THE IN-BOX (short thoughts by readers about the Bible and our faith)
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THIS?Fisher or teacher? Jesus called His disciples. He said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Not teachers of men. It is very clear that if people are not fished out from their corners, they cannot be taught. Many of us today like to teach in our various churches rather than go fish.
Even though teaching is one of the prophetic gifts, I don’t think we can teach without first fishing. In evangelism, many of us appreciate when some have already prepared the way for us; we are hoping for a John the Baptist to lead. If the ground or the way is not prepared, the work does not progress.
We delay the second coming of Christ with sentiments and excuses such as this. The Lord is calling you and me, asking, “Who will go for me today?”
—Opeyemi Ogunjimi, Africa
When my niece, Heather, was about 3 years old, she loved to learn her memory verse for the coming Sabbath and then say it all week long. One day when her father accidently left his six-foot ladder leaning up against a large oil barrel, Heather quickly took advantage of it and climbed to the top. When her father returned, he was horrified to see his little girl walking along the top of the barrel. “How did you get up there?” he demanded.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” was Heather’s memorized response.
—Mildred White, Idaho, United States
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“You can never rise so high you cannot sin, but you can never sink so low you cannot rise.”
—Gary Rustad, associate secretary of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, during an annual South Asia Union Mission meeting in Singapore, on November 21, 2007
My family and I are passing through decisive moments in our lives. We want you to pray that the will of God is evident and that we are able to follow it, regardless of the cost to us. Then we will know that what He has for us is the best thing that can happen to us.
Please pray for my father to stop drinking alcohol and for my mother to be healed from diabetes and to see success in her new business. Also pray for our family to have a better relationship with God and to learn how to keep God’s Sabbath holy.
—Josh, Via e-mail
I am a 21-year-old woman. My year was filled with challenges here and there, but I thank God for sailing with me. God has been blessing me for the past 21 years and I really thank Him.
I want God to continue blessing me in the year 2008. I need a life partner from God—I want Him to be involved all the way because I have seen some failings in life due to choosing the wrong partner. Also pray that I will get a good job after college.
Please pray that my family and I will sell our house for a profit as soon as possible. Pray also that our business is a success so I can quit my job and not have to work so much. In addition, we pray that we will have good health and that the Lord will lead us in the right directions.
—Janelle, United States
Please please pray for me, because catastrophe has struck. I am an Adventist and recently learned that I no longer have a job—after almost 25 years. At my age it is not easy to find work, but I know our Lord works wonders! Pray that I won’t get discouraged and that someone will employ me.
I am very grateful for God’s faithfulness and the steady love that I have always received. I am assured of this despite the problems and temptations that come our way, so I am requesting prayer for my family. I come from a polygamous family. My stepmother is a witch with evil powers. We kindly need your prayers, especially for my stepmother to stop her evil ways and come back to Christ (she was an Adventist). The devil has taken us into captivity, but we believe that with God, all this will soon end.
I am originally from the Philippines. We need prayers for my father’s continuous good health and complete recovery from cancer. Pray also that I may regain my normal voice from a speech disorder. I will be undergoing medical tests. Pray too that there will be no serious and alarming findings. Finally, pray for my sister and mother as they work toward gaining their U.S. citizenship.
—Josephine, United States
Empowering Women in India I was deeply impressed by the December 2007 cover story, “Empowering Women in India,” by Loren Seibold, which focused on the literacy projects. Little did I dream of the enormous impact it would make on the women, their families, the community, and the church when this project was started in 2001 with 10 centers in the Garo Hills.
Seibold crowned me as “Ministering Angel.” I am absolutely unworthy of such praise. I am only a frail, insignificant tool in God’s hands willing to be used by Him the way He desires. I praise Him for using me to open the eyes of the women to see the Word and the world.
I could not have done the least bit without the generosity and sacrifice of the donors who make contributions (and give reading glasses) through Hope for Humanity, Shepherdess International, women’s ministries, and the General Conference.
Please accept my heartfelt gratitude for making the difference in the lives of these women—and for printing their story.
