointed toward judgment.
There was a greater purpose, however, than simply teaching about the plan of salvation through the offerings. The sacrificial system was not just to mediate forgiveness for sinners but to bring the people into fellowship with God (see Lev. 9:22). Sin offerings symbolized the confession of sin and an appeal for atonement through God’s forgiveness. Burnt offerings expressed worship, gratitude, and dedication to God. Peace offerings symbolized alliance with God and fellowship with other believers through eating the sacrifice together.8 More modern versions of the Bible (such as the NIV) translate “peace offering” as “fellowship offering,” indicating the social and cultural nature of the final offering.
The Old Testament worship service culminated in a fellowship meal, which all worshippers shared in God’s presence. Worship of God in the Old Testament was not complete until all the assembled people—prophet, priest, Levite, and laity—sat down to enjoy a fellowship meal together. And this concept of sharing food together continues through to the New Testament times as well. Jesus had finished teaching the people, for instance, before He fed the 5,000.
Food and Relationship
While food cannot save us, it can be representative of the relationship we have with Jesus Christ. For example, in Luke 24:41, after His resurrection, Jesus asked for food when He joined the disciples in the upper room. In John 21:9, after His resurrection, Jesus prepared a meal for the disciples who had gone fishing. In both instances Jesus in His resurrected form wanted to share food and fellowship with His disciples. Acts 2:42 says, “And they [the disciples] continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
The breaking of bread in this verse indicates that the disciples were sharing food and fellowship with other believers. Biblically, food and fellowship go hand in hand with teaching doctrine and praying. But we often miss that connection. Food and fellowship are not separate things added onto the worship service in church; instead, they should be part and parcel of the process of worshipping and serving the living God.
As in the Old Testament sacrificial service, we can say that worship is not complete until we’ve shared a fellowship meal with the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. And fellowship extends beyond this as well. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says that He will enter in and eat with anyone who opens the door of their heart to Him. Jesus links food and fellowship to a relationship with Himself. Scripture doesn’t just say that Jesus will keep you company. Instead, Jesus said, “I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (NIV; emphasis supplied).
Sharing food and fellowship are important aspects of human relationships, as well as our relationship with Christ. Everyone who has been saved throughout earth’s history is invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb described in Revelation 19:9.
Food and Church Services
The ultimate linking of food and fellowship with salvation, however, is found in the Last Supper. Jesus took the bread and said, “This is My body” (Luke 22:19). Then He took the cup and said, “This . . . is the new covenant in My blood” (verse 20).
Not sharing a full meal together during Communion does not detract from the fact that there is a significant connection between food and salvation. While food cannot save us, food can symbolize our relationship with God and our salvation.
First John 1:3, 4 says, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”
Fellowship in church is more than just having a good time together. Food shared in church is more than just eating together. After all, it was only a small piece of fruit that brought sin into the world. And likewise, it’s only a small piece of bread and a small glass of grape juice that symbolize the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross.9 Food may seem like an insignificant aspect in the wider plan of salvation, but, biblically, it could be argued that worship is not complete until we have shared food and fellowship together with one another and with God.
We see a type of this when Jesus promises to share a meal with us in Revelation 3:20 when we invite Him into our hearts. Few “acts are more indicative of fellowship and communion than partaking of food together.”10 But the ultimate expression of sharing food together is found in “the apocalyptic idea of the eschatological meal, or the messianic banquet, the feast in the coming Kingdom of heaven.”11
So since we are subject to the authority of our Father in heaven, let us share meals together, perhaps after worship service on Sabbath, in our homes during the week, or at picnics and other social gatherings. When we do so, we are also fellowshipping with Jesus until He comes.
1 Jan Michael Joncas, “Tasting the Kingdom of God: The Meal Ministry of Jesus and Its Implications for Contemporary Worship and Life,” Worship 74 (2000): 330.
2 Florence Dupont, Daily Life in Ancient Rome, trans. Christopher Woodall (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1989), p. 103.
