How Total Member Involvement made a difference in Rwanda
How Total Member Involvement made a difference in Rwanda
By Andrew McChesney
All Juvenal Nsengiyumva, a 47-year-old university teacher, determined to rise to the challenge when he learned in January that each of the 720,000 Seventh-day Adventists in Rwanda was being encouraged to actively share Jesus’ love with their neighbors.
But how could he participate in the Total Member Involvement program, which would culminate in a nationwide evangelistic series in late May?
While hundreds of preachers were needed at evangelistic meeting sites across the African country, Nsengiyumva couldn’t take the time off work to prepare and deliver the two weeks of sermons.
So Nsengiyumva took stock of what he had: a caring wife, Marianne, and four children; an aging but reliable car; some cash; and fluent English skills obtained during five years of studies in India.
“First and foremost, I am an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and you know an active member has to tell the truth that he or she knows to others,” said Nsengiyumva, an elder at the Gates of Hope Adventist Church in the resort city of Gisenyi.
Nsengiyumva’s three daughters and son—Hope, 12; Friend, 9; Meek, 7; and Merciful, 5—went through their clothes and chose some to give away to those who needed them. Their mother washed and ironed them to make them look like new.
“We have to teach them to be cheerful givers,” Nsengiyumva said. The family also donated US$70 toward the US$8,000 cost of a new house for a widow.
In addition, Nsengiyumva signed up to serve as an interpreter for a visiting preacher from the United States, and to drive the speaker to the meeting site, an hour-long roundtrip that followed his regular day of teaching.
It was all worth it, he said. A total of 168 people were baptized at the church where he interpreted, a figure that far exceeded the goal of 30 baptisms set by church leaders for each of the 2,227 meeting sites around the country.
“It is really wonderful,” Nsengiyumva said. “What can I say? Glory be to God!”
Every Member Involved
It is the active involvement of people like Nsengiyumva that paved the way for the largest baptism in the Adventist Church’s history, local church leaders said. An unprecedented 97,344 people were baptized during the May 13-28 evangelistic meetings (as of June 2), and additional baptisms connected with the event are expected to push the total past 100,000 in subsequent months.
“I can tell you that this success came about because each member in the Rwanda Union got involved in every detail of the operation,” said Blasious M. Ruguri, president of the Adventist Church’s East-Central Africa Division, whose territory of 11 countries includes Rwanda.
Church members studied the Bible with their neighbors and went door-to-door, inviting people to the evangelistic meetings. They donated nearly $350,000 to construct and repair housing and buy cows, food, clothing, and health insurance for the needy. Medical volunteers treated nearly 6,000 people for a week at free clinics at three locations.
“No member thought this was a burden; in fact, every member desired to be given a chance to participate,” said Ruguri, who preached at a meeting site in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
Rwanda, with a population of 11.8 million people, stands as an example for Adventist believers worldwide, church leaders said. All union presidents from the East-Central Africa Division preached in Rwanda in May, and they plan to replicate the Total Member Involvement program in the run-up to major evangelistic series in their home countries in June 2017. Even the president of the Adventist Church in Zambia, which is located in another church division, flew to Rwanda to view the proceedings firsthand.
“Total Member Involvement is not just for Africa,” Hesron R. Byilingiro, president of the Rwanda Union, told a group of preachers in Gisenyi. “It is for the entire world.”
The previous record for baptisms was 30,000, after a two-week evangelistic series in Zimbabwe in May 2015. Just two months later, world church leaders unveiled the Total Member Involvement initiative at the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas. Total Member Involvement (TMI) encourages each of the church’s 19.1 million members worldwide to find ways to share Jesus with friends and communities.
Although named at the General Conference session, Total Member Involvement is not particularly bold or new, said Duane McKey, a key organizer of the Rwanda meetings and the Adventist world church leader responsible for the program.
“Jesus said more than 2,000 years ago in the Great Commission of Matthew 28 to go and preach, teach, and baptize,” McKey said in an interview in Rwanda. “The interesting and exciting thing is we’ve just finished more than 2,000 meetings that commemorate something Jesus said more than 2,000 years ago.”
Large GC Delegation
Most of the presenters are regular church members from Rwanda, McKey said. But 98 speakers came from the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, and another 70 came from the church’s Nairobi, Kenya based East-Central Africa Division. Some two dozen came from France. Many funded their own way.
Speakers called the event unforgettable and spoke of related blessings in their own lives. A 22-year-old international student studying in the United States told how a Muslim woman and a public university funded her trip. A 12-year-old boy rejoiced over leading hundreds of people to Christ. A Canadian woman who lost relatives in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide was finally able to forgive (see sidebars).
Abner De los Santos, a general vice president of the Adventist world church, described his joy at unexpectedly joining two overwhelmed local pastors in a church baptismal tank to baptize 528 people at a church in Kigali on Sabbath, May 28.
“When I first held my newly born child in my hands, I could feel the child’s heart beating,” he said. “On Sabbath, I could feel the pounding hearts of the people whom I was baptizing. It reminded me of a newborn child.”
De los Santos and his wife, Leticia, a music teacher, preached at two churches in Kigali’s Rusororo district.
Another general vice president of the Adventist world church, Geoffrey Mbwana, also led evangelistic meetings.
Among the other representatives of the General Conference were Lael Caesar, an associate editor of Adventist World, who marveled that six visitors attended his meetings at the invitation of one mute boy. (The author of this article, news editor of Adventist World, led a series for the first time.)
The sight of the unusually large delegation from the General Conference sent ripples across Rwanda. Abidan Ruhongeka, president of the South Rwanda Field, said his church members told him in astonishment: “The General Conference people used to come to Rwanda Union just for church business meetings, but now they have come only for evangelism. Jesus must be coming soon!”
Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson, who led evangelistic meetings in Gisenyi, thanked local church members for their participation on the last Sabbath. “You are an example for the entire world. We praise God for that,” Wilson told a crowd of 6,000 people.
Among those present were 1,971 people who had been baptized in nearby Lake Kivu in the morning, and Nsengiyumva, the university teacher who found several ways to participate in Total Member Involvement.
Nsengiyumva said he couldn’t be happier. “I praise God that He fulfilled my wishes to participate in the preaching of His message,” he said.
Andrew McChesney is news editor of Adventist World.
The book of Revelation is the focus of a unique approach to outreach. See the Lamb in the Center of Revelation
See the Lamb in the Center of Revelation
By Gerald A. Klingbeil
Imagine you are walking in a large forest. Surrounded by huge trees, you try to find your way through the woods. You see a majestic oak tree; then you recognize a massive fir tree standing next to a slim beech tree; a smaller birch tree is right next to an imposing maple tree. As you look around, you notice more and more trees, and they begin to look very similar. In fact, there comes a moment that you don’t see the forest among all the trees anymore.
THIN AIR: Many of the scenes from ARNION shot in Bolivia were recorded on the Altiplano at 3,400 meters (c. 11,100 feet) above sea level.
You know where I’m going, don’t you? We all face moments when we miss seeing the big picture by concentrating exclusively on the details. We get sidetracked by the particulars and miss the grand perspective.
This very typical human tendency led the team of the Inter-European Media Center (Stimme der Hoffnung) in Alsbach-Hähnlein, Germany, to consider developing a creative approach to the study of the book of Revelation that is relevant for people living in secular cultures. They called it ARNION, Greek for “lamb.” The two faces of the German version of the engaging 10-episode series on Revelation are Judith and Sven Fockner, whose conversation-style segments in the approximately 30-minute programs present the big picture of Revelation as you have never seen it before.
Evangelism can be challenging in those parts of the world where secularism and postmodernism have become the dominant way of looking at life. Whether Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, or—increasingly—many of the major urban centers of the world, there is little space for God and the Bible in the public square. The concept of studying the Bible on TV, and, more specifically, the often-challenging book of Revelation, doesn’t excite most people living in these regions.
The question How can we reach secular people who have no idea about the Bible and no notion of the prophetic book of Revelation? was high on the agenda of the Inter-European Media Center team as they thought about creative ways of communicating the gospel and the unique prophetic message of Revelation. ARNION was born out of the realization that postmoderns listen to big-picture narratives, and are intrigued by what is applicable and relevant to their lives. Put some tantalizing video segments shot in various international locations (including Bolivia, South Africa, and Germany) into the mix, and you get an engaging video series that introduces viewers to the center of the Apocalypse—Jesus Christ—and the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan.
One of the key elements of the series is to highlight the personal and existential dimensions of ARNION. Simply put: every episode asks the real question about the relevance of the particular topic from Revelation presented in the episode: What does this address in my personal life?
In episode six, for example, the focus is upon the Lamb found in Revelation 5. In the opening scene we see a man struggling through what appears to be a harsh and unforgiving wilderness. Haunting music communicates desolation. Sven Fockner begins the narrative recalling moments in his past when some of his “clever” comments hurt people around him.
TAKING AIM: Director of photography, Manuel Wildemann, prepares the camera for a scene at the “cementerio de trenes” in Uyuni, Bolivia.
We all recall how we have hurt people around us—consciously or sometimes unconsciously. If God is the Creator of all, then we become guilty when we damage or hurt His creation, Sven reasons as he looks into the camera. Guilt requires outside help, something we often struggle to accept.
As with hurtful comments, we soon realize that guilt cannot be easily remedied. What has been said will always stand. What has been done will always leave an impression and affect other people. Dominoes begin to fall; hurt gets propagated; pain gets duplicated.
As Judith and Sven Fockner talk about the throne room scene of Revelation 4, they are interrupted by flashbacks to the opening scene of someone wandering in the wilderness. Then they turn to Revelation 5 and its focus on a scroll that nobody can open. The solemnity and glory of the throne room scene is replaced by desperation and tears: Who will be able to open the seals that keep the scroll closed? As Judith puts it: John searches for the mighty Lion, and finds a small Lamb. The Lamb is God’s way of dealing with the great rebellion engulfing this planet.
Familiar texts suddenly gain new significance in this interplay of commentary, music, and video sequences that function as visual illustrations. Viewers of the German version of ARNION reacted very positively to the series. “Finally, something that interests me on Hope Channel,” a 17-year-old told the Hope Channel team.
People liked the authenticity and personal nature of the series, as well as the application to real life. Reactions varied from “super, but too short” to “wonderful videography and great illustrations,” even though some felt that the changes from narrative to video sequence were at times distracting. This impression was shared by a number of older viewers, while younger viewers often felt excited and engaged, suggesting that the media has to be tailored to specific audiences if we want to communicate effectively.
A representative of the German Bible Society that had partnered with the Inter-European Media Center by providing a newly designed German Bible translation reported that the format of the episodes was a great hit.
Another viewer wrote this personal note to Sven Fockner: “I am thrilled! . . . I often feel discouraged by many programs offered in our churches; at times I feel provoked; many times just sobered. . . . However, if my church can agree to something like this, if this represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I want to stick around.”
Simret Mahary, a pastor in Germany, noted that “camera work, production, music, silence, close-ups of the speakers, and the balance between the two narratives felt in tune and just right.”
We live in an interconnected world. Social media, Hollywood, and instant news updates all connect us globally, whether we reside in Buenos Aires, Bangkok, Berlin, Cairo, or Cape Town. While our cultures and languages may vary, we still sense the basic human need to find answers to our deepest questions. Where do I come from? What’s the purpose of my life? and Where am I going? ring true in most cultures. ARNION is an attempt to address these existential questions and look at them through the lens of the book of Revelation.
Right from the beginning it also included a global perspective. Collaboration became an important guide as scripts were written and video locations were selected. Bolivia, South Africa, and Germany represent vastly different regions; and by anchoring the film scenes in different parts of the world, ARNION became a global project. Funding came from different entities and sources, and contextualization to different cultures has been built into the project.
The results have been impressive, as demonstrated by the increasing number of language adaptations. However, the film scenes did not aim only at an international audience. The unique mix of engaging background music and stunning videography of each episode functioned as an illustration of the key topic and helped the viewers to connect on an emotional and aesthetic level. In fact, says Sven, “these images function as metaphors,” expressing the basic message of each episode.
