Adventist Pastor and Elder Killed in Two Days
Gunmen slay the men in Guatemala and the Philippines.
(image) FALLEN PASTOR: Hundreds of church members attending the funeral of slain pastor Noe Gonzalez in Jalapa, Guatemala.
A pastor and an elder were killed in armed ambushes in Guatemala and the Philippines in the space of two days, highlighting the danger that some church workers face in restive regions of the world.
Masked assailants attacked pastor Noe Gonzalez, 54, and his wife as they rode home on a motorcycle following evangelistic meetings that he had led in the town of Hierbabuena in east Guatemala on October 23.
Gonzalez was shot four times and his wife, Oralia, was struck on the head and left for dead. Oralia was treated at a hospital and released hours later.
A day earlier, masked gunmen opened fire on six people preparing to board a vehicle in a village in the Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, killing church elder Ramil Ansong, 29, and his 50-year-old father, Jos?.
The other four people in the group, including the Ansong’s mother, escaped uninjured, according to local media reports.
Deadly attacks on Adventist pastors are rare but not unheard-of.
“We are saddened by violent attacks on Adventist pastors,” said Derek Morris, associate secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association, which trains and supports pastors. “In such difficult times we can find encouragement in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:10: ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’?”
Multiple media in the Philippines reported that Ansong was an Adventist pastor, but the Adventist Church’s Southern Asia-Pacific Division, which includes the Philippines, later clarified that he had served as an elder at his church.
In Guatemala, Gonzalez died amid an increase in violence that has worried local church leaders.
“We want you to live each day in the presence of Jesus so that you can be prepared for whatever incidents you may face each day,” Guenther Garcia, president of the Adventist Church in Guatemala, said in a statement to his country’s 117 pastors. “Do not be discouraged by the wickedness, injustice, and depravity that you are called to face as you proclaim the good news of salvation.”
Gonzalez, survived by his wife and four adult children, was the fourth Adventist pastor to be killed in Guatemala in the past 33 years.
— Andrew McChesney, news editor, Adventist World
(image)STANDING FOR GOD: Noe Gonzalez standing on mountainous region in east Guatemala where he ministered for more than 10 years.
New Zealand: Tribunal Upholds Sabbath
A New Zealand company has been ordered to pay lost wages to a Seventh-day Adventist who was fired for refusing to work on Sabbath.
Mark Meulenbroek was dismissed from his position at Vision Antenna in the city of Invercargill, in September 2012 after he declined to work on Saturdays. Meulenbroek, who had worked at Vision Antenna since 2004, asked for Sabbaths off after rejoining the Adventist Church, which he had left at age 16.
The Human Rights Review Tribunal, part of New Zealand’s Justice Ministry, found that Meulenbroek “was terminated for reason of his religious beliefs,” and awarded him 40,000 New Zealand dollars (US$31,025) for lost wages, legal expenses, and emotional distress.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in New Zealand welcomed the tribunal’s ruling in late October.
This “represents a victory for all people who seek to actively live out their faith as a loyal employee,” said Damien Rice, president of the South New Zealand Conference.
—Linden Chuang, South Pacific Adventist Record
Curacao: Big Graduation
Nearly 200,000 Adventist members in Central America and the Caribbean have been awarded certificates for undergoing hours of training in such areas as how to give Bible studies, how to conduct an evangelistic series, or how to share Jesus with children.
The yearlong initiative, organized by the church’s Inter-American Division under the banner “Year of Nonformal Education,” aims to maintain an rapid increase in church membership in the region, one of the fastest growing in the world.
“The preparation you have received will help you understand the expectations of the Lord, for He is ready for you to give everything of yourself,” division president Israel Leito told 500 graduates who attended an autumn ceremony in Willemstad, Cura?ao.
Myriam Guerrero, 60, was among the 500 dressed in academic regalia to receive a nonformal education certificate. She completed two 40-hour courses on how to prepare an evangelistic campaign and how to lead a Sabbath school class. “This type of event motivates our church members to be more interested in serving the church,” she said.
—Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division
(image) FINISHED THE COURSE: A church member smiling after receiving a health education certificate from the Inter-American Division’s Health Ministries department in Willemstad, Curacao.
China may not be identified in the Bible as a missionary destination, as some Adventists once believed, but the faith is flourishing there today in a fractured community that is largely homegrown and unknown to the outside world.
That is what a group of about 100 Adventist leaders and scholars heard at a first-of-its-kind conference in Hong Kong this autumn as they sought to gain a better understanding of the Chinese church, which is believed to have 500,000 members.
“The gospel commission is to go into all the world, which includes China,” said Bob Folkenberg, Jr., president of the Chinese Union Mission.
