Lessons From a Mission-driven Life Adventism in the Inter-American Division
By Alejo Aguilar
Studying in Seventh-day Adventist schools demands a huge amount of effort and sacrifice. In fact, some people cite this fact when trying to excuse their indifference toward Christian education. Unfortunately, we share this challenge in the Inter-American Division.
Is the investment and effort by the church, the parents, and every student to study in a Seventh-day Adventist school worth it? Is there actually a difference between a young person studying at a Seventh-day Adventist school and someone who does not enjoy that privilege?
Well, life itself has provided me with an answer. At the same time, I have learned two great lessons that I will p illustrate by means of a life story. Indeed, the following testimony provides a glimpse into what mission-driven education in Inter-America’s Adventist universities is accomplishing for their students.1 Rightly applied, these lessons are closely related to the fulfillment of God’s mission for His church.
Do Not Let Your Past Stop You The eldest of eight brothers, Pablo Sáenz—or “Pablito,” as friends affectionately call him—began his life in a singular way. He was literally born into the hands of an uncle, since he arrived so suddenly that there was no time to call a midwife, even his father.
When Pablito was just 4, the exposure of long walks in torrential rain in Chiapas, southern Mexico, left him with a bad case of bronchitis. Throughout his childhood he suffered the weakening effects of that infection. In spite of it all, by 12 he had become a lay preacher who, regardless of distance, embarked on the mission of preaching in the many churches of the area.
This mission made young Pablo realize the importance of music in church. He decided to learn how to play the guitar. As he developed his musical talent, he made the most of it by praising God and sharing His Word. Pablo eventually recorded two albums, including some songs he composed himself.
It was the time he spent in Seventh-day Adventist schools, however, that left the most indelible mark on his life. Thanks to Adventist education, Pablo’s life, he admits, is today both different and truly meaningful. Here are two lessons that, in addition to his studies, Pablito has learned thanks to Seventh-day Adventist higher education.
Learn to Value God’s Plans For You “If I had not left my home with the goal of getting an education in the Seventh-day Adventist school,” Pablo admits, “I would now be working in the beanfields and cornfields, and picking up cacatés [a sort of breadnut fruit common in the mountain regions of southern Mexico].”
The Lord, however, had other plans for him, which were definitely beyond Pablo’s own expectations. Just one year before he had to decide about going to college, Pablo began working as a colporteur. Consistent with God’s plan for his life, this service activity motivated him to decide to attend Linda Vista University in southern Mexico.
Attending a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher learning was a dream come true, a joy that, when looking backward, however, produced mixed feelings in Pablo. On one hand, remembering the multiple setbacks he experienced in getting there left him with an aftertaste of sadness and nostalgia. On the other hand, he began to enjoy his current situation, as he got an ever-clearer picture of the promising future awaiting him on God’s side. Pablo felt his God was a God who had not only helped him to get where he was, but also Someone who would assist him in making his greatest dream come true—eventually make it to his heavenly home. There is no doubt that God’s plans for us are the best!
Learn to Depend on God More “During my stay at Linda Vista University,” Pablo recalls, “I had to work with cattle on the farm, and also as an assistant blacksmith and carpenter. I was able to accomplish all this, however, because God made most of my health issues disappear a few months after I got to school.”
Depending on God taught Pablo that getting involved in the Lord’s plans not only helped him to master his health issues, but also to make him aware of anything else that might move him away from God’s plans for his life.
Pablo also learned to trust God when he set out to get financial resources to pay for his studies. His father had always opposed his son’s decision to study theology, and made it clear that he would not pay for his tuition. But not even this significant setback prevented Pablo from studying. He is now completing his theology degree at Navojoa University, another of the Inter-American Division’s esteemed academic institutions, this one in northwestern Mexico.
"Life is too short,” Pablo states. “Every minute is a privilege, and we must make the most of it for the sake of God and humanity. We should never forget to depend on the Lord’s help. This is something that I learned only after attending an Adventist school.
“I do not say this because I have the privilege of studying at an Adventist university. But I thank God for helping me obtain that education, and I feel He has enabled me to be a persuasive preacher. I know that God has definite plans for my life. The time spent at Seventh-day Adventist schools has helped me to better understand and value those plans as I strive to acquire the tools I need for effectively accomplishing those divine plans in the future.”
The Work of Redemption One of the priorities and ultimate goals in our schools is to foster a spirit of service and a deeper longing for eternity. We also understand that to educate is to redeem, and that God has specifically entrusted us with the task of working toward the redemption of souls. We must keep asking for His help to wisely carry out such a solemn responsibility.
There is still a lot to accomplish in order to fulfill our mission in the Inter-American Division. We wish to commend and thank all those who, as God’s plans for their lives were unfolding, made the commitment to follow through in spite of every setback and roadblock. The testimonies of their bravery renews our own courage to keep believing and accomplishing the mission that our Great Master has entrusted to us!2
1 The Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church operates 14 universities. In those classrooms, God is daily manifested in the lives of their 19,608 students and 1,354 teachers, according to Gamaliel Flórez, director of the Education Department of the division (as of May 2013). 2 The author would like to thank God for allowing him the privilege of being part of the theology faculty at Navojoa University, where he also began his training for the ministry, and where during the past 10 years he has been able to meet many students with lives impacted by Seventh-day Adventist education.
Alejo Aguilar is a professor of theology at Navojoa University in northwestern Mexico.
Grace Enough for Every Challenge Southern Asia-Pacific Division
By Ferdinand O. Regalado
The wonderful diversity of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) embraces some 18 countries from Bangladesh to Vietnam,1 with an Adventist membership of more than 1 million.2 Its different cultures and languages feature predominantly Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and animist peoples, with only the Philippines including a majority of Christians. Many different dialects augment the 10 languages officially recognized in the division.3 The Philippines itself uses about 170 of these dialects,4 making evangelism to different ethnic groups an even greater challenge. In spite of this, membership shows significant growth in some areas. The following experiences illustrate God’s presence and power in our work.
Reclaiming Lost Sheep When I served as a pastor in the Philippines I visited all my church members, especially the inactive ones. I listened to their concerns, read scripture, and prayed for them. Sometimes, when invited, I ate with them. For them it was an honor that their pastor, would grace their home and join their meal.
Some said to me, “Because you visited me in my home and prayed for me, I decided to attend church and become actively involved in church again.” By God’s grace, faithful pastors in the SSD are making a difference.
Winning With Adventist Education She always sat at the front of my religion class, more than a dozen years ago, keen to hear every topic I discussed. I could see that she was older than her classmates, but I knew little about her until the last exam she took.
In that exam I asked students which topic discussed in the class interested them most and why. She wrote that the topic that interested her most was the topic “Unpardonable Sin.” Then she candidly exposed her long-hurting soul. She wrote, “Honestly, I am not married, yet I have two kids. On the first day of the class when I received the syllabus and saw that topic, I waited for you to discuss it.”
She continued: “Since 1994 when that man came into my life, feelings of guilt have burdened me.” She wrote: “Should I ask God for forgiveness after living with and having children with this married man?”
To atone for her sins, she gave offerings to the Lord. As a faithful Roman Catholic she did a novena several times,5 asking God to forgive her sins. “When troubles came into our life, I asked God if it was punishment for what I had done. I knelt and cried out loud for forgiveness until you discussed this topic,” she indicated. “Somehow in your explanation and with the help of the Bible, my burdens were lessened. Through this class I really experienced the love of God.”
