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News from the Seventh-day Adventist World Church Headquarters
In Jamaica, visually impaired Adventist appointed senate president
Morris quoted week’s memory verse during swearing-in ceremony
May 23, 2013
Floyd Morris made history in Jamaica’s Parliament last week when he became the first visually impaired person appointed president of the Jamaican Senate, Parliament’s upper house.
Floyd Morris is the first blind president of the Jamaican Senate. He is an Adventist Church member and has advocated for the disabled community. [photo: Naphtali Junior/Jamaica Observer]
The 44 year-old Seventh-day Adventist Church member is well-known in the Caribbean island nation for his advocacy on behalf of the disabled community.
In his address during his May 17 swearing-in ceremony, Morris quoted Micah 6:8, the memory verse of the Seventh-day Adventist quarterly lesson for the past week: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In an interview, Morris said the appointment was proof of God’s faithfulness, and it came despite years of uncertainty about his life’s direction.
“What has transpired has proven to me once more that my God is real,” he said.
Jamaica’s prime minister, the Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller, said in an interview that she has “always admired Senator Morris’ strong sense of ethics, discipline and principled conduct.”
“I think the Senate will benefit tremendously from his leadership, and I have no doubt he will continue to be an inspiration to many, both here in Jamaica and across the globe,” Simpson-Miller said.
Morris hosts the radio program “Seeing From a Different Perspective,” and jogs each workday with the aid of his driver. He became Jamaica’s first blind senator in 1998.
Morris began losing his sight at age 17 due to glaucoma, and went completely blind six years later.
He gained assistance from the Jamaica Society for the Blind where he learned to read and write Braille. He has since completed a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and a master’s degree in philosophy of government. He is now pursuing a Ph.D. in political communication.
“Persons with disability must realize that we are living in an era where opportunities for the empowerment of people with disabilities are vastly improving, especially within the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities,” he said.
He added that one of the main goals of this parliamentary year is the passing of the National Disability Act, which he has championed since 1998.
Everett Brown, president of the Adventist Church in Jamaica, said the over 270,000-strong membership in the country was justly proud of Morris’ appointment.
“Despite his visual handicap, Senator Morris has always demonstrated his faith in God and strong Christian will to achieve, despite the odds,” Brown said. “We are sure that his commitment to his Christian ideals, coupled with his love for the Jamaican people and his impeccable character, will enable him to serve the Senate with distinction.”
Roughly 10 percent of Jamaica’s population is Adventist, and members hold prominent post throughout government and business. Adventist Church member Sir Patrick Allen is the nation’s governor-general.
Singing, prayer mark church’s 150th anniversary in headquarters ceremony
Employees, administrators sing from original hymnal; Black’s powerful prayer
May 22, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
Employees of the Seventh-day Adventist Church headquarters building sang old, “progressive” hymns and heard remarks from top church leaders in a brief afternoon ceremony yesterday that marked the 150th anniversary of the denomination.
Jim Nix, at the podium, director of the Ellen G. White Estate, leads in singing yesterday at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The brief afternoon ceremony was held at the church's world headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States. [photos by Ansel Oliver]
It was on May 21, 1863, that a group of 20 delegates officially established the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Battle Creek, Michigan.
Yesterday, Jim Nix, director of the estate of church co-founder Ellen G. White, led out in singing two hymns – “Long Upon the Mountains” and “O Brother, Be Faithful” – from the original 1861 hymnal, the songbook version used by church founders at their meeting.
Nix said the songs and upbeat tempo were selected based on a conversation he once had with White’s granddaughter, who reported that White liked, “Hymns of ‘progress’…you know, a hymn that moves along. Grandma did not like slow hymns.”
Other presenters included Marvin Robinson, a great-great grandson of White, and Adventist Church President Ted N. C. Wilson.
“This anniversary is a call for you and for me to move forward on that journey … revived and reformed in Him, empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out the dreams and hopes of God himself as the Holy Spirit leads us,” Wilson said. “God is calling us today to never forget or to be fearful.”
The ceremony in the headquarters auditorium, attended by some 400 employees, was followed by the opening of a temporary display on Adventist history in the adjacent atrium.
During the ceremony, the prayer was offered by United States Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who is an Adventist. His prayer is posted below in its entirety:
Author and Finisher of our faith, You have been our Hope in ages past, and our Hope for years to come.
Thank You for this opportunity to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and for the privilege of unveiling a new exhibit on Adventist history at this world headquarters building today.
U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black offered prayer during the ceremony.
Lord, for a century and a half, You have used this church to bring deliverance to captives, the recovery of sight to the blind, and to free those who suffer.
Forgive us for the chapters in our history when we were missing in action and unavailable to help the lost, the lonely, and the least. Lord, forgive us for being silent when we should have spoken, and for speaking when we should have been silent. Forgive us, O God, for our sins of commission and omission. We claim Your promise in First John 1:9, that if we confess our sins, You are faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Thank You, Lord, for your forgiving power.