Hepzibah Kore, Women’s Ministries director/Shepherdess coordinator, Southern Asia Division Tamil Nadu, India
The Revelation of Salvation I am responding to the December 2007 Bible Question regarding how we are saved and what the moral influence of the cross is, by Angel Manuel Rodríguez.
I always thought and believed that Christ died in my place—the Just for the unjust; the Sinless for the sinner—me. Lo and behold, I discover, after reading Rodríguez’s article, that there is a theory called the “moral influence theory,” which denies that vital biblical fact. I am so grateful for Rodríguez’s clarification of what the moral influence theory is, as well as the eloquent, lucid explanation of where it comes short of the truth.
Besides the Scripture verses he mentions supporting the biblical view, there is one that I love to repeat to myself found in Hebrews 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (KJV).
This scripture tells me that Christ paid my debt. He died in my place so that I will not have to die for my sins, because I gratefully accept His sacrifice on my behalf. Praise God for His incredible love and grace.
Laurice Kafrouni-Durrant Texas, United States
Christianity’s Great Mystery Angel Manuel Rodríguez really opened up a mystery, all right (see “Christianity’s Great Mystery,” Bible Questions, November 2007). This has been discussed among Adventist circles for as long as I can remember. I have my own ideas, of course, from what I’ve seen in the Bible. But Rodríguez presents the human/divine nature of Christ in words that explain it clearly—as clearly as human words can describe divinity.
I appreciated Rodríguez’s candor and logic. But I enjoyed even more the sound biblical basis of his conclusion: God experienced things in the human nature that are unique to humanity, while the human became a vehicle through which divine nature could work. And, of course, all of this, to finite minds, is an unfathomable mystery that we may never completely understand—even in eternity.
Thurman C. Petty, Jr. Texas, United States
The Gospel on the Internet
I am extremely grateful to God for allowing the proclamation of the gospel by means of the Internet, and I congratulate the editors of Adventist World for granting us access to the Web page (www.adventistworld.org). I am Adventist, and today (December 24, 2007) I have accessed it for the first time. Congratulations!
Jacob Arias Frias Tabasco, Mexico
Good Work I would like to congratulate the Adventist World staff. You deserve the highest commendation for the excellent quality of publishing. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit you have crafted a superb Christian journal whose excellence is reflected in its format, content, and reader friendliness. Keep up the good work.
Nicky Moseti Ogenche Kisii, Kenya
I commend the editor of the Adventist World. Technically, he and the staff have done a great job! The articles are great—photos, layout—everything is almost perfect. I really love this magazine. It is one of my favorite Adventist publications ever done. Great job!
Let us spread the good news to our non-Adventist brothers and sisters. I hope that this magazine will last until the coming of the Lord!
Jayden Lamparero Cavite, Philippines
United Through Adventist World I would like to congratulate you for the wonderful work you are doing. This paper, AdventistWorld,reaches far and wide, more so here in Kenya (particularly Nairobi).
Apart from its role of informing Adventists what God hast wrought, it unites us and gives us a sense of belonging and, somehow, the belief that the church is bigger than us. I am really inspired by the escapades of Adventist volunteers and amused by the Meet Your Neighbor section (of The People’s Place).
Dan Ouko Nairobi, Kenya
One thing is certain: Human beings were designed to worship God. Deep within each of us is a hunger for the eternal. We long for purpose and meaning in life. Someone has called this “the God-shaped hole in our hearts.” In this lesson we will study God’s plan to fill this aching void and discover His wonderful plan to fill our lives with deep, lasting joy.
1. What invitation did David give to each one of us? “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Ps. 95:6).
The psalmist invites us to _________________________________________________________
Worship leads us out of ourselves and toward God. It directs our minds to the eternal. In worship we are reminded who we are, who He is, and our relationship to one another. Worship lifts our focus from earthly things to heavenly values.
2. Why is God worthy of our worship? Circle the phrase in the following text that indicates why God is worthy of our worship. “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for you created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Rev. 4:11, 12).
We did not create ourselves. We exist only because a loving God made us. Since He gave us life, He is worthy of our deepest praise and utmost worship.
3. What did God give as a lasting memorial of His creative power and authority? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the Seventh-day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. . . . For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Ex. 20:8-11).
The ________________________________is God’s eternal memorial of His creative power.
4. When we worship God on the Bible Sabbath, what do we openly declare we believe about God? Read Exodus 20:8-11 again and write the answer in your own words on the lines below.
5. How did the prophet Ezekiel describe the Sabbath? “Moreover I also gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between them and Me, that they might know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (Eze. 20:12).
God’s Sabbath is a ___________________________________________________________.
Why is God’s Sabbath a sign? What is it a sign of? Write your answers on the lines below.
At Creation, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God created the world. When we are re-created in His image, once again it is through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Sabbath is a memorial of both experiences—God’s creative power in making us and God’s redemptive power in re-creating us as His born-again children.
6. What did Moses call the Sabbath? “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation” (Lev. 23:3).
According to Moses the seventh day is a “Sabbath of __________________________________
and a ________________________________________________________.”
On Sabbath we rest from our labors to find rest in Him. Our physical rest is a symbol of a deeper rest in His love and care. A holy convocation is a coming together of God’s people for worship. Sabbath is a celebration in worship of God’s greatness.
7. What promise did Isaiah give those who keep the Sabbath? “Blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who lays hold on it; who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil” (Isa. 56:2).
The one who keeps the Sabbath is truly _______________________________________________.
In your own words define the word “blessed.” ___________________________________________
8. When will the entire universe find true Sabbath rest? “‘For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me,’ says the Lord, ‘so shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the Lord” (Isa. 66:22, 23).
We will find true Sabbath rest in the new ________________________________________________
In God’s eternal kingdom we will find true rest as we worship Him each Sabbath. Throughout the ages the Sabbath will remain God’s eternal sign of His creative and redemptive power. It will always be a symbol of His everlasting love and desire to make His children happy. This Sabbath may your heart be filled with praise to the One who created you, redeemed you, and is coming again for you.
Next month we will look at the topic, “Jesus and the Sabbath.”
QUESTION: How could King Jehoram of Judah receive a letter from Elijah if Elijah was taken to heaven before the death of Jehoshaphat, Jehoram’s father?
This question is not about history, but about the reliability of the Bible, caused by what some see as an apparent contradiction between 2 Kings 1–3 and 2 Chronicles 21:12-15. The possibility of finding discrepancies and even tensions in the Bible is very real. But each case should be carefully analyzed before a conclusion can be reached. I will describe this specific situation and suggest some possible solutions.
1. Nature of the Problem: To read 2 Kings 1–3, one could get the impression that the ascension of Elijah occurred before the death of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (848 B.C.). The last king of Israel mentioned before God took the prophet was Joram, dated to the second year of Jehoram (852 B.C.), son of Jehoshaphat, in Judah (2 Kings 1:17). He was appointed as coregent before his father died (cf. 2 Kings 3:1). Elijah’s ascension to heaven is narrated in 2 Kings 2:11-18. Apparently, Elisha’s first prophetic responsibility was to reveal God’s will to Jehoshaphat and Joram before they went to war against
Moab (2 Kings 3:11-19). But this is far from certain. The sole rule of Jehoram, after the death of his father Jehoshaphat in 848 B.C., is recorded in 2 Kings 8:16. So, the question is how Elijah, who supposedly was taken to heaven before the death of Jehoshaphat, could have written a letter to his son, King Jehoram, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 21:12-15? (Do the names confuse you? In the Hebrew text Joram and Jehoram are spelled the same way!)
2.Was Elijah Taken to Heaven? In order to eliminate possible solutions to the problem, we should establish whether or not Elijah was taken to heaven. If he was simply translated to some other place on earth, then we would not have a problem at all. But the biblical text is clear: Elijah was taken to heaven. The verb “to take” is used in the Bible only two times to refer to a personbeing removed from earth to the heavenly realm. The first was the experience of Enoch, whom “God took away” (Gen. 5:24; cf. Heb. 11:5). The other is the experience of Elijah. The description of that event could hardly leave any doubts concerning the fact that the text is describing God’s unique intervention in human history resulting in the rapture of the prophet: “Suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings. 2:11, NIV). To emphasize the permanent departure of the prophet to the heavens, the narrative describes the insistence of some of the sons of the prophets to be allowed to go look for him: “Perhaps”—they argued—“the Spirit of the lord has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley” (verse 16). Knowing the truth, Elisha discouraged them, but finally let them go to search for Elijah. They didn’t find him.
3. Chronology of Events: Since Elijah was indeed taken to heaven, the problem can be solved in several ways. The most unlikely one is that Elijah wrote the letter from heaven and it somehow reached the king. Another possibility is that he wrote the letter before he was taken by God and later someone else gave it to the king. This is possible, but the biblical text does not require that type of precision.
For a more likely answer, let me first point out the obvious fact that Elijah’s rapture is not dated. Those who argue that it happened before the death of Jehoshaphat are simply filling in the gaps of knowledge based on the place of the story within the narrative. Second, students of the Bible know (and if they do not know they should) that biblical narratives are not always in chronological order. Consequently, we need to take into consideration all biblical data before dating a particular event. Third, if, according to the biblical text, Elijah was permanently taken to heaven, then the letter he wrote to King Jehoram after the death of the king’s father was written before God took Elijah. This in no way distorts the biblical information, but it helps us to harmonize what appears to be a serious discrepancy.
It seems when people talk about health issues, from HIV to heart disease, they mention poverty. Could you discuss how poverty impacts health? Poverty is a global health issue, affecting the poor in every part of the world. Health statistics for some nations, such as “poor” nations, depict a gloomier picture than do those of more wealthy nations. But even in the United States—probably one of the wealthiest nations—poverty takes a significant toll.
One major consideration is diet and the availability of food. The typical North American diet has shifted heavily to high-fat intakes, and poorer people tend to satisfy their caloric needs with high-fat fast foods. This results in obesity and a propensity to heart disease and cancer. In underdeveloped countries the foods may be less processed but in short supply and with seasonal deficiencies. In developing countries superstition or poorly advised dietary restrictions sometimes eliminate what could be a lifesaving item in the diet.
Infection runs rampant among undernourished or poorly nourished people. Exposure to inclement weather, inadequate housing, crowding in shelters, lack of immunization, and ignorance all play a role. Water for many of the world’s poor is unsafe and a potential source of infection.
A Canadian census in 2001 found 14,145 people homeless throughout the country, but the study counted only those in shelters on one day in March. But what of the homeless staying with friends, at the YMCA, on the street, or transiently in a “motel”? The Australians reported 10 percent of their homeless were children. Raising children on the street predicts lifelong problems and risks for violence, sexual exploitation, and addiction.
International efforts at improving conditions surrounding childbirth have not been very successful. In the November 2007 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, follow-up on the twentieth anniversary of the SAFE Motherhood initiative shows, for a variety of reasons, almost no improvement. An absence of truly strategic intervention is apparent. Such failure is also ours as a church, because we have lacked cohesiveness of purpose and shown a tendency to pursue individual and self-satisfying projects.
HIV and AIDS sometimes reflect the sex trade, which is—in many parts of the world—a survival activity. Food and shelter are obtained by many women only in exchange for sex. Prostitution is despised by Christians, but not only does the disgust cover the activity but often the prostitute. We Christians perhaps should ask ourselves whether disgust is a Christian emotion.
Immunization programs for the poor are often inadequate. Sitting in privileged isolation, benefiting from “herd immunity” (whereby the majority—being immunized—protects those who are not), some refuse immunization for their children. It is a far different story where large populations are unprotected. We are living in a time of fundamental change in the order of international balance. The rising Chinese and Indian economies are also facing increasing health issues. Their populations are aging, and they are seeing a rise in chronic disease such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and cancer. Health gaps between urban and rural populations are increasing. Population mobility in association with poverty always promotes increases in sexually-transmitted disease and infections such as tuberculosis. The economic Group of Seven countries has reduced their population growth rate to the point of dependency on immigration to sustain their population levels. New diseases are introduced, along with the immigration. We hope everyone realizes that social and economic factors are a great cause for concern and church involvement as a part of health ministry.
We need to work strategically and cohesively. Problems of such major proportions as poverty are not attacked by local feeding programs. Our church must join hands with other communities of faith and address the needs of the poor, especially their health needs.
