Imagine sailing across the Mediterranean Sea. No matter which direction you look, you’re surrounded by countries that comprise the Euro-Africa Division. The southern shore cradles the northern tip of Africa; to the north and west lie the heart of Europe; to the east stretch Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iran.
Like the lofty Alps chiseled across its landscape, the Euro-Africa Division is huge. It spans 27 countries, each with its own mix of languages, religions, and cultures. The challenges to mission are huge, as well. More than 590 million people live in this region of the world. Yet millions have never had the opportunity to learn about Jesus.
The Seventh-day Adventist work officially started in Europe in 1874, when believers in Switzerland asked the church in North America to send a missionary. John Nevins Andrews was the logical choice. He was not only a minister and evangelist but one of the leading Adventist scholars of his day.
The 45-year-old former General Conference president possessed a seemingly tireless work ethic. “I know of but one way,” wrote Andrews. “Find a field of labor, ask God to help, take off your coat, and pitch into the work.” Andrews’ son and daughter, Charles and Mary, worked alongside their father, translating, editing, and setting type for a French version of Signs of the Times. The effects of their service rippled around the world. The magazine gave birth to Adventist congregations on three continents. Thousands of missionaries, inspired by their dedication, followed in their footsteps.
TELL ME MORE: Most of the students at Portugal’s Madeira Adventist Primary School do not come from Adventist homes. So they often share with their families what they learn in school about Jesus.Today there are nearly 176,000 members in the Euro-Africa Division, a ratio of about one Adventist for every 3,400 people. Church growth is steady, but slow. Many challenges to mission remain in this diverse territory. Post-Communist-bloc countries that once embraced the gospel are quickly becoming secular. In some non-Christian nations sharing the gospel can be difficult, even dangerous. In wealthy countries people often feel no need of God.
“We have a very secularized society, and this affects society and the church also,” says Mario Brito, director of Global Mission for the Euro-Africa Division. “It’s not easy to reach people who think they don’t need God, don’t need religion. We must find strategies to get around all the biases and prejudices people have.”
Nestled between France, Germany, and the Netherlands, Belgium is one of the most industrialized nations on earth. But the Belgian-Luxembourg Conference has fewer than 2,000 members, a ratio of only one Adventist for every 5,700 people, making it an unlikely mission field.
Few people are apparently interested in religion. But there is one group among which the church is growing rapidly: thousands of immigrants have moved to Brussels seeking a better life. The Adventist Church has planted congregations among several language groups.
One person whose life has been touched by these church plants is Gilmara Aragoa. A friend invited Gilmara’s husband to the Portuguese-language church plant. He became a member and asked Gilmara to join him. She told him that she supported his decision but promised nothing. Gilmara had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists. But when she visited the church, she was impressed with their dependence on Scripture and their unconditional love. In time Gilmara gave her heart to Jesus.
“It was a wonderful transformation, especially with my family,” says Gilmara. “Before we were a family, but we weren’t complete. Now we are a real family, like we’re supposed to be. We love each other. It made an amazing difference in our lives.”
These multilanguage church plants are growing quickly. But many groups can’t afford to buy or rent a church of their own. They meet with other congregations, sharing limited space. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help provide church homes for at least two foreign-language congregations in Brussels.
Breaking Down Barriers
Bulgaria is a republic in southeastern Europe located between Greece, Romania, and the Black Sea.
The Advent message was first introduced to Bulgaria in the 1890s by German Adventists. The church remained strong throughout Communist rule, and in 1990 it was officially recognized by the government. Today the church grows faster in Bulgaria than in many other European nations. With 7,600 members, one person out of every 1,000 is a Seventh-day Adventist.
One group in which the church is growing rapidly is among the Romani people. Russin Russinov is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who works among the Romanies of Kyustendil. A Romani himself, Russinov visits people in their homes to share a meal, pray, or study the Bible with them. Some of the people he ministers to are from rival clans. Recently the family of one clan invited him to visit them in their home.
“They said, ‘For years we have been fighting each other,’” remembers Russinov. “‘But we would like our children to live in peace. We couldn’t do it ourselves. Do you think the Lord can intervene?’”
Russinov prayed with the family and asked the Holy Spirit to change their hearts. He also prayed with members of the opposing clan. For the first time in years, these people experienced God’s peace. Many have given their hearts to Jesus.
Romani congregations are springing up across Bulgaria. But most have no place of their own where they can worship. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build a church for Romani believers who now meet in a run-down café. They soon hope to have a simple church building, where they can invite their friends and neighbors to worship.
For the Children
To the west of Spain lies the sun-drenched country of Portugal, home to more than 10 million people. Although Portugal has modern cities, most of its population lives in small towns and villages.
Adventist work started in Portugal in 1904, and today there are more than 9,300 members, a ratio of about one Adventist for every 1,100 people.
Madeira is the largest of a small group of islands that lies about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) southwest of Lisbon. Only about 300 active members live on the island, yet the church is making a positive impact through its primary school. Ninety percent of the children who attend Madeira Adventist Primary School know little about God, making it a true mission school.
Naterica Ferreira is a teacher who has seen firsthand the important role the school plays in sharing the gospel with its community. “When we read the Bible, when we pray, when we tell the children what Jesus did when He was here, they go home and tell their families what they learned,” says Ferreira. “Then the families come and ask questions about what we’re teaching them.”
The Madeira Adventist Primary School is known for its strong academic program and keeps a long list of students waiting to attend. But to accommodate these children, the school must upgrade its facilities to meet government standards. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help renovate the school so that it can continue to be a shining light for God.
Mission faces huge challenges in the Euro-Africa Division. But God is bigger than any obstacle. Your prayers and generous support of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering can make an eternal difference. Please give generously. For more about the challenges and opportunities to Adventist mission, visitwww.AdventistMission.org.
Laurie Falvo is communication projects manager for the Office of Adventist Mission at the Seventh-day Adventist Church world headquarters in Maryland, U.S.A.
Where the territory is vast and the challenge is daunting
By Laurie Falvo
The Euro-Asia Division is geographically the largest Seventh-day Adventist territory in the world. It stretches across nearly half the globe, from eastern Europe to the Pacific Ocean, and from above the Arctic Circle to central Asia. If you were to travel the width of this division, you’d have to adjust your watch for 11 different time zones!
Euro-Asia consists of 12 countries, including the predominantly Christian nations of Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine; and the predominantly Muslim nations of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
Each of these countries is highly diverse, with its own mix of ethnic groups, religions, and languages. But they share a common past: they were all once part of the former Soviet Union.
The rise of Communism in 1917 led to a loss of religious freedom in this region. By 1929 many Seventh-day Adventist churches had been confiscated or closed. Adventist publications were banned and religious meetings in private homes were strictly forbidden.