The Lamb Is the Future
ARNION reminds us that the Lamb must be at the center of everything we do, including also the way we interpret and communicate the message of the book of Revelation. Looking at the big picture of the cosmic conflict between Christ and Satan represents a unique way of connecting God’s view of history to our human need for answers to existential questions.
So—with the Lamb.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of Adventist World.
Real stories about trying to make a difference. Where no human being is illegal, The only question is how to serve and to provide humanitarian aid in the best way possible.
In the Trenches
Where no human being is illegal
By Maja Ahac
It all started as a normal day of rest. The autumn Sabbath was warm and full of sunshine. We went to church in the morning, and afterward had lunch with friends.
Then I received a phone call: “Get prepared,” said the voice on the other end. “What we just assumed yesterday is turning into reality today. Several thousand refugees are approaching the Slovenian border.”
There was never a question in my mind or in the minds of my other team members as to whether we would help. The only question was how to serve and to provide humanitarian aid in the best way possible.
A few hours later we welcomed the first people into our country. They looked so tired. Many carried small plastic bags containing all their possessions. I tried to talk to some of them, but there was a language barrier. Finally I found a teenager who spoke English. We sat down together, along with some of his friends. I asked why they were here, facing this difficult journey.
“I had two options: kill or be killed,” one young man said. “I just want to finish school and live.”
I was glad it was dark, because I didn’t want him to see my tears. The tragic situation with refugees had become “real” and personal. This young man was about the same age as my oldest son, but he was fleeing war and simply trying to stay alive. His family had gathered all the possessions they had and sent him away so that at least one person in the family would survive.
Can’t Close Our Eyes
It would be so easy to pretend that the refugees are not here, that they are not “worthy” of our help. They are often labeled not only as refugees and migrants but also as terrorists. But to simply believe many of the conspiracy theories and see people as threats is not a solution. During the past six months of working with refugees I have not encountered even one for whom Jesus didn’t die, no matter how dirty, scared, cold, hungry, smelly, sick, small, or badly treated they were. These people are just people. Nothing more, nothing less.
Every human deserves the opportunity not only to survive but to thrive. I dream of a day when we will welcome every person into God’s family, regardless of the country they are coming from, and without using invalid excuses about why we shouldn’t accept them. It is not for us to decide who deserves the opportunity to live; we’re only human. It’s our responsibility to provide basic care, to share what we have been given, to raise voices for the voiceless, to empower the powerless, to be a blessing to humanity—just as Jesus was.
During the past few months I have met many people and heard their stories. I’ve experienced sleepless nights, busy days, conflicts, shortages of funds and food, not enough blankets, never enough shoes, and many other challenging situations.
What inspired me most throughout this, however, is that I was not alone. Many others—I call them angels—joined us along the way. They came, it seemed, from nowhere. Groups and individuals were willing to give personal time, money, and effort for thousands and thousands of refugees. They provided encouragement. Many shared their memories with me.
What was common to all of us was that we felt we had received more than we had given during our volunteer service. Happiness came from little ones, mothers, those who were disabled. Pure joy was seeing a child smile, a baby dressed in a warm jacket, a father sharing food with his little ones, a woman being secretly given products for personal hygiene needs. Their gratitude was beyond words.
The mocking and threats we received were indescribable as well. I have never experienced so much frustration, bitterness, and anger from individuals spreading hatred rather than providing assistance. Some people did not approve of ADRA’s or my own personal efforts. I was called many names, ugly names. I received threats as well. Out of the hurt and sadness, however, was born a determination to help even more.
I also experienced loss. I lost some friends who didn’t understand our motives. But I became friends with so many more, people I never thought I would have the privilege to meet.
A Life-changing Experience
The refugee crisis has shaken me and the society in which I live. We will never be the same again. I have traveled to many places and witnessed extreme poverty before, but the inequality and obvious social injustice were never so intense.
During the day I worked in the office, in the afternoons and evenings I helped refugees, and in the mornings I spent time with my own children. Seeing my children reminded me that while they had unlimited possibilities and opportunities for their future, refugee children were not even allowed to move about freely. Even little children are considered dangerous by some.
This experience changed me. Was I traumatized? I hope not. Blessed? Definitely. I consider myself privileged to be thought worthy of serving humanity, not to mention being a voice for the voiceless. Seeing those who would not speak up for the vulnerable, or were unwilling to help, was painful, but meeting so many inspired individuals made me feel rich and special.
I have witnessed historical moments, and have heard personal stories of amazingly strong people who were able to face extreme difficulties along their journey to a better life. I’ve also witnessed much gratitude.
Refugees are not so very different from us. We all want the same things: to survive, to live in peace, to simply be accepted—as humans. Nothing more, nothing less.
Dialogue helps us to understand the different perspectives from others and also gives the wonderful opportunity to be understood effectively...
Talking Faith, Protecting Freedom
Dialogue + religious liberty = unique witness
By Ganoune Diop
Seventh-day Adventists shower me with questions when they learn that I represent the Adventist Church at meetings of Christian ecumenical organizations. “How exactly do Adventists view Christian unity, interfaith relations, and ecumenism?” they ask. “Why do Adventists choose to accept and maintain only observer status and not membership among Christian ecumenical organizations?” My answer is simple: It is legitimate for all people of goodwill to unite to save lives, to protect lives, and to affirm the importance and sacredness of life. It is even urgent for all people to partner to make this world a better place for all human beings, contributing to better health, education, and humanitarian work in all dignity, freedom, justice, peace, and fraternity.
All the services and activities of the Seventh-day Adventist Church seek to promote life, and life in abundance. In the fulfillment of the church’s mission, Adventists mingle with other Christian organizations. In reference to its position in global Christian organizations, the Adventist Church has held observer status at meetings and been open to cooperation with other churches in areas that do not compromise its identity, mission, and message. The rule of thumb is not to hold membership in any ecumenical body that eradicates or erases the distinctive Adventist voice in reference to the sovereignty of God the Creator, the Sabbath, and the Second Coming. In principle, Adventists choose not to be involved in doctrinal alliances with other churches because of the Adventist adherence to a wholistic and integrated approach to biblical doctrines and because of that seeks to uphold doctrines that Adventists consider to have been sidelined, changed, or forgotten in the course of church history.
That said, “unity” is not a bad word. Adventists value unity just as God does. Unity is grounded in the existence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Adventists promote unity for the sake of mission, to make Christ known to all people groups, languages, tribes, and nations. Christians can also unite to make the world a better place through the promotion of health, education, humanitarian work, and the promotion and protection of human rights.
But Christians must keep in mind that they will miss their primary calling if they do not unite to uphold and model spiritual values grounded on the everlasting gospel. The theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are paramount in the Christian mandate and gift to the world. These virtues can best flourish when religious liberty is a reality.
Religious liberty for Adventists is the antidote to syncretistic ecumenism. It is a call to embrace truth with the inalienable freedom of conscience, freedom of religion or belief, freedom to express publicly one’s beliefs, freedom to invite others to share one’s convictions or to join one’s community of faith.
Ecumenism Up Close A subtle cluster of interrelated topics in the arena of interchurch and interfaith relations that needs much clarity is the issue of unity, visible unity, and ecumenism. Other words are sometimes brought into the conversation as if they mean the same thing. They are “collaboration,” “partnership,” and “interchurch (or interfaith) dialogue.”
The word “ecumenism” is used differently in various contexts. The word can refer to unity among the world’s Christian churches, but people usually use it to describe a general sense of cordial relations, dialogue, or partnership for a project. Historically, the first church councils were called ecumenical in the sense that many churches interacted to define orthodoxy. This is not the sense it is given today. Some denominations, such as Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, use it in this sense because they believe they are the guarantors of orthodoxy. But to label any partnership among Christians as doctrinal ecumenism may be uninformed, uneducated, and far-fetched. Spiritual honesty is also needed in identifying and evaluating the real content of interchurch relations.
Defining Unity The concept of unity has a solid biblical and theological foundation. The blessing God intended to spread through Abraham and through his descendants was destined to all the families of the earth. God wants all His people to experience doctrinal unity. This never materialized among His covenant people, Israel. The belief in the resurrection of the dead, for example, was not shared by all Israelites. The New Testament mentions that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.
Today unity is understood differently among various Christian churches. For Roman Catholics, for example, unity includes the concept of the communion of saints, meaning both those who are alive and those who are dead.
In the Catholic Encyclopedia the communion of saints is described as “the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, the souls in purgatory, and the saints in heaven in the organic unity of the same mystical body under Christ its head. . . . The participants in that solidarity are called saints by reason of their destination [heaven] and of their partaking of the fruits of the Redemption.” With this example in mind, global church unity could be a reality only if all Christians adopted the Roman Catholic worldview or understanding of reality or if all Catholics gave up their deeply held beliefs.
Nevertheless, there is much that unites Christians, beginning with the foundation of unity itself. Unity is dear to the heart of God. The whole plan of salvation demonstrates God’s determination to unite His divided and dispersed family, which He created in His image. Unity is grounded in the being of God who is Trinity: a unity in Trinity.
Jesus’ death was purposed to gather people into one. In John 17 Jesus prayed for unity for the sake of mission so that the world might believe. The Holy Spirit was given to seal the unity in mission.
Adventists and Unity Adventists join God in all that God is doing in the world for its salvation. God evangelizes (Gal. 3:8); so do we. God is committed to unite the whole world under the lordship of the Savior, Jesus Christ. We join God to fulfill His purposes to lift up God the Son so that the world might be saved. Adventists are committed to call all peoples to fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:1, 2). They remind all Christians of what constitutes a core belief since apostolic times and is also present in the earliest Christian statement of faith: the second coming of Jesus.
The principle that informs Adventists’ relations to other Christians has two inseparable aspects: truth and religious freedom. Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White underscored this in The Acts of the Apostles, writing: “The banner of truth and religious liberty held aloft by the founders of the gospel church and by God’s witnesses during the centuries that have passed since then, has, in this last conflict, been committed to our hands.
The responsibility for this great gift rests with those whom God has blessed with a knowledge of His Word. We are to receive this Word as a supreme authority. We are to recognize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment, and teach obedience to it as a sacred duty, within its legitimate sphere. But when its claims conflict with the claims of God, we must obey God rather than men.”1
More fundamentally, Adventists understand their mission as their name intimates—highlighting the truth of the Second Coming as the hope of the world to finally embrace freedom from death and from evil, bringing with it justice and peace. These convictions are the reasons that Adventists emphasize the Second Coming and a message of healing. Adventists understand that the words of Jesus calling His disciples “salt” and “light” (Matt. 5:13-17) apply also to them.
Every aspect of Adventist engagement with any institution, agency, or organization, whether ecclesiastical or political, built primarily upon the reason for the existence of the church: bringing hope to humankind entangled in all kinds of evil. To fulfill this mission, Adventists participate in Jesus’ method as articulated by Ellen White: “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
Jesus served people, healed them, and fed them with no strings attached. He made them know and feel they were free to choose their future with or without Him. Freedom of conscience matters to Him. Without this freedom, no covenant is genuine. This is because love cannot be forced.
Interchurch Relations Adventists recognize other sincere Christians who confess the truth of Jesus as members of the body of Christ. But Adventists do not hold formal structural membership in ecumenical organizations primarily for freedom of religion purposes. Membership in an ecumenical body would limit the freedom to share one’s convictions with everyone else and thereby jeopardize a universal end-time mission as Adventists understand it.
Adventists are not part of the ecumenical organizations that require membership, but they do enjoy guest or observer status at meetings. Cooperation with other Christian denominations is in accordance with the Adventist Church’s view of other Christians. Ellen White, writing about temperance, said this about leaders in other denominations: “In other churches there are Christians who are standing in defense of the principles of temperance. We should seek to come near to these workers and make a way for them to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. We should call upon great and good men to second our efforts to save that which is lost.”3
In reference to prayer, White said: “Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.”4
In accordance with the above counsel, the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, has inscribed in the General Conference’s Working Policy that church leaders “recognize every agency that lifts up Christ before men as a part of the divine plan for the evangelization of the world, and . . . hold in high esteem the Christian men and women in other communions who are engaged in winning souls to Christ.”