This former student also wrote, “When I enrolled in this campus, I often heard from non-Adventists, ‘Is that where you enrolled? It’s boring there; they always use the Bible.’ Now I can tell them that they are wrong, that through this class I was enlightened that even though I am a sinner, God loves me.”
Her words “even though I am a sinner, God loves me” are my testament that Adventist education makes an impact. Inside and outside the classroom I tell my students, “Your religion teacher is not a saint; he is just forgiven.” Every day I try to live and share that good news of God’s grace.
Charlie I was expecting Charlie that night. It was his follow-up call on whether I would speak at the commitment service for their weekend spiritual retreat. I invited him in. He had dark circles under his eyes, his hair was unkempt. I saw relief on his face when I said I would speak. He had been desperate about getting a speaker.
Charlie wore faded denim shorts that revealed his knees and legs powdered with cement. “I’m sorry, Pastor, for being dressed like this; I just came from work.” Charlie was interested in more than my appointment. He wanted to talk. As we did, the story of his life began to unfold.
Charlie started working when he was in fourth grade. His father had shot and killed a troublemaker in their barangay (village). Accused of a crime, he pleaded guilty and was put in jail. The eldest among his siblings, Charlie became the man of the house. He worked hard to help his mother, who earned 200 Philippine pesos (US$4.59) per month for her three children, making baby clothes. At 500 Philippine pesos (US$11.50) per month, Charlie’s wage, for a child, was not bad.
But his work making uling (hard coal for cooking, made from tree bark) gave him tuberculosis. He was told he should rest to regain his health. He rested, recovered, and pressed on, working and struggling until he finished grade school and high school.
Any college education would be expensive. But in 1996 Charlie enrolled at the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) as a working student. When the tuberculosis came back, he stopped for four years. Then Charlie was back again. He wanted to study theology, to become a pastor and work for the Lord. It would take him several years, earning 15 Philippine pesos (US$.35) per hour to pay living and school expenses. He found a narrow room, a rectangular boxlike structure with a small window. It looked like a prison cell, but it was free.
My wife prepared a meal for Charlie, and I prayed for him. He thanked us and left with a pensive face, perhaps still contemplating his duties for the coming retreat. Charlie may have been hungry and living in a box, but he was faithful in his duties as president of his religion club.
There are many theology graduates in the Philippines, but few pastoral positions available. Charlie surrendered his childhood dream of becoming a pastor, and graduated from college in 2006 as a secondary education major. God blessed faithful Charlie with a good wife, an elementary school teacher whom he met at the university; and with two children as well. Finding a decent job continues to be a struggle. But in spite of it, he is actively involved in his local church and a faithful Adventist Christian.
The SSD has many Charlies grappling with life challenges and following their God-inspired visions. In the midst of their challenges, God’s grace and love are always present. In the SSD we affirm every day the promise of Jesus: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). His grace is enough for every challenge.
Ferdinand O. Regalado, professor of Biblical Studies at Walla Walla University, Washington, U.S.A., is a native of the Philippines, who has also taught at the Adventist University of the Philippines and Montemorelos University in Mexico.
Plans for a Larger Work Adventism in the Trans-European Division
By David Trim
John G. Matteson, first Adventist missionary to the territory of what is now the Trans-European Division (TED), arrived in his native Denmark in May 1877.
Origins John Matteson was born in Denmark in 1835; in 1854 he emigrated to the United States, where he became an Adventist in 1863. Before the end of that year he wrote to the official church journal, The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, urging that the Adventist message “be carried to the ends of the earth.”1 He was ordained and started working for his fellow migrants, translating Adventist tracts into Danish and Norwegian, and beginning a new journal, Advent Tidende (“Advent Herald”). By the mid-1870s many of the 800 Danish-Norwegian Seventh-day Adventists were regularly sending the Adventist publications in their own languages back to family members in their homelands, raising awareness of the Seventh-day Adventist Church within Scandinavia. Matteson himself increasingly yearned to work in his homeland, not just among those who had emigrated from there.
In May 1877 his dream came true; for the next 11 years Matteson poured himself, body and soul, into the work. He maintained an unrelenting schedule of travel and preaching; started a journal,Tidernes Tegn (“Signs of the Times”); began a publishing house; and even wrote some of the hymns for an Adventist hymnbook in Norwegian, which he published. Sadly, by 1888, Matteson’s health was broken and he returned to the United States, where he died in 1896. But by the time he departed, conferences had been organized in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway; and in 1901, the Scandinavian Union, including the Finland and Iceland missions, was organized.
As Matteson worked in Scandanavia, another emigrant to the U.S.A.-turned missionary to his homeland, William Ings, arrived in England in May of 1878. Ings had been sent to work under J. N. Andrews in Switzerland, but during a two-week holiday with relations in England he won two people to the Sabbath. His success prompted the General Conference to assign a missionary to Britain: they sent J. N. Loughborough who arrived on December 30, 1878.
Loughborough was one of the most experienced and prominent Adventist leaders and a very successful evangelist in North America. But he found the British, masters of an empire “on which the sun never set,” prejudiced against what they perceived as an imported American sect. Not until 1883, just before he returned to the USA, was the first Seventh-day Adventist Church in Britain organized, with 19 members. The next year a journal, Present Truth, began publication.
Ellen White worked in Europe from 1885 to 1887, and spoke at the first Adventist camp meeting outside North America, held at Moss, Norway, in June 1887. Ellen White made three separate visits to Great Britain and was eager for Adventism to take root in England, for she saw the potential of a strong base in the heart of the British Empire. Sharing her vision, American Adventists sent their best and brightest to lead the work in Britain, among them S. N. Haskell, E. J. Waggoner, and W. W. Prescott.
Organizational Developments In 1929 the European Division, which had its beginnings in 1909, was divided into three new divisions: the Northern, Central, and Southern European divisions. The Northern European Division (NED) included Poland and vast stretches of the British Empire in West and East Africa. In 1951 the division was reorganized: French colonies in West Africa were short-term, and the Netherlands permanent, additions. In 1971 the other two European divisions were merged as theEuro-Africa Division, but the NED remained distinct, albeit adopting a new title: the Northern Europe-West Africa Division (NEWAD), reflecting the fact that only the West African territory remained of the African mission fields. NEWAD reverted to the title NED after its two West African unions were reassigned in 1980. The division had its final change of name when it became theTrans-European Division on January 1, 1986. Its territory has spanned from Greenland in the west to Pakistan in the east, and from north of the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia, to south of the equator in Tanzania. The sheer geographical extent and cultural variety has been unmatched elsewhere in the world church.
A Passion for Mission Adventists in the TED’s European territory have always been characterized by a strong desire to take the gospel “into all the world.” One result was openness to trying new methods.
For example, when the British Conference was formed in 1898, it elected a woman, Edith Adams, as secretary-treasurer; and in Finland, right from the start, women “played an active role in evangelism and in other areas of church work.” In the 1940s and 1950s Elsa Luukkanen conducted evangelistic campaigns across Finland in which “hundreds of people were converted and a number of churches established.”2 With the election of Audrey Andersson in 2010, the TED became the first division to have a woman as executive secretary.
