A Report on Africa Arise Conference & AU's Prayer Breakfast for African Heads of State (January 24-30, 2017). By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD Just in case you miss the thrust of my report, this is what I want to say: “Success without a successor is failure. True leaders train others to succeed the...
|Dr. Pipim’s GC Session Report—Part 2--Reflection on the First Week||| Print ||
REFLECTION ON THE FIRST WEEK
Dr. Pipim's GC Session Report—Part 2
In Part 1 (“At the GC Session: Why?”) I explained why I chose to attend this year’s session (see, http://tinyurl.com/onagjod). In this Part 2, I’ll give highlights of the first week, which ended on Saturday night. These reports are in response to requests from friends around the world, for me provide periodic theological highlights on the discussions taking place at the GC Session in San Antonio, Texas (July2-11, 2015). The theme chosen for the Session is Arise! Shine! Jesus Is Coming! It points to our hope and calling as Seventh-day Adventists.
Before giving the highlights, allow me to offer a few caveats.
1. Because I’m writing to my friends, I take the liberty to speak very casually, without the need to be as circumspect as I was in my apologetic works like Receiving the Word, Must We Be Silent, Here We Stand, or Courage (my most recent book on women’s ordination). I want to get my thoughts out while they are still fresh on my mind. Therefore, read my reflections with all the flaws of grammar, expression, and partial knowledge.
2. Because this GC session is not yet over, and some issues discussed and voted at an earlier day may be revisited in one form or the other in the coming days of the session, I invite you to read this report as only my partial assessment of what is happening at the 60th Session of the General Conference.
3. Each GC session tends to be defined or dominated by certain significant issues or actions. For this session, it’s the issue of women’s ordination that seem to color almost every discussion. And until that issue is decided, it remains the subtext behind all discussions. Thus, calls for faithfulness, unity, moving together, etc. could be buzzwords on how we handle the issue and its aftermath. My highlights of the GC session will assume this women’s ordination subtext.
4. The report I’m sharing are biased towards a THEOLOGICAL reflection and the politics behind some of them. The issue of women's ordination is a theological issue that falls within the two areas of my professional training in systematic theology. (The two specialized areas of my training are: (i) biblical authority & interpretation and (ii) doctrine of the church--two unique and overlapping combinations that few theologians in the Church have). Additionally, where I have some personal background knowledge—especially of certain issues and personalities—I’ll take liberty to do so. Read the report as a fire-side conversation between close friends, Where a person I know comes into the picture, I’ll capture my reminisces about that person.
5. Readers should be aware that official reports of the GC session are published in special GC SESSION BULLETINS, which are supplements of the Adventist Review (www.adventistreview.org).More importantly, God Himself is writing a more detailed and accurate history.One day soon, we shall get to understand how, despite human limitations, He still accomplished His will at San Antonio. Until then, let’s remain faithful.
6. I’m sharing my highlights from the perspective of one who has a foot in Africa and another in North America. So, Yes, I’ll point out issues that impact Africa and North America. But it should be understood that I’m a citizen of the world. So my highlights will benefit those who’re neither Africans nor North Americans.
With these caveats, I’ll now proceed to share my patchy observations as recorded in my mental dairy. Again, these are hasty, patchy notes I jotted to give a quick update to my friends who’re asking me for my take on issues. After the GC session is over, I will give a fuller picture based on the totality of things. By that time things will become clearer.
So, let’s start with highlights of week 1 of the GC session—my theological reflection.
Thursday, July 2:
BUSINESS SESSION: DAY 1
1. Snag with Electronic Voting
For the first time,this year’s GC session planned to use an electronic device to count votes. Why electronic voting, you may ask? The answer is simple: So there will be more efficiency, accuracy, and confidentiality (where it is felt necessary)
But on the opening day (Thursday), when the electronic gadgets were used, there were some difficulties.Despite several attempts, the problem was not solved on the opening day. The technicians promised to work on the problem and hopefully correct it by the close of the day.
[NOTE: After several unsuccessful attempts that day, the following day, and subsequent days, the decision to do electronic voting was dropped all together.]