Rejecting Ecumenism Unity, though clearly willed by God, is not the supreme value. Loyalty to God’s truth takes precedence.
The Adventist Church and several other denominations that have not joined organized ecumenical bodies object to ecumenism as doctrine or as an objective to fuse Christian churches into one world church, leading to loss of distinctive denominational identity. Also, Adventists and other believers do not adhere to syncretistic alliances that would diminish the importance and weight of truth, especially when beliefs in some churches may not be in harmony with revealed biblical truth.
The main concern of Adventists is that they will be restricted from sharing their convictions with every person regardless of religious or philosophical persuasion. This is fundamentally an issue of religious freedom. How could Christians question the right to freedom of religion or belief while even the secular world has accepted this fundamental human right and value?
The Bottom Line While considering other Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ, the principle that prevents the Adventist world church from being a member of an organized union of churches such as the World Council of Churches is that of religious freedom. Religious freedom implies the unrestricted right to share one’s religious convictions and the right to invite others to join one’s own Christian tradition without being accused or labeled as a proselytizer.
Seventh-day Adventists support Christian unity as they join the triune God, who is determined to gather people He created in His image. The purpose of the whole plan of salvation is the restoration of God’s image and the gathering of those He saves. Unity is grounded in God. It was for this purpose Jesus Christ came to earth to unite all the families of the earth.
Doctrinal unity among Christian churches is elusive and unreachable unless churches lose their distinctive beliefs and join one of the church traditions, be it Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, Evangelical, Pentecostal, etc.
Freedom of religion or belief is a nonnegotiable gift of God that should characterize the freedom of every Christian person or community to share his or her convictions with others, to invite others to join his or her Christian tradition. Obviously, for the sake of mission Christians can join to witness to Christ to a world that needs Him most urgently.
1 Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), pp. 68, 69. 2 Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 143. 3 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 6, p. 110. 4 Ibid., p. 78.
When the Holy Spirit gives us a gift, that's all the permission we need to use our gift for God... work...
Called to Care
General Conference president Ted Wilson summed up the concept of Total Member Involvement in a Facebook post not long ago. “Every follower of Christ is given the responsibility of reaching out to people—individually—with the hope that we ourselves have found in a soon-coming Savior.” That is indeed the crux of Total Member Involvement: the idea that all of us, no matter our calling in life, can do something to reach the world for Christ. Our efforts need not be grand to be effective, but with the Lord’s help, we can be His hands and feet in the world. The following stories offer a glimpse into the many ways ordinary Adventists in different parts of the world are doing exactly that.—Editors.
Fleur Duke (Australia)
Though I hadn’t had any connection with the difficulties confronting girls in the sex industry, I felt the call to reach into my area on the New South Wales Central Coast with God’s love,” says Fleur Duke.
“Lord,” I said, “I have little experience and minimal education to qualify me, but I am willing to answer Your call. Use me.” Duke’s first step to becoming involved in this ministry was to join those who were already ministering to the prostitutes in Kings Cross, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.
“We started Rahab Ministries Outreach in February 2012, partnering with Rahab South Australia (a nondenominational Christian organization). The team of about 30 meets together and prays before and during our visits,” Duke says. “Once a month each brothel is visited by a group of two or three of the girls on our team. We explain that we are Christians and there to offer support through prayer and conversation, building relationships, offering Bible studies and English classes, and leaving a contact card.”
“Each girl could be your sister, daughter, friend, aunty, or mother,” she adds. Many of the girls have shared their longing for their homes and families in China or Thailand. God’s Holy Spirit speaks through language barriers, and His love reaches each one in their darkness.
All visits are topped off with hugs and prayers showing that God has not forgotten them.
“At first I thought our aim was to take God into these places, but it was not long before I realized that He was already there. My part in this journey is to meet Him in the women who have struggles just as I do,” says Duke.
—Adapted with permission of the South Pacific Division Record
The Navales Family (Philippines)
Two years ago 3-year-old Vincent befriended five children from his neighborhood and invited them to his home. Vince’s mother, Aireen, didn’t know what to do with them, but with prodding from her son, she offered what food they had, taught them a song, and told them a story.
Aireen saw how some of the kids treated each other roughly and realized they did not have the most positive home environment. “I decided to set a few rules,” she recalls. These rules were simple: everyone would use gentle hands and soft voices. “Because these rules were easy to follow, the children obeyed, but it also created a big difference, because we were able to get rid of the grabbing, shouting, and all the unacceptable street words and other behaviors.”
The following Sunday Aireen and Vincent found a larger group of children on their doorstep and realized God was giving their family a unique opportunity. From her little son’s desire to offer underprivileged children a safe place to be kids, Play, Learn, and Serve (PLS) was born.
After one month, the group had outgrown the family’s living room. Vincent’s father, Rey, transformed the sound and lights showroom on their property into a classroom.
A typical PLS Sunday gathering consists of singing, discussion of the week’s theme, prayer, a values lesson, an art activity, and snacktime. Over time, PLS earned a reputation that has attracted schools and non-profit organizations whose leaders want to learn how to use the program in their own fields. As the number of children increased, the family had to register their program as a charitable organization.
While they may not know how God will continue to expand their involvement in the future, the Navales family trusts in how He has worked through one child’s dream to empower the dreams of the many children around them.
—Adapted from original written by Gay Deles
Paolo Giametta (Italy)
It began in 2008 in a Sabbath School Action Unit in Bergamo, Italy. A young elder named Paolo Giametta had a dream to start a family group, and submitted a list of people in the municipality of Merate for whom to pray.
After a few weeks Judith, a young woman from Merate, decided to open her house to the family group to study the Bible. The number of people attending Bible studies increased week after week. Soon, a second family group was formed in the nearby town of Olgiate. In 2012 Judith was baptized. The following year the group began Sabbath worship services in her home, and by 2013 the group was officially organized. Each Sabbath morning, before the program begins at 9:00, church members and guests have breakfast together. The worship service is followed by potluck and fellowship, with friends from the community also invited. On Sundays the group often hikes and picnics together in the countryside. Often close to 80 people gather, and it’s proved to be a great opportunity to make new friends.
Individuals studying the Bible are taught by six church members from the group, which is the result of person-to-person evangelism. Recently, because of the arrival of refugees from Syria to the region, church members have assisted local authorities by caring for about 40 refugees. But Giametta hasn’t stopped there. He and a coworker named Savino became friends and started studying the Bible together after work. As a result, Savino decided to become an Adventist. Two months before his baptism he began studying the Bible with a friend he met at the gym. Now Savino also leads a midweek family group. Savino also has a list of people for whom he is praying, including his wife and their son.
Like a domino effect, individuals have been won to Christ in this Italian community, all because Giametta, a young elder with a burden on his heart to plant a church, actually did something about it.
—Adapted from original written by Paolo Benini
New Jacob (St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands)
New Jacob was baptized as a result of an open-air meeting. From then on he has been stirred with a thirst to share God’s love.
Beginning with his parents, Jacob invited his family to attend an evangelistic effort in their neighborhood. This resulted in the baptism of his stepfather and sister. “It was a thrilling moment for me; the experience was great. I felt joy knowing that God used me,” Jacob recalls. He soon joined his church’s prayer band and for three decades saw God open doors of opportunity to reach others. To encourage the ailing, he joined his congregation’s hospital visitation team. “I am like any Christian who would like to do God’s will,” he said. Feeling the need to accomplish more, Jacob joined the church’s prison ministry. “Through the prison ministry I serve those often forgotten by society,” he reflected.
At first Jacob spent about four days each week doing missionary work while still managing his business. But he felt that God required more of him. “I was thrilled when I received an invitation to join ShareHim International and did not hesitate,” he said. This ministry is affiliated with the North American Division, and members travel internationally to share the message of life in Jesus.
Jacob remains involved in church ministries and serves as an ordained elder. He sacrifices to travel annually and share hope, using his own resources. With more than 300 persons baptized through his efforts, Jacob often places his life and his business at risk to meet people’s needs. At a time when many people are self-absorbed, he reflects Christ’s love around the world. “I encourage any member, if they are going to make any choices, [to] err on the side of the Lord. It’s so rewarding serving the Lord; it completely alters your path.”
—Adapted from original written by Royston Philbert
Cindy Tutsch (United States)
When I retired, I looked forward to ‘warming a pew’ at church,” says former Ellen G. White Estate associate director and pastor Cindy Tutsch. Now, two and a half years after retirement, I’ve definitely enjoyed some travel and absolutely enjoy playing with our grandkids. But to my surprise, I’ve also enjoyed participating heartily in the life of our local church!”
Tutsch was first asked to shepherd the youth Sabbath School. “I’ve loved getting to know the youth in our church,” she says. We’ve hosted the youth at our house for a party or planning session. A couple teens come to our house weekly for Bible studies.”
Soon Tutsch was asked to serve as an elder. “I’ve pastored a couple churches, and I know that a ‘good’ elder does a lot more than just be the presiding platform leader. In the end, though, God nudged me to agree,” she recalls.
Recently Tutsch was driving to a local retirement center where she gives Bible studies to a handful of elderly people. “I remonstrated with God about this particular assignment,” she says. “God,” I complained, “I really don’t want to do this anymore.”
Almost immediately God impressed a text on her heart. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these . . . , ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40, KJV).
“In that moment God gave me a heart transplant regarding those precious elderly people. Now when I go to teach them, I see Jesus. And when they hug me and tell me how happy they are that I come to pray and sing with them every week, I can answer honestly, ‘I’m glad, too!’?” she says.
Tutsch knows she can’t meet every need in her community, but she can do something. “By God’s grace, when He asks me to serve, I will continue to say, ‘Here am I, Lord. Send me!’?”
Matilda Radge (Malaysia)
Being in the entertainment industry has helped me spread the gospel,” says Matilda Radge. “My first priority in life is to spread the gospel; the second is my music.”
As a producer and songwriter Radge composes positive songs that speak of love for others, nature, and love in its purest form. “When clients come to us,” Radge says, “they trust us because they know we fear God. They know we will give them more than they ask for. We bring out the best in their voices. Our integrity is our testament of the God we worship, and we make sure they learn that from our character and work ethic.”
“Malaysia is a Muslim country, but because of the principles we hold, radio staff, clients, and even our fans/listeners who follow us on social media know about the Sabbath,” adds Radge. “When my husband and I did a Valentine’s Day interview for a top radio station, we used that opportunity to speak about the biblical principles we practice in our marriage. Every time we are called for TV or radio interviews, we give credit to God.” “We have fans and listeners who follow us [on social media] and want to know more about us,” Radge says. “I use this to share the gospel. I post statuses and testimonies that glorify God. Many who comment and ‘like’ my posts are not Christians. But when they go through tough times, they message me and ask me to pray for them.”
Before starting production on new projects, Radge prays that they write and produce songs that honor God. “We ask Him to bless our work. From beginning to end, we pray, pray, pray. We seal the production with a dedication prayer. What usually happens is a hit song! We make sure our clients know that the song’s success belongs to God.”
Living a life of faithfulness means different things to different people, but all of them have something in common: Trust in God.
Journeys of Faithfulness
The concept of “faithfulness” is intricately woven throughout the fabric of a person’s lifestyle and belief system, particularly that of a Christian. Some describe it as remaining loyal to someone or something regardless of the circumstances.
Others say it entails “standing firm” for convictions and principles. Synonyms include fidelity, devotion, dependability. Faithfulness evokes an image of what is best in humankind as we relate not only to one another but also to our Creator.
Stories of faithfulness to family, friends, country, and God abound, inspiring and encouraging us to become better people—more caring, more courageous. Sadly, inour weakness and in spite of good intentions, humans often fail.
We don’t reach that pinnacle of “greatness and goodness” we may long to achieve. God, however, has no such limitations. Faithfulness is part of His character (Ex. 34:6, NIV); it helps define who He is. “Great is [His] faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23, NIV).
In describing those in the Bible who suffered reproach and persecution for “His name’s sake,” Ellen White doesn’t laud the faithfulness of these men and women, but gives the credit fully to God: “These examples of human steadfastness bear witness to the faithfulness of God’s promises—of His abiding presence and sustaining grace.”* After all, it is He alone who is truly faithful. The short narratives that follow come from West Africa,
New Zealand, Malaysia, Tchad, and the UnitedStates.
They describe personal journeys of faith that reveal the character and love of the God whom the writers believe in and worship. May these stories inspire you to love and trust Him more.—Editors.
*Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 575.
Faithfulness in Adversity
By Julene Duerksen-Kapao
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5, 6).
August 19, 2009: The date changed my life, my plans, everything. The weeks leading up to August 19 included a family trip from New Zealand to California to visit my family, and a weekend trip with my 4-year-old son to Melbourne, Australia, to speak at a women’s conference.
During the conference I got a headache that no matter what I did—sleep, medication, water—would not budge.
The days following my return from Australia were a blur of bizarre symptoms, including blurry vision, light sensitivity, headaches, exhaustion, balance issues, lack of appetite, and weakness.
On August 19 a colleague where I taught walked with me upstairs and noticed I could not lift my right foot without tripping. “You’d better go to the emergency room” were his words after hearing the other symptoms.
Eye exams, X-rays, EKGs, and an array of tests did not bring clear answers. “You may have had a stroke” or “It may be a fast-growing tumor,” I was told. The final stop was an MRI. As I lay in the noisy machine, head held firmly in place, I prayed Psalm 23. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I had no idea what the future held, but I knew God’s hand was on my life. I asked God for the MRI to show answers, so no matter what the outcome was I would know what I was facing.
About 8:00 p.m. the emergency room doctor asked me to go to a private room. “You have multiple sclerosis.” And there it was, my answer. Literally “many scars” on my brain and spinal cord.
I cried. I prayed. I questioned. I went home. I rested. I cried some more. My husband, Rouru, and our two small children prayed a lot. We had no idea what this meant and how this reality would impact our lives.
Within 10 days I was admitted to the hospital for extreme nausea, balance issues, and muscle weakness. I lost my ability to walk and talk. I could not move my head. I was overcome with sadness and loss.
For the next nine weeks Rouru would hold my hand, sing and laugh with me, and pray. Through the chaos, the not knowing, the fear, and the sense of loss I heard God.
One night I had a dream in which I awoke to a bright light. I jumped out of my hospital bed—even though I couldn’t walk at the time—and ran to the window. It was the Second Coming! I was overwhelmed with peace and the warmth of Jesus’ love.
His clear words washed over me: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51, 52).
In that moment I began a new life—a life of peace and total acceptance of the chaos now consuming me. God showed me that we all have scars, some seen and others unseen.
I determined to live and live well, and so my neurologist, my family, and I chose the most aggressive approach: six-month chemotherapy treatment starting October 2009. For the first treatment I was in the hospital; the second, my husband pushed my wheelchair; third, I pushed a walking frame; fourth, crutches; fifth and sixth—I walked!
The oncology nurses gave me a standing ovation! The journey has been chaotic, traumatic, frustrating, blessed, and hope-filled. During the past more than five years my faith has been tested and grown dramatically. I am blessed to experience my human brokenness and have had an opportunity to live knowing my scars. I am better now.
I work full-time in a fulfilling and challenging job. I am on daily staying faithful Against the Tide By Melodie Roschman medication to prolong remissions and decrease severity of relapse. I play with my kids. And I live in the hope of the Second Coming.
Staying Faithful Against the Tide
By Melodie Roschman
They’re everywhere.” Our guide gestured dramatically at the city surrounding us. “And they’re targeting you. So look out for each other. And be careful.” We were on a three-week tour through Europe, taking in incredible historical buildings, eating delicious food, and making stumbling attempts at learning at least a little French.
It was nearly a paradise, except, we were advised, for all of the pickpockets and thieves. “Marseille is a city where they’ll steal your wallet as fast as they look at you,” we were told. Later, in Paris, we were ever vigilant: on the metro, in the markets, even at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Pickpockets, it seemed, would hunt you to the ends of the earth. Most troubling were street beggars. Holding out their children, asking for directions, begging on the steps of buildings. We were warned that they would prey on your generosity and rob you blind.
It felt wrong, but we got used to avoiding eye contact, huddling together, walking past outstretched and empty hands. For the most part, people were never as persistent as we had been told they would be. No babies were thrust into our arms. No one was ever robbed.
When they held out their hands, we shook our heads and stepped around them. We pretended they were invisible.
One day, though, leaving a church, my friend Matt couldn’t take it anymore. I looked up to discover that I had left him behind on the steps, where he was stooped, handing a few euros to an old woman wearing a shawl. Soon he jogged to catch up with me. “I couldn’t say no,” he said simply.
Instantly I felt ashamed, humbled by his instinctive generosity regardless of counsel. Matt’s simple act reminds me of evangelist Tony Campolo’s words: “God puts the wealth in our hands, without any guarantee from us that we will use what
He gives us in a way that pleases Him. He trusts us.
Ought we not to do to others what He has done for us? On that great day when I stand before Him, He will ask if I gave to the needy. I do not think it will wash if I say, ‘I thought about it, but they did not look trustworthy.’ ”* While the rest of us, out of fear, obediently treated these people as less than human, Matt reached out.
He bent down and smiled, and he gave to the least of these. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:35, 36, NIV).
A Reckless Faith
By Olen Netteburg
Walking from our hospital in Bere, Tchad, to Nigeria, you traverse tribes speaking Nangere, Maraba, Lele, Mesme, Moussaye, Keira, Toupouri, French, Arabic, and that’s before reaching the Cameroon border. A woman came to our hospital.
Nobody could understand her, but she brought her sick baby girl.
We rapidly diagnosed her with malaria and started intravenous quinine. The mother clearly had no money, but we did what we always do: we treated the child for free and gave mother and child food to eat. Her baby required three days of continuous IV treatment before she started eating again.
We kept mother and baby at the hospital for four days while trying to figure out what to do with this family.
One day I noticed the mother reading her Bible and saw the word “Hausa,” a language in northern Nigeria. I cautiously put forth the only Hausa word I knew, “Sannu” (hello). Her eyes lit up in amazement, and she replied vigorously, “Sannu! Sannu! Sannu!” shaking my hand like I was her long-lost friend.
Imagine a land with more than 120 languages and nobody understands you! Providentially, one of the women who works for us, Naomie, spent years in Nigeria and speaks fluent Hausa. I immediately called for
Naomie, who came and talked to the mother.
We learned that her name was Nagodé, and we heard her incredible story.
A man from the Tchadian Nangere tribe moved to Nigeria for work. He met and married Nagodé. They had a girl, whom they named Blessed. Boko Haram, a terrorist group, began targeting and killing Tchadians. Caught in an ambush, the husband fled into the wilderness, disappearing for months.
And that’s when Nagodé’s optimism became apparent. Absolute, reckless optimism. Nagodé wondered if her husband had returned to Tchad, so she did what any recklessly optimistic person would. She set off to look for him. She crossed into
Cameroon and went from church to church, asking for just enough money to get to the next church.
She arrived in Tchad and tried to ask where she could find the Nangere tribe. As she traveled farther from home, it became progressively more unlikely to find people speaking Hausa. She began spending days in each village, seeking people who spoke Hausa.
Nagodé arrived in Kelo, a village 42 kilometers (26 miles) from Bere, and learned she was close to the epicenter of the Nangere tribe. So she trekked the 42 kilometers to Bere the exact same way she had covered the previous hundreds of kilometers, on foot and with her two possessions strapped to her back: Blessed and her Hausa Bible.
Through it all, Nagodé’s foolishly optimistic belief in that which she had no evidence—her faithfulness—never wavered. Once she was in Bere, she found that her troubles were just beginning. Nagodé spent three days living and sleeping in the market, searching for somebody who understood her.
She did not eat the few crumbs she found, but gave them to Blessed. When Blessed fell ill with malaria, a stranger brought them to our hospital. We fed Nagodé. As she started to get her strength back, she began to smile as well. Life returned to her eyes, as it did to the eyes of Blessed.
Through it all, Nagodé continued to read her Hausa Bible every day. Naomie, herself a single mother of four boys, came to me in tears on Nagodé’s behalf. She begged me to allow her to take Nagodé and Blessed to her house.
I don’t know the ending to this story. I don’t know if Nagodé will find her husband. I don’t know if he’s been killed by Boko Haram, hiding in the African bush, or looking for his wife and child in Nigeria, Cameroon, or Tchad. But I know God put
Naomie in Nagodé’s path at exactly the right time.
I know Blessed would have succumbed to malaria without the free lifesaving medications given by our faithful donors. Nagodé’s optimism, determination, and faithfulness saved Blessed’s life, and probably her own as well. Nagodé has a reckless optimism put into action. Would Peter agree that’s an alternative definition of faithfulness?
Buoyed by a mother’s instinct and a Hausa Bible, Nagodé took off blindly in search of what she had confidence and assurance in, despite the lack of what any logical person would consider a decent plan or evidence of success. Mother and child are well-fed, healthy, and happy.
Nagodé thanked me endlessly, ceaselessly wishing God’s blessings on me for the free care Blessed received at our hospital, care made possible by the faithfulness of our supporters. But little did Nagodé know that her own faithfulness, her reckless optimism, had already blessed me.
Faithful to Sabbathkeeping
By Raymond Adivignon Hounnonkpe
The biblical story of Daniel and his friends—their commitment to live according to God’s principles—has been a powerful support for me. Following Jesus means carrying His cross, including when it comes to keeping the Sabbath.
I grew up in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). In 2001, I traveled to Benin, where I stayed with two of my older brothers while I continued my education. The younger brother was an Adventist. I began attending the Adventist church, and was baptized in May 2007.
Even though I was now an Adventist I continued taking exams on Saturdays until I earned my diploma to enter university. Then I took the entrance exam for a teacher’s college, and was accepted. So in November 2009 I left for Natitingou in northern Benin to continue my university studies. We had classes and exams on Sabbath.
I managed to miss classes in order to go to church, but when it came to tests, I missed church to write the tests.
My conscience was troubled, but I didn’t know what to do. I went to church irregularly. I asked some brothers in church to pray for me, but the prayers didn’t seem to help. Midway through my second year in university, however, God helped me make one of the most important decisions of my life. A calculus exam was scheduled for Sabbath. I hesitated.
Should I take the test on Sabbath or not? A testimony by our pastor about his daughter’s decision to stay faithful to the Sabbath greatly strengthened me. I also reread the story of Daniel and his friends, as well as stories of the Reformers in The Great Controversy.
I decided not to take the test, not only this one, but all future tests as well. I was ready to give up even my studies for the glory of God. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but God’s Spirit helped me. When the Sabbath came, I went to church.
My friends couldn’t understand it. Several of them asked me questions.
It was an opportunity for me to share my faith with them.
I didn’t write the test, and God showed me His power. My teachers decided to give me the same grade I had received so far in the class. This miracle encouraged me to be even more faithful to God. Until the end of my studies in Natitingou,
God strengthened me to be steadfast in my decision to keep sacred His holy day.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of my Sabbath challenges. Graduation ceremonies at the end of my three years of study were held on Sabbath. But I chose not to attend, even though, by God’s grace, I was the head of my class. Again, this was a chance to explain about the Sabbath to my friends and teachers.
In 2014 I was given the opportunity to take an entrance test to study statistics in Senegal, West Africa. When I learned that there would be classes on Sabbath, I didn’t go. Some of my relatives didn’t agree with me, but for me, only God’s will was important. I decided to continue my studies nearer my home.
Tests scheduled for Sabbaths still continued, but I always chose to keep the Sabbath and not take the tests. The final exam was also scheduled for Sabbath, but the Lord intervened, and my teachers allowed me to take it on a different day.