3 Robert W. Wall, “The Acts of the Apostles: Introduction, Commentary and Reflection,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck et al. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995), vol. 10, p. 71.
4 G.H.C. Macgregor, “The Acts of the Apostles,” in The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. George A. Buttrick et al. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1954), p. 50.
5 Joncas, pp. 330, 331, 346-350.
6 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890), pp. 54-56.
7 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 656.
8 Siegfred H. Horn, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1980), pp. 963-966.
9 E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 653.
10 Francis D. Nichol, ed., The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1957, 1980), vol. 7, p. 763.
11 Ephraim Isaac, “The Significance of Food in Hebraic-African Thought and the Role of Fasting in the Ethiopian Church,” in Asceticism, ed. Vincent L. Wimbush and Richard Valantasis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 331.
The wind is blowing hard, so I get up to close my office window. As usual, I pause for a moment, letting my gaze linger upon the gut-pinching view.
Sitting by the Stuff
Finding Spiritual Fulfillment in Mundane Tasks
By Shandra Kilby
The wind is blowing hard, so I get up to close my office window. As usual, I pause for a moment, letting my gaze linger upon the gut-pinching view. Every time I look out my window a desperate emotion boils up, threatening to leap from my throat, but somehow I am addicted to the sight. Haggard towers, pockmarked from bullet holes; rushing lines of traffic; countless rows of laundry flapping from countless apartment balconies in the dirty air of Beirut—the view represents millions of unreached people. As my fingers close around the window frame, a nearby mosque begins its mournful call to prayer. For a moment I consider the sheer number of people who have never heard the gospel message—people right outside my window—and my heart can barely keep itself from bursting. But obediently I shut the window and sit back down at my desk. After all, it’s not my job to reach those people.
I work as a personal assistant for an Adventist office in the Middle East. Like countless other denominational employees throughout the world church, I complete reports, fill out statistical data forms, and collect information from our various fields. On slower days I water the potted plants and clean the windows. It’s a job that goes by many names—personal assistant, secretary, or administrative assistant—but whatever it may be called, I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one in our denomination who can sometimes feel that the stack of reports cuts a cruel dividing line between me, the office worker, and “them,” the mission of the church: those nameless, faceless people waiting to be touched by heart-to-heart ministry. We want to be out there, leading souls into a relationship with Christ—but for whatever reason, God has called some of us to jobs that have less action. Are office workers missionaries? Are those engaged in denominational support roles really partaking in ministry? Recently I began searching God’s Word to see if it offers any advice for office workers.
Tarrying by the Stuff
First Samuel 30 tells the harrowing story of when David and his 600 men returned to the city of Ziklag to find it plundered, burned, and looted. Their wives, children, and livestock had been captured, and, as can be expected, David and his men fell into momentary despair. Hastily pulling themselves together, they determined to pursue the retreating Amalekite army—not an easy feat! Burdened down with weapons, food, and presumably a fair amount of other military supplies, they promptly departed.
The Bible doesn’t specify whether they were speed-walking, jogging, or running, but it does say that by the time David and his 600 men reached the brook Besor, one third of his men were too exhausted to continue. Rather than taking a break for his men to rest, David decided to leave the 200 weary soldiers at the brook. To lighten the load of the still-pursuing 400, he had them leave their baggage with the exhausted men. The Bible records that these 200 men tarried by the stuff (1 Sam. 30:24).
Many office workers feel like those 200 men who had to sit by the “stuff” while others go forward to fight the battles of the Lord. Our role can feel unimportant, unrecognized, and insignificant. But, like the exhaustion of the men, we each have our own things that keep us back from crossing the creek. Health issues, family obligations, age, experience, education, or other circumstances can keep devoted Christians from doing frontline, soul-winning ministry. We can be left pondering whether we are really contributing to the mission of the church.
If you’ve wondered about that, you wouldn’t be the first one. In fact, some of David’s own men accused the 200 of being unworthy to share the reward at the end. Verse 22 records that after David’s army rescued their families and possessions from the Amalekites, some of his soldiers felt that the 200 who had “tarried by the stuff” should not share in the spoils. “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except for every man’s wife and children, that they may lead them away and depart.”
It was as if the support staff that remained behind was substandard, lazy, and unworthy of a reward. The ones from the battlefront urged them just to take their wives and be gone. Not so with David.
David must have recognized that these 200 men, although not engaged in hand-to-hand combat on the battlefield, were nonetheless a valuable asset to his army. After all, if they hadn’t stayed by the luggage—thus lightening the load of the pursuers—perhaps they wouldn’t have been able to travel fast enough to catch up with the enemy. David’s answer to the disgruntled fighters is inspiring: “My brethren, you shall not do so with what the Lord has given us, who has preserved us and delivered into our hand the troop that came against us. . . . As his part is who goes down to the battle, so shall his part be who stays by the supplies; they shall share alike” (verses 23, 24).
The book Christ’s Object Lessons shares an interesting tidbit from God’s perspective for those who stay by the “stuff”—or, in our day, stay in the office: “Not the amount of labor performed or its visible results but the spirit in which the work is done makes it of value with God.”1 Not everybody can fight on the front lines, but we can faithfully stay by the duties given to us. We can care devotedly for the supplies and pray for those who are in battle. At the end of the day, whether we have been wielding a sword or tending supplies, God will give us an equal reward. Although we office workers might not be baptizing new members or preaching evangelistic series, God views our humble, devoted efforts as worthy of the same recompense!
Finding Meaning in the Mundane
When I look out my office window, the sight of a massive city full of lost individuals drives a restless wedge of pain into my ribcage. When I see the girl 6 or 7 years old begging at the traffic intersection; when I meet the hauntingly beautiful Muslim woman with a purple bruise under her eye; when I observe the Syrian refugees, the young men already showing dramatic streaks of gray hair—I can only pray for more workers on our front line. As for me, I would like to know that my life makes a difference here—for someone, anyone. I am energized to know that what I do in the office, no matter how mundane it may be, plays a small part in supporting the other “400” who are called to be on the front line.
Thus it is recorded that “the work of many may appear to be restricted by circumstances; but, wherever it is, if performed with faith and diligence it will be felt to the uttermost parts of the earth. Christ’s work when upon earth appeared to be confined to a narrow field, but multitudes from all lands heard His message. God often uses the simplest means to accomplish the greatest results.”2
Whether we are waiting by the brook Besor or are in the heat of the battle, let us take courage that God counts our labor as valuable, and if we are faithful, our work will be felt to the uttermost parts of the earth.
1-Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1900), p. 398. 2-Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), p. 822.
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.
The Experience of Pain Lessons learned from life’s hard knocks "There are lessons God can teach us only in the center of the flames." By Maria Lombart It takes a special God to walk us past the pain.
Sometimes God allows us to go through painful experiences, not because He finds pleasure in our suffering, but because there are lessons He can teach us only in the center of the flames.
Painful Lessons I find I am closer to my Father when I’m hurting. I know instinctively that even though I cannot run to Him and physically feel His arms around me, I can pour out my heart to Him through tears, unheard words, even angry questionings, and He is a safe place for me (see Ps. 62:8). To be closer to my heavenly Father is something for which I constantly strive. And while I do not relish the experiences of sorrow, pain, and grief, I recognize that He uses these to help me to develop a closer companionship with Him than before.
Not Always What We Want God doesn’t promise that He will grant our wishes once we’ve endured the hardship. At times, we have difficult lessons to learn, which include not always having the outcome we might hope for. I tend to be someone who looks for the reward after the testing. I can be patient and deal with hard times as long as I know I’ll receive what I want after everything is all over. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Or, perhaps, fortunately. God knows our hearts. Sometimes our desires line up with His plans for us; sometimes they don’t. We may have to learn to live in a place of emptiness for a while until we’re ready to accept the far more beautiful gift that God has waiting for us. We must walk by faith, believing that God wants the very best for us, and not try to run ahead and attempt to create our own destiny based on our feeble efforts to understand ourselves.
Developing Empathy When I find myself facing pain, my instinctive reaction is to push it away until it has subsided. I am learning, however, that we should push through the pain, accepting it and holding it close instead of hiding from it. Personal pain and suffering can soften our hearts to the pain of others: a mother who has lost her child; a young woman who has lost her husband; a grandmother who has lost her spouse of 50 years. Or perhaps the pain isn’t caused by the death of a family member. Perhaps instead it comes from the loss of a beloved pet, a culture, an identity, a job, a dream, a home, a love. Each of these losses creates pain that is unique in its experience. So while we can empathize with someone who has felt loss, we cannot truly walk with them emotionally unless we too have experienced the pain to the degree they have. Not long ago a mother I know lost her daughter to death. I put my arms around her, said I was sorry, and expressed words of regret and comfort. I have suffered my own losses to death; some of the people were very dear to me. Yet I knew I could not feel one iota of the anguish this mother feels every time she imagines living without her daughter, every time she wonders whether she could have prevented her death from happening, every time she reaches out to connect and then realizes her daughter is no longer there. Only another mother who also has lost her child can truly identify with the pain she feels.
Pain as a Gift? I don’t believe that pain is a gift in itself. But I do believe that God turns pain into a gift when we use our understanding born through suffering to comfort another person in their despair. My own experiences in suffering are preparing me for something I don’t yet know. Everyone carries sorrow in their lives and is searching for understanding and comfort in the midst of pain. So I’m learning that pain turns my quick ability to judge into sympathy and concern. On the other side of pain we can experience joy, peace, strength, and healing. As I look back on my own life, I realize that I have found myself to be a stronger person after trials of suffering. It may not have been perceptible growth, but each time my heart was glued back together with time, understanding, and comfort it became just a little stronger. The experiences weren’t easy, but we can either fall apart from the pain or hold on to God for strength. We make the choice.
Jesus the Pain Bearer Jesus experienced the worst kind of pain imaginable when He went to the cross. The physical pain was immense, but humans, too, have been exposed to that kind of torture. The pain that tore at His heart was that of complete separation from the One He loved the most: His heavenly Father. God the Father had to remove His presence, His beams of light, one by one, in order to fulfill the demands of the law that He had established even before the creation of the world.* But praise God, Jesus was the victor over sin. He now identifies with us in our sorrows in a way that we can understand, because He has experienced our pain to an even greater degree than we ever will. Pain and suffering are experiences foreign to our original natures. We were created for joy, peace, and wholeness. We were created to be in close communion with God and with one another. Pain steals those beautiful experiences and replaces them with brokenness. Because of His amazing grace, our heavenly Father, who foresaw the hurt we would have to go through, offered us His dearest One so we could have the hope of one day seeing pain forever eradicated. God has promised to wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). And as He wipes away those tears, I believe He will also wipe away the memories of the pain, replacing them with unutterable love, for we will no longer need the experience of pain. n
Maria Lombart grew up in the mission field in West Africa, Egypt, and Lebanon. She now works in the mission field of North America.
What is mission? Noah Webster’s dictionary defines the word “mission” as “being sent or delegated by authority, with certain powers for transacting business; commission; as sent on a foreign mission.”
The Head, the Heart, and the Hands
By Youssry Guirguis
What is mission? Noah Webster’s dictionary defines the word “mission” as “being sent or delegated by authority, with certain powers for transacting business; commission; as sent on a foreign mission.”1 The Latin Christian theological term missio Dei2 gives us the source of mission. It indicates that mission begins with God, who sends out missionaries. Referring to the sphere of mission. Stefan Paas says, “We must not limit ‘mission’ to countries far away.”3 In other words, “mission should not be defined by an address or geographical location.”4
In order for any missionary to be successful in the mission field, the “total person”—the head, the heart, and the hands—must be involved. We must be fully committed to God, serving others, and sharing the gospel message in order to change lives, including our own.