An item that was raised was the parliamentary rules that govern actions on GC session floors and its far-reaching impact on our doctrines. The issue was this: The parliamentary rules for actions on GC session floors says a decision is settled with a simple majority of 50% + 1 votes—except some very serious motions that call for a two-third votes (66%).
Questions were raised that since serious motions on the floor require a two-third majority,what about serious actions, such as suggested changes in the church’sFundamental Beliefs? Shouldn’t we insist that instead of a simple majority (50% +1), we should also insist that when it comes to church doctrines or fundamental beliefs, we need a two-third majority for it to pass? There was a vigorous discussion, but the issue was not resolved; it was referred to the steering committee to report back to the floor.
[NOTE: On Sunday,July 5, it was reported back to the floor that we should NOT change the parliamentary rules—even to allow a two-third vote on doctrinal issues. In 1980when our current Fundamental Beliefs were comprehensively pulled together, we operated with the existing parliamentary rules. That’s the way we’ve always conducted business. There’s no reason to change the rules at this time.]
3. Record Number of Unions Voted.
As the work grows and church membership increases around the world, new Unions are organized to streamline the work of evangelism. This 2015 GC session voted the largest number of new Unions in the Church’s history.
(For starters, a group of believers constitute a local church; a group of local churches constitute a Conference; a group of Conferences constitute a Union; a group ofUnions constitute a Division—which is an extension of the General Conference indifferent regions of the world. Thus, the building block of the GC are the different Unions around the world).
At each GC session,the new unions that were organized during the previous five years are formally voted and welcomed into the sisterhood of SDA churches. This year’s 2015 GC session in San Antonio witnessed the highest number of new unions ever to be approved at a GC session—35 New Union Conferences! For comparison,
At the 2010 GC Session in Atlanta, 22 unions were added;
At the 2005 GC Session in St. Louis, 22 unions were added,
At the 2000 GC Session in Toronto, only 9 unions were added.
But at this 2015 San Antonio GC session, a record 35 newUnions were added!
The significant part is that 22 of the 35 new Unions come from the three Church divisions in Africa alone! Why is this significant?
It means the church is growing fastest in Africa—hence, the need for these additional new unions.Second, the delegate strength at GC sessions is proportional to the number ofUnions and membership in a particular division. This means, the more Unions a particular region of the church has, the more votes it has at GC sessions.
[NOTE: Besides the growth of the church in Africa, at the appropriate time I’d explain the church politics that were also behind the creation of the new unions in Africa. For now, it’s only important to ask whether the increased number of Unions inAfrica is reflected in the total delegates present at the 2015 session. (If I don’t forget, I will discuss this question at a later time)].
4. Violations of Church Policy?
On the opening day of business session at the 2015 GC Session, during the voting and sitting of the new Unions, the leaders of the new Unions were invited to the stage to represent their new fields. The problem arose when among the 35 leaders on the stage, there was one woman in the line up. With the women’s ordination subtext,the presence of a woman in the lineup raised questions in several minds if a woman could be a leader of a Union of the world church:
Since the church policy states clearly that the President of the Church in any field must be an ordained minister, and by actions of previous GC sessions, women cannot be ordained as Pastors, why was a woman present in the lineup?
Some delegates were concerned that having a Union leader on the stage could be a subtle way by which some Unions were attempting to push women’s ordination, even before the vote on the issue at this year’s GC session. Could it be, some delegates wondered, that some Divisions were a trying to test the mood of the world church on women’s ordination? If so, the initial reaction was that this will not be easily accepted.
The chair of the business meeting on the opening day, overruled the concerns raised to hold up the voting of the new Unions because of the presence of a woman in the lineup,arguing that accepting a new Union at the session has nothing to do with the women’s ordination issue that would be debated the following Wednesday (July8). Though this didn’t sit well with some, all 35 new Unions were voted.