Furthermore, European Adventists had, and still have, a tremendous passion for foreign mission. Barely had the British Union been formed in 1902 before it accepted responsibility for mission in the extensive British colonies in East and West Africa. In 1906, when the Scandinavian Union was only 5 years old, its leaders volunteered to evangelize Ethiopia. But progress in Africa was slow. At its very first meeting the NED committee resolved “to make every effort to carry the Advent Message to the many millions . . . in the fields where our work is represented. The unwarned millions make their pathetic appeal and . . . we must certainly lay plans for a larger work.”3 At this point 3,202 of the division’s 24,228 baptized members (13.2 percent) were located in Africa. In 1980, 87,389 of NEWAD’s 128,644 baptized members (67.9 percent) were in the two African unions—God has honored the missionary passion of that NED committee!
While Christianity’s decline in Europe is to be regretted, the transformation of our church in Africa is to be celebrated, for its growth and self-sufficiency are things the early missionaries wanted and for which they would praise God. Yet in celebrating expansion and progress, it is vital to remember how much is owed to those early missionaries from Europe, whose willingness to face privation, isolation, and tropical diseases for which no cures were then known, was heroic.
Conclusion In spite of prejudice, war, secularism, indifference, financial difficulties, theological controversies, and other challenges, the third angel’s message has taken root in European soil. When the Swedish Union was organized—the first union formed in the TED’s territory—there were 4,079 Seventh-day Adventists in Europe: around one in every 62,600 Europeans. At the end of 2012, there were 82,769 church members in the TED—approximately one per 2,500 people in the total population. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is in Europe to stay. With its continuing passion for mission it may confront new challenges with faith in the God of its history.
1 Review and Herald, Nov. 10, 1863, p. 191. 2 Hugh Dunton, Ronald Strasdowsky et al., eds., Heirs of the Reformation: The Story of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe (Grantham, Eng.: Stanborough Press, 1997), pp. 32, 96. 3 NED Winter Council, 1928, minutes, pp. 3, 6, 7.
David Trim is director of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research for the General Conference.
Much to Thank God For Europe, Divisions, especially the Inter-European Division (EUD)
By Daniel Heinz
G THEN AND NOW: The first Adventist church building in Tramelan (above) and the current division headquarters in Bern (below). ospel proclamation anywhere on earth is always a challenge. It is certainly so in Europe. Seventh-day Adventists in Europe are a minority, with a current membership of 371,000 on a continent of about 700 million people. About one third of that population is Roman Catholic, about 12 percent is Orthodox, and no more than one tenth is Protestant. Overall, Adventists are just 0.05 percent of Europe’s population. Our numbers illustrate our missionary challenge.
A Continent of History Western culture has its roots in the continent of Europe, a fascinating world full of light and shadow, superior civilizational achievements and the deepest human abysses. Europe—where Christianity’s cultural era looks back on a 2,000-year history. Where pilgrims and monks lived, great theologians taught, and cathedrals, monasteries, and universities were built. In the name of God, crusades and inquisition raged, the advent of Islam was halted, and Luther confronted emperor, pope, and empire. Christian missionaries were sent off around the world, the great intellectual-historical trends and revolutions of the modern era began, and two devastating world wars with millions of deaths were fought. Christians, including Adventists, bravely took a stand against Fascist and Communist dictatorships, sacrificing their lives. Yet today it is atheism, secularism, and postmodernism that triumph. This is Europe! On no other continent, perhaps, have Adventists, since the beginning of their mission 150 years ago, been faced with so many social and political changes, conflicts, and firsts.
Adventist Firsts in Europe Europe was the first continent after North America where Adventists began missionary work (1864). The first Adventist to set foot on European soil was the unrelenting and unconventional missionary Michael B. Czechowski, historically regarded as one of the founders of Adventist world missions. A former Franciscan monk from Poland, converted to Adventism in North America, he worked among the Waldenses in northern Italy, and later in Switzerland, where in 1867 he founded the first Adventist church outside North America, in Tramelan. This old, wooden church, now unused, still stands. Ideally, it could be transformed into an Adventist museum.
In 1874 John N. Andrews, Seventh-day Adventism’s first official missionary, arrived in Switzerland to continue Czechowski’s work, making Switzerland the cradle of European Adventism. After 1886 Adventist missionary work experienced a breakthrough, when Louis R. Conradi succeeded for the first time in sinking Adventist roots in Europe by adapting missionary methods to European culture. Europe was also the first continent outside of North America thatEllen G. White visited (1885-1887). From Basel she traveled to various countries, opening the eyes of the young churches for mission, and bringing unity and spiritual guidance.
PAST AND PRESENT: Delegates to the South European Division Annual Council stand in front of the former division office in December 1951 (above). Today’s EUD Officers: Bruno Vertallier, president (center); Norbert Zens, treasurer (left); and Gabriel Maurer, secretary. In Europe, the first division was created in 1913 as an official unit of church administration, although the Seventh-day Adventist churches in Europe in effect had this status already since 1908. The administrative headquarters of the European Division, including many mission fields in Africa and Asia, was first located in Hamburg, Germany then from 1922 to 1928 in Bern, Switzerland, and London, England.
Growth and Development This period, 1922-1928, may be cited as a time of significant progress for God’s work: Adventist membership in Europe increased from about 53,000 to 89,000. In 1922, 30 missionaries from Europe were serving abroad. Six years later this number had grown to 134. Africa, in particular, was evangelized by many Adventist missionaries from Europe. As a result of the rapid growth of the church in Europe and Africa, the old European Division was reorganized into three new divisions. These were: a Northern European Division (now Trans-European / TED), based in London / St. Albans, and the Central and Southern European Divisions (collectively since 1972 the Euro-Africa Division, today the Inter- European Division / EUD), based in Berlin / Darmstadt and Bern. Adventist churches in the former Soviet Union, isolated from the world church in 1922, were able to form a separate division in 1990 (the Euro-Asia Division), based in Moscow. Today the Seventh-day Adventist Church is organized into three European divisions that facilitate our service to the highly varied historical, political, linguistic, and cultural circumstances of the continent. Their growth, accomplishments, and effectiveness give us much for which to thank God. Still, the best form of management for Europe in the future continues to be a subject of animated discussion among dedicated church leaders.
More on the EUD Inter-European Division (EUD), now headquartered in Bern, includes most Western and Central European and some Eastern European countries. Amid the territory’s population of 336 million people, our 177,000 church members live in 11 unions speaking more than 30 languages. The division’s rich missionary tradition includes many decades of promoting successful mission work in much of North, West, and Central Africa (particular in French- and Portuguese-speaking areas), and in the Near and Middle East. Evangelism in the secular countries of Europe still proves difficult after the waning of missionary awakening in Eastern Europe that followed the collapse of Communism. Despite this, the Euro-Africa/Inter-European Division experiences many spiritual highlights. Romania’s more than 67,000 Adventists, the highest number among all EUD countries, now host a “Waldensian Youth Project.” University students are invited to work as literature evangelists during their summer vacations. Some even choose the option of working for one full year.
A delegate to the Youth in Mission Congress is baptized in Mannheim, Germany.Gabriel E. Maurer, division secretary, notes, “I recently had the opportunity to meet 80 of these students and see and feel their contagious enthusiasm for sharing their faith through the printed word. It is an overwhelming experience to see how many of these students have radically changed from being entertainment-seeking young people to being committed, mission-oriented Adventist Christian youth.”