Hundreds of Seventh-day Adventists were arrested, imprisoned, or sent to labor camps for sharing their faith. Some even lost their lives. By 1938 no congregational worship services existed anywhere in Russia. Yet church members remained faithful to God.
When Communism fell in 1991, Soviet citizens experienced many new freedoms. Thousands were hungry for God, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church grew rapidly. But this surge in religious interest soon waned as people began to adopt the secular lifestyle of the West.
Today the church continues to grow, but progress is slow. Of the 280 million people in the Euro-Asia Division, fewer than 140,000 are Seventh-day Adventists.
Because religion was largely forbidden during Soviet times, many Christian believers are nominal followers of their faiths. Few read the Bible. Atheism and agnosticism are strong. Political chaos, inflation, and unemployment have left millions disillusioned and indifferent to religion. Yet many search for something spiritual that won’t let them down.
Adventists in the Euro-Asia Division are reaching out to these seekers with something special. Through evangelism and one-on-one outreach they are touching hearts for Jesus.
Covered with virgin forests and waving grasslands, Siberia is the vast empty part of Russia to the east of the Ural Mountains. Life can be harsh there, with bitterly cold winters. But Adventist churches are drawing people into the warmth of God’s love.
Krasnoyarsk is a city of about 1 million people with only five Adventist congregations. One of these meets in a simple house church.
Olesia was looking for a way to share Jesus with her friends and neighbors and felt impressed to start a small group Bible study. She invited Margeurita, who has been attending now for a year and a half.
“This is my family,” says Margeurita. “They are the closest people to me…. [Because of them] I know Jesus loves me and is always with me.”
Today Margeurita is a Seventh-day Adventist and is sharing her faith with others.
Evangelistic meetings and small groups such as the one Olesia helped start are winning hearts to Jesus. But as membership grows, there are no permanent church homes for new members to join.
Guillermo Biaggi, president of the Euro-Asia Division, underscores the lack of church buildings: “Our greatest challenge is to have more chapels here in this great division territory, so that church members and their guests can worship the true God and be prepared for heaven.”
The believers in Krasnoyarsk have purchased land and have laid plans to build a church.
Another area in Siberia where small groups and evangelism are helping to grow the church is Tomsk, a university city with a population of about 500,000. But only one house church, hidden away on a back street, represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church there. Some 180 Adventists live and worship in Tomsk. While the little house church seats only about 90 people, many more often squeeze in. There simply isn’t any room for new members!
Alexander is now a local elder at the house church in Tomsk. But a few years ago he planned to stir up trouble for the congregation in Tomsk. Convinced it was a sect, he went to the church determined to “rescue” a relative. But things didn’t turn out as he planned.
“I came as an enemy to this place; I came to create a war between me and the church,” says Alexander. “But I decided I had to follow this lifestyle, because God showed me through those brothers and sisters His love, His smiles. I was just amazed by those relationships I developed.”
The Adventists in Tomsk have purchased land and are working toward building a new church large enough to accommodate two congregations. “We really need a new, nice building for worship that will become a witness in this city so others can join with us,” said Alexander.
The Republic of Azerbaijan lies along the Caspian Sea south of Russia. Some 8 million people live in this country, but fewer than 5 percent are Christians, and only about 700 are Adventists. The Adventists worship in small groups and a few scattered churches across the country.
Sharing one’s faith in Azerbaijan is difficult. Religious freedom is restricted, and those who belong to minority religions, or change their faith, are often persecuted.
In one city about 300 Adventist believers have purchased a building they hope to turn into a center to help people in their community. Currently they operate the Good News Café and hold training seminars for members. Future plans include an English-language school and a small clinic where they can present the health message. They hope soon to have a second Adventist congregation meeting in their city.
Something for Children
The countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia make up one region of the Adventist Church called the Trans-Caucasus Union Mission. More than 16 million people live in these three countries, but only 2,000 of them are Adventists. Entire villages have no Adventist believers.
The children in these countries don’t have access to Sabbath school materials in their own language. “It is very important to have materials for children, because new generations are forming right now,” says Sergo Namoradze, pastor of the Adventist church in Tbilisi, Georgia. “I belong to the generation that in the Soviet Union had nothing religious to read. If I had, maybe I would’ve been converted earlier. This new generation has to have these materials about the Bible and Jesus, as many materials as possible.”
The church in Euro-Asia faces many challenges to mission. But one-on-one sharing and evangelism are winning hearts to Jesus. Thousands are coming to Him and are eager to share their faith. But they need church homes in which to worship, and Sabbath school materials suited to their languages and comprehension levels. We can help provide these resources so that more and more people can know of Jesus’ love.
Your prayers and generous support of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering can make an eternal difference in the Euro-Asia Division. Please give generously. For more information about the challenges of reaching others for Christ, visit www.AdventistMission.org.
Laurie Falvo is communications project manager for the Office of Adventist Mission.
Editor’s Note: In this article, we meet three diverse women from different parts of the globe. In spite of their differences, a common thread runs through all three stories—each has been touched by one powerful book: The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White. Read on to learn how you can become a part of this legacy.
Searching for Truth:
Wendy Luhabe—South Africa
“I’m a revolutionary person, in a quiet sort of way,” Wendy Luhabe, of Johannesburg, South Africa, once told a reporter. As one of South Africa’s most prominent businesswomen and social entrepreneurs, Luhabe has accomplished a lot. But it was the book The Great Controversy that changed her life forever.
Grateful: Wendy Luhabe, world-class entrepreneur and social activist, is grateful that she was given The Great Controversy.
Wendy Luhabe’s résumé is filled with high-powered positions and numerous international awards—she sits on the boards of seven major corporations and is a board member of the Johannesburg Securities Exchange. She is cofounder of the Women Investment Portfolio Holdings and was named one of the 50 Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World. In 2006 she was appointed the first female chancellor of the University of Johannesburg. She holds influential appointments across Europe, and has received a prestigious award from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and honors from Japan. She has authored a book, Defining Moments, whose profits, through the Wendy Luhabe Foundation, are utilized to educate young disadvantaged Black women.
A Life-changing Gift
Nothing seemed to slow down Luhabe, a superachiever, until she fractured her ankle in early 2010. While she was recovering at home, a friend shared with her a set of DVDs by Mark Woodman, a South African evangelist who introduced her to the concept of the great controversy. After she told her son Lumko and daughter-in-law Zanele about the amazing things she was learning, Zanele gave her the book The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White. Eagerly Wendy read the book and was so impressed that she visited the Adventist Book Center, where she purchased “the whole set of books” by Ellen White.
In addition, Wendy contacted Paul Ratsara, president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division. Ratsara offered to study the Bible with her, and six months later, on October 23, 2010, he had the privilege of baptizing Wendy Luhabe into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
“Having been an Anglican all my life, and searching for the past 10 years for a church that stands for truth, I feel blessed that my path was led to the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” says Wendy. “Ellen G. White’s books have been invaluable. When I read The Great Controversy, I understood for the first time the significance of what happened in the Garden of Eden, the crucifixion of Christ, the deception of my former religion, the fact that the world is characterized by either good or evil, and ultimately the controversy between sin and righteousness.