Continue to challenge us as a church when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams came true because they are too small, when we arrived safely simply because we sailed too close to the shore.
We recommit ourselves today to accomplish Your great mission. We recommit ourselves today to Calvary and the blood that sets us free. We recommit ourselves, O God, today to bring Your love to all who need encouragement, to all who lack food and clothing, to all who are cold and cheerless, to all who are sick and shut-in, to all who are incarcerated, and to all who long for home and friendship.
We recommit ourselves today to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show Your mastery, where losing sight of land we will find Your stars.
O God of ages past, push back the horizon of our hopes and lead us into a future fueled by faith, focus and fortitude.
And hasten the day when the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ rise, then may those of us who are still alive and remaining be caught up to meet our blessed Savior in the air and to live with Him throughout the ceaseless cycles of eternity.
Maranatha, even so come, Lord Jesus. We pray this prayer, in the majestic name of our soon coming Savior and King.
In Ukraine, Adventist health worker from U.S. still missing
Sloop disappeared on May 15; was in Kiev to help establish lifestyle center
May 22, 2013
Angela Burdick/ANN staff
A local Seventh-day Adventist Health Ministries worker from the United States has still not been found one week after he went missing in Kiev, Ukraine.
Dr. Jay Sloop is Health Ministries director for the Upper Columbia Conference in the Northwest United States. He has gone missing in Ukraine while helping local church leaders establish a lifestyle center. [photo courtesy Sloop family]
Dr. Jay Sloop, who serves as Health Ministries director for the denomination’s Upper Columbia Conference, based in Yakima, Washington, was assisting church leaders in the Ukrainian capital in setting up a lifestyle center.
Sloop, 77, was last seen on the morning of May 15. Authorities have accessed security camera footage showing him unsuccessfully trying to access cash from an ATM machine. Footage then showed him entering Zamkova Gora Park, but none showed him leaving. Colleagues alerted police later that morning and filed a missing person’s report.
The next day, some 80 volunteers from the Ukrainian Adventist college helped search the city. Some 7,000 missing-person posters have been posted throughout the city and the case has since been reported by several newspapers and TV news agencies.
Prayer vigils for the case have been held by the Ukrainian Union Conference, the Euro-Asia Division, based in Moscow, Russia, and by the Upper Columbia Conference.
"We are praying for the Lord's guidance and mercy,” said Guillermo Biaggi, president of the Euro-Asia division. “We are joining our efforts together with local union leadership, as well as our human resources in the Kiev Conference and nearby school, together with government officials and responders, to search and find Dr. Sloop.”
Authorities and volunteers are still looking for clues in the disappearance of Dr. Jay Sloop. Security camera footage last captured Sloop in Zamkova Gora Park.
Sloop’s son, Jeff Sloop, flew to Kiev and has been working with church leaders and volunteers. He is keeping family informed of developments on the blog, sloop.net/wordpress.
Vladimir Krupskyi, the division’s executive secretary and former president of the Ukrainian Union, arrived in Kiev on May 17 to assist with the search.
Viktor Alekseenko, president of the Ukraine Union, said, “Every day groups of people from area churches and police are involved in the search. We are doing everything we can to provide all possible help and assistance in the search for Dr. Sloop.”
The United States Embassy in Kiev is also assisting in the search. An embassy staffer requested that Adventists around the world limit all unnecessary calls to the embassy. The staffer said they’ve never had so many calls, and are amazed that a church could generate so many.
New documentary traces global impact of Adventist medical, mission outreach
Sustainable healthcare, medical schools set denomination apart, filmmaker Doblmeier says
May 21, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
A documentary exploring the philosophy and legacy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s international health and humanitarian outreach is scheduled to air on Public Broadcasting Stations across the United States beginning in September.
Martin Doblmeier, left, founder and president of Journey Films, with Nathan DeWild, director of Photography at Journey Films and a graduate of Southern Adventist University, on location in Brazil. The production team was filming along the Amazon River, where for 80 years the medical mission boat “Luzeiro” has brought healthcare to isolated communities. [photo courtesy Journey Films]
“The Adventists 2,” now available on DVD, is a follow-up to independent filmmaker Martin Doblmeier’s 2010 documentary, “The Adventists,” which traced the roots of the Adventist Church’s health message and ministry in North America.
Doblmeier’s latest film makes the case that the early integration of healthcare and theology is unique to the denomination. The Adventist Church was officially established in May of 1863, just two weeks before church co-founder Ellen G. White received a health reform vision that put physical and spiritual wellbeing at the very core of Adventism.
“That’s certainly not to say that Jews or Catholics or Presbyterians don’t have great hospitals or don’t consider the body to be a temple, but I think the notion of how healthcare fits into the whole philosophy of who Adventists are from the very beginning is distinct,” Doblmeier says.