Mission begins in the head, where the brain, our cognizance, is located and our thinking takes place. To become believers, we must accept Jesus in our mind.5 The apostle Paul says: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). The word “understanding” is the Greek nous, which means “mind.” This word refers to the ability to think, to reason, to understand, and to comprehend. It also depicts the mind as the source of all emotions. In Greek, the word “mind” represents the inner power of a person. It’s the central control center for a human being.6 Therefore, it was understood that the condition of the mind was what determined the condition of one’s life. Commenting on the significance of the mind, Ellen G. White wrote: “When the mind of man is brought into communion with the mind of God, the finite with the Infinite, the effect on body and mind and soul is beyond estimate. In such communion is found the highest education. It is God’s own method of development.”7 This simply means that a positive attitude toward God will affect and influence our thoughts, our feelings, and the way we behave or do things.
The heart is the “bed,” or center, for the emotions. It is where we feel and anticipate what we believe, and where the Word of God begins its faith work. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Faith isn’t just a mechanical application of truth; it also affects how we feel. A missionary must have a passion for mission. Siegfried H. Horn defines “passion” as “a strong emotion or desire.”8 The Cassell Concise English Dictionary comes with a similar view: that passion is an “intense emotion overpowering affection of the mind” and entails “ardent enthusiasm.”9 Thus, passion is an “intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction.”10
It’s important to remember, however, that although faith will affect how a person feels, how we feel should not affect our faith. There is a difference.
When the apostle Peter wrote to wives in 1 Peter 3:4, he instructed them to give special attention to the “hidden person of the heart.” The word “heart” is the Greek word kardia. Although Peter is not referring to the actual organ, the physical heart is a vital as well as central organ of the body. Although the heart is invisible to the natural eye, the human body cannot live without it. It has a great impact on every single part of the human body as it pumps blood through arteries and many miles of blood vessels. It therefore influences the person’s ability to live and function. Peter gives the reader a powerful insight into the human spirit.
Similarly, ancient Egyptians believed that “every divine word has come into existence through the heart’s thought and tongue’s command.”11 Peter—as did the ancient Egyptians—used the word “heart” figuratively to refer to the inner person, the seat of feelings that drive our actions. In other words, if a person’s heart is filled with the life of God, it will pump life into every part of that person’s being. Therefore, whatever is in the heart will be reproduced in a person’s life and conduct, and will influence the way we relate to others.
The human spirit is the life force of any person. As Ellen White observed: “Everyone in whose heart Christ abides, everyone who will show forth His love to the world, is a worker together with God for the blessing of humanity. As he receives from the Savior grace to impart to others, from his whole being flows forth the tide of spiritual life.”12
Christ tells us that “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19). These things destroy our mission and unity.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is mission-oriented. So it’s no wonder that Ellen White called the church’s attention to unity and not division. She admonished the church to “strive earnestly for unity. Pray for it, work for it. It will bring spiritual health, elevation of thought, nobility of character, heavenly-mindedness, enabling you to overcome selfishness and evil surmisings, and to be more than conquerors through Him that loved you and gave Himself for you.13
Russell Brownsworth tells the story of Lord Nelson of England when he was about to enter an important battle. Lord Nelson heard that two of his officers were at odds with each other, so he called them in and said, “Gentlemen, give me your hands.” The two captains put their hands into the commander’s hands, and the commander squeezed them with a tight grip. “Men,” he said, “remember, the enemy is out there!”
This is a great story about the power of unity in action.
To have unity in action when involved in mission, we must follow Christ and proclaim Him to the whole world. We need to be deeply rooted in God’s Word and spend much time in prayer. In this way we will become a “sermon in shoes” and lead lost souls to Jesus (see Matt. 28:19).