“I have given copies of this book to many people to read—including a bishop of my previous church. The Great Controversy was instrumental in my decision to convert from the Anglican Church, and led me to my baptism in October 2010.”
Looking for a Loving God:
Karen Banner—United States
Karen Banner longed to find a loving God—someone different from the harsh, judgmental, critical person she had been brought up to believe God was.
Growing up in a strong Roman Catholic home, Karen attended Catholic schools for all of her elementary and high school years. In spite of a religious education, Karen longed for something more. “Something inside of me was asking questions,” she remembers. “I had questions about God and faith, and those questions weren’t being answered.”
Questions Answered: When she read The Great Controversy, Karen Banner found answers to her many questions.After graduating, Karen continued her search—looking for answers in many places, including a Baptist church, but did not find the answers for which she was searching. Although Karen met and eventually married a Seventh-day Adventist and attended church with him, she “still had a lot of questions that for some reason weren’t answered.”
Then one day Karen, a special deputy for the United States Marshals Service, noticed a book on her supervisor’s desk as she checked in with him at the U.S. district courthouse in Washington, D.C. The supervisor, who was not a Seventh-day Adventist, had been reading a copy of The Great Controversy,by E. G. White. Recognizing the author’s name, she asked to borrow the book when her supervisor was finished reading it.
Once Karen was given the book, she couldn’t put it down. All the questions that had tormented her for years—Are things always going to be like this? Was God actually the Creator? Was Jesus really coming again?—were being answered as she pored over The Great Controversy.
“The harsh, judgmental God I grew up fearing was not the God I read about in The Great Controversy,” says Karen. “I realized for the first time what God went through for us—that He truly loves us …” Her voice breaks up as tears run down her cheeks. “Through it all, it was God leading me, and looking back on it now, I am grateful that I can verbalize it.”
Karen was soon baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church and now works as lead security officer at the world headquarters of the Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.
Taking the Risk:
It was a regular ritual in the home of Leah Polischuk—cover all windows, close all doors, go into a small wooden wardrobe, and type under a blanket to muffle the sounds of the old manual typewriter. Every day Leah risked her life so that other believers in the Soviet Union could read contraband religious material, including The Great Controversy.
“We never thought of it as a risk,” Leah said years later. “The need was great; we did it because we knew that it needed to be done.”
Leah was part of a large underground network of Adventists producing the illegal samizdat (self-published) books during the Communist era. More than 30 women served as typists in this secret network that included many more women and men as translators, book binders, and distributors. In addition to producing hand-typed (sometimes handwritten) copies of The Great Controversyand other books by Ellen White, the network also translated Sabbath school lessons and a variety of important religious materials.
Top to bottom: Samizdat Book: One of the many hand-typed Ellen White books secretly produced in the U.S.S.R. during the Soviet regime. SECRET WORK: Keyboard of a Russian typewriter used to produce hundreds of illegal copies ofThe Great Controversy and other books by Ellen White.Because all new typewriters in the U.S.S.R. had to be registered and were monitored by the KGB secret police, the Adventist network obtained old, broken pieces of equipment and repaired them for use in producing the precious books.
Vital Spiritual Food
“The Great Controversy was more important to us than bread,” said Nikolai Zhukaluk, coordinator of the samizdat books in the Ukraine, “because it was spiritual bread.”
Both Leah Polischuk and Pastor Zhukaluk paid a price in prison for feeding people this spiritual food. While serving time in her tiny prison cell, 25-year-old Leah consoled herself by relying on God and His promises. “In those days [during the Communist era] we used to memorize a lot of Scripture,” said Leah, “and I remembered many of the promises I had memorized.”
Undeterred by her time in prison, Leah, once released, returned to her risky work of providing The Great Controversy and other precious books to those longing for truth. Through her and others who also took the risk, thousands of copies were distributed throughout the former Soviet Union.
Time to Take the Risk:
Church Members Everywhere
Today Seventh-day Adventists around the world are invited to take the risk of sharing this timely and important book with their friends, neighbors, coworkers—even strangers.
“Don’t be timid and afraid of what people might think and say if we give them a copy of The Great Controversy,” says Ted N. C. Wilson, General Conference (GC) president. “Step out and trust God. Be expectant that He will cause the recipient to read the truth-filled material and be transformed.”
Many people are struggling to make sense of the fast-moving events taking place around them, and The Great Controversy provides solid answers to life’s most pressing questions regarding human history and the future of our planet. Recognizing this, Ellen White appealed to Seventh-day Adventists to circulate this volume widely, because “in The Great Controversy, the last message of warning to the world is given more distinctly than in any of my other books” (Colporteur Ministry, p. 127).
Still Pertinent Today?
Is this counsel still pertinent today? Based on such experiences as those of Wendy Luhabe in South Africa, Karen Banner in the United States, and Leah Polischuk in the Ukraine, church leaders feel the answer is an indisputable yes.
The Great Controversy Project at a Glance
♦ 2011—Each church member reads or rereads The Great Controversy.
♦ 2012–2013—Every church member, congregation, department, and other church entities distribute as many copies of the book as possible.
♦Go to www.thegreathope.org for more details.To encourage members throughout the church’s 13 world divisions to distribute this book to others in their communities, the world church Executive Committee voted an initiative called The Great Controversy Project, which entails mass distribution of Ellen White’s book throughout 2012 and 2013.
In addition, church members are invited to prepare for this distribution by reading the book themselves during 2011.
“The Great Controversy has the answers to the world’s questions in these last days,” says Delbert W. Baker, a GC general vice president and director of the project. “I encourage members to read or reread the book this year, and then join the world church family in buying multiple copies and making the volume available to family, friends, and strangers.”
Copies of The Great Controversy are being prepared for sale at discount prices so that members can more easily purchase multiple copies. Classic, abridged, modern language, and young people’s versions will be available.
“We want to get as many copies out as possible,” Wilson says, “but this project is about the Holy Spirit’s goals, not ours. So let’s be led by the Holy Spirit and move out in faith.”
Gina Wahlen is an interim assistant editor at the Adventist World and Adventist Review magazines.
What do Adventists have to share with nearly a billion of the world’s Buddhists?
By Stephen Chavez
It’s one thing to compare scripture with scripture when you’re having a conversation with someone who sees the Bible as authoritative. But what is your approach when the person with whom you’re having a conversation about spiritual things doesn’t see the Bible as inspired?
That’s the challenge faced by Scott Griswold, director of the church’s Global Mission Buddhist Study Center in Thailand. And while Griswold and others connected with the center work primarily in countries in Southeast Asia, where Buddhism is the primary religious philosophy (Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, etc.), Buddhism is increasingly being practiced in Western societies as well.
