A quick and perceptive look at what's going on in the Seventh-day Adventist Church...
Brazil’s Player of the Year Stands for Sabbath
Soccer goalkeeper stuns the country’s sporting world.
By Carolina Félix, South American Division
An up-and-coming soccer goalkeeper has stirred up a storm in Brazil’s sporting world by announcing that he will no longer play matches scheduled from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Carlos Vítor da Costa Ressurreição, 30, who was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church last month, disclosed his decision at a news conference, sparking a wave of surprise, sympathy, even anger from fans and sports commentators who struggled to understand his rationale.
The furor is in no small part linked to the fact that Ressurreição has made a number of important saves in the past year that moved his Londrina Esporte Clube up from Serie C to Serie B in the Brazilian National Championship, the main soccer league championship in the country. Ressurreição was named player of the year, resulting in a job offer from Serie A team Chapecoense that would have doubled his salary.
Ressurreição turned down the job because it wouldn’t have allowed him to observe the seventh-day Sabbath as mandated by the fourth commandment, according to the newspaper Lance!
Moreover, Ressurreição’s future is up in the air because a number of Serie B matches are held on Friday nights and Saturdays. His team has announced that it will not renew his contract when it ends in May.
But Ressurreição is clinging to his convictions, telling the news conference on January 20 that he wouldn’t even be playing soccer if it weren’t for God.
A year before his baptism, he said, he spent four long months at home in Salvador, in the state of Bahia, without a signed contract with any team. During that time his wife, Gabriela, was approached by a friend at a hair salon and offered a partnership in producing handbags. The two women subsequently created their own label and formed a business that grew quickly, Ressurreição said.
“In a short amount of time the profit grew larger than my salary had been in the soccer club,” he said. “That was the moment I understood that God had several possible ways to care for my family.”
After this realization, Ressurreição set aside his fears about not being able to land a soccer contract and instead began a process that he called “intimacy with God.” He started to study the Bible and pray every day.
“My faith is not based on words said by a pastor or anything like that,” he said. “I studied the Bible and came to the conclusion that I needed to grow spiritually.”
As he studied, he became convinced that his mother-in-law, Tânia Rocha, a Seventh-day Adventist, had been right when she had told him about the Sabbath 12 years earlier. He was baptized on December 27.
The uncertainties that Ressurreição now faces may be as daunting as those that he had when he didn’t have a soccer contract a year ago. But he expressed calmness about the future when a reporter asked him at the news conference whether he was prepared to choose between his faith and his career.
“Without any doubt, I choose my faith,” he said. “Many others came before me, giving me this opportunity to choose.”
But he isn’t sitting around. As the clock ticks down on his current contract, he has started a Bible study group with his teammates.
“I’m at peace because my life is in the hands of God,” he said. “As long as there are teams that respect my beliefs, sports will always be an option. If not, the Lord has already shown me in the past that He will take care of me.”
Ressurreição’s stand is winning admiration from some sports commentators. “I’m not religious, but I’m touched by Vítor’s choice,” said Ayrton Baptista, Jr., a sports blogger with Globo Esporte, one of the best-known sports Web sites in Brazil. “His faith speaks loudly.”
Willing to Die for Their Faith
Two married couples tell why they moved to the Middle East.
By Andrew McChesney
Large tears welled up in Juanita’s eyes. She drew her young daughter close in her arms. But her voice remained resolute as she spoke about the possibility that she might die for her faith in the Middle East.
“When you are sure of the call of God and the call of the church, it is easier to go to dangerous places because you know that God will be with you,” Juanita said. “He will help us.”
Her husband, Carlos, nodded his head solemnly. He said he had been thinking about Arabs who made international headlines giving their lives for a cause they believed in, no matter how wrong the cause might be. “Why can’t we believe in our cause and be willing to give our lives, too?” he said. “This is the true cause; it is the cause of Jesus.”
Carlos, Juanita, and their daughter are among 17 Seventh-day Adventist families who arrived in the Middle East from South America in February 2015. The highly-trained professionals gave up comfortable jobs in their home countries to spend the next five years working in one of parts of the world where it is most difficult to share the gospel.
The past year has been filled with Arabic lessons, intensive planning, and complicated paperwork as the couples inch closer to securing jobs in restricted-access countries. Their goal is to serve as tentmakers: front-line, self-supporting Adventists who share their faith in the workplace. Juanita and Carlos spoke about their efforts in a candid interview. Adventist World is not using the couples’ real names nor disclosing their location because of the sensitivity of their work.
Tears formed in Juanita’s eyes when she was asked how she had weighed the risks as a mother. Before leaving South America, she said, she and Carlos signed a document granting custody of their daughter to her maternal grandparents in the event something happened to them. Juanita said she had no doubt that God had called not just her and Carlos but also their daughter to serve in the Middle East.
“God has called us as a team, the three of us,” she said, holding her cooing daughter on her lap. “The call is for her as well, even though she doesn’t know it.”
The girl has already helped her parents make inroads in a culture where it’s difficult for foreigners to make friends with Arabs. Not only are men and women strictly segregated, but Arabs and foreigners often live in their own worlds as well.
The other day, Carlos was playing with his daughter at an outdoor playground when her antics caught the attention of an Arab father who had a child of the same age. The two men started conversing and ended up exchanging phone numbers. Soon Carlos’ new friend invited him to a one-on-one game of ball.
“My daughter is making a lot of connections,” Carlos said.
Personal relationships are especially important in the Arab world, where literature evangelism, public meetings, and other outreach efforts common elsewhere are banned, church leaders said.
No Adventist believers have been killed for their faith in the Middle East in recent memory, said Homer Trecartin, president of the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa Union. “We have had some close calls, but I am not aware of any who have died,” he said.
But Trecartin openly tells potential volunteers that they must be willing to die if they accept a call to serve in the Middle East. “I don’t want people to come and help us for the adventure and thrill,” he said. “I want them to come because they really believe that God has called them and they are willing to go, even if it means they never return home.”
All the self-supporting families who arrived in the Middle East last year were selected in a process that involved being screened by the church’s South American Division and approved by the Middle East and North African Union. The South American Division is covering many of the families’ expenses as they settle down to work.
Meanwhile, Carlos said he didn’t know whether God would call him and his wife to make the ultimate sacrifice. He said he didn’t know whether they were ready to die. But he said he believed that God would prepare them if that time came. “We know God will give us the strength to face any difficulty,” he said as his daughter, now off her mother’s lap, joyfully toddled around the room.
“If He calls us to make that sacrifice, it would be an honor, of course. We are at peace. If we are within the will of God and serving Him, we are happy.”