The hands symbolize action. We work, talk, and minister with our hands. We even fight with our hands. We use our hands to sign contracts, to adjust a microscope, or to play a musical instrument. Hands can show joy or disgust. So when head and heart are in tune with God regarding missions, then hands will be in tune as well.
We are not to be idle. We need to be active in community service and helping others. We should not wait for all conditions to be “right” in order for us to become involved in service. American publisher and author William A. Feather explained it well when he said: “Conditions are never just right. People who delay action until all facts are favourable do nothing.”14
Ellen White also emphasized the importance of labor: “In our labor we are to be workers together with God. He gives us the earth and its treasures; but we must adapt them to our use and comfort. He causes the trees to grow; but we prepare the timber and build the house. He has hidden in the earth the gold and silver, the iron and coal; but it is only through toil that we can obtain them. . . . No man or woman is degraded by honest toil. That which degrades is idleness and selfish dependence.”15
Keep All in Balance
We must embrace a balanced understanding of mission, one that involves the total person: head, heart, and hands. When we truly learn God’s will about mission, we will long to be involved. The roles people play in mission vary from individual to individual, but all of us must have hearts totally committed to God and a willingness to serve where needed. “Let the one who would worship God open his mouth in praise, his heart in receptivity, his mind in contemplation, his purse in dedication, and his hand in fellowship.”16
In the end, it’s all about love, which reveals itself in sacrificial action. It means giving of ourselves to help others and share with them the gospel message. It may cost us in many ways to love like this, but the benefits will be eternal.17 n
1)Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), s.v. “mission.” 2) “mission of God” or the “sending of God” 3)Stefan Paas, “Prepared for a Missionary Ministry in 21st Century Europe,” European Journal of Theology 20, no. 2 (2011): 119-130. 4)Ibid. 5)A few thoughts and the title are taken from the sermon “The Head, the Heart, and the Hands,” by W. Alderman. 6)Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems From the Greek: 365 Greek Word Studies for Every Day of the Year to Sharpen Your Understating of God’s Word (Tulsa, Okla.: Rick Renner, 2003), p. 751. 7?Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 126. 8)Siegfried H. Horn, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, rev. ed. (1979), s.v. “passion.” 9)The Cassell Concise English Dictionary (1989), s.v. “passion.” 10)Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (2003), s.v. “passion.” 11In)MindReach Library, www.cosmic-mindreach.com/Egypt_Part1.html, accessed Jan. 27, 2014. 12)E. G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 13. 13)Ellen G. White, Counsels for the Church (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1991), p. 290. 14)www.worldofquotes.com/author/William+Feather/1/index.html. 15)Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1903), pp. 214, 215. 16)Attributed to Keith Huttenlocker. See www.churchesofchrist.net/authors/Grady_Scott/thingsbeforeworship.htm. 17)I am greatly indebted to Canaan Mkombe (senior lecturer at Solusi University) for proofreading this article and adding insights to it.
Youssry Guirguis holds a master’s degree in religion from Solusi University. He is pursuing a doctorate degree in biblical studies at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines.
Seventh-day Adventists in Iceland are making discipleship a priority.
KIDS IN DISCIPLESHIP: Children, parents, and grandparents have intergenerational fun during a “Kids in Discipleship” program. In 2006 the Iceland Conference created a new and separate department for discipleship. “We live in a world of crumbling spirituality and collapsing morals, a development that unfortunately infiltrates the church more than we would like to admit,” says conference president Eric Gudmundsson. “A concerted effort in resisting this development by promoting spiritual revival and Christlikeness among members—young and old—is thus of utmost urgency. Thus, the creation of this department.”
Our Model The Iceland Conference is building its discipleship model around spiritual formation, a term that identifies the focus of discipleship—the practical and spiritual re-forming of broken human hearts back into the image of Jesus.
In Romans 8, Paul explains the significance of spiritual formation. First, he identifies spiritual formation as fundamental to God’s plans, for we have been “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (vs. 29).*
Second, Paul identifies the magnificent consequences of spiritual formation; that we “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Third, Paul identifies his own passion for this work, being “again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).