Embracing the Challenge
The Buddhist Study Center is a direct outgrowth of the Global Mission initiative that was launched at the 1990 General Conference session. Delegates to that session, recognizing the necessity of taking the gospel of Christ to parts of the world where people don’t have a Christian worldview, issued a mandate that created five religious study centers to find ways to interact with those who are believers in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and secular/postmodernism.
PASS IT ON: Teaching others how to repair a pipe is an oportunity to model the importance of mentoring.Scott Griswold, with his wife, Julie, has been director of the Buddhist Study Center since 2002. They live about 90 minutes north of Bangkok, in Ayutthaya, Thailand. “We wanted to be right among the Buddhists, so we could live out what we’re telling people to do,” says Griswold.
Most Buddhists believe in karma, the law of reaping what you sow. Griswold points out that the Adventist concept of judgment focuses on a loving Judge who offers forgiveness and salvation from eternal death. “All that Buddhists are trying to be through many lifetimes of rebirth, Jesus is ready to give them through His mercy and grace,” says Griswold. “This is important, but our actual deeper connection to Buddhism is that we pre-sent a gospel that not only forgives but transforms the life. This is far more than the cheap gospel that many other Christians present, which teaches that people are saved no matter what they do. Our perspective of judgment is distinctly different in that we emphasize repentance and transformation.”
Quite a few conscientious Buddhists don’t eat meat, and refrain from drinking alcohol—again, principles familiar to Seventh-day Adventists around the world that provide another good connection. One of the most special connections that Griswold sees is the Sabbath.
“As we invite them to experience the Sabbath, they will be blessed by much-needed physical and emotional rest,” says Griswold. “Their family relationships will be enhanced by spending time together on that day. We can invite their families to join our families out in nature, enjoying the lessons God has placed there. Then we can gently introduce them to the Creator God.” The Sabbath connects Buddhists to concepts of peacefulness and a rejection of materialism.
Bridging the Gap
But how does one get close to a Buddhist in the first place?
Buddhists are not likely to attend traditional evangelistic meetings. They might attend church services at the invitation of a friend, but may find it so different from what they’re used to that they’re not likely to attend services regularly. According to research that Griswold has discovered, Buddhists respond primarily to two things: (1) caring family and friends, and (2) personal experiences with answers to prayer.
So it all boils down, he says, to embracing Christ’s method for reaching people as described by Ellen White: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with [them] as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow me’” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143).
Because reaching people in this way can’t be done en masse, Griswold recognized the need to multiply workers among Buddhists by careful disciple-making. The team at the Buddhist Study Center put together a program called disciple-multipliers initiative.
They invited several people from each of six countries in which Buddhism has a major influence. For three weeks they lived on the same property in guest rooms and guest houses—studying together, working together, fellowshipping together, and praying together. “We covered such things as ‘How do we become disciples of Jesus ourselves?’ ‘What’s the relevance of our message for Buddhists?’ ‘How do we reach out to Buddhists?’ A lot of it was an emphasis on dependence on the Holy Spirit and what that means.”
QUIET TIME: Scott Griswold, director of the Buddhist Study Center, takes a moment to reflect on the challenges and opportunities connected with reaching Buddhists for Christ.Learning to multiply was also a major component in their time together. And that, interestingly, came on one occasion with the help of a broken water pipe.
Griswold took one volunteer and showed him how to repair the pipe. Then he instructed the first volunteer to demonstrate pipe repair to the second volunteer, who demonstrated the process to the third volunteer. “We went through the process of the four generations passing something on, and the last person fixed the pipe.
“To me, that’s what we’re often missing in our church,” says Griswold. “We know how to teach, we know how to preach, we know how to train. But we don’t know how to disciple in a way that multiplies.”
Griswold hopes that the church leaders, pastors, and lay members who cycle through the training process will become better equipped to train others in reaching out to Buddhists. He looks for people who are Christ-centered and Holy Spirit-empowered—converted and consecrated disciples who are leaders of loving families. He wants servant leaders who can help meet felt, tangible needs, as well as those who can use stories and personal experiences to communicate Bible truths. Most important, he looks for mentors who can mobilize and train new workers.
Griswold points out that after more than 100 years in Thailand, the Seventh-day Adventist Church numbers only about 13,000 members in a population of 68 million. “We have solid educational and medical work,” he says. “But seeing significant numbers of people come to Christ from Buddhist backgrounds is still rare. It’s a huge mission field.” This is true in other Southeast Asian countries and is especially true of the millions of Buddhists in China, Japan, Korea, and beyond.
Griswold believes that God is about to change that. He is eager for Seventh-day Adventists around the world to help this happen by praying for Buddhists and learning how to reach them.
For more information about the Global Mission Buddhist Study Center, and to sign up for an e-newsletter, Prayers Among Buddhists, visit www.BridgesForMinistry.org.
Stephen Chavez is managing editor of Adventist World magazine.
Translator of the Word Translating the Bible into modern Russian is a fearsome yet rewarding responsibility
By Celeste Ryan Blyden
On the third floor of the Sligo Seventh-day Adventist Church office building in Takoma Park, Maryland, in a tiny white-walled attic with three windows, Mikhail Kulakov, Jr., is waxing poetic about merging the past with the future.
“The task of a translator could be compared to a musician transposing a piece written for violin and readying it for guitar,” he says. One end of his desk is completely covered with open books and Bibles, a lamp, a smattering of office supplies, an open laptop computer, and a black encased iPad 2. The professor of philosophy on a five-year leave from Washington Adventist University (WAU) rehearses the Russian translation of the Bible he hopes will be useful for public worship and personal devotional study.
“As we work on each phrase and passage, we read it aloud to see if it retains the melody and rhythm of the original,” he notes. “This morning I reviewed Jeremiah 51:15 in the King James Version.” He peers at the text and, with arms in full accompaniment, conducts an orchestra of words that stream forth melodiously. “‘He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heaven by his understanding,’” he reads in full crescendo.
The goal, he says, is to find the best words and idioms to render the meaning of the original Hebrew and match them with words typical for today’s Russian culture. “Scripture was written over a period of 1,000 years, and over that time language changed,” says Kulakov, who matriculated from Newbold College in England, the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Michigan, and the Oxford University’s Christ Church College, where he earned a Doctor of Philosophy in theology. “It’s important to keep the linguistic nuances in mind.”
GOD’S WORD IN RUSSIAN: From his office in Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S.A., Mikhail Kulakov, Jr., oversees a team that is translating the Bible into modern Russian.That’s why he and a dozen other translators, some of whom live eight time zones away in Russia, painstakingly research, write, review, and rewrite each text. “We go back and find the original Hebrew, study the definitions of each term, consult the Russian literature database to see how the best writers through the centuries used the verbiage in the most appropriate, fitting and closest context,” he shares. “We choose a variant, sleep on it, review it prayerfully and critically, and send it to philologists—specialists in language studies of syntax, style, and usage—who can tell us if it sounds like perfect, natural, good Russian that is the best equivalent for the original phrase.”
And so it goes—phrase by phrase, text by text, passage by passage, chapter by chapter, book by book, and year by year. The process has taken more than two decades, and so far the team has completed and published the Psalms and the New Testament (2002); the five books of Moses, known as the Pentateuch (2009); and Daniel and the 12 minor prophets (2011), all projects led by the fourteenth and founding member of the translation team, Kulakov’s father, role model, and namesake, the late Mikhail Petrovich Kulakov, Sr. Talking about his father’s death in 2010 and carrying on his dream to translate the Bible is a “fearsome responsibility” that his son finds moving and, at this moment, nearly overwhelming.
Strong Heritage According to Guillermo Biaggi, president of the Euro-Asia Division (ESD), it was 22 years ago that Mikhail Kulakov, Sr., had the dream. “As the first president of the Euro-Asia Division, he wanted to translate the full Bible into modern language, because the current Russian translation of the Holy Scriptures is 130 years old,” he says.
Biaggi, now president of Kulakov’s home division, sits in his office on the first floor of the four-story division headquarters in Moscow. Biaggi, executive secretary Volodymyr Krupskyi, and treasurer Brent Burdick shepherd the Adventist Church’s work in 13 countries including Russia, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. They have the largest land territory of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 13 world divisions. “Russia alone has nine time zones,” Biaggi says, pointing to a large framed map on his office wall. The ESD has a membership of 137,000 out of 315 million inhabitants.
Although the church Biaggi leads exemplifies resilience and growth, they now face a new crisis: postmodernism. “We used to share literature, but now people spend more time on the Internet,” he explains. He talks of riding the extensive underground subway system in Moscow, a metro area of 15 million, many of whom struggle with alcoholism, domestic abuse, tobacco, addictions, or emptiness. “They are looking for something, and we have the answer,” he posits. “We are committed to bringing this gospel of hope to them.”
At the division’s Zaoksky Adventist Seminary and Institute 70 miles south of Moscow some of the translators are working with Mikhail Kulakov, Jr. In May Biaggi, nine union presidents, the publishing house president, and other leaders of the vast ESD convened their Bible Translation Institute board. Kulakov, Jr., who helped found Zaoksky in the 1990s, attended with fellow board members Weymouth Spence, president of Washington Adventist University (WAU); and Zack Plantak, chair of WAU’s Department of Religion.
During his report Kulakov shared how the meticulous work of the translation team is drawing encouraging reviews from leading Russian philologists touting the beauty of the language. He also shared how specialists in biblical languages have noted its “accuracy and high literary and scholarly” work, and that leading Russian Orthodox scholars have given positive evaluations for its literary and scholarly quality. Adventist leaders, readers, and donors underwriting this project are also pleased and anticipate the completion of the translation by 2015, in time for it to be distributed at the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas. “People who have read the finished portions say, ‘Now I can understand the Word of God,’” says Biaggi, who chairs the board.
All of this spurs Kulakov and his translation team forward and keeps them going around the clock between Maryland, United States, and Zaoksky, Russia. “When I go to bed at night here, it’s morning there, and they start work,” he explains. “And when they finish their day, it’s morning here, and I review their latest version.” Now that they’ve finished Jeremiah and the other major prophets, they Skype, live-chat, telephone, and e-mail about drafts of their current work on the poetic and wisdom literature of Job, Proverbs, and Song of Songs.
Back in his office at Sligo church, Kulakov is trying to articulate why his father’s legacy has become his life’s work. “I started working with my father in 2006, and I don’t know if in my lifetime I will participate in anything as important, rewarding, joyous, or humbling as this project.
“I remember when he was working on Genesis 5:22, which reads in King James, ‘Enoch walkedwith God,’” he said. “Out of their desire to be reverent, nineteenth-century Russian scholars instead chose ‘Enoch walked before God.’ But having suffered through humiliation and loss of dignity in Joseph Stalin’s labor camps, my father wanted new generations of Russians to experience a God who stands at the doors of human hearts, respectfully knocks, and waits to see if we will invite Him to enter,” he says, pausing to gather himself. Then comes the crescendo: “Heso wanted them to understand that you can have such a personal experience of love, acceptance, and affirmation with God, that on this rare occasion, properly footnoted, he departed from the original and chose to say ‘Enoch lived in intimate relationship with God.’”
Like father, like son.
Celeste Ryan Blyden serves as communication director for the Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. See a video about this project atwww.columbiaunion.org/videos.
Adventist schools in India benefit students and their families.
By Andrew King
More than 1 billion people call India home. After China it’s the second-most populated country in the world, and it’s growing rapidly.
ONE OF THE OLDEST: James Memorial School, one of the oldest Adventist schools in India, needs new classrooms to accommodate the students who wish to enroll.For more than 100 years the Seventh-day Adventist Church has served this vast country by developing an educational system that provides so much more than an education.
For centuries the caste system in India has had a profound effect on society. But Seventh-day Adventist schools across the country have worked for decades to mitigate those effects and break down the barriers that keep individuals from achieving their true potential.
“Ever since we started the school system we introduced the work program,” says John Fowler, a recently retired associate director of the General Conference Education Department, pointing out the role useful labor has played in the church’s educational system.
“There are students who would refuse to do different kinds of manual work. They’d say, ‘Agriculture, fine; I don’t mind being involved in growing plants, growing vegetables; that’s dignified work. But to sweep the hostel, clean the toilet, no; that’s menial. That’s not for my status in the community.’
“But the Adventist system has somehow broken this in our schools,” says Fowler. “Work, any work, is God’s gift to us. ‘Take care of the earth, be stewards of the earth,’ He says. So that philosophy, that whatever you do you are a steward of something—whenever students are involved in manual labor they become more mature, more responsible, and ready to take on the world.”
Each day after class each student is assigned a job on the school campus. This strong work ethic has made Lasalgaon School in central India a desirable location for parents to send their children.
Faith, Excellence—and Space
“The [one] shortcoming of this school is we have insufficient classrooms,” says Jayant Sable, principal of Lasalgaon School. “We have a big playground, but we don’t have science labs; we don’t have separate labs for physics, chemistry, or biology, which are essential parts of a growing school.”
Lasalgaon is not the only school overflowing with students. Farther south is one of the oldest Seventh-day Adventist schools in the country, James Memorial School. This school, like most in India, is a mission school. The majority of students who attend are not Christian when they begin their education.
“If you train up children early, when their lives are being formed, they develop a very concrete faith,” says Ambrose Shanmugam, principal of James Memorial School. “We teach [students] the Bible here; we teach them stories from the Bible. They are attracted, and they will be converted—even the boarding students. Every year we have baptisms, children accepting Jesus.”
MISSION SCHOOLS: Many nonmembers attend Adventist schools because of the quality of education they receive. Many eventually become Adventists.This culture of excellence attracts families who want the very best for their children. “The school has an enrollment of more than 900 students,” says Shanmugam. “But the facilities we have at present only accommodate 500 to 600 students. And in the coming years we may get more students. We need classrooms.”
Space is not the only challenge for the Seventh-day Adventist school system. Most Adventist schools in India are affiliated with the Indian Council of Secondary Education. This accrediting body takes special care to administer tests at Adventist schools on Sundays.
The Kottarakara Adventist School in the state of Kerala is accredited by the Indian government. Recently, however, the school was instructed to hold a crucial test on Saturday.
T. I. John, principal of Kottarakara Adventist School, explains the issues at stake: “[Students] get admitted to college based on the results [of the tests], and [the test] is very crucial, very determinate for their future lives. One cannot think of not attempting their examination if they want to pursue further studies.”
John made an appointment with the minister of education for his district and asked that accommodation be made for the school so that his students could stay true to their faith and not take the exam during Sabbath hours.
The administrator told John, “I’m also a Christian. I would write an exam on Sabbath; I would do anything on Saturday.”
John replied, “Your faith is different; my faith is different. I wouldn’t do that [on Sabbath], and my students won’t do that. Therefore, please make it possible for my children to write the exam; make some alternate arrangements.”
Eventually John convinced the board to allow the students to take their exam after Sabbath hours.
However, another, more basic challenge faces the Kottarakara School: its facilities will not pass inspection to become a member of the nongovernmental educational council. Member schools must have adequate classroom space for each student, and this school has far outgrown its current facilities. Indeed, space is a major problem for all of the more than 235 Adventist schools in India.
NEW BUILDING NEEDED: Members of the Adventist Church in the village of Perayam look forward to worshipping in a new metal building provided by the financial support of Adventists around the world.The Thirteenth Sabbath Offering for the first quarter of 2011 will provide finances to build new classrooms on all three of these campuses—more than 40 new classrooms.
And Churches, Too
In 1978 a small outreach meeting was held underneath the branches of rubber trees in a remote forest in central India. After the meetings ended, many of the new members joined together and built a mud-and-thatch church in which to meet.
Local members have been hoping for the means to build a new, larger building to accommodate those who have joined the church in the past three decades. “I have been at this church for more than 30 years now,” says Mr. George, a local elder. “We have been fasting and praying that a new church would be built to hold our members.”
For years church members have worked to keep this small church building together. They don’t have the resources to build a larger church to hold their growing congregation.
“My husband and I have been praying for many years that a new building may come to our location,” says Taya Williams, one of the local members. “He died earlier this year. But just before [he died], we found out a new church was to be built. He was so happy.”
Your financial support of the World Budget and mission offerings will provide funds for a metal church building to be constructed in the small village of Perayam, as well as at seven other sites across India.
The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to lead people to Jesus can continue in a country as vast as India only with your prayers, your financial support, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
A Tale of Two Cities Two very different cities have something in common.
By Willie Tafadzwa Chinyamurindi
What do the cities of Telford in the west of England and Mossel Bay in the Western Cape province of South Africa have in common? Geographically, they are separated by a vast ocean. Demographically, when entering Mossel Bay you are greeted by shanty towns that residents call home. Conversely, the residents of Telford enjoy the vast terrain of the English countryside. The difference in opulence between the two towns is stark. Despite these and many other differences, there is a commonality that threads these cities together. It’s what I call the “Adventist Youth Presence.”
This presence is a fragrance of hope that an army of workers who are “rightly trained”1leave behind in a community. Our youth can—and do—leave a powerful aurora in their communities.
Within a two-month time frame I attended two major youth events. One in the United Kingdom (viewed as a bastion of secular teaching) and the other in South Africa, a country reeling from past hurts. Fresh in my fiber are the stories of members of these two communities after experiencing the Adventist youth presence.
“Please Pray for Me . . .” Mattie, a 39-year-old woman in Mossel Bay, opened her gates to three strangers dressed in immaculate suits and badges with a cross and three angels. “We are here at a youth camp,” said one of the young people to Mattie as she approached her. She offered Mattie the book When God Said Remember.
“Please pray for me and the challenges I am going through at work and in my life,” responded Mattie to her three guests. While they prayed with Mattie, other young people were visiting homes in the same community, enrolling residents of Mossel Bay for Bible study, offering prayer, and giving out literature. In one afternoon more than 500 doors were knocked on, and the presence of Adventist youth was felt.
“I Wish You Could Come Every Day!” On the another side of the world in Telford, Adam Keogh led a delegation of young Adventists to a nursing home. Armed with broad smiles and hymnals in their hands, they entered the posh-looking nursing home. Maureen Gatharia, from Ireland, led a hymn. The residents were overjoyed. As the young people left the home, one of the residents shouted out, “I wish you could come every day!” Other youth knocked on doors, enrolled people for Bible studies, and conducted street evangelism activities.
Though these two groups of young people are unlikely to meet, they are united by the common cause of being relevant to the needs of their community. The challenges these communities face are different, but the solution is common—and young people are helping to change lives and bring hope. They exude the Adventist youth presence.
True Mission Work Communities around the world are in need of help. Adventism provides a wholistic solution. The Adventist youth presence is most effective in service to the community and being able to meet the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of people.
Busi Khumalo, director for youth and Adventist chaplaincy ministries in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, emphasizes the important role of young people and their involvement in community: “True mission work is meeting people where they are and responding to their plight.” This was the method used by Christ: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”2
Joy in My Heart I left the British summer to come to a South African winter—yet in both locations I was warmed by the synergy of this global movement.
Gratitude for being part of the Adventist youth presence in these countries—and others—has helped me define the meaning of home as a place where a positive presence is felt. This presence cuts across the divides and geographical barriers, a presence actuated by the life and example led by Jesus. Important in His ministry was not the city He went to but the lives touched while there. This tale of two cities, and the Adventist youth presence, brings joy to my heart.
1 Ellen G. White, Education, p. 271. 2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.
Willie Tafadzwa Chinyamurindi is in his final year of his Ph.D. with the Open University in Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom. He writes from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where he is collecting data for his research.
Same Message, Different Methods In a culture that sometimes seems to ignore Christianity, different approaches are a necessity.
By Earley Simon
In cities throughout Europe, sharing Jesus is a growing challenge. One of these countries in which it is challenging to share the claims of the gospel is the Czech Republic. Studies indicate that the Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in the world. But Adventist groups here, and in other parts of Europe, are finding ways to connect with people in their communities.
THE PATH OF DISCIPLESHIP: In the Czech Republic participants in INRI Road learn what it means to follow Christ in an increasingly secular society.The Path of Discipleship INRI Road is a program that has enjoyed great success on college campuses since 2006. In the Czech Republic most people leave the church during their university years. INRI Road is a youth-driven program that allows youth to refuel their faith and gather for worship.
The letters INRI represent the Latin acronym that in English stands for “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” Roman soldiers nailed this inscription to the top of Jesus’ cross when He was crucified. INRI Road was developed as a path for young people to build a relationship with Jesus.
In the city of Brno a church specifically designed for INRI Road has weekly meetings. This group is mostly made up of area university students. They look forward to the fellowship and creative ways of worshipping God.
Blanca is a volunteer who helps prepare the weekly programs. “INRI Road is like my family. We know each other, we help each other, we support each other. Everyone has their own way, own life, own personalities; but we only have one God.”
Those who are a part of INRI Road are passionate about the programs, and feel strongly that this is an important part of their communities.
Pastor Marek Harastej, co-founder of the program, states the overall objective of INRI road: “We would like to help them to grow personally and spiritually, and become a strong part of our church in the future.”
INRI Road is one of several ministries throughout the Czech Republic that is passionate about bringing people to Jesus. It’s meant to reach three groups of people: members of the church are invited to get more involved in ministry, students from surrounding universities, and students’ families and friends.
Jakub, a university student, says, “I have the opportunity to serve others; to help others to find Jesus through INRI Road. I have the opportunity to establish new friendships.”
WORSHIP IN SONG: Music is an important component in the services of Portugal’s Vila Cha congregation.Another student, Vojta, explains, “We can invite our friends and tell them that we are believers, and it is normal for us.”
INRI Road fills the need of so many who seek a spiritual component to an increasingly hectic and secular pace of modern life. “I want to do something for God,” says Jana, “so I’m in INRI Road.”
Passionate About Sharing Located in Portugal, the Vila Cha congregation is made up of mostly Africans who immigrated to that country.
This lively church loves coming together to worship each Sabbath. Their sounds of praise fill the neighborhood, and their pews are just as full. The members celebrate the great things God does in their lives each week. Music is a big part of their celebration.
Eli and his mother are active members of this church. Eli takes part in both Sabbath school and the worship service. Every week after church, members divide into groups and distribute literature, so others can learn about Jesus and perhaps visit their church. Both children and adults are excited to share with their neighbors what they know about Jesus.
They regard each paper they pass out as a chance for someone to develop a relationship with their heavenly Father. Eli and his friends have fun doing this. They enjoy talking with people and seeing their reactions to God’s message. They use this as an opportunity to talk with others about Jesus, some who have never known Him before.
The members also collect food to give to the families who live in the poor neighborhoods they visit. This simple act of kindness helps open doors and hearts and can lead to lasting friendships.
Members return to church at the end of the afternoon, where they report about their contacts, sing, and praise the Lord until evening. This congregation shows tremendous faith. They are not afraid to share their friend Jesus with others in their community.
Focused Evangelism Throughout Bulgaria the church has been making steady efforts to reach the Gypsy, or Roma, people. Bulgaria has many Roma communities. Almost 500,000 Roma live here, and the numbers continue to climb.
SIGNIFICANT GROWTH: In Bulgaria, Adventists sharing their faith find increasingly receptive audiences among the country’s Roma population.Milen Georgiev, secretary of the Bulgarian Union, shares the goal of the church in Bulgaria: To grow and to spread the gospel among many of this ethnic group. “We are seeing that Roma people are experiencing revival, the churches are working more intensively, and many people attend them.”
These Roma communities are open to God’s leading. They are hungry to learn the message and dedicate themselves to God. In the past few years the Adventist Roma churches have seen significant growth and expect to see more.
Please pray for the work being done in the Czech Republic, in Portugal, and in Bulgaria. Pray that God can use our dedicated members in each of these countries to share His message. Thank you for supporting the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Earley Simon is a video producer for Adventist Mission.
Malamulo: God's Outpost News From Malamulo Hospital
By Adrienne James and Sandy Mattison
Malamulo Hospital was founded in 1908 by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and is located in the rural southern area of Malawi known for its many tea estates. Some patients work as tea field workers making only $1.15 for each day of labor. Because of its location and the indigent population that Malamulo Hospital serves, it is difficult for the facility to remain self-sustaining. Serving approximately 6,000 individuals per month through the 220-bed main hospital and clinics, Malamulo Hospital also provides care to surrounding rural villages by sending out health-care workers who conduct health education, satellite clinics, and childhood vaccinations. It also has an associated clinical officer school. Recently the two of us, longtime friends, made a short-term mission trip to the hospital.
Drs. James and Mattison “Our trip was about a journey that began 12 years ago when we left our childhood homes in Nebraska and Connecticut for college at Andrews University. There we shared four memorable years as roommates in Lamson Hall, the women’s residence quarters. Later, with our biology degrees in hand, we headed off to medical schools in different regions of the country. Now, eight years later, we are reminded why we started our own journey to medical ministry many years ago.
“We could not know, however, that even as we were flying into Lilongwe, Malawi’s usually peaceful capital, the city was being battered by protests that had overrun the nation. We arrived to meet closed stores and no public transportation. There would be no bus to take us on the five-hour trip to Malamulo Hospital. But God had alternative plans for us. In His perfect timing, an Adventist man in Lilongwe on business was heading back to Malamulo the following day. Our expected five-hour bus ride introduction to the local community instead became a smooth, private ride to our destination, in company of our new Adventist friend, Elde Paladar. God is so good.”
At the Hospital With Dr. James Private Bag 2, Makwasa, Malawi
Malamulo Adventist Hospital is one of three health-care institutions owned and operated by the Malawi Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, home to almost 340,000 Adventist believers. The institution has been recognized as the best hospital in Malawi, and the third-best in Africa, for its treatment of HIV/AIDS.* Its campus regularly welcomes visiting medical personnel, and includes a Students for International Missionary Service (SIMS) hostel, constructed largely with funds from the organization itself, based in Loma Linda, California. Most of this training and volunteer assistance is through the initiatives of Adventist Health International (AHI), whose Web site facilitates volunteer personnel, financial, and other services to the hospital. AHI provides management expertise, personnel, technical assistance, and other resources to sustain, enhance, and restore quality operations at approximately 70 Adventist hospitals around the world.
* See the Giving Children Hope Web site at www.gchope.org/malamulo-hospital-in-need-of-medical-supplies.html.“The day begins with hospital morning worship. I welcome the change from work routines back home. I particularly enjoy songs in the native language of Chichewa. After our departmental meeting, our medicine rounds begin. Every room in the ward has rows of beds, each covered by mosquito nets. The floors are frequently mopped to remove the persistent red dust tracked in from the dirt roads, likely because many patients are barefoot. I am especially blessed by the inquisitive nature and excitement of my clinical officer students. They are eager to learn, which is wonderfully refreshing to me and fuels my passion for our patients.
The resilience of these patients and their families inspires me. Many of them walk for miles to seek medical care. In most cases devoted family members or guardians remain at the bedside of their loved ones and assist with basic care. With a life expectancy of only 41 years in Malawi, many patients suffer from a host of tropical illnesses, such as tuberculosis, meningitis, and malaria. My work in Washington, D.C., with one of the highest U.S. rates of HIV, makes me all too familiar with the complications of HIV that many here exhibit. Because of the challenges to health-care access, patients seem that much more grateful for the care provided at Malamulo.”
With Dr. Mattison “I am spending most of my time on the maternity ward. While the rest of the hospital’s patient population swells with malaria season and lessens with the dry season, the maternity ward is nearly full year-round, serving 25-40 patients at any given time. The maternity ward averages four to seven births per day. Staff includes two nurse- midwives, sometimes with the help of a clinical officer (U.S. equivalent of physician’s assistant) and an on-call physician. In the maternity ward there is care for all antepartum (prior to birth), labor, delivery, and postpartum patients and their babies. The two nurse-midwives are also responsible for the care of a special room dedicated to premature infants and their mothers. In a maternity ward in the U.S. at least a half dozen nurses and an equal number of nursing assistants (in addition to midwives, residents, and physicians) would be doing this work.
“Pregnant patients who experience lower abdominal pain and backache are invited to stay in the hospital for hours, days, or weeks, awaiting labor, as many have walked great distances to reach this haven. The delivery suites are made up of three tall beds covered in black vinyl separated by cloth curtains. Wheelchairs aren’t available, and women in labor are required to climb stairs to lie down where they labor. Once they give birth, they descend the stairs, shower themselves, and shuffle down to the postpartum ward. Their strength and resilience is amazing. We lose six premature infants during our short stay. At least two in six women have HIV. Thankfully, medications to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV are available to the patients through a special clinic and governmental program. I learn too that all postpartum tubal ligations are done here under local anesthetic instead of using spinal anesthesia, as is done in the U.S. This lowers the price and encourages family planning.”
Dr. James “At Malamulo we are blessed with wonderful weather until one day prior to our departure, when it rains for two days, with only shy appearances from the sun. On the evening of our departure the rains clear as we start our bus ride across the Malawi countryside. The sun bursts through, and I am surprised to discover vast mountains and foothills previously hidden by dust and biomass fuel smoke. Before the rains I saw a beautiful countryside with foothills here and there, but the rains unveil a crisp, expansive, mountainous landscape. It’s a memory that I never would have experienced without the prelude of rain. I think to myself: That’s how it is with our Savior, taking us through the downpours of life only to bless us with expansive landscapes we hadn’t even imagined were there, previously hidden from view.”
Dr. Mattison “Malamulo is doing great things on an incredibly small budget, caring for patients who are unable to pay for the services they receive. I praise God for the national and foreign medical personnel that give freely and sacrificially of themselves to these patients’ care.”
Dr. Adrienne James practices internal medicine in the Washington, D.C., area. Dr. Sandy Mattison is an ob/gyn in Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
An Unusual Partnership Adventists receive an education and witness to others.
By Chek Yat and Sally Lam-Phoon
Private secular education has seen a boom in China within the past decade. But schools that teach the Bible in their curriculum face a number of challenges. The registration process for Christian schools is highly complex, and is handled by the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TPSM), which monitors all religious activity in China.
Differing opinions about how to educate Chinese young people have led to a number of disagreements, some of which have caught the attention of the media.
Adventist education has always been a priority for our church members. Given the situation in China, our church members began operating home schools for their members’ children in the northeast region of the country for the past 10 years. When this proved no longer viable, our members prayed for insight as to how they could still offer an Adventist education for their young people.
Community Contact In 2008 church leaders developed a close relationship with the principal of a vocational school in one city. As they shared their vision for providing Adventist education for their youth, this leader offered to collaborate with the church to accommodate their needs.
“We were elated about this new possibility and decided to give it a try,” said Enn Chun Wong.* “Anything is better than nothing.”
This vocational school offers such majors as auto mechanics, tailoring, nutrition, catering, tourism, computerized accounting, computer science, hydroelectronics, welding, and hairdressing. It requires that all students choose one major. However, our group of Adventist students had to choose two majors to ensure that all the male and female students could be kept together, and thereby cut down on the negative influence other students could have on them. Furthermore, arranging for the group to complete all their vocational subjects in the morning gave them extra time for Bible classes in the church later in the afternoon.
The first group of 40 students stayed at the church, where assigned teachers helped them with their spiritual instruction. Their program started with morning worship and prayer at 4:30 a.m. After breakfast a school bus transported them to the vocational school for classes. Teachers from the church accompanied the group to school to help them bridge the gap between their secular classes and their religious education. In the afternoon they were brought back to the church for Bible classes.
“We reminded them constantly of the witness they needed to bear for Jesus Christ at school. Their behavior testifies to others about the power of Christianity,” said one of the teachers.
Blessed to Be a Blessing The group soon gained a reputation of being model students, excelling in academics and being well disciplined in their social skills. Students in the other classes often gave their teachers problems, being rowdy and undisciplined, sleeping during their lessons, and refusing to do their lessons.
The principal remarked, “Our school surely needs more exemplary students like the Adventists; we want more of them so that they can influence the rest of the students.”
When the school year ended in 2008, the school encouraged the church to recruit a second batch of 40 students, making a total of 80. This created a welcome problem—church facilities were too limited to accommodate 80 students. But when the school learned about their dilemma, the principal offered the church use of an abandoned school building. By the middle of April 2009, renovations to this building had been completed, with beds, water, and electricity.
Since this building, used as a dormitory, is some distance from the vocational school, the school consented to provide shuttle bus service for this group of 80 students on a daily basis.
Adventist parents are now eager to send their children to this vocational school as they observe the changes among those who have been under this experimental program. After a year of training, these young people have achieved independence of thought and purpose. They do their own laundry, cook, and clean, and serve others by sharing the Bible with them. Many have been appointed as cell group leaders in the church where they worship.
Parents are amazed at the changes they see when their children return home for the summer. One parent remarked, “My son has changed and matured so much. Since coming home, he has been such a blessing in being so caring and helpful, taking the initiative to help me with the housework. It must be what he was taught in school!”
While it appears that this creative way of offering Adventist education is working and that Adventist parents are willingly enrolling their children in this school, the question about what happens beyond the two-year vocational training remains. What else can be done for these students to provide them with a more complete tertiary education, particularly one that prepares them to serve the masses in China through a vocation, as well as prepare a people for God’s eternal kingdom?
Your prayers are solicited as local leaders continue to dialogue and come up with more innovative approaches to nurture our young people in China through a strong foundation of Adventist education.
*Not his real name.
Chek Yat Phoon is director of education, and his wife, Sally Lam-Phoon, is director of children’s, family, and women’s ministries for the Northern Asia-Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.