The film also spotlights the Adventist Church’s commitment to long-term, sustainable healthcare through its emphasis on preventive medicine and establishing medical schools in developing countries.
On location in Malawi, Doblmeier highlights the church’s focus on HIV/AIDS education, where Adventists are seeking to integrate health awareness into culture through dramatic presentations. In Peru, the rapid growth of population pushes the limits of healthcare, but the recent launch of the School of Human Medicine at Adventist-run Peruvian Union University in Lima is grooming a new generation of doctors to address the challenge.
“This isn’t just Band-Aid help,” Doblmeier says. “[Adventists are] creating these medical schools in the developing world so that the best minds will stay in those countries, get their training within the Adventist education system, and then stay there. I think this is going to have long-term effects.”
The film also traces the history of a legendary hospital in China, follows a team of American doctors as they perform operations for underserved patients in the Dominican Republic, and features Adventist medical missionary work in the wake of a catastrophic earthquake in Haiti.
That country, perhaps more than any other, underscores the “staggering” need for sustainable healthcare, Doblmeier says. But, he adds, it also illustrates the resolve of Adventist humanitarians.
“It’s an incredible task, but hope has been at the core of the Adventist Church since the very beginning, and it remains one of the flagship reasons that it is present in the world today,” he says. “So in these countries around the world where the healthcare disparities are so enormous, I think [the church’s] presence creates a sense of hope, and that’s a really important thing to do.”
Doblmeier also devotes considerable time to the legacy of medical and mission service left by early Adventists. To illustrate their impact, he and his production team turn to Brazil, where for decades Leo and Jessie Halliwell brought healthcare by boat to isolated communities along the Amazon River. The Luzeiro (“light bearer”) medical boat ministry continues today.
“We heard again and again how people heard the story of the Halliwells and were moved. That says that their life and work had purpose and meaning,” Doblmeier said.
“That’s the power of story. And if we’ve done something to help keep those stories alive, I feel great about that,” he says. A portion of the DVD sales will go toward supporting the work of some of the organizations featured on the film.
“The Adventists 2” is the latest of Doblmeier’s more than 25 award-winning films on religion, faith and spirituality, which include “Bonhoeffer,” a documentary on Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and “Albert Schweitzer: Called to Africa,” a film recounting the Nobel Prize-winning humanitarian’s life.
Doblmeier is president and founder of Journey Films in Alexandria in the U.S. state of Virginia. He is currently wrapping up a documentary that explores the Adventist Church’s commitment to holistic education.
“I’ll go right back to the edit room after this interview,” he says.
Redesigned adventist.org set for launch in October
Site to offer stronger branding; GAIN summit also unveils Creation film project
May 20, 2013
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The redesign of the Seventh-day Adventist world church’s website, adventist.org – scheduled for launch in October – will offer major enhancements in style and information architecture, say church Communication leaders.
Garrett Caldwell, associate Communication director for the Adventist world church, shows a preview of the new Adventist Church homepage, set for release in October. The site features a cleaner style, and its framework design allows for the integration of denominational design worldwide. [photos by Daryl Gungadoo]
The overhaul of the site will also include an improved design framework, creating an opportunity for better integration of the hundreds of websites throughout the world church. Church leaders say the move will deliver stronger and more consistent branding across the denomination, which has a decentralized structure throughout the world.
“This will allow the church to define its brand, to clarify its voice and move from a place of multiple different sites to becoming a network of sites,” said Garrett Caldwell, associate Communication director for public relations at the Adventist world church headquarters.
Caldwell and other Communication department leaders from the Adventist Church headquarters announced the website revamp last week at the Global Adventist Internet Network summit, held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The conference brought together 230 participants – top church administrators and technology and communication professionals – to network on unified efforts in sharing the gospel in a clearer way around the world via the Internet.
The new website will be offered in four languages – English, French, Portuguese and Spanish. The site is a key starting point for journalists, researchers and those seeking a spiritual community, Caldwell said.
Andrew King, assistant Communication director for Web at the Adventist Church's headquarters, shares with GAIN attendees the need for global identity standards. The redesigned adventist.org - set for launch in October - has been developed in consultation with Adventist web professionals worldwide.
"We want to invite each online visitor to join Seventh-day Adventists on a journey as we pursue a life of spirituality, vitality and service," he said.
The new homepage will have a simple, clear design that will complement its content database and interactive technical features, said Andrew King, the Communication department’s Web manager.
“We’re not just creating a new website, but a design framework for mobile, desktop and television,” King said.
Communication directors from across the church’s division offices agreed that unity and diversity are crucial to achieve successful website integration.
Church leaders from regions such as East Asia, Latin America and Africa are eager to integrate their websites with the new platform. Others, many of whom recently revamped their sites, will work toward adapting to the integration.
South Pacific Division’s Communication Director James Standish is open to seeing what the new website will offer for his territory. “I’m interested in universal excellence while allowing for customized design options,” Standish said.
Williams Costa Jr., left, Communication director for the Adventist world church, interviews Henry Stober, the maker of "Creation: The Earth Is a Witness," a film that Adventists worldwide can show in churches and other venues to underscore the biblical account of the earth's origins.
Williams Costa Jr., the Adventist Church’s Communication director and organizer of the GAIN conference, stressed the importance of a unified digital presence.
“We understand the diversity around the world, the different tastes, colors, cultures and the need to have something that binds us, but people need to see us as a family and with clear content and visibility,” Costa said.
Offering greater unity of content and design was a need that prompted Corrado Cozzi, Communication director for the Inter-European Division, based in Berne, Switzerland, to attempt to integrate diverse and multi-language territory websites for branding more than a year ago. Cozzi and a team led by Klaus Popa of the Adventist Media Center in Germany have coordinated efforts with the Adventist world church’s new website project in the integration of microsites.
Following the launch of the new adventist.org in October, Communication leaders will hold a series of meetings to discuss options for integration.
In addition, the netAdventist platform for church websites will also be integrated into the new look and framework of the new website, said John Beckett, who oversees the platform as director of the church’s Office of Global Software and Internet.
Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, delivers the Sabbath sermon at the Ras Al Khaimah Adventist Church near Dubai on May 18. He urged technology professionals to continue finding innovative ways of sharing the gospel through the Web.
In a Sabbath sermon, Adventist world church President Ted N. C. Wilson addressed meeting participants and local church members at the Ras Al Khaimah Seventh-day Adventist Church, urging them to continue using all means possible to spread the gospel.
“Share God’s love, share the Three Angels' Messages as to how God is preparing people for His soon coming,” Wilson said.
Wilson challenged technologists to explore ways to use in a comprehensive integrated media approach to reach the hearts of people through various outreach initiatives.
Participants were also shown the new "Creation: The Earth Is a Witness" film project, which will be completed and distributed worldwide later this year. Wilson appealed to conference participants to collaborate in innovative ways to showcase the film in churches and other venues in every community possible.
Several netAwards were given during the conference. The recipients were:
Carlos Magalhães, for pioneering Internet ministries in South America.
Rajmund Dabrowski, for overseeing the creation and adoption of the Adventist Church logo while serving as Communication director from 1994 to 2010.
Andrew Oey Kuntaraf, for technology leadership and empowering the Adventist Treasury department worldwide. Kuntaraf passed away last month in a traffic accident. World church Treasurer Robert E. Lemon accepted the award on his behalf.
Luke Pannekoek, for outstanding leadership in Information Technology ministry in the South Pacific Division.
Delwin Finch, for visionary Web ministry leadership in North America and for the world church.
Videos of presentations from this year's GAIN meeting will be available in June on the forum's website at gain.adventist.org.
GAIN’s 2014 meeting is scheduled to be held in India. The forum is held in different world regions each year to motivate and inspire local participants to understand the challenges and opportunities of fulfilling the mission of the Adventist Church in different cultures and regions.
Four new unions created in West-Central Africa Division
‘More local structure grows membership’; first self-sustaining union in Nigeria
May 15, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s West-Central Africa Division this year will create four new union administrative units, an action that underscores membership growth in the region and a need for more strategic planning in local fields.
The move, which will go into effect December 31, includes new unions in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, and will split the Sahel Union Mission into two territories, which church leaders said would save on the high cost of travel in the region.
New administrative units in the Adventist Church’s West-Central Africa Division. Church leaders say the changes recognize growing membership in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and the church’s Sahel Union Mission. Click to enlarge. [map by Tanya Holland]
“The present structure in all four unions placed an unmanageable demand on union staff, which limited their presence and effectiveness in the areas that they served,” said Rosa Banks, an Adventist world church associate secretary and liaison to church administrations in Africa. “Dividing these territories will provide a strategic advantage for the fulfillment of the mission of the church,” she said.
David Trim, director of the world church’s Office of Archives, Statistics and Research said it has been demonstrated that adding more local structure helps membership and tithe grow, as well as increasing the rate of growth. “With more administrative units they can more effectively strategize and use resources,” he said.
The Ghana Union Conference reports a membership of nearly 397,000, which is more than the combined total of both of the denomination’s European divisions.
“Creating a second union in Ghana is long overdue, based on their tithes, membership or any other metric,” Trim said.
The current Ghana Union is a “union conference,” which means it is self-sustaining, both in finances and leadership. Other unions are classified as “union missions,” which rely on appropriations. Ghana currently has the only union conference in the division.
As part of the division’s reorganization, Adventist Church structure in Ghana will be divided into the South Ghana Union Conference, based in Accra, and the North Ghana Union Mission, based in Kumasi.
In Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, the Adventist Church’s two union missions will become three unions, one of them a union conference.