While spiritual formation explains the “what” of discipleship, the parable of the vine in John 15:1-17 shows us “how.” Jesus tells His disciples they will become fruitful only once they have learned how to “remain” in Him.
Why Spiritual Formation Is Important to Adventists Being spiritually re-formed by allowing the nature of the Vine to flow into us is not only foundational to Christian life but also is at the heart of the church’s prophetic calling. Let me explain.
1. Spiritual formation calls for us to live an attractive Christian counterculture.
Throughout history people such as Noah, Elijah, and John the Baptist have called people to stop compromising with a culture antagonistic to God and to live the morals, values, and principles of the kingdom of Christ.
The Beginnings of Adventism in Iceland
By Gavin Anthony
In 1897 the Denmark Conference sent David Oestlund as the first Adventist missionary to Iceland, an island located between the Greenland Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean with an area of about 103,000 square kilometers (39,758 square miles). On the voyage from Copenhagen, religious discussions began. As the debate intensified, an Icelander walked forward and began supporting Oestlund as he argued for the seventh-day Sabbath and baptism. Oestlund asked the man afterward if he was a Seventh-day Adventist.
“Yes … it so happens that we read The Great Controversy and began to keep the Lord’s Sabbath holy without having seen or talked to any Adventists…. [When] we saw … that a missionary would be sent [to Iceland], and since we thought it would be hard for him to work alone, we decided last spring to sell our small farm in America to travel across and help him.”*
From this working of God’s providence, the work in Iceland moved forward. Today, out of Iceland’s population of just 300,000, approximately 575 Adventist members worship there and have established one church school.
*Björgvin Snorrason, “Pastor David Oestlund and the Beginning of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Iceland.”
The final call to “come out” from a culture that is decadent and perverse under the power of the latter rain comes in Revelation 18:4. While focusing on important doctrinal issues, because this call is built on earlier calls, it assumes a call to “come into”—into a community in which God’s character is being reflected in real life. In Western Europe today we live inside a post-Christian culture in which people are hurting without God. So to foster a counterculture in which people are being authentically re-formed into the image of Christ is both evangelistically compelling and a fulfillment of our special commission.
2. Spiritual formation provides the inspiration for intergenerational, community-based revival.
Spiritual formation isn’t intended to be done alone. Because of the fracturing of our society, however, it often is. That’s why Paul emphasizes that it is in the community of the body we “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
Because our culture aches for wholeness, restoring the spiritual community of the family addresses a desperate need. Spiritual formation within the family enables it to become a beacon of spiritual integrity that prepares the final way for our Lord.
3. Spiritual formation is of national significance.
Our Adventist combination of theology, morality, and ethics has always been unique, but with the falling apart of our culture’s moral fabric, it increasingly appears to be so. So who will call the people in the remote villages and fjords of Iceland to live inside God’s kingdom as God has defined it?
Within a few years of arriving, Oestlund (see sidebar) was producing a church paper that for a time had the widest circulation of any paper in Iceland. In the same spirit, we are developing new possibilities for every Icelander—wherever they live and no matter what age—to become part of spiritual formation communities.
Our mission demands that we be accountable, not just to our churches but to our nation.
The Evangelistic Result Building spiritual formation communities is ultimately about intentionally reaching out to our neighbors with an invitation to experience a quality of life that can be found nowhere else. We want to have an impact on the quality of life within our churches, but our ultimate goal is to be a light within our nation. We are working on plans to provide online teaching and create virtual discipleship communities for people in far-flung areas. We are also working to personally reach every home in Iceland with a discipleship magazine and DVD that will help us begin to build contact in areas where no Adventist members currently live. Indeed, with a curriculum written specifically for Iceland, we are already seeing indications of interest in our material from other Christian denominations as well.