Edward Allen, a professor of religion at Union College, noted that the first serious article about China and missions was written in 1874 by George W. Amadon, a printer at the Review and Herald Publishing Association. Amadon believed that the “land of Sinim” referenced in Isaiah 49:12 in the King James Version pointed to China, a notion repudiated by biblical scholars today.
Regardless, Allen said, Adventists “were beginning to think outside of their box” of sharing the gospel only within the U.S.
—Michael W. Campbell, AIIAS
Peru: Adventist TV Grows
Raising a remote control over his head, the president of the South American Division kicked off the expansion of Adventist-operated Nuevo Tiempo television in Peru at a Lima stadium packed with 40,000 church members.
The president, Erton Kohler, symbolically pressed the button on a remote control to inaugurate the launch of Nuevo Tiempo on local cable channel 571 during a worship service at Monumental Stadium in Peru’s capital on November 1, 2014.
The launch marks the local expansion of the Brazil-based channel, which first started broadcasting over the open airwaves in this city of nearly 10 million people in December 2013, and whose programming is already reaping results. A married couple was baptized in late October 2014 after being convicted that God wanted them to keep the Sabbath.
“The influence of the Adventist Church in Peru is increasing with the addition of this channel on cable television, and the growth of the Peruvian church is a source of inspiration for Adventists throughout South America,” Kohler said.
—Felipe Lemos and Rosmery Sanchez, South American Division
(image) ON THE AIR: South American Division president Erton Kohler symbolically pressing the button of a remote control to launch Nuevo Tiempo TV on a cable channel in Lima, Peru, on Sabbath, November 1.
Bahamas: Health Center
Adventist Church leadership has been seeking to open community health centers around the world, but it’s not every day that a prime minister makes a personal appeal for a center in his country.
The prime minister of the Bahamas, Perry G. Christie, has asked the Adventist Church to open a health and wellness center in his Caribbean island nation after hearing a report on Adventist centers worldwide.
“You have an extraordinary history of commitment to best health practice. In this report, it speaks to the success of wellness programs that you have, but it also says we must move to create in the Bahamas a wellness center,” Christie told local church leaders in the Bahamian capital, Nassau.
Christie, speaking at a quadrennial business meeting of the church’s South Bahamas Conference, pledged his government’s support of an Adventist wellness center.
Leonard Johnson, president of the church’s Atlantic Caribbean Union, said the church was considering the establishment of its own health outreach center.
—Atlantic Caribbean Union communication staff
(image)PREMIER PRESENTATION: Bahamian Prime Minister Perry G. Christie speaking at the quadrennial business meeting of the South Bahamas Conference at the Hillview Seventh-day Adventist Church in Nassau on November 2, 2014.
Romania: New $1M Clinic
The first Adventist-owned medical center has opened in Romania, marking a key expansion of the church’s health-care system in underrepresented Europe and the fulfillment of a dream by church members who once rented a hall in the facility to worship on Sabbaths.
The 800,000 euro ($1 million) Premed medical center Premed, located in a refurbished building recently acquired by the Adventist Church, is the first facility in the country’s capital, Bucharest, to offer a broad range of health-care services from general medicine healthy cooking lessons.
Marius Munteanu, president of the church in Romania, likened the medical center’s potential to Jesus’ parable of the tiny mustard seed that grew into a large tree.
“From its earliest days, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has served the needs of the soul as well as the needs of the body,” Munteanu said at the grand opening this fall.
In 2009, Adventist members rented a hall in the building for Sabbath services and began to dream and pray that the Seventh-day Adventist Church could own the building and operate a medical center there, said Adrian Bocaneanu, initiator of the project. “This is how everything started: with prayers and high hopes,” he said.
—A. Horja and G. Isvan, EUCNews
India: Marking 100 Years
Church members in the Indian state of Kerala celebrated the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Adventist message in the arms of an Adventist bookseller.
Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, emphasized in a speech to 4,000 people at convention center in Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, in late October that Adventists wish to serve God by responding to needs of society.
John Rathinaraj, president of the church’s Southern Asia Division, told how Adventism entered the region when a bookseller named Suvshesha Muthu visited from the present-day neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. Muthu sold several books, including Present Truth, Who Changed the Sabbath? and Steps to Christ, to a Salvation Army captain named M. Abel in October 1914.
Abel grew convinced that the seventh day was the Sabbath and, after several months of Bible study, was baptized. By 1915 he had left the Salvation Army and was preaching about the Sabbath and Jesus’ soon return.
Today the church has 37,000 members, 27 schools, and a hospital with a nursing school in the region.
— Pothen Kurian, Southern Asia Division
(image) ALL DRESSED UP: Adventist Church leader Ted N. C. Wilson, wearing traditional Indian garb, speaking at an anniversary gathering in Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram.