Adventist Missionaries—Do They Still Go?
By Laurie Falvo
What about today? Is mission still a priority for the Adventist Church?
“From its very beginning the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been a missionary movement,” says Gary Krause, director of the Office of Adventist Mission at the Seventh-day Adventist world headquarters. “Of course, it took the church a few years to realize that ‘going into all the world’ meant more than just North America. But when that realization came, it became a conviction. We started sending missionaries all over the world, a tremendous number for such a small denomination. Mission became our first priority, the very reason our church exists.”
Adventist missionaries today come from numerous regions around the globe and serve wherever there’s a need. They originate in different countries, cultures, and career paths, but they’re united in a common goal, to share the love and hope of Jesus with a world that desperately needs Him.
PRACTICAL CHRISTIANITY:Eugenia Giordano, codirector of the Adventist HIV-AIDS International Ministry in Africa, works with an attendee of a Lesotho sewing workshop, established to help people affected by HIV and/or AIDS.From teeming cities to remote jungle villages, missionaries such as Elmer and Angelica Ribeyro are making a difference in the lives of people who have nowhere else to turn.
Elmer and Angelica Ribeyro (Sierra Leone)
Even as a child, Elmer Ribeyro felt God was calling him to be a medical missionary. “I felt a desire to become a doctor and prayed that God would open doors for me to become one,” says Elmer. “I knew I wanted to serve in Africa some day.”
Originally from Peru, Elmer, a skilled surgeon, and his wife, Angelica, a trained pharmacist, work at a small clinic in Sierra Leone, a country recently torn apart by a brutal civil war.
Medical missionaries such as Elmer and Angelica serve a vital role in the outreach of the church. They’re often the first point of contact the local community has with Seventh-day Adventists.
The care and compassion the Ribeyros show their patients provide a glimpse of the love that Jesus shows us all.
Samir and Tanya Berbawy (Egypt)
Samir Berbawy was born in Egypt, grew up in Lebanon, and eventually emigrated to the United States, where he became an Adventist educator.
When their children served as student missionaries at Nile Union Academy, Samir and his wife, Tanya, visited the Adventist school. Samir felt compelled by God to return to his homeland to make a difference in the lives of the young people in the church there.
Eventually, Samir was asked to return to Egypt as a missionary, and he now serves as president of the Egypt Field.
Every year scores of Adventist missionaries are trained and sent throughout the world. Through such practical means as education, health care, church planting, and literacy training, they endeavor to reach the unreached and touch the untouchables.
Missionaries have been, and still are, the Holy Spirit’s instruments to make the Adventist Church what it is today, a global spiritual family.
Oscar and Eugenia Giordano (Lesotho)
In the small country of Lesotho, two Adventist missionaries are sowing seeds of hope among people infected with HIV.
Veteran missionaries to Africa, Oscar and Eugenia Giordano have served the church in some of the continent’s most grueling environments.
Together they founded Adventist HIV-AIDS International Ministry, a church-run organization headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, that combines love, compassion, and education to help victims of HIV and AIDS live meaningful lives.
“We can see how lives are changing,” Eugenia says. “We can see people having hope, people who were dying and sick. Through this ministry they say, ‘Now I have hope.’”
“Jesus would approach these people,” Oscar says. “He would touch them, give them His tangible presence, which means a lot for a person who is completely alone. That touch of love will last a long time.… Care and compassion start the healing process.”
Rick and Marcia McEdward (Southern Asia-Pacific Division)
Rick McEdward is a pastor with a missionary’s heart. Six years ago, he and his wife, Marcia, and their children moved to Asia, one of the most challenging areas for mission in the world. Rick has a burden for sharing God’s love with people of various world religions.
As Adventist Mission coordinator for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, Rick works with Global Mission pioneers to start new groups of believers in cities and remote jungle areas.
“Recently I visited a small village in the jungle of Indonesia, where we’ve had a Global Mission project for several years,” Rick says. “There is a small group of five families who now meet to worship every week. We have a Global Mission pioneer who goes to the village each week to conduct Bible studies and share God’s love with the people. There’s been some opposition to our work in the past, but as the pioneer and church families keep sharing their love, the community has opened up and accepted God’s Word.”
Milan and Eva Moskala (Bangladesh)
For the past eight years Milan Moskala has served as a medical missionary in Dhaka, Bangladesh, one of the poorest places on earth. Its slums are packed with people who lack the bare essentials of life.
MISSIONARY DENTIST: Milan Moskala, an Adventist dentist in Bangladesh, poses with students from one of the many schools he established in the slums of Dhaka.Originally from the Czech Republic, Milan spent years ministering to war refugees in Bosnia.
An accomplished dentist, Milan does a lot more than fix teeth. He often visits schools he has set up deep in the heart of the Dhaka slums.
“Everywhere there are thousands of children without parents, without support, just begging, working, trying to survive picking food out of garbage places, and fighting among themselves,” Milan says. “They are living very miserable lives.”
These schools provide an education to children who would have had no chance to succeed on their own. It also provides them with the only meal they may eat that day.
In the evenings, Milan visits houses in the slums and teaches people about healthful living.
Milan’s acts of kindness reflect the love of a God who otherwise would remain unknown to this community.
Just a Glimpse
These short stories provide only a glimpse into the lives of missionary families. They’re just a handful of the hundreds around the world who often work in dangerous, lonely places without adequate resources—but they’re determined to make a difference.
“It’s wonderful when you see a life changed,” Oscar Giordano says, “when you see the joy of the people who’ve experienced the healing power of Jesus Christ. I urge my brothers and sisters all over the world to get involved and to support through their mission offerings the work that is being done on the front line.”
Every quarter the Office of Adventist Mission produces a DVD that highlights the mission work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church around the world. The videos on the DVD can be used to promote the Thirteenth Sabbath and mission offerings in local churches. This story was adapted from the first quarter 2008 Adventist Mission DVD. To order a DVD subscription or to watch DVD stories online, visit www.AdventistMission.org.
Laurie Falvo is a communication projects manager for the Office of Adventist Mission at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.