Honoring God Ellen G. White summarizes our vision: “The greatest work that can be done in our world is to glorify God by living the character of Christ” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 439). As we continue the greatest journey human beings can take—of being “conformed to the likeness of his Son”—God is honored, as in no other way.
Living Our Dreams Being Adventist has its challenges, but also its rewards.
e are living a miracle. Prior to moving to Canada, my wife, Cindy, and I were not Seventh-day Adventists. We didn’t move to Canada because we were looking for the “better land.” As a matter of fact we had it fairly good in Jamaica, if all that mattered was having material things. At one point we owned five cars, which we leased for part-time income. We made a lot of money, but that’s another story.
One Thing and Another When we first arrived in Canada, Winston Bradshaw, Cindy’s brother, invited us to services at the Perth Avenue Seventh-day Adventist Church. Since I knew absolutely nothing about Seventh-day Adventists, it shocked me to go to church on Saturday. But since I was meeting Winston for the first time, I thought it best to be friendly and try to make a good first impression.
On our first visit to the church Pastor Earl Parchment, Sr., invited us home for lunch. That led to Bible studies, and that, eventually, led to baptism.
Top: TOGETHER: Under God, Cindy and Carl have built up an enterprise that serves not only the general community but also many Adventist leaders in the Toronto metropolitan area, in their national and international travels. Bottom: WHERE IT’S AT: Bayview travel is a well-known landmark in the Toronto area. On a typical day Cindy and her daughter, Tanya (inset), have no time to lose as they arrange the itineraries of people traveling all over the world.
At the time I was working with an investment company. But I didn’t really care for selling mutual funds, life insurance, etc. Cindy wanted a job related to the travel industry, but not something that would require her to be away from home for extended periods, such as that of an airline flight attendant.
We looked in the telephone Yellow Pages for travel agencies, without knowing much about the business. In the West Indies most people don’t use travel agencies.
Cindy got an appointment to interview as the result of the first call she made. She interviewed and got the job at Bayview Travel Agency.
Soon afterward I left my job, looking for something else besides sales. While I was looking for a new job we were baptized. About the same time the owner of Cindy’s travel agency decided to open on Sabbaths.
I’ll never forget the night Cindy came home and told me about his decision. She asked what she should do. We had a young baby, and Cindy was our sole source of financial support. After talking and praying about it, we decided she would not work on Sabbaths. The next day she went to work and told her boss of her decision.
He said that since she was his best worker, he would allow her—and her alone—to have Saturdays off, if she worked Friday evenings. That evening we had more prayer and more discussion.
The next day Cindy thanked her boss for his offer, but she told him that we celebrate the Lord’s Sabbath from sunset to sunset, and she could not work Friday evenings.
He gave her Sabbaths off and didn’t require her to work Friday evenings. She was the only one in the office with that arrangement.
And Another Cindy’s boss was getting older. One day he announced his plans to sell the business. His announcement created a lot of uncertainty in our minds. In private Cindy and I discussed how we’d like to buy the business, but we didn’t have the kind of money we needed. When we mentioned it to him, Cindy’s boss said he appreciated her hard work and dedication over the years, and he worked out terms that made it possible for us to buy the business. We acquired the business, convinced that it was God’s gift to us.
The first thing we did was close the office on Sabbaths. The man who sold us the business said it wouldn’t work. But now, more than 21 years later, we can look back and see that we have always shown a profit. Granted, we aren’t millionaires, but every time the industry takes a downturn, and we begin to worry about our future, God reminds us that He’s in control.
The travel industry has changed vastly since Cindy first began working in it. Airlines no longer pay commissions to travel agents. The Internet and Web-based travel companies have brought significant challenges to traditional travel agencies. But still God smiles on us, and we ignore the gloom and doom reflected in our trade magazines. We know who is in control.
Acting on our faith in God is what life is all about. We are children of the only true God. We feel undeniably blessed. He’s allowed us to travel the world, provided us with all the material things we need, given us health, and provided us with a worldwide church family. With His great and precious promises for even better things, how can we not love Him?