The current North-Western Nigeria Union Mission, based in Ikeja in Lagos State, will divide and become a union mission in the north and a union conference in the south. In this region’s northern territory, the church will create the Northern Nigeria Union Mission, based in Abuja in the Federal Capital Territory. In the Southwest part of the country, the church will create the Western Nigeria Union Mission, with headquarters in Maryland, Lagos.
“This particular step is to facilitate mission in the northern part of the country where the church has yet to penetrate effectively,” Trim said.
The Central Africa Union Mission, now based in Yaoundé, Cameroon, will relocate its headquarters to Bangui, Central African Republic, allowing the newly created Cameroon Union Mission to operate out of Yaoundé.
And the church’s Sahel Union Mission, now based in Lomé, Togo, will become two union missions – the Eastern Sahel Union Mission, based in Lomé, and the Western Sahel Union Mission, headquartered in Dakar, Senegal.
“Dividing this field into two unions will afford better administrative oversight in these challenging fields and will save money on the high cost of travel in that part of the world,” said G. T. Ng, executive secretary of the Adventist world church.
Ng emphasized that reorganizing structure is a step in the right direction but not an automatic cure-all for slow or stagnant membership growth. Rather, he said, it is with both reorganization and a strengthening of individual congregations that best contributes to growth.
“It has been shown that local church-based evangelism is the most effective model of evangelism,” Ng said. “Members are the most important assets of the church. Pastors have to double up as trainers beyond playing their traditional role as baptizers and have a discipleship program in place for new members.”
The West-Central Africa Division, with headquarters in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, is home to a reported membership of approximately 866,000. It currently has six unions; the reorganization later this year will give the division 10 unions.
Danish Union suspends all ministerial ordination until 2015
Pending expected decision on theology of ordination at next General Conference session
May 14, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
Seventh-day Adventist church officials in Denmark voted this week to halt the ordination of all new ministers until the General Conference Session in July 2015.
Going forward, the church’s Danish Union “will not distinguish between genders when appointing pastors, and wishes to see equality between genders in all areas of responsibility,” a statement voted at the union’s May 12 session said.
Delegates to the Adventist Church’s Danish Union vote on May 12 to halt all ministerial ordination until 2015, when the General Conference Session could take action on the findings of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee. The committee is currently researching the biblical theology and Adventist philosophy behind the Christian tradition of ordination. [photo courtesy Danish Union]
The statement turns to the Bible to build a theological foundation for the move, beginning with mention that God created mankind—both men and women—“in His image and therefore equal.” The statement also challenges the roots of the “special priesthood reserved for men” by explaining that Christ’s sacrifice negates any need for a human priest, or intercessor.
“All of Christ’s followers—both men and women—were lifted up to be a ‘chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, to declare His praises,’” the statement said, referring to a passage in the New Testament book of 1 Peter.
Suspension of ordination is effective until 2015, when General Conference Session delegates could take action on the findings of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee. Established last year, the committee is tasked with delivering a report to the 2014 Annual Council, a business meeting of the church’s top governing body.
The committee is a direct response to a request during the 2010 General Conference Session for a church-conducted study of the Biblical theology behind ordination.
It first met shortly after independent actions taken by two of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s union conferences—Columbia and Pacific—both of which voted to ordain pastoral candidates without respect to gender. Top church leadership has since reiterated its request that unions await the conclusions of the committee.
Delegates to the 2014 Annual Council are widely expected to recommend any action on its findings to the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas.
There are slightly more than 2,500 Adventists in Denmark.
First European Health Conference sees renewed interest in health outreach
‘Health clubs’ build bridges in secular Eastern Europe
May 13, 2013
Prague, Czech Republic
Stephen Chavez/ANN staff
Seventh-day Adventist medical experts and health advocates want to better understand and share the ministry of healing they say the church is called to embrace. Six hundred of them met in Prague last month for the first European Health Conference.
True healing involves emotional and spiritual restoration, as well as physical recovery, said Dr. Viriato Ferreira, Health Ministries director for the church’s Inter-European Division, during his keynote address at the European Health Conference last month. The conference brought together Health Ministries leaders from the Adventist Church’s three divisions in Europe. [photo courtesy EUD]
Lectures and workshops challenged participants to consider healing in the context of the biblical worldview and the Adventist philosophy of health. Organizers say the conference was meant to unite Adventist health leaders across Europe in promoting a message of hope and healing to the region’s increasingly secular population.
In his keynote address, Dr. Viriato Ferreira, Health Ministries director for the church’s Inter-European Division, explored the emotional and spiritual suffering that often accompanies physical illness. He noted that while some people experience relief from their physical symptoms—seemingly in answer to prayer—such intercession is often the exception rather than the rule, leaving many others to wonder whether a lack of faith or other spiritual deficiency is preventing God from acting on their behalf.
“We need healing from life—not just physically, but also spiritually and emotionally,” Ferreira told delegates from some 40 countries across Europe. He urged them to accept complicated realities and recognize that “suffering may be part of healing.”
