The Personal Touch
Taking the gospel to the world’s largest cities often means reaching people individually.
Today, more than half the world’s population lives in cities of at least 1 million people. Cities are growing at an astounding rate, and they’re growing fastest in developing countries—many in the 10/40 window. Today the five largest cities on earth are Tokyo, Mexico City, São Paulo, New York, and Mumbai. By 2015 they will probably be Tokyo, Dhaka, Mumbai, São Paulo, and Delhi.
God calls us all to tell everyone about His love and forgiveness. The big cities of the world can be overwhelming. Reaching out to their inhabitants seems a daunting task. But it can be done, and it must be done. Even if it takes reaching one person at a time, it’s up to us to have a presence here; not only in churches and buildings but in people.
Every success story that comes out of the big cities has one common denominator: Whether it is a Global Mission Pioneer, a frontline missionary, a lay member, or pastor, the personal contact and interaction with the people who live and work in the cities is vital to reaching the masses. One by one, lives will be changed and hearts will be touched.
But by the grace of God we have seen success. People are being reached, but the work is challenging. Here are a few of their stories. To learn more about the challenges of Adventist Mission and how you can be involved, visit www.AdventistMission.org.
Rio de Janeiro: Nearly one third of Rio’s population in Brazil lives in the favelas, or slums, that cover many of Rio’s hillsides. Several years ago, Gilvane Ludgero, along with his wife, volunteered to hand out Bible tracts in one of these favelas. Their work was successful, and he was able to make friends in the community and start Bible studies.
Walking in the favela today, Ludgero still remembers the day armed drug dealers forced him into a car and took him to their leader, who had been wounded in a shoot-out with police. Ludgero prayed for the man, and the drug lord survived. This small act of Christian love opened the door for Ludgero to start a small church in the neighborhood.
“Today we are here, formed by the grace of God,” says Ludgero. “We started with two, now we have more than 50 in the church.”
Buenos Aires: One of the largest people groups in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is the Jewish community. More than 200,000 Jews live here, making it one of the largest Jewish communities outside Israel.
David Barzola, a pastor in downtown Buenos Aires, leads what has become known as the Adventist Hebrew Community. The group of believers meets several times a week, not only for church but for fellowship as well. These meetings have drawn a strong interest within the local Jewish community. The group meets to celebrate an anniversary or to begin the Sabbath on Friday evening. The Jewish community in Buenos Aires feels comfortable here.
“Every culture needs respect for their religious traditions and codes,” says Barzola. “The Jewish faith is one example, and I am happy to be able to help in the bringing up of a community that allows a Jewish person to not stop being Jewish if they decide to become an Adventist.”
Barzola and the Adventist Hebrew Community are part of a network of outreach programs supported by the five Global Mission Study Centers, which are looking at ways to build bridges of understanding between Christians and other world religions.
Phnom Penh: The Adventist Church in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, has established only six congregations, but it has more than 5,000 members. This growth has been spurred by the establishment of small groups among its members.
One group the church is working hard to reach is immigrants who are HIV positive. Typically these people are shunned by society and have to live in extreme poverty. The average wage in Cambodia is equal to only US$2 a day, and those afflicted by HIV make much less. They live in small rooms they rent for about US$20 a month.
In the middle of this extreme poverty, several church members have established small groups to minister to their material, physical, and emotional needs, as well as share the message of hope in Jesus. One of these members is Set Sina. She herself is HIV positive, yet she holds Bible studies with a small group in her own small room. Sharing the gospel has given Set Sina new life.
“God has put the desire into my heart to go out and share the gospel,” explains Sina. “The doctors sent me home to die, but instead I found Jesus, and now I live and share my new life with others.”
Dhaka: In 1971, 1 million people called Dhaka, Bangladesh, home. Today more than 15 million people live here. Only some 800 square kilometers in size, Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Large slum areas are packed with people, impossible to count. These poor lack adequate education, health care, food, and water.
In the middle of this growing chaos one man is making a difference. Milan Moskala, not pictured, has been an Adventist medical missionary in Dhaka for more than nine years. An accomplished dentist, his services are sought the city over. From a small dental office near several foreign embassies, Moskala has been able to establish a small but thriving dental practice. Because of its success, Moskala has accomplished something that is changing lives in one of the poorest areas on earth.
Every morning Moskala takes time off from his dental practice to visit several small schools he has set up deep in the heart of the Dhaka slums. These schools provide a simple education to children who otherwise would have no chance to succeed in life. Many of the children receive the only meal they’ll eat each day. Many excel at their studies.