Sri Lanka is a picturesque island nation some 20 miles off India’s southeastern coast. Settled in the sixth century B.C. by Sinhalese from Northern India, and later by Tamils from Southern India, Sri Lanka was colonized by several European nations before it gained its independence in 1948.
Popularly known as “the Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” Sri Lanka’s 1,340-km. (832-mile) coastline is rimmed with white sandy beaches and coastal tourist resorts. The December 2004 tsunami caused some $1.5 billion of damage to the island.
Sri Lanka’s lush mountainous inland boasts some of the world’s most arable land. This region is best known for the seemingly endless tea estates, which produce the world-renowned Ceylon tea. However, Sri Lanka’s economy also depends on a variety of agricultural exports including rice, sugarcane, rubber, coconut, and fruit.
Today Sri Lanka has strong ethnic and religious divides. Various skirmishes between the majority Sinhalese (mostly Buddhist) and minority Tamils (mostly Hindu) have caused years of social and political unrest. The island also has a growing Muslim population and an established Christian community.
Adventists in Sri Lanka In 1893 Abram La Rue, an Adventist lay missionary, visited and distributed literature in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. In 1904 Harry Anderson and another missionary arrived in Sri Lanka to establish an Adventist church. The first two Sinhalese converts were baptized in 1922. They became pioneer missionaries and established four more churches.
It’s been more than 100 years since the first Adventist missionary landed in Sri Lanka; yet only slightly more than 3,500 Adventists live in this nation of some 20 million. Public and personal witness continue to be difficult. Many people live in the countryside, often on tea estates, far from any Adventist church. People are often skeptical about Christianity. The memory of European colonialists who often “forced” people to become Christians is still etched in people’s minds.
Because of this, frontline mission work in Sri Lanka means reaching out one-on-one to people in their homes. There are no large halls to host evangelistic crusades. Most people don’t own a car; they travel by bus, public minivan, or three-wheeled taxi. It can take hours to get places. The Adventist Church has made a concerted effort throughout the past 10 years to send Global Mission pioneers into communities to engage people where they live. Since 1997 the number of congregations has grown from 28 to nearly 50, a growth rate of nearly two-thirds.
Sinhalese and Tamil
Buddhist 70%, Muslim 7%, Hindu 7%, Christian 6%, unspecified 10%
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
In 1964 Lakeside Adventist Hospital opened its doors in Kandy. More than 4,000 students are enrolled at five different Adventist schools. The schools have students from all of the island’s major language and religious groups.
To learn more about frontline mission work in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world, visit www.Global-Mission.org. Global Mission is one of the frontline mission arms of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. More than 3,000 Global Mission pioneers serve around the world each day reaching the unreached with the gospel of hope.
In many ways, I am a child of the Second World War. As a young boy, I saw the terrible devastation of those years—ruined lives, diminished families, and large-scale upheaval of society. My family had evacuated to the country, and for the five years of the war we lived in the caretaker’s flat of an old school building. The classrooms had been turned into dormitories that housed more than 300 young German soldiers.
I remember one day toward the end of the war asking my mother, “Why are the German soldiers crying?” I could hear them sobbing in their rooms. My mother replied: “They are just young boys. They miss their home; they miss their mommies and daddies. They don’t understand why they have to be here in the cold of northern Norway. They don’t understand why they have to be a part of all this.” They were young men, deprived of the chance to grow up and experience a youth of a different kind.
Today, more than 60 years removed from that time, the world has undergone profound changes—political, economic, and technological. Yet the role of the military in the life of many nations, as well as in transnational disputes around the globe, continues to place firmly before us an important moral and spiritual question: How should a Christian—a Seventh-day Adventist Christian—relate to the military? And when faced with a choice to serve in the armed forces—either as a combatant or in some other capacity—what principles should guide us?
Guiding principles We each feel strong kinship—a sense of solidarity—with our own people and our own country. Our citizenship in a nation commands a sense of loyalty, a sharing in both the struggles and the joys of the people among whom we live. There is no virtue in isolating ourselves from our communities. It is natural to feel civic pride, and it is healthy to participate in the life of the nation to which we belong. Yet how should this sense of solidarity express itself when it comes to the military of our country, when our paramount duty to God raises tensions that are not always easy to reconcile?
I believe any discussion of this topic must rest on two essential foundations.
First, the church is called to be an unambiguous voice of principle.
War, peace, and participation in military service are not morally neutral issues. Scripture is not silent on these things, and the church, as it interprets and expresses the principles of Scripture, must be a voice of moral authority and influence. This is not an “optional” responsibility—one that we can put aside should it become uncomfortable or go against majority feeling. If we are silent, we fail in our duty to God and to humanity.
Second, the church is God’s agent of grace.
When you carry arms you imply that you are prepared to use them to take another’s life. This, also, is a fundamental responsibility. Every human being, no matter what their choices or conduct, is of infinite value to God. As the church expresses itself on this issue and offers counsel to both its own members and broader society, it must never allow itself to forget this one unchangeable fact: the God we serve is a healer and a Savior. Healing and saving are also the first business of the church. As individuals struggle with these questions—and perhaps make choices that, in hindsight, they wish they had not—the church must constantly reflect God’s infinite, healing love.
So, keeping these things in mind, I’d like to reflect on two questions regarding the church’s attitude toward military service, both historically and today. These questions—broad areas of concerns—have come to me time and again over recent years as I have visited with both laypeople and church leaders in many parts of the world.
1. A loss of clarity? The historic position of our church regarding service in the armed forces was clearly expressed some 150 years ago—very early on in our history, against the background of the American Civil War. The consensus, expressed in articles and documents of the time, as well as an 1867 General Conference resolution, was unequivocal. “…[T]he bearing of arms, or engaging in war, is a direct violation of the teachings of our Savior and the spirit and letter of the law of God” (1867, Fifth Annual General Conference Session). This has, in broad terms, been our guiding principle: When you carry arms you imply that you are prepared to use them to take another’s life, and taking the life of one of God’s children, even that of our “enemy,” is inconsistent with what we hold to be sacred and right.
Through the years, this principle has shaped the conduct of Seventh-day Adventists both in times of peace and conflict. Many have chosen to engage in medical work within the armed forces. They participate as healers. They say to their nation: “I cannot operate as a taker of life; it would destroy me as an individual. But I can help people who are hurt by this conflict. I can function as a Christian if I can function as a healer.”
Today in some countries young people are subject to a draft—a period of compulsory military service. Fortunately, in most instances an alternate service is offered, one that does not require an individual to train with or use arms. This option could simply be spending a year and a half doing hard labor building roads or helping with some other civic project.
There are, however, some countries where the draft deprives you of the ability to conduct yourself as an Adventist believer. You cannot keep the Sabbath. You are given no option but to carry arms. In such circumstances, you have before you a very serious choice. Accepting the penalty of dissent—perhaps even imprisonment—may be the decision you make simply to be faithful to your fundamental convictions and your Lord.
Is there today any confusion about the church’s position? Have we done a good job of articulating these principles? Clearly, this question will not be answered in the same way in every part of the world church. Yet, in talking with church members in many different countries I have sensed, at times, a certain ambivalence toward our historic position—a sense, perhaps, that “that was then, and this is now.” And yet I know of no reason why this should be so.
2. A lack of moral guidance? This leads me to my second question. Do we provide adequate guidance in our churches and schools for our young people as they face difficult choices regarding service in the military? Have we at times neglected our role as a moral compass on this issue? In the absence of guidance from their church, do some of our young people view joining the military as “just another career option,” rather than a complex moral decision with potentially far-reaching, maybe unforeseen, consequences for their own spiritual life?
It is not difficult to understand the forces that may lead someone to consider a military career. Their choice may be driven by a desire to serve their country, or the military may open up educational and professional opportunities that may seem unavailable anywhere else. Young people may see it as a short-term option, a much-needed stepping-stone to something else. They may view it as a “necessary evil”—a road to the future that, for lack of financial resources or other opportunities, they must take in order to fulfill their potential.