A joint effort by the Health Ministries departments of the church’s Inter-European, Trans-European and Euro-Asian divisions, the European Health Conference also urged local leadership to engage in health evangelism. Already, leaders across the region are finding that health outreach resonates with their communities.
Bohomil Kern, Health Ministries director for the church’s Czecho-Slovakian Union, described a system of “health clubs” that for years has served to break down barriers and build relationships in communities across the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Meeting in community centers, schools, civic building and other neutral venues, the clubs offer support for local residents who want to stop smoking, learn to cook more healthfully, reduce health risks associated with obesity, treat addictions or receive counseling for mental health issues.
The ministry model has been so successful that it has been exported to many countries in Eastern Europe, Kern said. In the Czecho-Slovakian Union alone, more than 260 instructors in nearly 90 health clubs are promoting the Adventist lifestyle.
Through a partnership with Loma Linda University, based in the U.S. state of California, health club instructors twice a year receive intensive training in nutrition, physical therapy, addictions, counseling and other specialties.
Kern said the health clubs are followed up by small weeklong “camp meetings,” where participants enjoy outdoor activities and attend lectures on health and wellness, as well as evening spiritual programs. Many new Adventist believers in the region made first contact with the church through its health outreach, Kern said.
Also at the conference, delegates tackled two issues that can often divide Health Ministries leaders—where the ministry should be practiced, and what characteristics practitioners should demonstrate.
Advocates of small, lifestyle centers that focus on natural remedies and emphasize the importance of the spiritual realm in physical healing said they find it hard to imagine that large, institutional healthcare settings could preserve that environment. Others said that in some cases, Adventists who work in European healthcare centers are prohibited from sharing their faith on company time.
Europe is home to just two Adventist-owned and operated healthcare centers—La Lignière in Switzerland and Waldfriede Hospital in Germany.
Another topic that sparked discussion was whether Adventist health advocates should practice veganism and vegetarianism, or if the consumption of clean meat is permissible.
The issue becomes disruptive when, according to some delegates, the matter of diet becomes a test of faith. One Health Ministries director said he was concerned over how some vegetarians in his congregation treat newer members who eat meat, reminding everyone that theoretical discussions become real-life challenges when delegates travel home.
The Adventist Church has emphasized healthy living since it was established in the 1860s. The health ministry of the church includes a global network of hospitals, clinics and medical universities.
Annual report highlights worsening freedom of belief worldwide
U.S. commission tracks key offenders; some optimism over new ‘watch list’ countries
May 13, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
This year’s report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has Seventh-day Adventist human rights experts concerned over growing state-sponsored or condoned intolerance toward minority faith groups worldwide.
Dwayne Leslie, director of Legislative Affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist world church, speaks at a religious liberty event in April at the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. Leslie is among religious freedom advocates troubled by this year’s report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. [photo: Andrew King]
“We are again reminded that for religious minorities, of which Seventh-day Adventists are in many regions, things can actually be very difficult and, in many places, are getting worse,” said Dwayne Leslie, director of Legislative Affairs for the Seventh-day Adventist world church.
The report from the independent commission categorizes offenders as tier 1, tier 2 or “watch list” countries. “Tier 1” nations are designated as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs), where religious liberty violations are defined as “systemic, ongoing and egregious,” and include torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances and “other flagrant denial[s] of life, liberty or the security of persons.” Countries re-designated as CPCs this year are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
Newly categorized this year as “tier 1” nations are Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. While not yet officially CPCs, these countries do “meet the threshold” for “tier 1” designation, the report states.
Countries designated as “tier 2” by the report are so listed for displaying “negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom.” These countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos and Russia.
A small third group of nations comprise a watch list, and the commission is “monitoring” them for violations. Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Ethiopia, Turkey, Venezuela and Western Europe are on this list.
Western Europe has drawn criticism in recent years for curbing religious expression among minority faiths. Laws in France and Belgium now ban the burqa and other full-face veils. Switzerland has barred the construction of new minarets, or prayer towers atop Muslim mosques. And so-called defamation of religion laws—which religious freedom experts say could restrict religious speech worldwide—continue to emerge in the region.
In Iran, Leslie said, the government continues its oppression, arrest and, in some cases, torture of Christians, most recently American pastor Saeed Abedini, who was imprisoned in Iran in September ostensibly for his religious beliefs.
Pakistan, too, has made headlines in recent months for violence against Christians. In March, a mob torched the homes and businesses of a Christian community in response to alleged insults against Muhammad.
Nigeria is another increasingly troubling area, Leslie said. There, the extremist group Boko Haram has unleashed sectarian violence on Christian communities in recent years, regularly bombing churches and leaving hundreds of worshippers dead. Since January, Adventists in the country have reported declining church attendance and some church closures amid the country’s worsening religious conflict.
Countries such as Iran, Pakistan and Nigeria, Leslie said, are deeply entrenched in intolerance, and the report is unlikely to change their behavior. But for newly watch-listed countries, “dialogue can hopefully lead to greater freedom of belief,” he said.
After reviewing religious freedom violations, USCIRF makes policy recommendations to the U.S. president, secretary of state and Congress. These recommendations can include arms embargos, restrictions on exports and, Leslie added, further talks with some offending nations.
Beyond that, Leslie said, the report “constantly keeps religious liberty in the public eye, reminding people why it’s important for us to continue to fight for freedom for all people of faith.”
Church Chat: Building up overseas volunteers
New director Ramirez on North America’s tradition of service
May 7, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division continues to send the most volunteers of any of the denomination’s 13 world divisions. But in recent years, the number of university student missionaries (SMs) has slipped.
Elden Ramirez is the North American Division’s new director of Volunteer Ministries. The division sends nearly half of the denomination’s long-term volunteers. [photo: Ansel Oliver]
While Southern University in Tennessee and Walla Walla University in Washington each regularly send more than 40 SMs for a year of overseas service, ranks of deployed volunteers have dwindled.
Elden Ramirez is hoping to change that. As the division’s new director of the Office of Volunteer Ministries, he’s planning an upcoming barrage of marketing and recruiting at all North American Adventist colleges.
Last year, the division sent 592 long-term volunteers, nearly half of the world church’s total of 1,220 long-term volunteers. That figure was not lost on John Thomas, the director of the Adventist world church’s office of Adventist Volunteers, who in October publicly highlighted the division’s service to the world church.
In an interview, the 38-year-old Ramirez, a former church planter and Youth Ministries director, discussed how to increase the number of SMs and why someone in any part of the world should consider serving as a volunteer.
He also revealed why he, as an American Hispanic, who is fluent in English, Spanish and Portuguese, has a first name not usually found in his native El Salvador. Edited excerpts:
Adventist News Network: Why should someone be a student missionary?
Elden Ramirez: It’s a life-changing experience. Some students return and change their major to education or medical work or engineering, but many return to their major of study with a more defined focus. Plus you see the world, experience God, and fulfill your mission. I've worked with returning student missionaries, and I can tell you that it gives them a different worldview. It helps them understand what’s out there, that our Adventist Church isn’t just their local congregation, but rather a denomination that is making a difference worldwide. The other day I was listening to a TED Talks speech and the speaker said that in order to have drive and excitement in life you need three things: autonomy, be learning something, and have a purpose. Without a doubt, you have all those three things as an SM.
At Annual Council last October, Adventist world church Associate Secretary John Thomas used a chart to highlight the denomination’s volunteers. The North American Division continues to send the most. [ANN file photo]
ANN: How can you encourage more people to be student missionaries?
Ramirez: Awareness. To be honest, I would like to take this God given opportunity to build on the platform that is already in place and create awareness about this great ministry. We are just finishing building our new website and began developing new promotional material that can help communicate what the advantages are of serving. People in North America can go to Hesaidgo.org and look at all the mission opportunities around the world and pray about it. For people around the world, there is the website Adventistvolunteers.org.
ANN: How are you going to recruit and market?
Ramirez: When I was a boy, I used to get excited to see those Mission Spotlight short films that showed a project somewhere in Africa or in a village in the Amazon. I never saw it from the perspective of “Let’s give to this project.” I always looked at it saying, “I want to go there and be a missionary one day.” That was exciting to me. Now that I’m older and God has given me this opportunity, I see myself creating similar short videos; not to ask for funding, but to share the need that is out there. We’ll be sending these to college and university chaplains. I’m also planning to visit each college and university to share and open my heart and practically say, “Listen, we need your help, and you can make a big difference.”
ANN: What support can this office offer to those schools that for years haven’t had a strong mission club or emphasis?
Ramirez: I think by creating relationships they will feel open to call our office and request the resources that we have available for them. Also, by sharing with them the new implementations from other sister educational institutions. I just visited La Sierra University and it was nice to hear from the students their ideas of how we can make this happen. Chaplain Sam Leonor has a mission emphasis week. Others might start a big Missions weekend program. If some of these universities get on board I think we can start to get those numbers up fairly soon.
ANN: How can we encourage all colleges and universities to have a strong missions club?
Ramirez: I strongly believe that every college and university should have a fulltime paid position coordinating missions. In doing so, they send out a strong unspoken statement to their student body: “Missions is so important to our institution and is part of our core belief system that we have a fully funded department to promote, encourage, recruit, equip and deploy missionaries." I think it can be done. Any university would benefit from carving out a budget to fund missions.
ANN: How can more students outside of North America be encouraged to consider serving as an SM?
Ramirez: Also by creating awareness. When I was in college in Costa Rica, I never knew there were opportunities to be an SM. I’m sure I would have done it. I assume other Divisions have a similar position as mine, so we’ll probably need to get together as counterparts to promote this more.
ANN: Why did you accept the call for this position?
Ramirez: I have to think God has been calling me for mission for a long time. I’ve always been excited to see how missionaries go somewhere and make a difference. I’ve always had a burning desire to go. It’s probably in part because my name was given to me after a missionary. I’m a Latin American but I have a North American name – Elden. There was an Adventist missionary named Elden Ford who dedicated his life to Latin America. He learned Spanish and went to make a big impact in Latin America, including El Salvador. When my mom saw the work of this missionary, she said, “If I ever have a son, I will name him ‘Elden.’” That can tell you how much of an impact this minister had in our family’s life.
—For more information, visit hesaidgo.org or adventistvolunteers.org.
In China, renewable energy project tackles growing waste problem
Biomass power plants in Chengdu to generate electricity
May 7, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
The humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is moving forward with plans to construct biomass power plants in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in southwest China.
A source of renewable energy, biomass power plants convert organic waste into biogas and electricity.
Adventist humanitarians in China are studying the feasibility of building biomass power plants in Chengdu, where a growing waste problem has local officials scrambling for answers. From right: Marcel Wagner, project manager; Linda Zhu, ADRA China country director; Arthur Wellinger, president of the European Biogas Association; with representatives from Beijing University and China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. [photo courtesy ADRA Switzerland]
Representatives from the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Switzerland and China say a recent feasibility tour with local officials and Arthur Wellinger, president of the European Biogas Association, was productive. The study group was able to assess the local waste chain and take samples for further analysis, said project manager Marcel Wagner.
“The project is still at the very beginning, but the doors are open,” Wagner said, adding that the next steps involve drawing up a detailed business plan, project proposal and contract for potential investors and partners.
Reports indicate that some 5,000 tons of waste is collected every day in Chengdu. To reduce the contamination of soil and water, and avoid using valuable agricultural land for landfills, officials are increasingly turning to new recycling methods.
Already, China operates biomass power plants in several provinces. So far, the plants operate by burning only dry organic waste, such as woodchips, branches and leaves. Wet organic waste—from kitchens, slaughterhouses and restaurants—makes up an estimated 60 percent of all organic waste and often remains untreated. ADRA China representatives say this yet unused waste has potential to generate biogas and organic fertilizer.
“This is ADRA’s first foray into renewable energy,” said Crister DelaCruz, director of Marketing and Communication for ADRA International. “We hope this project represents a new trajectory for ADRA. Of course we will continue to address the traditional social concerns of hunger, health and disaster-relief, but preserving the environment is a huge concern for the current generation, and we want to speak to that.”
Perhaps most significantly, DelaCruz said, care for the environment represents “the ultimate expression of stewardship,” especially during a year when the Adventist Church is celebrating God’s creative power.
North America’s media center recommends its own closure
Board chaired by division president to submit proposal
May 1, 2013
Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
The board of the Simi Valley, California-based Adventist Media Center (AMC), which is operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division, will recommend a proposal to the division that incudes a call for its six media ministries to relocate and a sale of the property.
The North American Division's Adventist Media Center will be sold if its board April 29 proposal is accepted by the division. The Simi Valley, California-based center is home to six media ministries, as well as master control and satellite uplink services for Hope Channel. [photo: AMC file photo]
The April 29 decision comes after two years of research, meetings and interviews with stakeholders of media ministries. Monday's AMC board meeting was chaired by Dan Jackson, who also serves as president of the North American Division.
“This proposal will put the division on a trajectory that serves our overarching vision of how God wants to use media in these end times,” Jackson said in a news release.
Still unclear is when the proposal will be brought to the North American Division Committee or what the division’s future plans are regarding media.
The media ministries that operate at AMC are Breath of Life Ministries, Faith For Today, It Is Written, Jesus 101 Biblical Institute, La Voz de la Esperanza, and The Voice of Prophecy.
The division’s news release stated that the proposal would allow 12 to 18 months for ministries to relocate.
The release also said that levels of funding from the division would be identified for each media ministry to allow them to fulfill their mission. It also stated that the division has a “commitment to explore new possibilities for media development,” including creating studio facilities at the division headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“The media ministries’ mission and messages of hope and wholeness have helped to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout North America and beyond,” Jackson said. “We appreciate the tireless efforts of the many media center employees and ministry staff members. We expect the media ministries to continue to maintain and provide the level of programs and services which will meet the future needs of the division.”
According to the AMC website, the center was established by the Adventist world church headquarters in 1972 in Newbury Park, California, as the “Seventh-day Adventist Radio, Television and Film Center. In 1993, the center became the “Adventist Media Center. In 1995, the property was sold and the center moved to its present location. A year later, ownership of the center was transferred from the Adventist Church world headquarters to the North American Division.
AMC also provides broadcast scheduling, master control and satellite uplink services for six of the 14 channels of Hope Channel Global Network, the world church’s television network. In a separate release yesterday, Hope Channel said broadcast service and programming would not be interrupted if the AMC proposal moves forward.