Keeping the Sabbath holy is a challenge for many people.
My experiences have helped me understand that we must not be afraid to commit ourselves fully to God. Despite all the obstacles, God has consistently sustained me. I am now studying for my doctorate in mathematics, supervised by a professor who previously was disappointed in me because of my stand for the Sabbath. Our God is marvelous and powerful.
Nothing is impossible for Him. Let us choose to trust Him.
Giving Away God’s Blessings
By Faith Toh
In the hills of Sabah, surrounded by the mountains of Malaysia, lies a little village. To get to this village, you have to navigate a bumpy 36 kilometers (22.4 miles) off road to a river. Crossing the river is uncertain.
During drier months the crossing is smooth. When it’s monsoon season, the water level rises too high, and crossing is impossible.
If you make it across the river, there is another bumpy ride up to Bambangan village. It’s a beautiful place, and if you climb up the tallest hill, you can see the back of Mount Kinabalu in the distance. The people of
Bambangan are subsistence farmers. One school serves them and a neighboring village about a 40-minute trek away.
The school, called Sekolah Rendah Advent Bambangan (or Bambangan Adventist Primary School), employs three instructors who teach grades 1 to 6. This year 53 children are enrolled, but actual attendance can drop to 20 during harvest season, planting season, and rainy season.
In a place where parents barely have enough to feed their children, paying school fees is sometimes a luxury they cannot afford.
For the past 13 years Ester Gerber has been faithfully supporting the work of Bambangan School, and tirelessly mentoring its students. Ester was born in a tiny village in Germany, the sixth child of a poor family. It wasn’t easy for her parents to make ends meet, yet they made sure she completed her education.
Ester is passionate about education. For her, supporting the school means more than just contributing financial aid to help pay teachers’ salaries or sponsoring school fees. She says, “Making the world a tiny bit better for someone else is not just giving one push and then saying ‘OK, it was nice meeting you. Goodbye.’
People need to be treated with respect, fairness, and justice, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. . . . No matter where someone comes from, they should always know they are princes and princesses of our heavenly Father.”
Stephen* is a graduate of Bambangan School. Influenced by wayward friends at secondary school, he was on a slide down the wrong path. He had so much potential, but he didn’t seem to be interested in learning. Ester was adamant.
She told him, “OK, young man, I will not force you; it will be your own free will. But I would love for you to change schools for your last year. Would you please consider?” Stephen ended up switching schools.
“For the first couple of months, he sent me one message after another,” Ester recalls, “begging me to please allow him to go back to his old school because he was so miserable.” But eight months later Stephen started to tell Ester how his life had changed bybeing at the new school.
He became a spiritual leader, involved in church activities. “He still has some ways to go, but God will lead him,” says Ester. “We can improve their lives; we can even improve their physical wellbeing,” adds Ester. “But unless we manage to bring them the good news and help them accept Jesus as their personal Savior, what have we achieved?”
Ester, who continues to mentor students,is quick to assert that “it is not my faith that keeps Bambangan going. Bambangan is keeping my faith going. “Sometimes I feel like I just don’t have any energy left. But then God gives me strength, and I can fly and soar on wings like an eagle. God has really blessed me, blessed my family.
I need to pass the blessing on to others. I’m not really giving something away, because I’m getting so much more back.”
In 1904 American composer Will Lamartine Thompson told of his love for Jesus in the hymn “Jesus Is All the World to Me.”
Jesus is All the World to Me
In 1904 American composer Will Lamartine Thompson told of his love for Jesus in the hymn “Jesus Is All the World to Me.” In doing this, he voiced, in words and music, the precious and personal sentiments that millions of Christians have shared through the millennia since the resurrected Christ entered upon His program of mediating to us His priceless merits, so that we might live heavenly lives even in the midst of earth’s fierce challenges (Heb. 7:25).
The compelling interest in this month’s testimonies from Adventists around the world is in the way they show Christians living out Christ’s life on a day-to-day basis in widely differing circumstances. Here are the earnest words of a high school teenager who loves Jesus, and there, the story (two, in fact) of how a wife learns, through bitter bereavement, a deeper sense of the preciousness of knowing Christ’s righteousness is real and personal. These testimonies help us appreciate greater spiritual, emotional, and ethical dimensions that belong to the third angel’s message in verity (see Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, pp. 199, 200).
The viewpoints expressed in these testimonies are those of the respective authors as they reflected on their journey with Christ.—Editors
Only Jesus Can Truly Satisfy
By Sicelicile Ndlovu
My parents encouraged us children to go to church every Sabbath, though they themselves never attended church.
In Church Without Jesus
I got baptized at the age of 15. I had anticipated some magical change to take place in my life as a result of being dipped in water. I thought baptism would automatically transform me from the sinner I was into a saint. But that did not happen.
The first 20 years of my life I went to church, but I was unconnected to the God of the church. I served in the house of God, yet I never knew the God I served. Repentance and forgiveness of sin were all foreign to my Christian experience.
When I went to university, I was not yet anchored in my Christian experience. I developed an addiction to fashion and parties. I was obsessed with my looks, and I would spend any amount to decorate my body. I knew this was ungodly, but I could not resist the temptation.
Outwardly I looked lively and happy, but deep inside I suffered much from guilt, and I felt empty and desolate.
I got busy with church work thinking that it would bring me peace and righteousness. I desperately needed peace, but the more I toiled, the more empty I felt. My good works could not expiate my guilt. They could not purchase righteousness.
In October 2008 a guest came to our church and spoke about Christ’s righteousness. For the first time it dawned on me that Christ could actually justify me regardless of my past. I felt so thrilled to know that as a repentant sinner, I now stood before God as one who had never committed a single sin. My struggle with guilt was over. For the first time I went home after church feeling happy and at peace with God. Soon after that, I started reading the book Steps to Christ. The book pointed me to the Scriptures.
I remember how my soul delighted to read the assuring words of the apostle Paul in Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”
My deepest desire was to be in Christ Jesus. I understood from my study of Steps to Christ that not only had Christ dealt with my past sins, but He had given me a clean heart and gives me power to live a life of obedience.
Today I thank God for delivering me from my bond to fashion and parties, which never really satisfied. I am still learning to live a life of daily surrender to Him.
Sometimes it’s hard when my faith gets tried by the cares of life. When I fall, I know in whom I have believed, and that I can always go back to Him. His grace is ever sufficient. He gives me strength to do all things, and has given me a peace that passes all understanding.
Jesus Has My Folder
By Alareece Collie
In the skit “The Good-O-Meter,”* people stood in a line and one by one approached what I believed to be angels. Each individual would hand over their folders with all the deeds they had done in life. Many had red sheets of paper indicating bad deeds. The angel would do a quick review, then ask the person to step on a scale that ranged from “bad” to “good.” Regardless of the professed good deeds, each scale reading displayed “bad,” and the person was rejected. One unfortunate individual even tried to buy his way in with a credit card. Finally someone turned in a folder filled with red sheets.
However, Jesus appeared and submitted a folder that read “child of God.” Shocked, the angel declared to the gentleman, “Sorry, I didn’t know He was with you.” Jesus proceeded to step on the scale in place of the man, and the “Good-O-Meter” at last measured “good.” Then Jesus and this “child of God” happily walked away and took their seats in what I would call the “righteous” side of the room.
The skit is a simplified portrayal of the concept of righteousness. Sometimes it is easy for concepts or scriptures to remain one-dimensional and never impact the way a person lives. To me, righteousness is about a relationship, and this influences daily living. A key passage is 2 Corinthians 5:17, which reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
Yet what does it mean to be “in Christ”? Verses 14 and 15 provide greater insight; they read: “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge this: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
In other words, when Christ died, we all died. It can then be said that if we symbolically died because we were “in” Him, we were also resurrected when He was resurrected. This is the new creation. His actions for us were not just an outlier event, but rather an essential part of being in relationship with Him.
Being “in” Christ is deserving of an emphatic sigh of relief, because no amount of my good deeds would have ever been enough. This new creation does not seek my righteousness through my good deeds. It relies on a relationship with the One who is good. In my twenty-first-century world people think I’m more successful because I do more. For myself, I’m glad to enjoy success by stepping aside and allowing my Jesus Christ to turn in His folder for me and step on the scale for me. He fills my place with His righteousness. I’m thrilled about that.
*Central Films, “The Good-O-Meter,” YouTube. Online video clip: https:www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrLzYw6ULYw (accessed Oct. 6, 2015).
His Righteousness, My Peaceful Beach
By La Verne Tavarez
Growing up in Antigua, I loved to look from the beach at the glasslike sea that caressed my island’s shores. However, we learned to fear the beaches when the hurricane season visited us and the sea became a monster that could swallow anyone who dared to leave the safety of higher ground.
Drowning in Fear
As a child, many times I felt as if I had been pulled into wild waters and was hopelessly drowning in an ocean of brimstone. In the Anglican tradition we were taught that if we did not live a good life, hell was waiting for us. I learned that Jesus was God and was in heaven, but that He was part of the punishment was what scared me so much.
Every Sunday I felt that the priest was talking to me, convincing me of my unrighteousness. It was almost as if he knew all my sins. I did not want to go to the sea of fire! But I always felt that hell was waiting for me.
I did not find any comfort attending a Catholic school: I was scared that if I died I was going to burn forever. I do not recall learning any specific Bible verses, only creeds, the liturgy that we repeated, and some Bible stories. Somehow I always knew that our lives needed to be Christ-centered, but the waves around me did not allow me to find that much-desired peace I needed.
An Amazing Change
I moved to New York and met a Seventh-day Adventist who brought me to his church. I learned about righteousness by faith.
I was shocked to learn that I had been deceived about the character of God, and became angry that I had lived in a system based on fear. I resolved to accept this truth of righteousness by faith. I was not yet ready, but at the same time, I cannot describe the emotions of being overwhelmed by joy; there are no words to describe the emotion of feeling Jesus’ righteousness. On the other hand, I met Adventists whose lives also confused me for a while, but not too long.
I accepted fully the righteousness of Jesus, but I had to overcome the discouragement of my experience with people for whom I expected Christ’s righteousness to have made a change in their lives. When I made the decision to be baptized, I knew it was the right thing; it was the public expression of accepting salvation in Jesus Christ. I had to make the decision regardless of what I had experienced with some people around me; I had to make my choice: “As for me, I am going to follow Jesus.”
At that moment I felt that if I died, I was safe in Christ for eternity. His righteousness is so perfect! I felt that I was sitting at the beach and saw one of those peaceful sunsets: the light and warmth gave me peace, the promise of the sea of glass in the new earth.
Saving My Marriage and Me
By Craig Bardo
I joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church as an adult who had come through a series of failures and disappointments. A childhood friend introduced me to the Bible, and I realized that if the Bible was the basis of doctrine, then Adventism made intellectual sense.
Not That Quickly
But my failures and disappointments didn’t end with my new faith. I looked forward to Sabbath, but was unable to reconcile my thoughts and behavior with my faith. I wondered why my efforts weren’t being rewarded if
Christianity was supposed to be a striving toward Christlikeness. Why was I always at odds with my wife and in a contentious relationship with my children? The whole Christian thing wasn’t working for me, and it clearly wasn’t working for my family. My wife was ready to divorce me.
Then the pastoral leadership team at my church began to lead us in a study of Romans 5. As I listened and read, I saw that Paul was describing me: without strength, ungodly, a sinner and an enemy of God (verses 6, 8, and 10). But all of the action fell to Christ! In fact, Paul declared that without confession, without repentance, without even going to God at all, I was reconciled to God by the death of His Son, and that the life of Jesus would save me (verse 10).
A Stunning Difference
The words stunned me. I looked at the Bible with new eyes. But it got better. Paul detailed how we were all condemned in Adam (verse 18), but Jesus set the record straight (verse 19), justifying everyone. This notion that all are justified freely continued an argument that Paul had started in Romans 3:24.
I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Jesus did not wait for me to come to Him. He came all the way to me!
