Adventist Pastor and Elder Killed in Two Days
Gunmen slay the men in Guatemala and the Philippines.
The news headlines coming out of Iraq might be horrific, but a new Adventist church is being built in the north, Adventists are inviting neighbors to Sabbath worship services in Baghdad, and ADRA is opening an office to provide humanitarian relief.
“Many wonderful things are quietly taking place behind the scenes,” said Homer Trecartin, president of the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa Union, who visited Iraq for four days recently.
Iraq has been the subject of prayer for Adventists worldwide amid an outbreak in militant-led violence against minority groups, including Christians. Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the world church, asked for special prayers in August and said no more than 50 Adventists remained in the Middle Eastern country.
Trecartin, who confirmed that about 50 remained on the membership books, said he was inspired to see a small but vibrant church community during his visit.
Adventists who have fled the violence and moved to Erbil, a northern city of more than 1.5 million, are grateful to the ruling Kurdish authorities for helping them to register the Adventist Church there and for giving them permission to build a house of worship, he said.
“Construction is well under way on a building that will have a church hall, offices, and two apartments,” he said. “For now the members gather each Sabbath in a rented apartment, where friends, neighbors, and occasionally some refugees join them.”
The number of church members is small, and they live far away from their former homes, but they are actively reaching out to those who are worse off, he said.
Together with George Shamoun, the leader of the Adventist Church in Iraq, the members have used their own money, donations from others, and a special contribution from Adventist Frontier Missions to build toilet facilities in several centers for internally displaced people, to distribute food parcels, and to hand out winter clothes and blankets.
Even more humanitarian work is expected to be carried out soon with the registration of the Iraq office of the church-operated Adventist Development and Relief Agency, or ADRA.
After much work, the Iraq office was registered with the authorities, and it is in the process of bringing in staff and setting up projects to provide even more assistance, Trecartin said.
A few Adventists still live in Baghdad, and they are sharing Jesus with their neighbors, he said. Every Sabbath the church members meet for a worship service filled with friends and neighbors.
“Please continue to keep the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Iraq in your prayers,” Trecartin said.
—Adventist World staff
El Salvador: 4,800 Baptized
Australian evangelist John Carter praised God for the more than 4,800 people who were baptized during a three-week evangelistic series in El Salvador, a Central American country mired in crime and turmoil.
“We were impressed by the spiritual hunger of the people,” Carter said after speaking to a near-capacity crowd of 52,000 people on the closing day of the series in Estadio Cuscatlán, the largest stadium in Central America and home of the El Salvador football team. “Glory be to God.”
The stadium event in the capital, San Salvador, in late November marked the climax of 93 evangelistic campaigns organized by Carter. He teamed up 93 pastors from across Central America with 100 local pastors to hold simultaneous meetings over three weeks.
Former El Salvador vice president Ana Vilma de Escobar, who was among a group of current and former government officials at Carter’s meetings, told the evangelist that he had shared a message about Jesus that her country desperately needed to hear.
“These meetings are just what is needed at this time,” she said.
—Vania Chew, South Pacific Adventist Record, with additional reporting by Adventist World staff
Kenya: 8 Dead in Massacre
At least eight Adventists were among the 28 bus passengers massacred by Muslim extremists in northern Kenya on a Sabbath morning, the East-Central Africa Division said.
Al-Shabaab militants stopped the Nairobi-bound vehicle in late November and quizzed passengers to determine whether they were Muslims. Eyewitnesses said those who answered unsatisfactorily were taken aside and shot.
It’s likely that the Adventists on the early-morning bus were on their way to church at the time of the attack.
“Our hearts ache for the families who have lost loved ones, including children, in the senseless and brutal killings,” Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, said in a statement.
“We cannot understand the horrible actions that have taken place,” he said. “However, the Holy Spirit as the Comforter can bring encouragement and sustenance amid such traumatic tragedy. We have prayed for these families who are suffering great loss.”
Blasious Ruguri, president of the East-Central Africa Division, said he was “tongue-tied” over the “meaningless, devilish” killings.
“I cannot imagine Jesus delaying too much longer!” he wrote in reply to e-mailed condolences from Wilson. “He just needs to come yesterday. Pastor, with this trend of events, this world has become unlivable.”
—Adventist World staff
India: 50 Children Teach
Fifty children gave health seminars and marched with banners in a city in southeastern India as they joined Adventist Church efforts to find a new way to share Jesus in that part of the country.
At a cost of only $200, the students from Miryalaguda Seventh-day Adventist High School shared the Adventist health message with several thousand of the 115,000 people in Miryalaguda, said Robert L. Robinson, administrative assistant to the president of the church’s Southern Asia Division.
“We were experimenting to see if this would be a good approach to begin reaching the cities in the state of Andhra Pradesh with the gospel message,” said Robinson, who attended the event.
By all indications the experiment worked, he said.
The students, wearing blue school uniforms and accompanied by police escorts, gave health lectures at three separate locations recently. They also marched with self-made banners bearing such slogans as “Alcohol Is a Demon Drink” and “Smoking Is Injurious to Health.”
Robinson estimated that 2,000 people heard the lectures and many more saw the march.
The initiative also caught the attention of the local newspaper, which published an article that gave additional attention to its purpose.
About 50 million people live in Andhra Pradesh, the eighth largest of India’s 29 states. Only about 1.5 percent of the population is Christian, with Hindus making the majority of 92 percent.
—Adventist World staff
Uganda: Appeal Over Sabbath
The leader of the Adventist Church in Uganda has made a personal appeal to the East African country’s president to expand religious freedoms to allow Adventists to avoid requirements to work and study on Sabbath.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni did not immediately reply to the request, made by John Kakembo, president of the Uganda Union Mission, at a fund-raising drive for a new church in the capital, Kampala. But he praised Adventists as honest.
“Let your light shine for others to see so they can praise your Father in heaven,” Museveni said in a speech.
It was not the first time that he has been pressed about the Sabbath. Jan Paulsen, during his time as president of the Adventist world church from 1999 to 2010, raised the issue with Museveni while a local court was considering an appeal by Adventist students against taking university exams on Sabbath. The court did not back the students.
Sabbath observance can be a challenge to many of the 261,000 Adventists who live in Uganda, a country of 36.9 million.
“I have lost six jobs because of the Sabbath,” church member John Nyagah Gakunya said during a recent discussion about Sabbath observance on Adventist World’s Facebook page.
But Gakunya said he was not discouraged. “I remain faithful to God, and I would say it’s not a loss to serve God,” he said. “Honor God, and He will honor you.”
—Samuel Mwebaza, Uganda Union Mission communication director, and ANN and Adventist World staff