A similar missionary awakening among young people can be experienced every year in Mannheim, Germany, where the Youth in Mission Congress is held with top speakers from around the world. Thousands of young Adventists from all over Europe come together to grow spiritually and be equipped for missionary work. Many decisions are made for baptism.
Equally impressive is the social commitment of the Adventist Church in the EUD. We thank God for organizations such as ADRA and ASI. They, and many smaller mission initiatives by committed lay members make significant contributions to Adventist world missions. In many countries of the EUD new evangelistic projects are launched to reach a postmodern audience. Immigrant church membership admirably enhances this impetus to mission. Their missionary zeal continues to impact the deep secularism that pervades the EUD.
Our Hope The EUD confronts its challenges with great hope. We have much for which to thank God. Because we know we are God’s church, which He has sustained and led in a wonderful way in the past, and up to the present. The great days of the Advent movement in Europe are still to come. Earth’s rulers pass on, but our Lord ever reigns. Our work is headed for a glorious climax: We work for His soon coming.
Light Dawns in Eastern Asia Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NPD)
As we see how the light of the Adventist message dawned in the countries of the orient we are amazed at the way God used one humble man to do heaven’s great work. God has stretched the chain of his influence across the decades and the continent and islands in order to bring the good news of His second advent to the people of the eastern Asia.
Light Dawns Over China, the Most Populous Country Abram La Rue, an American gold miner, sailor, and shepherd, came to the Adventist truth in California at an advanced age. Immediately thereafter he led his neighbor, William C. Grainger, a teacher by profession, to the truth.
PIONEERS: Adventist pioneer missionaries J. N. Anderson (back row, left) and Abram La Rue (second from left) pose with a group of sailors and expatriates who were baptized as a result of La Rue’s efforts. William Grainger (below) went to Japan in 1896 to teach English, using the Bible as a textbook.La Rue attended Healdsburg College to prepare himself for the gospel ministry, and requested that the General Conference send him to China. As a retired sailor he remembered his visits to this country, and now felt a burden for its vast population. But the mission board thought him too old at 65 and recommended Hawaii instead. La Rue arrived there with many printed books and tracts. As a colporteur he succeeded in establishing an Adventist presence.
La Rue’s longing to convey the saving message to the people of Cathay grew ever stronger. At length he sailed for China, arriving in Hong Kong on May 3, 1888, as Asia’s first self-supporting missionary. He set up a seamen’s mission and for 14 years did colporteur work, mainly among ships in Hong Kong harbor. He also made trips to Shanghai, Japan, Borneo, Java, Sarawak, Singapore, and once even to Palestine and Lebanon, selling Adventist books and distributing tracts wherever his ship docked.
With the aid of a Chinese friend, Mok Man Cheung, he printed a tract, “The Judgment,” and “The Sinner’s Need of Christ,” a chapter of E. G. White’s book Steps to Christ, in Chinese.
In response to his and S. N. Haskell’s earnest appeal, the General Conference sent official missionaries to China in 1902. On February 2 J. N. Anderson’s family arrived in Hong Kong. About a month after his arrival on March 1, Anderson baptized six British sailors and an expatriate resident to whom La Rue had given Bible studies.
La Rue died on April 26, 1903, after rendering 15 years of service to the people of Cathay. He is buried at the Happy Valley Cemetery in Hong Kong. As his legacy today, despite China’s many wars, revolutions, and persecutions, some 430,000 members, from about 3,000 churches and congregations, look forward to Jesus’ soon return.
Light Dawns Over Japan, the Islands of the Rising Sun William C. Grainger, Abram La Rue’s firstfruits, now president of Healdsburg College (laterPacific Union College), was deeply moved as he listened to the Friday evening vesper appeal. Japanese student Teruhiko Okohira needed someone to accompany him to his home country to spread the Adventist message. Possessed by La Rue’s missionary compulsion, Grainger resigned his presidency and arrived in the island country of Japan on November 19, 1896. Soon afterward he and Okohira opened Shiba Japanese-English Bible School in Tokyo, where the Bible was taught in English.
Hide Kuniya, secretary-treasurer of an army unit in Tokyo, enrolled in the English Bible school through the introduction of his friend, Dr. Mokutaro Kawasaki, a military surgeon. Kuniya was deeply impressed by Grainger’s Christian character and attended the English Bible class regularly. Having been convinced of the Bible doctrines, he decided to resign from his military assignment in order to keep the Sabbath. On April 24, 1899, Grainger baptized Kuniya and his friend Kawasaki, with two other men, as the first Adventist converts among the Japanese. That same year the first Adventist church was organized with 13 members at the English Bible school.
Grainger started a monthly paper, The Gospel for the Last Days, later renamed Signs of the Times. La Rue, in China, would outlive his brilliant convert and fellow missionary. Grainger died of uremia on October 31, 1899, age 55, and was buried in Aoyama Cemetery in Tokyo. But his mission spirit survived in the hearts of Okohira, Kuniya, Kawasaki, and Frank William Field, who came to Japan to take up the work that Grainger had lain down. Kuniya became God’s agent to extend La Rue’s magnificent witness to yet another country in eastern Asia.
Light Dawns Over Korea, the Land of Morning Calm HISTORICAL FIGURES: Teruhiko Okohira (above), a student at Healdsburg College, persuaded William Grainger to accompany him to Tokyo. Hide Kuniya (below) attended Grainger’s English Bible school and was one of the first baptized as a result.
Hide Kuniya, now pastor of Kobe church in Japan, noticed a stranger paying attention to the long signboard on a small Adventist church building. He invited the stranger in and found that he was on his way to Hawaii as a Korean laborer. Though neither understood the other’s language, the Holy Spirit used the Chinese ideograph characters they wrote on a chalkboard to help them communicate. Kuniya began teaching his new Korean friend the Bible. Then the Korean brought a friend of his own. Both became convinced of the Adventist doctrines. Just past midnight of May 12, 1904, Kuniya baptized them, Eung Hyun Lee and Heung Choi Son, at Nunobiki Falls in Kobe. Lee then left for Hawaii. But for some reason known only to providence, Son headed back to Korea.
On the ship Son shared his newly found truth with Ki Ban Lim, who was returning to Korea from Hawaii. A Methodist leader in his hometown, Lim had considerable knowledge of Bible doctrines. By the time his trip ended he too had accepted the Adventist message. Back home in Chinnampo, he shared the Sabbath truth with Methodist believers.
Soon, though, Lim had to call for help. His knowledge on Adventism was limited. Thirty-six truth seekers signed his modern Macedonian call in a letter to Pastor Kuniya in Japan to come to Korea and teach them Bible truth. After much effort Kuniya arrived in Chinnampo, northwestern Korea, on August 9, 1904. He conducted Bible studies in many villages. In 50 days he baptized 71 people and organized four churches. The hardship, discomfort, and resistance he experienced seemed beyond human endurance. But Kuniya established a solid foundation through his dedicated pioneering efforts.
Wholly Consecrated Seventh-day Adventist work in the Northern Asia-Pacific Division began in 1888 with a self-supporting volunteer, Abram La Rue. Eight years later, in 1896, William C. Grainger, La Rue’s first American convert, initiated work in Japan. Approximately eight years beyond that, Hide Kuniya, one of Grainger’s firstfruits in Japan, would stretch the chain of influence to Korea, a chain begun by a humble volunteer who would not give up.
Abram La Rue embodied Ellen White’s statement: “There is no limit to the usefulness of one who, by putting self aside, makes room for the working of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, and lives a life wholly consecrated to God.”*
* Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), pp. 250, 251.
God’s Bountiful Care The beginnings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America
By Silvia Scholtus Roscher
Reading about the beginnings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America brings to mind the words of the hymn “O Worship the King”: “Thy bountiful care, what tongue can recite?”1 As I have found out, however, few of those providential stories were written down for future generations.
The circumstances that allowed for the spreading of the blessed hope in South America are as rich and varied as is the contribution of every person of this continent who decides to become one of God’s people.2 The Lord uses the most diverse means to accomplish His purpose: a piece of literature, a casual encounter, a dream, a healing miracle, a testimony of faith.
The following three stories make up just a few links of the encompassing set of circumstances that contributed to the explosive growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America.
Before the Beginning In the mid-nineteenth century various ethnic groups from Europe were migrating to South America. As those new immigrants exchanged letters with their relatives in Europe, they started receiving literature and news about the Seventh-day Adventist message being shared in their home countries. Thus, before the arrival of the first Seventh-day Adventist missionaries to the southern continent, God was preparing the way, creating a growing interest for the message of the Adventist hope. Years later, when the first foreign missionaries arrived, those first interests stepped forward to assist them as interpreters and helped them spread the gospel in the region.
A Strange Intervention FAMILY CONNECTIONS: The family of Julio and Ida Dupertuis became Adventists as a result of reading copies of Signs of the Times they received from Switzerland.Sometime in the 1880s or 1890s, in Santa Catarina, Brazil, Carlos Dreefke got a package of German magazines from the United States. Since he had not requested any literature, he at first rejected the package. His neighbor, David Hort, however, encouraged him to open it, and the magazines were soon shared and read among the local settlers.
Interestingly, the arrival of Adventist literature was directly connected with the decision of Carlos’ stepson to travel to the United States as a stowaway on a German ship some months before. Seventh-day Adventist missionaries in the United States who were interested in sharing the gospel in the German settlements in southern Brazil gave the stepson Bible studies, secured his stepfather’s name and address, and sent Carlos Dreefke the package of magazines. A growing interest in that literature prompted several immigrants to subscribe to the magazine.
Guillermo Belz, from Gaspar Alto, received Uriah Smith’s book Gedanken über dar Buch Daniel (Thoughts on the Book of Daniel). After studying the Bible, several families began to keep the Sabbath. Thus they got acquainted with the blessed hope before a single Seventh-day Adventist missionary stepped onto the southern continent.
A Baptism Thousands of Miles Away In the town of Felicia, in Santa Fe, Argentina, several Swiss French Baptist settlers began keeping the Sabbath in 1885, well before any missionary visited them, once more as a result of a “strange” set of circumstances.
One day they read in a newspaper they received from Switzerland about an Adventist baptism in Lake Neuchâtel. The story also mentioned the magazine Les Signes des Temps (Signs of the Times), and soon Julio Dupertuis and his wife, Ida, asked their Baptist pastor to get them a subscription. At first their pastor was reluctant, but they insisted to the point that he relented.
After receiving the magazines and studying the Bible, the Dupertuis family was persuaded about Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. They began to share their newfound faith with their neighbors. For more than a century now, members of the Dupertuis, Arn, Mathieu, Dobanton, and Pidoux families have been spreading the message of the Adventist hope in Argentina and elsewhere.
INTRODUCED IN A DREAM: Victor Thomann (top) dreamed about two men reading Psalm 103. When he heard Bishop (center) and Davis (bottom) reading from their Spanish Bibles, he knew his dream had come true.
A Providential Solution One setback against spreading the gospel in South America was the lack of Adventist literature in the local languages of Portuguese and Spanish. Colporteurs usually sold books in English, French, and German among the immigrant population. But once more God’s providence facilitated the spreading of the blessed message.
Two foreign colporteurs, Frederick Bishop and Thomas Davis, arrived in Santiago, Chile, in 1896. Their task was not easy, since they did not speak a word of Spanish. One day as they walked down a major street in Santiago reading their Bible in Spanish aloud in order to learn the language, Víctor Thomann overheard them.
Víctor had dreamed about two men reading Psalm 103, so he approached them and began to chat. Since Víctor did not know a single word in English, they communicated by exchanging verses from the Bible. As a result, Víctor and his brother Eduardo—who had already been keeping the Sabbath—were eventually baptized. Both brothers began to take part in meetings with other people where the colporteurs were staying. In fact, the colporteurs’ landlady, Prudence Nuñez Balada, the wife of a Protestant pastor, was the first Adventist convert in Chile.
After their baptism Victor and Eduardo Thomann dedicated their lives to printing and spreading Seventh-day Adventist literature in Spanish, not only in Chile but also in Peru and Bolivia. Eduardo was in charge of the first Adventist printing press in the southern continent, which was eventually moved to Argentina to launch what is now the South American Spanish Publishing House.
The Story Goes On Adventist literature is not the only important means for spreading the Adventist message today. Radio and television broadcasts, as well as the Internet, now complement the contributions of individual faithful believers. God knows no barriers, and His work knows no boundaries.
These three stories are just a few samples of God’s bigger plans for the continent. The Lord’s bountiful care was revealed in countless examples of His providence along the years, which contributed to the exponential growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the region.3
Some of the stories about Adventist pioneers in South America have been recorded, and many more are waiting to be written. Other stories, however, are known only by heaven. In South America Christ’s promise to one of His disciples is still in full force: “You will see greater things than these” (John 1:50).
In spite of all the human and technological resources now available, God’s bountiful care is still present. How wonderful it is to work side by side with God’s Holy Spirit in spreading the message of salvation! May the Lord keep working the miracles of His providence in South America!
1The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1985), no. 83. 2 The South American Division comprises Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. 3 The South American Division was organized in 1916 with 4,903 members in 88 churches. Membership now stands well above 2 million, in 11,535 churches.
Silvia Scholtus Roscher teaches theology at River Plate Adventist University, and serves as an editor of the River Plate Adventist University Press in Argentina. She has authored many articles and a book on the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South America.
As more than 18 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide commemorate 150 years of God’s mighty leading of the great Second Advent movement, we recall, from the North American Division, a story of courage that inspires us on our way to an uncertain yet certain future.
In The Ghetto
A Jewish pioneer of Adventism in North America
By Benjamin Baker
As more than 18 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide commemorate 150 years of God’s mighty leading of the great Second Advent movement, we recall, from the North American Division, a story of courage that inspires us on our way to an uncertain yet certain future.
A Strict Upbringing
Frederick Carnes Gilbert was born in London, England, on September 30, 1867. His Russian Jewish parents had found sanctuary in that country after fleeing hostility to their faith and ethnicity in the land of their birth and in continental Europe.
Gilbert had a strict Jewish upbringing, was trained by a rabbi, went through confirmation, had a bar-mitzvah, and even wore phylacteries. He hated Christianity, not only because of the teaching he received, but because of the persecution that his ancestors—and more immediately his parents—had received at the hands of Christians. When he passed a Christian church, he would spit in revulsion, and his fingers itched to throttle any Christians he might encounter.
Gilbert had a turbulent childhood. He had poor health, and, near death, was hospitalized on several occasions. On one occasion he fell into a fireplace and was almost burned alive. Early in Gilbert’s teen years his father died. His life-threatening asthma and lung disease led a physician to suggest that he sail to America: the sea voyage would improve his condition, and the climate in America would be more conducive to his health.
But Gilbert trembled at the thought of America. His father had warned of its godlessness. Nevertheless, he boarded the boat, had a bad accident, and, upon arriving in New York City, went straight to the hospital.
North America was indeed godless, Gilbert decided. At his factory job he was persecuted because of his peculiar Jewish beliefs. Although joining a labor union and paying his dues, he was fired from a promising job with no recourse. The young immigrant went from one employ to another, often walking the streets of New York at night with no food, inadequate clothing, and shivering from the cold.
Moving to Boston at the age of 21 in the hope of something better, Gilbert obtained boarding with the Fiskes, a Seventh-day Adventist family. They were weird: they didn’t eat pork and kept holy the seventh-day, but they believed in Jesus. They won him over because “they lived their religion more than they talked it.” He entered the Fiske household as an observer of the Jewish religion but left two years later a committed Seventh-day Adventist Christian.
After Gilbert’s conversion in 1889, life became more harrowing—at work, on the street, with relatives in England and New England, including his beloved mother, who disowned him as an apostate who had embraced the oppressors’ religion. Employed at a shoe factory at the time, Gilbert quit to be a colporteur. After nine months of that, he entered nearby South Lancaster Academy (associated later with Atlantic Union College), to prepare for the ministry.
For His People
After college Gilbert labored among the Goyim (Gentiles) of New England for 10 years. In 1896 he wed Ella Graham, to whom he was married for almost half a century. In 1898 he was ordained to the gospel ministry.
In the first years of the twentieth century Gilbert embraced the reorganizing, contextualizing ethos within Adventism that sought specific ways to make the gospel appealing to specific peoples.
He launched an out-and-out campaign to reach the 300,000 Jews of New England in the United States with methods undergirded by a hands-on and communitarian approach to evangelism borne out of a love for humanity. He could be found in the ghetto conversing with rabbis; preaching in Yiddish on a soapbox; canvassing from tenement to tenement; taking in orphans; caring for the sick; finding jobs for those unemployed; and lobbying against Sunday laws (which threatened religious liberty for Jews).
Gilbert established a refugee center for persecuted Jews disowned by family and friends with no means of support; he started gospel magazines in Yiddish—The Good Tidings of the Messiah, The Messenger, and other tracts and booklets; and he spoke in synagogues and halls. In return he was viciously accosted, physically assaulted, and sent death threat letters. Sometimes his head was drenched in blood; other times his body was wracked with pain from pummeling. All this he counted joy, to suffer for his Messiah.
In 1907, at Gilbert’s urging, the Central New England Conference created a Jewish Department. Gilbert, its first director, developed strategies and raised funds to reach the Jewish population in New England, which was growing considerably at the time in Greater Boston and other cities along the Eastern seaboard. He was also the first Jewish representative for the Atlantic Union Conference, joining M. L. Andreasen (the Scandinavian representative) and
J. K. Humphrey (the Black representative) as ethnic missiological specialists.
Ellen White encouraged Gilbert in 1908: “My brother, the Jewish people are not the only ones who are being helped by your work. Our own people need the example thus set before them. I bid you be of good courage. In your labors, do not wait for some great and wonderful opening, but seize the opportunities as they come. The power of truth will be vindicated as the servants of God make faithful use of the opportunities that present themselves for labor.”
In 1913, at Gilbert’s behest, the North American Foreign Department established the Jewish Department Advisory Committee, Gilbert serving as superintendent. Five years later he became superintendent of the Jewish Advisory Committee at the General Conference.
When advancing age no longer allowed his labor in the ghettos among his people, he took to writing books for Jews, showing the myriad similarities between Judaism and Adventism. His sophisticated works, such as Practical Lessons From the Experience of Israel, Messiah in His Sanctuary, and Judaism and Christianity, present Christ as the culmination and realization of Hebrew cultural rites and retain their power today.
Gilbert served as a field secretary for the General Conference from 1922 until his death on August 31, 1946.
The North American Division has implemented an outreach model of six building blocks derived from the ministry of Christ to reach the 350 million people in its division with the gospel. Gilbert’s life and ministry embodies each of these. He recalled, “In beginning the mission work, we felt that we should follow the methods laid down by the Savior as far as possible.” The results were remarkable, reaching “tens of thousands of Jews in Boston” and beyond. “Jews would come to the mission from cities and towns a long way from Boston, and tell us that they had heard about the work that was being started for their brethren.”
The wonderfully affirming testimony of a non-Adventist Christian who attended his meetings one day provides an instructive note for us today. “It seemed to me,” he said to Gilbert, “that I could just see the New Testament lived right out all over again, and it certainly was wonderful. It is very convincing to my mind.”
Benjamin Baker is an assistant archivist of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. A longer, fully documented version of this article appears on the Adventist World North America Web site.
The Captivity Begins In October 1917, during the turbulent upheavals of the Russian Empire, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, like all other churches, found itself in new circumstances, as the very existence of religion in Russia came into question. Communism had come to power. The change of government resulted in a civil war (1918-1922), which brought tragedy to the country—dreadful famine and epidemics of typhus, plague, smallpox, and cholera. Millions were left homeless.
Out Of Babylon
Adventism’s Advance in the Euro-Asia Division
By Eugene Zaytsev
God has been leading His church in the former Soviet Union out of its 70-year Babylonian captivity.
The Captivity Begins
In October 1917, during the turbulent upheavals of the Russian Empire, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, like all other churches, found itself in new circumstances, as the very existence of religion in Russia came into question. Communism had come to power. The change of government resulted in a civil war (1918-1922), which brought tragedy to the country—dreadful famine and epidemics of typhus, plague, smallpox, and cholera. Millions were left homeless. The Seventh-day Adventist Church did not stand aside from the humanitarian disaster, but organized the worldwide Adventist community to help the needy. A charitable organization was founded under the leadership of I. A. L’vov that managed the distribution of humanitarian aid and soup kitchens. The New Economic Policy (NEP) introduced into the country saw a significant softening of the government in relation to religion. The mid-1920s were a time of relative religious freedom, an opportunity for the church to fulfill its potential.
The Church Responds
In August 1924 Moscow hosted the fifth all-Russian congress of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Soviet Union. New opportunities were created for the church in terms of evangelism. Most decisions of the fifth congress were of a social nature. In particular, congress delegates voted for the active participation of the church in the eradication of illiteracy, for the establishment of medical institutions, and the organization of agricultural communes. Subsequent years proved to be a blessing to the church, as it more than doubled its membership in response to the many evangelistic initiatives during the first 10 years of Soviet rule. Publishing expanded significantly. Regularly published magazines included Voice of Truth, Evangelist, and Adventbote (in German). Government publishing houses, in conjunction with evangelical Christians and Baptists, printed two editions of the Bible. The Seventh-day Adventist Church received 5,000 copies of each edition. Church agricultural communes, with such names as “Fraternal Labor,” “New Way,” “The Kingdom of Light,” and “Brotherly Love,” helped restore war-ravaged agriculture.
Things Change Again
Stalin’s rise drastically altered this relative freedom. New legislation adopted in 1929 effectively reduced church activity to nothing. Even humanitarian work was prohibited. Changes in the constitution denied believers the right to promote their views. Militant atheists became actively involved in fighting against religion. In the early 1930s the country experienced a wave of mass repressions that certainly affected the church. Church organization was basically eliminated (1931), and its local community activities were strictly controlled. An autonomous (independent) type of existence developed. But the all-union committee, five persons designed to form some sort of central leadership, did not last long. Soon all its members were persecuted. Adventists experienced serious trials during this period. Staying faithful to God’s fourth commandment, they found themselves categorized as “parasites” and “the disenfranchised,” losing basic rights even to receive food rationing. Many were arrested. More than 150 Adventist preachers and local elders, and more than 3,000 members, were tortured. Many congregations, left without pastors, dissolved under pressure from the authorities. In 1938 a church leader, H. J. Loebsack, was tortured, and died in prison. His last words before his arrest were: “Brothers, work! Do not be discouraged! God’s work is like a river, which no one can stop!” It may sound paradoxical, but World War II saved religion in the Soviet Union. State-church relations improved, and in 1944, following liberation from German occupation, Adventist church services resumed.
Hope Burns and Fades
Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953. With his death it seemed that the era of persecution, betrayal, and camps was over. Freedom’s hope ignited in believers’ hearts, and 1955-1957 turned out to be the most “liberal” for believers in postwar history. However, this period of relative freedom did not last long. Toward the end of the 1950s a new campaign against religion developed. Believers’ rights were significantly limited. Show trials were created, accusing Christians of parasitism and corrupting the youth. Government officials crudely meddled with the church’s internal affairs, using the tactic of “divide and rule.” Church organization was practically liquidated in December 1960. The church underwent another period of harsh trials, severely testing church unity. During the 1960s and 1970s contacts with the leadership of the world church were restored. General Conference leaders such as Theodore Carcich, A. Lohne, Robert Pierson, and Neal C. Wilson played a crucial role in overcoming divisions within the church and restoring unity. The collapse of the Communist regime and Soviet Union in the late 1980s created new opportunities for the church. In connection with the “restructuring” of social life, the character of state-church relations changed radically. New laws on religious integration, particularly the Act of 1990, made freedom of conscience a reality.
In the post-Soviet era, church reorganization was based on world church models. Union conferences were formed in various regions. The year 1988 was critical. For the first time in our long, painful history, an institution for training ministers, Zaokski Seminary, was established in the Tula region of Russia. Systematic training of future pastors for the rapidly growing church began. The 1990 General Conference session saw a new division in the worldwide church—the Euro-Asia Division—established in the regions of the former Soviet Union. That same year the first live transmission of the Adventist radio center Voice of Hope aired. In its early years the staff of the center received about 300 to 500 letters from listeners daily. The year 1991 saw another significant event in the Seventh-day Adventist church in the former Soviet Union. The first post-Soviet religious publishing house, Source of Life, was established in Zaokski. For the first time in many years, members of the church were able to read religious literature in print, not just on copy paper. Evangelism reaped unprecedented success during this period. Numerous campaigns took place in many cities across the country, and thousands of people turned to God. In the first half of the 1990s the former Soviet Union enjoyed the fastest growth in the worldwide Adventist Church. In March 1992 a series of sermons, “The Biblical Way to New Life,” was delivered from the stage of the Kremlin Palace of Congresses. Tickets had to be sold so that people could enter the Kremlin. A week before the program all 14,000 tickets were sold out. However, during this period the church also faced some growing pains: an acute shortage of trained preachers, lack of church buildings, deficit of spiritual literature, and the challenge to keep new converts in the church. In this regard, the church had to strengthen its infrastructure, pay serious attention to the development of Christian education, and develop new means of evangelism. The church became actively involved in upholding principles of religious freedom, organizing educational conferences, as well as opening branches of the International Religious Liberty Association in various regions.
Today the church faces new challenges. But because God brought us safely through such difficult paths in our formation and development, we look toward the future with hope.
Eugene Zaytsev is the director of the Biblical Research Institute for the Euro-Asia Division.
The growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the East-Central Africa Division illustrates the power of the gospel as expressed in Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed
Like a Mustard Seed Adventism in the East-Central Africa Division By Geoffrey Mbwana
The growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the East-Central Africa Division (ECD), which includes 11 countries of the Eastern and Central regions of Africa, illustrates the power of the gospel as expressed in Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed: “When it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade” (Mark 4:32).
By the end of 2013, the church in ECD had grown to celebrate a baptized membership of more than 2.5 million, worshipping in more than 12,000 organized churches, led by more than 2,000 ordained and licensed ministers. The ratio of one pastor serving an average of 1,260 baptized members has encouraged church leaders to mobilize, train, and equip lay members for enthusiastic involvement in the mission of Jesus Christ.
More than 500,000 students access Adventist education through its more than 2,000 schools, church-accredited and government-chartered universities. The public has received, with great appreciation, health and medical services offered by the church in its six hospitals and 130 rural clinics. An army of literature evangelists, more than 6,000 strong, distributes large volumes of health and religious literature in the region every year.
Beginning the Work
In the rich African soil of traditional religion, with its emphasis on ancestral worship, spirits, and superstition, the seed of the gospel as taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church was sown in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Early Adventists entered the continent from its four corners: north, west, south, and east. The eastern gate into this massive yet little known continent was through Tanganyika (today known as Tanzania).
The Adventist Church in Germany was the strongest of European Adventism in the nineteenth century. L. R. Conradi, its dynamic leader, initiated and sustained a strong “foreign” mission work in different parts of the world. Since the German Empire had acquired a colony in East Africa, German Adventists sent missionaries to what was known as German East Africa, which included the current countries of Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.
Conradi raised US$5,000 to send the first missionaries to East Africa. Individual members in Europe and the United States, as well as some church institutions, contributed to the fund. On October 22, 1902, Conradi lodged a request to the German government for permission to send missionaries to Tanganyika.
Abraham C. Enns, a gardener with ministerial preparation, and Johannes Ehlers, a printer working for the Adventist Church in Germany, were appointed as the first missionaries. On October 22, 1903, the two boarded a steamboat bound for East Africa, leaving behind Ehlers’ wife, Rosa, and Enns’ fiancée.
To save money, Enns and Ehlers traveled third class. The original intention was to reach and start mission work around Lake Victoria in north Tanganyika, hoping that lake travel would provide easy access to mission stations. But upon their arrival in Dar es Salaam on November 9, 1903, they were invited for dinner with the governor, who instructed them to go to northeastern Tanzania. On November 25 they sent a telegram to the church in Germany informing them that the first mission center was established on the southern part of the Pare Mountain ranges among the Wapare people. They settled in a beautiful valley they named Friedenstal (“valley of peace”).
The new missionaries did much more than preach; they started schools and clinics. The Adventist educational philosophy, emphasizing the importance of manual labor and industry for the education of the whole person, received lots of commendation from the government.
In one of the schools, Kihurio, students cultivated and harvested 10,500 pounds of cotton and earned US$600 the following year. The governor visited the school and offered a gift of books worth US$150, stating in his letter: “I have noticed the efficiency and the progress of the mission school at Kihurio with satisfaction.”
Not until April 4, 1908, were the first six male converts among the Wapare baptized. Ministerial workers and teachers were trained from among the new converts. As the work grew, foreign missionaries, accompanied by the Wapare people, went to regions around Lake Victoria, specifically in the Mwanza and Mara regions, and opened other mission centers, schools, and clinics.
At the onset of the First and Second World Wars, the work of the church was seriously disrupted. Several German missionaries and converts were killed; others were drafted into the army. At the end of World War I, most of the German missionaries were imprisoned or forced to leave the country because the British had taken over the African colonies.
The transition from German to British rule left the young institutions without foreign missionaries. However, African converts took it upon themselves to continue the work started by the outgoing missionaries. Of the 26 schools that were started by Germans in the Pare region, 15 schools continued to operate throughout the war. Campuses and buildings were maintained using individuals who had their training in those same schools.
In the Lake region, most of the campuses were destroyed during the war. Wapare converts who accompanied the foreign missionaries maintained the work by teaching and preaching without salaries, even though far from home. Local people appreciated them and their services. “The Wapare teachers who were left behind by the Germans during the war did a better and more thorough work than the German themselves. They loved and shared their clothes with us,” said one prominent government leader in Tanzania who received their services. Although the war ended in 1918, it was impossible to send missionaries back to Tanganyika for a long time.
By 1922, the church in Tanganyika had 266 baptized members, 16 mission stations, six churches, and 43 schools enrolling 2,370 students. Although the church continued to face huge challenges during and after World War II, the work did not stop. By 1960, the church had started 176 schools in the northern parts of the country. As of December 2013 Tanzania enjoyed a baptized membership of more than 475,000, with schools, a university, 45 clinics, a hospital, and a larger, newer hospital under construction. Because of its rapid growth, the work in Tanzania has been organized into two administrative units: the Northern Tanzania Union Conference and the Southern Tanzania Union Mission.
Truly the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. So let’s sow the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Geoffrey Mbwana is a vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and a former president of the East-Central Africa Division.
Matthias Bohuia, a driver at the West-Central Africa Division (WAD) office in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, was seriously ill with a prostate crisis. But thought of an operation scared him. At the clinic, La Providence, his physician, Jean-Baptiste Moulo tried to calm him down, assuring him that surgery might not be necessary if he improved with treatment. That was on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Operation—The treatments through that week reassured Matthias. But on Friday, March 15, 2013, something unexpected happened. About 3:30 p.m. Dr. Moulo had Matthias taken into the operating theater for surgery. Matthias was quite unprepared for this. He had not yet informed his family. But Dr. Moulo insisted and convinced Matthias that it had to be done. According to the physician, those three hours and 15 minutes were a time of grave crisis. Three times Matthias almost passed away. Dr. Moulo prayed for divine assistance, and God answered him and his team. Finally, the operation was successful. The next evening, when Dr. Moulo visited Matthias in his room, Matthias asked him why the doctor had insisted that he be operated upon on Friday afternoon. Dr. Moulo, who is not a Seventh-day Adventist, smiled and explained to Matthias that every Friday evening the Spirit of God visits earth in a special way, and He goes back on Saturday evening. For this reason Dr. Moulo performs his most delicate surgical operations on Friday evenings. So convinced was this non-Adventist physician of God’s help and presence with him on Friday evening that he told Matthias that if his surgery had taken place on another day, he would have passed away. Dr. Moulo’s faith is an unusual lesson for God’s remnant church! The preparation of the Sabbath, the welcoming of Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, is to be taken very seriously. For He visits Planet Earth every Friday evening to bless and protect His children. Hallelujah! What a vivid testimony that challenges the way God’s people should prepare for the Sabbath and worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24, KJV) on that day!
A Sabbath to Come Today Matthias discharges his duty at the WAD office happily, and he is in good health. We praise the Lord for His mercy toward His servant, and we pray that all God’s children and servants around the globe may serve Him wholeheartedly until He comes back to take us home when, finally, our eyes shall be opened, and we shall see Him face to face. This reminds us of what John says: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2, 3). Until then, may the Lord help His people to prepare to welcome Him every Friday evening, fellowship with Him during the holy hours of the Sabbath, and close the Sabbath with Him every Saturday evening as is well presented in His Word (Ex. 20:8-11; Isa. 58:13, 14; Luke 23:54-56)! One day we shall meet on that great Sabbath as He has promised, and never part again nor experience sickness, death, sorrow anymore.
The Strangest of Accidents Recently a terrible and strange accident took place in the Eastern Nigeria Union Conference territory. On Thursday, May 30, 2013, 10 members of the Abali family were traveling from the eastern city of Port Harcourt to Babcock University in the west, where their beloved Margaret and Chinyere Abali were due to graduate on June 2, 2013. Happy Abali, oldest son of the Abalis, an oil engineer by profession and one of our stalwart church elders, reported the strange and horrible news to us: a motorcyclist who suddenly changed lanes from right to left collided with the brand-new chartered van that carried the Abali family. The van somersaulted and caught fire, killing eight members of the same family. An unspeakable tragedy! When asked to share his feeling about the whole situation, Elder Abali answers, “Who am I to question God’s authority?” God, he knows, is “too wise to err.”1 In the depths of his pain, Abali drew strength and reassurance from the fact that the previous Sabbath, the family had partaken of the Lord’s Communion together. Now, for him, it was as if it were a way of saying “goodbye.” A Strange Twist—Not everyone in the blazing inferno died. Two of Margaret’s younger brothers, 5-year-old Unique and his younger brother Blossom (4), had the strangest of stories to tell. “An uncle came,” they explained to Abali. He opened the window of the van, and removed both of them from the burning vehicle. They heard their mother, their baby brother, and the other family members crying. An inexplicable reality! No one but the Lord can answer our questions about the specific reason for this particular accident. He alone knows the specific identity of the uncle. He alone can explain the way and tell why two little children were delivered from the horror. He alone has the answers. We can say that, as at Mount Perazim (Isa. 28:21), the Lord did perform “His unusual act.” And we can continue to pray in submission and in supplication that His will be done, and that to Him alone be all glory. By and by we shall be able to say more.
An Appeal Ellen White wrote: “The time is at hand when there will be sorrow in the world that no human balm can heal. The Spirit of God is being withdrawn. Disasters by sea and by land follow one another in quick succession. How frequently we hear of earthquakes and tornadoes, of destruction by fire and flood, with great loss of life and property! Apparently these calamities are capricious outbreaks of disorganized, unregulated forces of nature, wholly beyond the control of man; but in them all, God’s purpose may be read. They are among the agencies by which He seeks to arouse men and women to a sense of their danger.”2 The Lord may allow certain things or situations we do not understand now. We will when we reach home. This is a call to get ready. Tragedy can strike anyone, anywhere. The precaution of renting a brand-new van did not protect the Abalis. The unknown can strike easily. If the “Uncle” chooses to come and rescue us, we praise Him. If He allows us to experience calamity, let us be ready and praise Him still. For His faithfulness is sure. In the mean time, we weep with the Abalis in “the blessed hope” of the resurrection morning (Titus 2:13; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Thank you for praying for us in the WAD. n
1 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 1, p. 120. 2 Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1917), p. 277.
Josephine Wari is associate education director, and coordinator of Shepherdess International for the West-Central Africa Division. Gilbert Wari, her husband, is WAD president.
SURVIVORS: Unique and Blossom (center) were the only ones who survived the auto accident that claimed the lives of several family members.