As I study more, a scriptural pattern is becoming clearer to me. God has saved and delivered us all from the penalty of sin as a gift before we confess, repent, or even believe. He frees us from the hold of sin when we believe and confess (Rom. 5:19, 1 John 1:9). He frees us from the dominion and service of sin by what Paul describes as the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5) and through our faith in Jesus (Gal. 2:20). The obligations and penalties of Scripture fell on Jesus, and the benefits of His acceptance of those obligations are ours, so long as we believe.
No longer do I stress out about reconciling my thoughts and behaviors with my profession of faith; growth in grace is not a matter of stressing out about personal inadequacies. My “sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). My Sabbaths are filled with worship to God and service to others. Heaven fills my heart with love for my wife and children. I pray that my activities glorify God. I rest in the assurance that it is not my life but Jesus’ life that saves me.
Here I Stand
By Sharon Pergerson
My husband, William C. Pergerson II, a Seventh-day Adventist evangelist, was killed in a plane crash on August 27, 2015. My two teenage children and I were privileged to attend his last sermon series about Christ’s righteousness in Tobago, West Indies, about two weeks before the accident. Every one of those sermons prepared our family for what was shortly to happen. I remember thinking, Wow, he is preaching so powerfully, so clearly, and with such urgency.
Preparing Us for Tomorrow
Without a doubt, God was speaking to us and giving us a highly concentrated dose of His mind and soul-soothing medicine: righteousness by faith. God knew the dosage we needed to be able to endure the traumatic experience and to continue to hold on to Him.
One point that my husband underscored in his sermons that has grown more personal to me since his death is how close Christ is to each of us. Hebrews 7:26 says, “For such an high priest became us.”1 Jesus Christ has come much closer to us than many of us were raised to believe. He found it fitting to become one with us, even closer than a Siamese twin. My children and I appreciate Proverbs 18:24: “And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Christ became one with us and gives us the opportunity to receive all that is His, including His righteousness. That’s why Isaiah 54:17 says, “This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.”
He Shares My Pain
Oh, what a kind God! I can’t help loving this Friend God, who condescended to be with me in my pit of heartbrokenness. I am drawn to this Great Brother who feels my loss, because it is His loss, too. I cherish this “I AM” God who was in that small plane with my husband as His never-failing helper, holding him tight, and reminding him of His love as he circled the airport in Battle Creek, Michigan, seeking to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff.
I don’t know why the plane suddenly plummeted to the ground, instantly killing Will, the only occupant, but God will explain everything when He wakes my husband up soon.
I am indebted to this heavenly Father God, who I’ve watched succor my fatherless children and give them resilience, joy, and a determination to ever live to honor Him. I am sold out to this Savior God, who has filled our lives with the riches of souls transformed by beholding Him.
Satan hates this message of the righteousness of Christ. He’s read Ellen G. White’s words, “One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other—Christ our righteousness.”2 He’s noted Romans 9:28, where the apostle Paul wrote, “For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness.” He knows that the revelation and heart reception of Christ’s perfect righteousness will break the chokehold he has on God’s people. He’s very aware that this message will mature us to be able to stand fearlessly in these last days, even in the face of persecution and death.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have chosen to respond to Christ and His righteousness with love, gratitude, repentance, faith, humility, and surrender. My heart is fully open to Him. I am all His and at His service. Like Paul and my husband, I too say, “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). On Christ the solid rock I stand.
1-Bible texts are taken from the King James Version.
2-Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1955), p. 259.
Who Is Christ?
By Jorge Mendoza Alvir
God uses difficult situations to show who He is. When we think there are no other answers but our own, God shows His power to make us see who He is and what we are as humans. People often ask: If there’s a God, why doesn’t He show Himself to us? If there is a God, why is there so much evil in this world? But one of the questions most often asked is Why, if I pray, doesn’t He answer me? I used to think that if I prayed I needed an answer to know that God was with me. This misunderstanding was the actual start of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
God Is My Friend A personal relationship with Jesus is being His friend and knowing that He is your friend in good times and in bad times. Throughout the Bible we see people whose faith was put to the test, and who were often the ones that God blessed after tribulation. Once we humans are brought out of our comfort zone, we often seek God. This was my case. I used to think I had a good relationship with God. But when I look at what God has helped me through in life, I see that I didn’t know a lot that I needed to know in order to have the best relationship with Him. Yet Jesus stayed with me through those times and helped me to learn to love Him more and grow in Him. I used to pray for five minutes when I woke up, pray again when I was eating, and one more time before going to bed. I thought this was what it meant to have a close, personal relationship with God. But when God used tribulation to wake me up, I understood that I was really far from knowing God. From what I have been through, I can tell you that a personal relationship with God is not only praying five minutes three times a day. Prayer is one of the most important things to do if we want a good relationship with God. Talking to God and thanking Him for what He has done in our life; understanding that whatever He says and whatever He does is for my own good, this is what God wants me to realize that a relationship is. I didn’t understand this until I put it into practice. I started to learn more and study more of God’s Word; I keep understanding more and more things that I didn’t understand before. I am learning to listen to His voice, and although at first it was really hard to pray without an answer, I learned that just as human relationships need time, a relationship where we can actually hear God needs dedication and time. Now I appreciate that God will not answer if I pray only for selfish reasons; but if I pray for others, and for His will to be done, He will answer. Since I have understood what a personal relationship is, I have really learned to appreciate God’s care for me. I have learned to let Him be first in my life, and He always provides.
We live in a world in which the line between right and wrong is blurry at best. Political, business, and even religious leaders speak of transparency and the urgent need for ethical leadership.
The Joseph Files
How can we navigate ethical dilemmas in tough circumstances?
By Gerald A. Klingbeil
We live in a world in which the line between right and wrong is blurry at best. Political, business, and even religious leaders speak of transparency and the urgent need for ethical leadership.
Yet what we see more often is greed, self-righteousness, the thirst for more power, and blatant disregard of ethical absolutes. What else would explain major corporations skillfully circumventing government regulations for years to cut corners and raise the bottom line? The message is clear: If nobody catches you, just go right ahead.
As followers of Jesus we are not exempt from tough ethical challenges and temptations. In fact, it seems as if things get even more complicated when we decide to follow Jesus with all our heart. Think of the thousands of Adventists who struggle with Sabbath issues and find themselves choosing between faithfulness to their Lord and providing for their families.
In some parts of the world paying a bribe appears to be the only way of doing business—any business. Life is often complex and messy, and as Christ’s followers we often struggle to find the way that is mapped out by Scripture’s absolutes.
Ethics and Scripture
Ethics are generally understood as moral principles that govern a person’s or a group’s behavior. They are crucial to the way we live and work together. They are our guiding principles as we relate to the world around us; and for Christians they are rooted in Scripture.
In fact, Christian ethics are theology in boots. Very often when we think of ethics we think of laws or explicit statements governing individuals and their relationships to the larger community.
Yet an important source for ethical principles can be found in stories. In reality, in most cultures we learn about how we should live by listening to stories.
Scripture’s stories are full of case studies that require our careful attention. The best way to internalize ethics is not to memorize a list of do’s and don’ts; we learn better by knowing the principles and then seeing them applied in real life. That’s why God gave only 10 commandments but then included hundreds of stories in which we see His people grapple with ethical challenges. We see their victories, and we feel their pain when they fail.
A Rags-to-Riches Story
Joseph’s story, found in Genesis 37-50, provides a rich tapestry of experiences that help us maneuver ethical challenges—both individually and corporately. You remember the gist of it: Joseph, favorite son of his father, Jacob, is one day attacked by his brothers and sold into slavery.
Upon arrival in Egypt, he begins a comet-like career in the household of Egyptian courtier Potiphar, ultimately becoming the second-in-command of this important household. Joseph’s mettle, though, is soon tested by the sexual insinuations and plain invitations of Mrs. Potiphar (her lack of name in the narrative gives the reader a clue to her real significance), who, after having been rejected once too often, accuses Joseph of rape.
Consequently, Joseph finds himself in prison, and, again, needs to start at the bottom. Recognizing the apparently unusual administrative gifts of his new prisoner, the keeper of the prison commits the running of the prison into Joseph’s hands.
The narrative continues with a new twist: Joseph, the prisoner and right-hand man of the prison keeper, is suddenly called upon by Pharaoh when the king’s magicians and wise men are unable to interpret two crucial dreams of the ruler.
His convincing interpretation of both dreams leads to another leadership appointment—truly a rags-to-riches story worthy of Hollywood—culminating in Joseph becoming Egypt’s second-in-command.
It is at this point that Joseph’s story interacts again with the story of God’s people, Jacob’s family living in Canaan. When a severe famine brings his 10 brothers in search of food to Egypt, Joseph is suddenly confronted with his past. You remember the rest of the story. As we think about Joseph’s story and his ethical dilemmas and challenges, let’s highlight four important moments in his life that help us develop a God-centered ethics.
Crisis and Growth
It has been said that growth is the result of successfully overcoming a crisis or obstacle. Whatever form this “testing” takes, when we make good choices we find ourselves walking more securely and standing taller. Biblical scholars have long noticed the motif of testing in Joseph’s narrative, which seems to echo another story of profound testing in Genesis when Abraham is told to offer his own son (Gen. 22).1
At the outset of Genesis 37 Joseph is described as a spoiled tattletale receiving preferential parental attention and living in the midst of a family separated by ever-present fissures and divided loyalties.
When his own brothers sell Joseph into slavery, Joseph’s entire world crumbles. His status as slave of Potiphar (Gen. 37:36; 39:1) seemingly offered no opportunity of leadership; and yet, recognizing that “the Lord was with Joseph” (Gen. 39:2), Potiphar embraces the potential of his new slave and makes him his steward.
This change of circumstances is part of God’s testing and is repeated twice more in Joseph’s story. God’s active involvement in the narrative is visible in the many references to His blessings (verses 2, 3, 5, 21, 23); He is there, even if He resides in Potiphar’s slave quarters.
Chapters 42-45 are the main focus of testing of the narrative and involve the testing of Joseph’s brothers. One of the key verbs of the semantic domain of testing, bakhan, appears in Genesis 42:15, 16, when Joseph, after having recognized his brothers (verse 8), establishes a public procedure to determine if they are Canaanite spies.
Interestingly, testing takes different shapes and forms. Abraham’s faith is tested on Moriah (Gen. 22), while Israel’s endurance is tested in the wilderness.2 This experience of refining is in line with other “testing” experiences and serves to enhance Joseph’s faith and fidelity.
The spoiled tattletale is transformed into the mature and tempered leader of Genesis 42. Crisis and testing leads to growth and transformation—two key characteristics of any follower of Jesus. The biblical texts suggest that both Joseph and his brothers experienced growth as they faced testing and crises. The brothers’ response regarding their identity (verse 13) was truthful, even though they did not mention how the one brother was “no more.”
The verbal recognition of their guilt (verse 21) included in their dialogue among themselves, as well as Judah’s later intercession for Benjamin during the second visit to Egypt (Gen. 44:18-34) all point to increased maturity and growth.
Temptation and Victory
Beginning with the Fall, temptation has become our constant companion. Temptations characterize also Joseph’s story. Following his cometlike ascent to be second-in-command of Potiphar’s household, one day Joseph hears an unmistakable invitation: “Lie with me” (Gen. 39:7, 12).
In Hebrew it’s a terse two-word sexual proposition. Joseph’s response is significantly longer and provides an explanation of his rejection to Mrs. Potiphar’s proposition.
Besides disappointing his master’s trust, the main argument against Mrs. Potiphar’s proposition is God-centered recognition that any sin does not only affect human relationships but invades and distorts primarily the human-divine sphere: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (verse 9) employs terminology that is often used in confessional statements (cf. 1 Kings 8:47; 2 Chron. 6:37; Jer. 14:20).
Sin destroys relationships on alllevels; adultery, the sin envisioned in Genesis 39, was considered a capital offense in Old Testament law, whose penalty was death by stoning (Lev.20:10; Deut. 22:22).
Temptation usually requires a response and a decision. We can either “fall” in temptation or gain victory over temptation. Joseph’s consistent rejecting “day by day” (Gen. 39:10) and his decision to rather lose an item of clothing than be overcome by temptation (literally!) provide greatexamples for contemporary readers who recognize the destructive force of sin—personal and collective—on relationships.
Most Western readers will not catch the strong social implications of a man fleeing from a woman and the shame associated with such an action. Yet for Joseph shame was a lesser evil than the relationship-destroying effects of sin. Thus, God’s honor was more important than Joseph’s honor.
And there is more to temptation in Joseph’s story. Temptation also lurks in his interaction with his brothers once they come to Egypt in search of food and survival. As Egypt’s second-in-command, it would have been an easy task to have his brothers executed on some trumped-up charges. His near-absolute power would have sufficed to settle old scores.
Yet, while there is an element of testing (see above), there is no hint of revenge or the settling of scores in the narrative. The abuse of power is, unfortunately, a sad reality, both inside and outside of God’s people. It represents a vivid and strong temptation to any leader, especially in contexts in which power is bundled or concentrated.
Victory over this real temptation marked Joseph’s career and is also the sign of biblical leadership. Interestingly, classical prophets in Israel and Judah often spoke against the abusive use of power, especially considering weaker groups of society, including widows, orphans, and foreigners (Isa. 1:23; 10:2; Jer. 7:6; 22:3; Eze. 22:7; Zech. 7:10; cf. God’s characterization in Deut. 10:18).
Mine and Yours
Things can get in the way of healthy relationships. Joseph’s flaunting presentation of his special coat provokes deep-seated hate and envy in his brothers (Gen. 37:8, 11). The use of possessive pronouns illustrates this nicely. Judah’s “our brother” (verse 26) leads to Joseph’s sale to the slave traders (at least his life was saved) and the bloodstained tunic presented to their father Jacob is “his” and “your son’s” (verse 32). “Mine” and “yours” are also visible in Mrs. Potiphar’s intended seduction. “Lie with me” is clearly all about “I” and “mine.” Joseph’s response emphasizes “his,” referring to his master and his God.
Yet in the midst of this battle between selfish whims and God-centered victory over sin stands God, whose involvement in Joseph’s affairs is repeatedly mentioned, because it is God who gave him [Joseph] favor (Gen. 39:21) and who is with him (verse 23)—again and again.
Mine and yours is not only about selfishness. It is the recognition that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It reminds us of the fact that God is always part of the equation. Whether publicly or behind the scenes, God is engaged in this world.
Since Golgotha we cannot feign ignorance, because He has made His commitment to this world visible and tangible. God has become part of the picture, the process, the purpose, and the ultimate perspective.
It Is God
Where is God in Joseph’s story? some have asked. God’s presence is complex and at times hidden. After all, He is the God who allows bad things to happen to good, or at least “reasonably good,” people. God does not save Joseph out of the pit, and He does not protect His child from suffering abuse and facing temptation. His presence (and blessing) is often tentative and mediated by Joseph. God blesses Potiphar and Pharaoh’s prison because of Joseph. God’s voice can be heard quietly as He communicates life—and death—to those who dream His dreams (Gen. 37; 40; 41). Joseph’s recognition of this important concept can be heard numerous times (cf. Gen. 41:16); yet there is one that stands out.
The “It is God” of Genesis 45:5-8 really represents the theological heart of the Joseph narrative. When Joseph finally reveals his true identity to his brothers and they stand dumbfounded and terrified before him, Joseph breathes, “It is God.” “It is God” is meant to communicate goodwill and the key Christian concept that God is ultimately in control of our lives.
While human beings plot, plan, forget, and remember, God is silently and competently at work behind the scenes—through slavery, times of testing, imprisonment, and, finally, public recognition and installation in the highest echelons of power. All along the way God planned to preserve: a family, a people, and a world.
Through Joseph God has turned what was meant to destroy into something that builds up and sustains (cf. Prov. 16:4, 7; 19:21; Rom. 8:28).
Intriguingly, when God moves we begin to recognize our own, often marginal, position in His plans. Joseph never highlights his contribution to God’s plan but always starts with God. As noted by one commentator: “Joseph talks more about God than about Joseph.”3
“It is God” represents the healthy recognition that even our best will do little to gain success. It leaves space for God to act, guide, direct, and work quietly behind the scenes.
Joseph’s story provides a wonderful canvas, helping us to look at our own stories and our ethical failings and victories. We can see that crisis is the catalyst for growth, that temptation leads to victory—or defeat—and that “mine” and “yours” are often sideshows that distract us from the truth that true character growth happens within a larger community that helps me look beyond myself.
Finally, the “It is God” angle needs to become the driving force of every plan, activity, and decision. When God becomes part of the equation, we are set free to forget ourselves and can begin to live God-centered lives that echo the values of heaven.
1 Gregory S. Smith, The Testing of God’s Sons: The Refining of Faith as a Biblical Theme (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2014), pp. 49-67. 2 The book of Numbers documents this testing repeatedly. 3 V. P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 577.
A small prayer group that a Seventh-day Adventist couple began in western Kenya in 2011 has grown to 400 people and witnessed the baptism of 16 pastors from other denominations during the world church’s recent 100 Days of Prayer initiative.
Looking for Legalism, Finding Hypocrisy
It’s a good idea to define our terms before we debate them.
By Joseph Olstad
Though we run the risk of appearing closed-minded, most of us don’t have time to consider every new idea or teaching crossing our religious radar. We often pick and choose what to consider based on the theological models or paradigms in our minds that serve to frame or filter information.
My own modeling helps me frame an understandable picture of God’s wrath in the Old Testament with Jesus’ teaching on forgiving one’s enemies in the New Testament. Without a model, I’m either left with a contradiction or tempted to favor/ignore one part of the Bible over another.
On the other hand, if a biblical scholar tries to tell me that Jesus wasn’t really divine, or the New Testament documents are a collection of forgeries, I’m not motivated (in most circumstances) even to consider such positions. I just filter that out and make no attempt at changing my paradigm to accommodate what I consider nonsense.
Paradigms are essential and work well until we forget we are using them. If that happens, we may begin unconsciously filtering out crucial bits of data that would improve our paradigms to reflect the truth better. It may be that some Christians, including Adventists, have unconsciously assumed, when reading the Gospels, a paradigm that has caused us to overlook some of the sharper points Jesus was making. The concept of legalism is one of these problematic paradigms that warrants a closer look.
I read and hear the contours of this model everywhere—in Sabbath schools, sermons, periodicals, and casual conversation: “Pharisees were legalists and were teaching legalism”; “Jesus rebuked the Pharisees’ legalism and taught us a new way of grace and love”; “Christians should obey the law but not legalistically”; “Obeying the Sabbath is legalism”; and so on. Within this paradigm it seems that legalism is a major threat in the Gospels; therefore, Jesus’ rebukes and teachings are seen as correcting that problem. But I suggest a different paradigm. Remembering the saying “What you focus on determines what you miss,” I believe that legalism has been focused on or assumed . . . but hypocrisy has been missed. When I started considering this distinction, I asked friends at church if they could offer a single text from the Gospels that addressed legalism. I usually received either silence or a response about “tithing dill and cumin.” Perhaps that phrase came to your mind as well. Let’s start there.
Given that legalism is usually defined as “keeping the law in order to be saved,” let’s see if Matthew 23:23 is a good example of such behavior. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”1
Here is my question: what exactly is Jesus rebuking? Is He attacking legalism as commonly understood? It doesn’t appear so. In fact, in one sense the opposite is true. He is not condemning the Pharisees’ keeping of the law, whatever their motives may be; He is condemning their neglect of keeping the law.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Not only does He rebuke their neglect of the law—He highlights that they are neglecting the most important matters of the law. According to Jesus, the Pharisees not only are lawbreakers, but also break the most important laws.
But Jesus highlights another dimension of their disobedience. It is this highlight that brings “legalism” to mind for many readers. They not only are neglecting the most important parts of the law, but are keeping less-important parts so that they appear to be comprehensive law keepers. This last point earns them a special designation by Jesus, but it is not the designation “legalist.” It is the designation “hypocrite,” which He uses repeatedly.
But what about their legalistic tithing of herbs? Does Jesus want them to stop tithing? Not quite. He cautions that neither the weightier matters nor the “others,” i.e., tithing, should be neglected. Jesus closes His “woe to you, hypocrites” with a startling metaphor of someone straining a tiny gnat (notice the singular) out of one’s drinking water, but promptly swallowing a large, hairy camel. The insanity of such water filtration methods is coupled with the hypocrisy of keeping lesser laws while violating crucially important ones. The razor edge of Jesus’ words did not concern the tithing (the gnat), but instead the massive deletions of the law (the camel).
He launches His next woe using a parallel metaphor of beautiful, whitewashed tombs (verse 27). But take a peek inside and the beauty is forgotten at the sight of decaying corpses. The rebukes don’t center on the whitewash and gnat, but instead on the camel and dead men’s bones, which Jesus decodes for us as “hypocrisy and lawlessness” (verse 28).
To stick with Jesus’ parable, the legalistic paradigm has caused us to zero in on the gnat and whitewash, whereas the crux of Jesus’ rebukes is centered on the camel and dead men’s bones. When all the imagery comes together, Jesus calls the picture “hypocrisy.” Legalism, in fact, may be present, but as a paradigm it skews Jesus’ rebukes to the Pharisees into something quite different than what He intended.
Who Is a Pharisee?
As I took a closer look at these passages and others like them, the typical picture of the Pharisees began to crumble. The Pharisees have been considered the epitome of legalism: those who obey every law under the sun but whose exhaustive obedience is infected with motives characterized by a meritorious, works-oriented, salvation-earning, pull-myself-up-by-my-moral-bootstraps framework. The more I read the Gospels and take each dialogue Jesus had with them into consideration, the more problematic the traditional view becomes. The Pharisees Jesus addressed2 need to be recast as classic lawbreaking hypocrites, not meticulous lawkeeping moralists.3 Ellen White’s description is not as flattering as mine. She wrote that their “outward holiness” served to conceal “iniquity,”4 and though “they were punctilious in ritual observances, their lives were immoral and debased.”5 With this distinction in view, many Bible texts converge and are better explained by a paradigm of hypocrisy. For instance, Jesus commanded the multitude to do what the Pharisees and scribes say to do, but not to follow their example, because they didn’t do what they said (verses 2, 3).
Ellen White notes that Jesus made this statement in light of a greater purpose: the “character of the . . . Pharisees must be more fully exposed.”6 They preach the law, “but do not obey the law themselves.”7 The pressing question is “Was Jesus successful at exposing the Pharisees?” or are we going to continue repeating, as a church, how perfectly the Pharisees kept the law when in fact they didn’t? One time Jesus bluntly told those trying to kill Him that “none of you keeps the law” (John 7:19). Again, notice Christ’s warning: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). John the Baptist’s evangelistic strategy in Luke 3 may shed some light on the issue. If his audience had been immersed in a “works” theology of salvation, then John missed the target in his closing appeal. After giving a stirring message of repentance, John’s listeners asked, “What shall we do?”
Here’s John’s chance to turn them away from their legalistic moralism. But no, he tells them what they need to do: share your extra clothing, share your food, be fair in collecting taxes, don’t extort money through false accusations, and be content with your wages (Luke 3:10-14). I submit that John’s closing emphasis would not be safe for a “works”-oriented crowd. What if the people thought doing those works would earn them salvation? Obviously, that wasn’t the main concern. Let’s assume that John, the one more than a prophet, knew his audience better than we do in the twenty-first century, and knew exactly how to end his sermon. They needed to repent of bad works and to start doing good works. Incidentally, John does pull the false “security blanket away from his listeners”—a blanket that very well could have been warming them into a counterfeit assurance of salvation. But that blanket wasn’t the I-keep-the-law-in-order-to-be-saved blanket; it was the I-have-Abraham-as-my-father blanket (verse 8). John’s next incisive comment implied that unless there is a shortage of rocks in Israel, one ought not to rely on ethnicity as giving automatic salvation status before God.
At this point someone may protest: “OK, I get it. Hypocrisy was a big problem. But concerning the laws that the Pharisees and others did keep, didn’t they keep them out of legalistic motives?” This may very well be true, and I wouldn’t be surprised if legalistic motivations undergirded lawkeeping back then, as may be the case today. But even if it could be shown that the Pharisees were consistently legalistic by our standard definition, isn’t it interesting that if that was the case, Jesus consistently rebuked their lawbreaking instead of trying to critique any legalistic motives? When Jesus does bring motives out on the table, the motives are in relation to appearing righteous before, or garnering praise from, people, not meritoriously gaining praise from God. Jesus said, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15), and “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matt. 23:5). Ellen White concurs: “To make a show of their piety was their constant aim.”8 Jesus wanted people to do good works before the eyes of God as opposed to doing them before the eyes of others. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). In contrast to what one might think, Jesus desired His listeners to perform their obedience and religious devotions for and before God, because placing God as the audience of one’s obedience was the antidote for hypocrisy. The greatest sermon ever preached deals significantly with this issue. Consider Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6), where He commands the following recipe:
How to Do a Righteous Act Without Being a Hypocrite:
Pick a righteous/religious action to perform (e.g., give to the poor, pray, fast). Do it in secret or in a way imperceptible to others. Result: Only the Father will see and will reward accordingly. If desiring reward from others instead of the Father, see recipe “How to Be a Hypocrite,” in which religious duties are performed for maximum public exposure.
The crux of this rethink is that as long as legalism is seen as the massive religious issue that Jesus is dealing with, then lawkeeping, albeit with bad motives, is under attack. But if hypocrisy is the more nuanced rebuke Jesus is leveling, then lawbreaking and inauthenticity become the main issue. Why not reread the Gospels and ask yourself, “Which paradigm fits best with Jesus’ teachings and rebukes?” The model I am suggesting has the potential to free many sincere Christians to obey the law without being paranoid that they will become legalists or Pharisees in the process. On the contrary, if we are going to be paranoid, it should be concerning religious hypocrisy and its skillful and persistent lawbreaking. It’s time for the teachings of Jesus on hypocrisy to make a major comeback. Legalism has been in the spotlight for centuries now, and if it is a problem in your life or church, then by all means confess it and by God’s grace—literally, His grace—root it out. But to be honest, I don’t see people keeping the law in order to be saved as much as I see them breaking the law because they think they already are. This rings more of hypocrisy than legalism, and thus makes Jesus’ words just as relevant today as they were 2,000 years ago.
A small prayer group that a Seventh-day Adventist couple began in western Kenya in 2011 has grown to 400 people and witnessed the baptism of 16 pastors from other denominations during the world church’s recent 100 Days of Prayer initiative.
Reach the World It’s Personal
The church’s new strategic plan calls on every member to share Jesus.
By Andrew McChesney
A small prayer group that a Seventh-day Adventist couple began in western Kenya in 2011 has grown to 400 people and witnessed the baptism of 16 pastors from other denominations during the world church’s recent 100 Days of Prayer initiative.
The couple, entrepreneurs Philip Rono and his wife, Calvin Chepchumba Rono, are convinced that the baptisms on June 18, 2015, were a direct result of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the 100 Days of Prayer, a daily prayer program that ran from March 25 to July 3, 2015, the start of the General Conference session in San Antonio, Texas, United States.
“The 100 Days of Prayer became a big miracle that took everyone by surprise,” Philip Rono said by phone. “It has always been our tradition to invite those of other faiths, but this time the number was big, and we were surprised with how the Lord moved them.”
Prayer groups in Eldoret, Kenya, have swelled from a few dozen to a few hundred as people focused on prayer and revival.
The Ronos’ passion for sharing Jesus is just what Adventist Church leaders hope to see repeated among every one of the church’s 18.5 million members over the next five years. A main focus of the church’s new Reach the World strategic plan, which will be implemented from 2015 to 2020, is to find a way for every Adventist to get involved in evangelism.
The strategic plan, based on the results of a two-year survey of more than 41,000 current and former church members, aims to provide vision and direction in carrying out the church’s mission of preparing people for the return of Jesus. It urges General Conference department directors and world division leaders to create programs that nurture church members’ relationship with God and provide them with ways to evangelize.
Current programs include 777, during which church members pray at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., seven days a week; 10 Days of Prayer every January; 100 Days of Prayer; and Believe His Prophets, a daily online Bible reading with twice-a-week passages from the writings of church cofounder Ellen G. White. Those are all overseen by the General Conference’s Ministerial Association.
Other church initiatives include Mission to the Cities, comprehensive health ministry, and Revival and Reformation.
Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson said those programs will be used to encourage every member to get involved in evangelism. “It is essential for our full proclamation of the three angels’ messages and the falling of the latter rain of the Holy Spirit,” Wilson said. “Everyone must be involved in sharing Christ and this precious Advent message within the context that they feel comfortable as the Holy Spirit leads them.”
He said church leaders and church members should work hand in hand for mission outreach, noting that Ellen White wrote, “The work of God in this earth can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers”*
The drive to get every member involved—“total member involvement,” as Wilson calls it—is to become a major focal point for the entire church over the next five years. Wilson is placing the General Conference’s Sabbath School/Personal Ministries Department, led by newly elected director Duane McKey, directly under his office to serve as adviser, and all departments will be involved in this integrated evangelism outreach.
How 16 Pastors Got Baptized
Philip and Chepchumba Rono’s prayer group in Eldoret, Kenya, offers a glimpse of the total member involvement envisaged by church leaders thousands of miles away at world church headquarters in Maryland, United States.
For four years Chepchumba Rono, and her husband, Philip, used initiatives that were part of the church’s Revival and Reformation initiative to conduct community Bible meetings.
The Kenyan couple started a small prayer group of five people under the world church’s Revival and Reformation program in 2011. Members of the group prayed for two to four hours every Monday and, as the church unveiled 777 and 10 Days of Prayer, encouraged one another to observe those daily initiatives on their own.
Attendance soared after the couple placed an even greater emphasis on prayer and organized a second group in a larger, Adventist-owned building in Eldoret in February 2014. The second prayer group grew in 2014 from 50 to 150, then to a crowd of 200 people who attended 10 Days of Prayer in early January 2015. It swelled to 300 people when 100 Days of Prayer started in late March, and to more than 400 people in May.
The new group initially agreed to meet two days a month for Revival and Reformation meetings.
“Then we saw that this was not adequate, and we began to meet three days a month, usually on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sabbaths,” Philip Rono said. “On Sabbaths people prayed in the afternoon, went home for a couple hours, and then returned at 7:00 p.m. for all-night prayers.”
Attendees followed the daily 10 Days of Prayer and 100 Days of Prayer programs in their homes.
In May, during the 100 Days initiative, two members of the group invited 12 pastors from other denominations to attend the all-night prayer sessions.
“They were so impressed by the reception and the lessons presented, and they felt that they needed to know more about Seventh-day Adventists,” Rono said.
A three-day seminar was organized immediately, and 50 pastors were invited to attend it in Eldoret. At the end of the seminar a group of pastors asked if another three-day meeting could be held in their hometown so that their church members could attend. After that meeting, 16 pastors requested baptism.
In August members of two of the churches whose pastors became Adventist decided to rename their church as Adventist. A member of the prayer group donated US$12,400 toward the purchase of the properties, and the local Adventist conference pledged to pay the difference.
A series of fall meetings have been scheduled to reach the baptized pastors’ former congregations. In addition, another group of pastors from a nearby region have asked for private seminars to learn about Adventism.
All-night prayer meetings conducted by Philip Rono and others resulted in 16 pastors requesting to be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Rono said the revival in western Kenya was the result of prayer. “We need to take prayer very, very seriously, especially during this period of revival and reformation,” he said. “Meeting every week makes a big difference. We have witnessed many miracles.”
Rono and his wife are now setting up a “center of influence”—a wellness center with treatment rooms, a library, a chapel for daily prayers at 1:00 p.m., and a restaurant in downtown Eldoret—as they latch onto another world church program, Mission to the Cities. The couple toured several wellness centers in the United States this summer looking for ideas and advice.
What Divisions Are Doing
Blasious Ruguri, president of the Adventist Church’s East-Central Africa Division, which includes Kenya, said prayer was vital for the fulfillment of the church’s Reach the World goals.
In his division, he said, “prayer life by all members in every church will be maintained to keep the fire burning in every heart.”
Ruguri also said his division has found that child evangelism is extremely effective in reaching people, and that people respond more readily when women are involved in mission initiatives. World church leaders are encouraging each region of the world church—indeed, every member—to find methods that work best for them.
The South American Division has found that Revived by His Word and its successor, Believe His Prophets, have gained considerable traction among its members.
“We are motivating our people to dedicate the first hour every day to be in the presence of the Lord, participating in #RBHW, #BHP, studying the Sabbath school lesson, and praying,” said division president Erton Köhler. #RBHW and #BHP are the social media hashtags for the daily Bible study plans, and Adventist Twitter users in the South American Division are among the most active worldwide in using them. “The only way to be renewed is personal time with God at the best time of the day, when the mind is open to read, understand, and be close to God,” Köhler said.
Paul Ratsara, president of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, said his region’s biggest challenge related to the availability of resources. “It is my dream that sufficient Bibles and Spirit of Prophecy books will be available for all of our members,” Ratsara said. “We need to make sure that every member intensifies their reading plans.”
He said he greatly appreciated Revived by His Word, and now Believe His Prophets, and he intended to promote the reading plan vigorously. “As the availability of smartphones and Internet penetration increases, more and more of our members will have access to the huge blessing of these daily readings,” he said.
Access to the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy is also a challenge in the South Pacific Division, whose president intends to put a strong emphasis on discipleship. “The written Bible is very accessible to most of the people in the South Pacific in English and French, two of the main languages, and in all the languages of the Pacific Islands,” president Glenn Townend said. “But not everybody, let alone Seventh-day Adventists, can read.”
He said three entities—It is Written Oceania, the Papua New Guinea Union, and the Solomon Islands Mission—have worked on putting the Bible and some of Ellen White’s books into audio forms on solar-powered “Godpods.” “Also, leaders will teach and model creative biblical ways to pray, and Hope Channel will have programs on spiritual habits that connect people with their God,” Townend said. “The Bible reading plan will certainly be encouraged. Discipleship does not happen without a close connection to Jesus through spiritual habits.”
In the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, president Leonardo R. Asoy faces a formidable challenge with a number of unreached groups as well as millions of people from three of the world’s major religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. He said the division would continue to use initiatives such as Mission to the Cities and One Year in Mission to reach those communities, but it would put a stronger focus on nurturing and retention.
“New members, particularly those coming from non-Christian religions, need mentoring, a sense of belonging, training in personal evangelism, and discipleship, so they can become joyful, active Christians who share Jesus through their life examples,” he said.
Asoy expressed particular enthusiasm for a new local program called Integrated Evangelism Lifestyle, which was championed by his predecessor, Alberto Gulfan, Jr., and he said would advance Reach the World’s objectives. “It uses Christ’s method of evangelism and encourages members in personal revival and reformation,” he said.
Under the program, members commit to two months of prayer, focused Bible study, and preparation. After this time, members invite their family, friends, and neighbors to join them in weekly care groups in their homes or other informal settings. The focus is on building relationships. During these weekly gatherings, they discuss topics of general interest, such as health, family, happiness, and community involvement, and offer faith-based perspectives. They also choose projects to do as a group to improve their communities.
While the family unit is the basic starting point, with one family inviting another family to join the group, care groups also consist of individuals with common backgrounds, such as young professionals, single parents, and seniors.
“The focus is not on evangelism as an event. Instead, the Integrated Evangelism Lifestyle program offers evangelism as a process through long-term personal contact and the nurturing of individuals,” Asoy said. “It will take time, but we look forward to seeing how the Lord will lead.”
* Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 9, p. 117.