[NOTE: I believe theChair was right in sitting the 35 new Unions, despite the presence of a woman in the lineup of leaders. But it would have been easier to understand if it was fully explained the position of the woman in the lineup: Was the woman who represented the new Union in the lineup the President of that Union (which implies she’s an ordained minister) or was she merely another Office holder(e.g. Secretary, Treasure, etc.) chosen to represent the new Union (in which case there the question of ordained minister doesn’t arise).
On my part, I’m so glad the presence of the woman in the line up was raised. I’m so glad it was anAfrican delegate who raised this issue, for it shows the theological alertness and boldness of at least one African. Let me explain:Yes, the key issue in questioning the lineup was not merely about women’s ordination (which would later be debated and voted on Wednesday, July 8), but a more fundamental one:
Can aUnion be voted into the sisterhood of SDA Churches when that new Union is already acting contrary to Church policy? And by extension, can an existingUnion which acts in violation or rebellion against the worldwide Church’s policy (the Church Manual) continue to be treated as a bona fide Union? Should that “rebellious” Union be disciplined? This question has some far-reaching implications.]
My General Take and Final Thoughts on Day 1:
From what transpired on Day 1, it’s clear that it’s very clear that delegates from the world church are up to speed on issues and very alert. They understand the need to uphold our faith and will not allow anyone or anything to sway them. But from what I know about GC sessions, we must not take anything for granted. Even at the last minute, and from seemingly innocuous parliamentary protocols, some major decisions do take place. What this means is that we must keep praying for vigilance, discernment, and courage.
Friday, July 3:
GC SESSION: DAY 2
The second day began with two young women—one giving an inspiring testimony and the other a stirring morning devotional message. These were followed by the business session(reports from the Secretary, Director of Statistics and Archives, and theTreasurer), with reports from the Nominating Committee interspersed. The day concluded with another inspiring evening worship of music, evangelism report,devotional by Mark Finley, and baptism of some new converts in San Antonio,Texas.
For this report,I’ll simply mention the election and highlights of the Secretary’s report. I’ll end with a reflection on the two women who started the day.
A. BUSINESS SESSION
1. Re-election of Eld. Ted Wilson:
Day 2 of the 2015session witnessed the election of the three Officers of the GC—President(re-election), Secretary (re-election), and Treasurer (a new person—who had previously served as under-treasurer). Of these, the President’s re-election was the most dramatic.
The re-election ofEld. Ted Wilson as GC President was by an overwhelming decision by the delegates. In fact the very announcement of his name by the Nominating Committee(even before a motion was made to vote his acceptance) was greeted with arousing applause. But upon a motion that he be approved, repeated attempts were made by some delegates from the North American Division (NAD) to block his re-election. They used all kinds of parliamentary procedures to block his re-election. As I recall, the interesting parliamentary drama lasted almost 40minutes. But finally, when the time came for the delegates to vote on his re-election, an OVERWHELMING majority voted for him. At least some 90% of the delegates voted for his re-election—a decision that was again greeted with prolonged applause.
(NOTE: It was clear that, unlike some in NAD, the overwhelming majority of the world church has had confidence in his leadership of Eld. Ted Wilson during the past 5 years).
In his acceptance speech, Eld. Wilson expressed his feeling of being “humbled and overwhelmed.”Having accepted the delegates’ vote of confidence “with very quiet respect and humility,” he then proceeded to set forth his three goals for his second term. All three priority areas that he mentioned—without expanding upon them—have todo with his burden for Revival and Reformation:
1. To completely and fully uplift Christ and His righteousness for us in all things;
2. Faithfulness to God's word and the calling God has given to the Adventist Church;
3. Total member involvement in witnessing and evangelism.
He concluded: “God intends for his people to stand faithfully, but we have got to do it together.”
I may be reading too much into this statement, but it seems to me that he is alluding to the women’s ordination issue that will be voted upon next week: Faithfulness to the Word ofGod, and unity in the church—instead of some going their own way.
2. Report of the GC Secretary
The incumbentSecretary, Dr. G.T Ng presented an excellent report on the church growth and the challenges it poses. Here are the highlights of the past 5 years(2010-2015):
—Current membership of the church worldwide is 18.5 million members.
—They are found in216 out of the 237 countries and areas of the world recognized by the UnitedNations.
—The church also currently operates
2,164secondary and tertiary schools
21 food industries
63 publishing houses.
Some 6.6 million new members were added to the church during the past 5 years. That is, 1.3 million every year—i.e., some 3,199 new believers join the church every day. More than2,000 new churches were organized in a single year.
At a growth rate of1.85 percent per annum, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is considered one of the fastest growing churches in the world.
—Citing the Feb. 22, 2015 Christianity Today report, it is stated that the Adventist Church is now the “fifth-largestChristian communion worldwide, after Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy,Anglicanism, and Assemblies of God.”
—The growth of the Church is however in the developing countries of Africa, Asia, andLatin America (regions also known as the Global South), with shrinking membership growth in the industrialized world of North America, Europe, and Australia& New Zealand (the Global North)
—As it currently stands, the percentage of the membership in the SDA church:
Latin America 32%
North America 7%
[NOTE: It’s quite clear that the theological challenges we face (and which is taxing much of our time and resources) are mostly from the regions of the Church where growth is diminishing. Something to think about.]
—Though the church is in some 91% of the countries and areas of the world recognized by the UnitedNations, there are many people groups who have not yet been reached. In some cases, the growth is only in some specific tribes.
For example: there are over 800,000 members in Kenya alone. But most of the members come from just two tribes, whereas there are altogether 42 tribes in the country. As stated by the GC Secretary:
“It is estimated that 70 percent of the Seventh-day Adventist membership in Kenya belong to two tribes, the Kisii and the Luo, and only about 25 percent belong to the four largest tribes (Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, and Kamba). This situation clearly shows that the largest tribes in Kenya are the least reached despite the huge membership, with almost 10,000 churches and companies.”
—There’s also disparity between rural and urban mission. We need to find ways to reach the urban areas,cities, secular, etc.
—It was pointed out that the Church is currently losing 48% of those baptized. We must find ways to not only baptize, but also keep/retain the new members. How? By nurturing and disciple-ing them. This is the only way to avoid the “the leaking bucket syndrome.”
—Some 2.9 million left the church during the past five years. We need to find ways to reclaim our backsliders.
— The Director of Statistics and Archives mentioned in his report that, for different reasons,some of the church/Conference/Union books have inflated figures. We need accurate records for at least three reasons:
1. For transparency and integrity. We don’t want to deceive our selves
2. For strategic planning.
3. To plan for nurturing and disciple members.
[NOTE: The re-election of Eld Ted Wilson and the report of the Secretary and Director of Archives and Statistics were the main business items of Day 2. With that, let me talk about the devotional session of the day]
B. MORNING DEVOTIONAL WORSHIP
Each day’s business session begins with a morning devotional service. Here’s how Day 2 went. I want to believe a lot of thought went into the selection of the participants—given the subtext of this GC session being on women’s ordination.
After a spirit-filled song service, group prayers, we had a powerful testimony from a young professional woman, Yasmin by name. She is an Indian and a former convert from Islam. She recounted how she became a Christian and the challenges she faced. I was moved by the simplicity or sincerity of her testimony. One of the things she mentioned was this:
“When I gave my life to Jesus, I didn’t even know how to begin prayer. but I knew I how to end it—i.e., ‘in Jesus name.’ For Christ said whatever we ask in His name, He will give to us.”
Yasmin mentioned that she still remembers the very first thing I asked God in my prayer: “I asked God never to allow my shoes to break. I’m here to tell you that since I offered that prayer, my shoes have never broken.”
After her conversion from Islam to Christianity, her desire to know more about God led Yasmin to go and study theology and psychology in an Adventist university in India. Today, Dr. Yasmin Sultana-Muchindu isthe head of the Department of Psychology, Guidance & Counseling at Rusangu University, the Adventist University in Zambia. She’s married to a handsome Zambian. India and Africa met as students when they were both studying in the same Adventist University where she studied.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I was very surprised to see Yasmin on the GC Session stage to give her testimony. The previous day, she and her husband had spoken with me in the Remnant Publications Exhibition booth. It was the first time we met. But she mentioned how she had been greatly impacted by my previous writings and how they had been praying for me. I gave her a complimentary copy of my latest book COURAGE. Little did I know that the young lady I had met at the booth the previous day had been asked by the world church to share her powerful testimony. (On my Facebook page, you’ll see a photo of Yasmin and me).
Dr. Yasmin Sultana-Muchindu is the face of first generation Adventist women in the church. Young, brilliant, gutsy, godly, theologically alert, but not flaming feminists.
2. Morning Devotion
As I stated earlier, the day began with a stirring morning devotional message by a young lady from Zimbabwe. Her name is Sikhu Hlatshwayo. She spoke on what it would take to awaitChrist’s second coming, basing her message on Luke 2:25ff (the example ofSimeon, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel).
Her introduction raised questions about the significance of the recent US Supreme Court legalization of same-sex marriage. “What’s the big deal?,” she asked. “Canada has been doing it since 2005.The Netherlands been doing it since 2001.” Why is it a big deal in the US? (I can almost hear her answer: “It’s because whatever happens in the USA soon becomes worldwide phenomenon.”) What about the Pope visiting USA in September to address to the US congress. SDAs know that the first beast power of Revelation 13 is coming to talk to second beast power ofRev 13—i.e., the Papacy and US, respectively. And what’s the big deal about today’s natural disasters—so rapid that we’re no longer moved by casualties unless they are the thousands.
For Sikhu, Christians’ knowledge about all these signs of the times ought to make a difference in their life. She insightfully argued her case using the story of Simeon. Waiting implies knowledge of what one is waiting for. But the knowledge is not merely to settle theological debates. Rather, it ought to be translated into everyday life. It ought to challenge us to live differently and serve God wholly. (You’ve got to listen to her sermon to know to feel the impact of her message.)
On a personal note,my heart rejoiced to see this African young lady on global stage in the church.Why? Sikhu is not only one of the fruits of my mentorship to public university students, but my wife Becky and I also adopted her as our daughter. More importantly, she represents what godly women can do in ministry.
I have known Sikhu since December 2004, when I was invited to Boston to inaugurate and consecrate a Christian organization called BLESS (Boston Literature Evangelism StudentSociety). Members of BLESS were students from MIT, Harvard, Boston University,Wellesley, Tufts, etc. One of the key architects of BLESS was Sikhu, then a student at Wellesley College (the women’s Harvard). At a time when literature evangelism was dying in North America, these students were convicted to revive it. After all, the Boston area was where our SDA pioneers started the LE work in 1859.
After that initial encounter, I kept in touch with Sikhu, until upon her graduation from Wellesley(with degrees in French and Biochemistry), she enrolled in our CAMPUSMissionary Training Program (2006-2007), a unique training program based near the University of Michigan campus. We hired her in 2007 on our CAMPUS staff, to serve on the public university campuses in the Upper-Peninsular of Michigan and the Grand Rapids area, respectively. In 2009, we invited her to our CAMPUS headquarters in Ann Arbor where she served as my Administrative Assistant till2011. She subsequently went to Andrews for her graduate degree inReligion.
This August she’d get married, and beginning this Fall, she would be serving as theAssistant Campus Ministries Director for the Michigan Conference). I am confident that, with God’s blessings, she would not only rise to become the future campus ministries director (my former job!), she could very easily playa major role in world church.
She possesses very good musical skills (she sings and plays the piano), is an effective speaker,and an excellent writer. Sikhu served as one of the editors of the 2008 book For This Purpose (an impressive 400-page, hardcover volume that details the early history of GYC and messages that shaped the movement). She also contributed to my book Not For Sale: Integrity in A Culture of Silence (2008) and helped in editing another one of my bestselling works—Healed Wounds, but Ugly Scars (2009).
Sikhu represents the future of godly and brilliant Adventist women. Her superior leadership skills contributed to the founding of A.L.I.V.E. (Africans Living InView of Eternity), an organization comprising African students and young professionals. She also served as the Vice-President of Resources of GYC (2007-2009), the grassroots youth movement inspired by CAMPUS.
Talk about a woman in ministry. That’s Sikhu. Literature evangelism, public campus ministries,music, speaking, writing, grassroots leadership, scholarship. And she’s African—just in case anyone wants to put down Africa for its biblical stand on women’s ordination. (On my Facebook page, you can see a picture of myself and Sikhu, along with some other friends).
My General Take andFinal Thoughts on Day 2: My take on the politics of Sikhu being asked to preach on Day 2 is that, besides her gifts, most likely she was chosen to also showcase a different kind of woman in ministry. At a time when in certain parts of the world, the phrase “women’s ministry” is almost being hijacked for “feminist ministry,” Sikhu models for the church what kind of women’s ministry we need.She also exemplifies how to be a holy female in a world that calls upon young women to be wholly feminists.
Sabbath, July 4:
SABBATH DAY: DAY 3
Highlights. As on all other days, there were lots of music and prayers. But the capstone of the worship service was the divine service sermon by the GC Secretary, Dr. G.T. Ng,in which he presented an insightful sermon on the identity and mission of theSeventh-day Adventist Church. Employing a tasteful use of humorous illustrations,he answered the question: Who Are You? (a question that is relevant not just to individuals, but also to the Church). His answer is summarized thus:
“Revelation 10 defines the beginnings of the church; Revelation 12 describes thecharacteristics of the church; and Revelation 14 discloses the message of the church—the messages of the three angels found in Revelation 14:6-14. These messages are the last messages to the world—messages that we are privileged to share and vividly portray to the world.”
In the afternoon (after lunch) the focus was evangelism and a of the “Strategic Plan” for 2015-2010 titled “Reach the World.” And an evening presentation titled “Our Inspiring Heritage—1” by Jim Nix (E. G. White Estate Director), focused on EGW the Person. The remainder of the evening was devoted to receiving reports from the two world fields—North America and the Middle East region. Here are some highlights:
The North American Division (NAD) Report
1. Territory—The North AmericanDivision (NAD) comprises the United States, Canada, Bermuda, Guam, andMicronesia.
2. Population—The total population in these regions of the world is 350 million
3. Membership—The SDA Church membership is 1.2 million (7% of the world membership)
4. Churches & Pastors—5,400churches and groups, and 3,200 pastors (including some 107 “women pastors” ).In their video report, the NAD made it clear that increasing the number of women pastors is “an important and strategic part of the overall goals of the division.” Or as stated by the NAD President in his written report, “the goal [of the NAD] is to double, in the next five years, the number of female pastors employed by the church.”
Judging from my discussion with some GC attendees and delegates,the NAD’s report lacked substance. With so much resources and personnel in NorthAmerica, many were expecting some serious efforts towards soul-winning. But the video report woefully failed at that. Instead, it seemed, they were more interested in pushing their agenda of women’s ordination—which is the issue they have brought to the GC session to be voted on Wednesday, July 8.
Unfortunately, deliberately showing in their video report a“woman pastor” conducting communion service, and having the NAD announce that they plan to double “women pastors” in the next 5 years, seemed to tell the delegates that regardless of what the world church would decide, NAD was already determined to go their own way. Their video report caused the NAD to lose goodwill among some of the delegates outside of the North America. Many delegates felt that instead of seriously planning to win souls, the NAD was more interested in pushing their ideology of women’s ordination.
[NOTE: Though the NAD’s request for women’s ordination in his territory looms large in many minds, for me one key area of concern is the publishing work in North America. Pacific Press, which was previously controlled and operated by the General Conference, is now owned by the NAD.With the collapse of Review & Herald Publishing House (a huge loss to the world church), and the NAD’s control of the Pacific Press, many believe that the Pacific Press will now be used as the voice of the NAD—whether good or bad.Given the fact that there are so many theological winds blowing in NorthAmerica, many seriously wonder if they can trust everything that is printed by the “new” Pacific Press. Others are concerned about the future of the literature work.]
The Middle East andNorth Africa Union (MENA) Mission Report
Those who were disappointed in the NAD report were, however,encouraged by the report of another world field—The Middle East & AfricaUnion (MENA).
1. Territory—As the name suggests, the Middle East and NorthAfrica Union (MENA)comprises the Muslim speaking countries of the Middle East and Northern Africa
It comprises 20 countries. The region is bordered by Morocco to the west, Iran to the east, Turkey to the north and Sudan to the south.
2. Population—The total population in these regions of the world is 500 million
Illustration: If all the Adventists living in a particular area were divided up so that no two lived in the same community, and every member contacted one person each day, it would take varied amount of time to contact every person living in that region. For example,
every person in the NAD could be contacted within 1 year.
It would take about 2 years forIndia,
It would take South AmericanDivision 5 months,
It would take Philippines 4 months,
It would take the SouthernAfrica-Indian Ocean Division 58 days
But as explained by the President of the MENA, “In MENA, if every Adventist member moved into a different city and contacted one person per day, it would take almost 450 years to make the first contact with everyone who is currently living in its territory.”
3. Membership—For obvious security reasons, the SDA Church membership, churches, and pastors were not known
4. Challenges—Misunderstanding: The Muslim neighbors think that all Christians drink alcohol, eat pork, bow down to statues, live the way people do in the movies, and want to start up“crusades” in order to extort their oil. There is also the current violence by ISISand other groups who are hostile to Christianity.
5. Strategies for Evangelism: Their approach to evangelism is summarized by three words:Mingle, Meet, Invite. Among them are:
—Waldensian Student (WS) Program—Following the example of the sacrifice of dedicated Waldensian of old, MENA plants committed young adults in major universities. (This past year MENA placed 23 Waldensian students in universities, and this year 46 young people are quietly making a difference in these academic communities.)
— Centers of Influence—Sometimes MENA plants people in a community as part of a small business or service. The goal of these centers of influence (COI) is to meet needs in the community and build friendships. Seven COIs are currently operating in the MENA region.
— Total Employment (Or “Tentmakers”)—MENA can’t get visas for missionaries or regular church workers to enter many of our countries. And yet many foreign professionals are hired each year to work in these same countries. Like the apostle Paul, who was a tentmaker to support himself, the Total Employment program plants dedicated Adventist professionals in these hard-to-enter places. While they work to support themselves, they also do God’s work.
6. Opportunities—Despite the challenges, the Lord is also opening doors. For example, many people are questioning their own belief system as they witness the brutal violence being carried out in the name of religion.Even though they are generally NOT open to advice from other Christians (people they consider to be “pork-eating and wine-drinking pagans”), when they become friends with a dedicated Adventist they are amazed at what they learn and are open to hearing more. The President of MENA posed a challenge and an invitation:
“The problem is that MENA doesn’t have a single Adventist member living in most of our massive communities to answer their questions. So there you have it. MENA has great challenges, but also an idea. To make the idea become a reality, we need people on the ground.Are you willing to accept a seemingly impossible challenge and join us? As we walk into the water, God will stand the river on end and finish the work. Amen.Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”
Film on Creation
The evening event ended with a spectacular film titled, “The Creation: The Earth is a Witness.” It was produced by Seventh-day Adventist filmmaker Henry Stober, who spent four years filming the movie around the world. It is a spectacular a day-by-day account of the biblical creation week, beginning with darkness before God created light and ending with the seventh-day Sabbath. Unfortunately, many delegates were too tired to stay till the end to watch the entire film. It is an inspirational film I will highly recommend. Fortunately, you can watch "The Creation: The Earth Is A Witness" film online by clicking the link:https://vimeo.com/78072521.
My General Take and Final Thoughts on Day 3: On the whole, Day 3 (the Sabbath day) was a very high Sabbath forBible-believing Adventists. The worship service, afternoon missionary focus,the music, the reports from the two regions of the world church (NAD and MENA),and the short film on Creation. Personally, I found the report by MENA to be the best of all. I was not alone. Several commented on the fact that the Sabbath day ended on such a high spiritual note.