Yet in some instances, to voluntarily enlist in the armed forces is to sacrifice one’s choice not to bear arms, or to request provision for Sabbathkeeping. You freely choose to give up your rights in these things. And so I would ask: “Have you really thought about this? Have you considered the consequences to your relationship with Christ and to your own deepest convictions?”
Some may calculate the risk and say: “Although I technically don’t have a choice about whether or not I will carry arms, the chances are, nine out of ten, that I will not find myself in a combat situation where I will need to use them.”
But regardless of whe-ther you go into combat or not, you have made a decision about certain basic values and declared this publicly. You are accepting the possibility that you may have to go down that road, and this will inevitably do something to you as a person. It will change and shape
you. In proactively choosing to accept circumstances where you may be required to carry arms or forfeit your ability to keep the Sabbath, I suggest that you have placed the spiritual and moral foundations of your life in serious jeopardy.
So, when military recruiters come to our universities and colleges, or even our secondary schools, laying out before young students the opportunities that the armed forces present, is the church providing a clear, alternate message? Is there someone also asking: “Have you considered this? Have you thought about what this may do to you? Have you thought about the price you may pay in terms of the basic values you really treasure?” The Department of Chaplaincy Ministries at the General Conference is developing some specific initiatives to help provide much-needed advice and counsel within our schools and churches, and I welcome this.
I feel especially for those individuals who have taken the “calculated risk” and find themselves drawn into a combat situation, the very position they had hoped and prayed to avoid. They see no way out. What should their church say to them? “I told you so?” “Shame on you?” No! The church is a ministering, healing, saving community. This is the moment when a young person, regardless of poor choices or wrong turns, needs to feel the embrace of their church.
Conclusion This is not a simple topic, nor is it “complete”; it is just one aspect of the broader issue of war, peace, and Christian responsibility. And the questions I have posed do not lend themselves to sound-bite answers or pat responses. They are questions that generate strong—sometimes visceral—feelings. They reach deep into our self-understanding and identity, as both citizens of our country and members of God’s family. Our responses are shaped in large part by our own experiences and culture, as well as our love for our country and our desire to share in its history and future.
Although these are difficult issues, they cannot be put aside simply for this reason. So let us consider these things together—in our homes, our churches, and our schools—and let us do so with open hearts and a spirit of humility.
Jan Paulsen is president of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Adventist Youth Storm Taiwan for Service, Spiritual Growth Fifteen Hundred delegates gain insights at world youth forum.
By Billy Wright,reporting from Taipei,Taiwan
VOLUNTEERING YOUTH: Seventh-day Adventist young people participate in community service projects in the run-up to the World Youth Congress held in Taipei, Taiwan.ifteen hundred Seventh-day Adventist youth—one third of whom had participated in community service projects—descended on the island of Taiwan for a four-day youth conference in which the themes of service and evangelism were stressed.
The Second World Conf-erence on Youth and Com-munity Service (WCYCS) officially opened Tuesday afternoon, January 1, in Taipei, and brought together Seventh-day Adventists from a number of countries, according to the world church’s Youth Department.
“I didn’t want to sleep,” said Dean Tichborne, a youth delegate from the church’s South Pacific region. “Taiwan was awesome! I had a blast and loved it fully.”
The event’s theme—“Love, Care, Serve”—was the main emphasis of the conference, as well as the community service projects that impacted communities through the volunteer efforts of youth and young adults. According to the world church’s Youth Department, a total of 30 community service projects were conducted in Taiwan between December 24 and 28, 2007, prior to the conference’s start.
YOUTH DELEGATES: Part of the congregation of young Seventh-day Adventists at the World Youth Congress in Taipei, TaiwanAt the conference delegates were challenged, motivated, and reenergized through morning and evening worship, plenary sessions, and seminars. Every morning attendees received encouragement and additional skills to help reach communities globally from the session’s three plenary speakers: Paul Tompkins of the Trans-European Division, world church general vice president Ella Simmons, and Leslie Pollard of Loma Linda University. Devotional speakers Mark Finley, also a general vice president of the world church, and Furman Fordham, pastor of the Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, challenged delegates “with their powerful, Bible-based messages,” as one participant said.
Tompkins said the event “was a significant event for Seventh-day Adventist youth ministry. It met the three most important needs of Christian young adults today–warm fellowship, spiritual refreshing, and an opportunity for service. It also celebrated 100 years of Adventist youth ministry in a timely and relevant manner while reaffirming our ongoing commitment to the twin goals of salvation and service.”
After observing the community service projects and the quality of the program presented by the World Conference on Youth and Community Service delegates, the Taipei County government extended an invitation to the Seventh-day Adventist Church to establish international schools in Taipei, where subjects will be taught in English. Government officials also thanked the delegates for coming to Taiwan and helping their communities in such positive ways.
PRAYER TIME: Adventist Church leaders including general vice president Armando Miranda, youth ministries director Baraka Muganda, and John W. Ash III, president of the Adventist Church in Taiwan, pray during annual drum ceremony held by Taiwanese government.Loma Linda University’s Pollard said he was impressed with the dedication of the youth who participated in the community service projects. “For the first time in my 30-year leadership career, I witnessed the awesome power of our twentysomethings and thirtysomethings unleash their enthusiasm, vision, and spirituality on a specific community,” he said. “Everywhere we turned, we saw them working on community and village projects. Hundreds of [Adventist] young people swarmed the city and the countryside in an effort to serve the needs of Taiwan. I fully believe that because of their work, the city of Taipei will never be exactly the same again. Loma Linda partnered with the Taiwan Adventist Hospital mission team to provide medical care to persons with severe mental disabilities. It was a blessing.”
According to Simmons, the event also reflected positively on the church’s youth ministries. “This success of the Youth Department is an indicator that the Adventist Church of the twenty-first century is in good hands with the youth, who, as the leaders of tomorrow, could usher the church through to Christ’s coming,” she said.
A third World Conference on Youth and Community Service is planned for Cape Town, South Africa, July 15 through 27, 2013, a spokesperson said.
—With additional reporting by Adventist World staff
UGANDA: Adventist Elected Judge of International Criminal Court
Daniel D. Ntanda Nsereko of Uganda was elected one of the 18 judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in The Hague, Netherlands. He was sworn in as a judge January 17.
The ICC was established by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which was adopted in Rome, Italy, in 1998 by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute is an international treaty binding only those states that formally express their consent to be bound as “parties” to the statute. The statute came into force July 1, 2002, once 60 states had become parties. Parties today number 105.
JUDICIAL MEETING: Daniel D. Ntanda Nsereko, right, a Ugandan Seventh-day Adventist and a widely respected law professor in Africa, is now a judge of the International Criminal Court. During a recent visit to the world church headquarters, Nsereko met with Robert Kyte, general counsel for the Seventh-day Adventist world church.The ICC is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
At the time of his election to the ICC, Nsereko was a professor of law at the University of Botswana, where he had also served as head of the Department of Law. He was nominated to the ICC by the government of Uganda and endorsed by the African Union.
Nsereko holds Doctor of Judicial Science (1975) and Master of Laws (1971) degrees from New York University School of Law, a Master of Comparative Jurisprudence (1970) from the Howard University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Laws (1968) from the University of East Africa (Dar Es Salaam).
As a young lawyer, Nsereko practiced in Uganda and as a trial lawyer represented clients in both criminal and civil cases. Prior to his election as judge, he was admitted to the ICC bar as counsel entitled to represent both the accused and victims before the court. He also researched and published several books and many peer-refereed journal articles on international and criminal law, human rights, and related subjects in Africa, India, Europe, and North America. For more than a quarter of a century he taught these subjects at the university level.
Nsereko has been a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law (Freiburg, Germany), visiting scholar at the Institute of Criminal Law and Procedure at the University of Cologne in Germany, and Walter S. Owen visiting professor of Law at the University of British Columbia, Canada. In 1996 the International Society for the Reform of Criminal Law awarded him a medal in recognition of his contribution to international human rights and criminal law reform.
In Botswana Nsereko and his wife, Helen, are members of the Broadhurst Seventh-day Adventist Church, where he has served as an elder, Sabbath school teacher, and director of Christian education. They have five children—four sons and a daughter.
—by Robert W. Nixon, retired general counsel of the Seventh-day Adventist world church