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Adventist Church Moves to Help Tsunami Victims

ations in Southern Asia are reeling in the wake of devastating tsunamis that swamped coastlines from Indonesia to Africa Dec. 26. Hundreds of fishing villages have been decimated, towns have been destroyed and many tourist resorts flooded. It is estimated that at least 135,000 people perished due to the tsunamis that struck following the 9.0 Richter scale earthquake with the epicenter near Northern Indonesia. Thousands more are feared dead, according to earlier reports.

Sri Lanka's hardest hit areas are in the South of the island and along the East Coast. With more than one million people now homeless in Sri Lanka, many are waiting for relief without shelter, water, food, or adequate clothing. For the first 36 hours after the tsunami, relief efforts were hampered because some roads were entirely cut off. By Tuesday morning small byroads were being used to bring needed relief supplies to those in the affected areas.

Penang, Malaysia [Photo: Rachel Phoon/ANN]
The people of Sri Lanka are pouring out to help with relief efforts. Television stations have organized relief drop-off depots in most villages, and people are emptying the supermarket shelves to provide dry rations for those who are homeless. Delivery trucks have been volunteered for driving supplies to the worst hit areas, and virtually every village in the Island is working to save lives.

Two separate relief efforts coordinated by Adventists are under way: one is for the general public through Adventist Development and Relief Agency International (ADRA); the second is to help reestablish the lives of Adventist members who have lost everything in the flood. That effort is being conducted by a committee appointed to deal with the disaster.

ADRA has committed US $500,000 of private funds as part of the agency's initial response to the disaster.

"At this time, ADRA is on the ground in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and India responding to and assessing the damage," said Frank Teeuwen, bureau chief for disaster preparedness and response for ADRA International.

In Phuket Province, Thailand ADRA is working with a local hospital to distribute personal care packages and provide relief assistance to nearly 3,000 people. In India, ADRA is providing shelter, blankets, drinking water, water containers, chlorine tablets, and mosquito nets. Non-food items (like blankets, clothing, and shelter materials) are being distributed in Indonesia and the Andaman Islands.

"We are confident that our donors will respond and ADRA will be able to provide even more assistance from private donations," said Byron Scheuneman, vice president and chief financial officer for ADRA International.

While ADRA addresses the pressing needs in the country at large, the Seventh-day Adventist church in Sri Lanka is focusing its energy on locating and aiding members who have been affected by the disaster. About 20 Adventist congregations in Sri Lanka are located in coastal areas. Most of these, however, were evacuated during the time of the tidal waves.

Locals in Penang, Malaysia attempt to resuce their fishing boats. [Photo: Rachel Phoon/ANN]
According to Pastor W.D. Anthony, president of the Sri Lanka Mission, "In the coastal town of Thoduwawa, many members went inland and stayed overnight in the Adventist church in the village of Diganwala."

He added, "At this time it appears the hardest hit Adventist church is the Kalmunai church." The Kalmunai church is located on the East Coast. The entire city was devastated by the rushing waves. The pastor, P. Jeyraman, was in the town with a friend when the tidal wave hit. They ran inland for 10 miles, not knowing how far the floods would come. Meanwhile, a large truck was thrown on top of Pastor Jeyraman's house, which was also looted.

In Kalmunai most of the church members' houses have been lost or badly damaged, and so far they know of four members who have died in the floods. According to Anthony, district pastor John Appadurai has attempted to visit Kalmunai but could not because the bridges along the road were out.

"We have been in touch with most of the other areas, and at this time it appears that some have lost houses, boats, and all the furnishings and personal belongings in their houses," Anthony said, "There is one Global Mission pioneer unaccounted for in the Southern town of Tangalle, but since transportation and communication have been cut off to that area, it is impossible to know whether he and his wife and child are safe."

Tangalle was completely engulfed in water, and is one of the sites where some of the many foreign tourists died during the tidal wave.

Two Adventist hospitals in separate countries have opened their doors to help victims of the disaster. The Lakeside Adventist Hospital in Kandy, Sri Lanka, has opened a dry rations and clothes-collection center at the hospital, according to Percy Dias, the hospital president. And the Penang Adventist Hospital in Malaysia immediately set up a control center and holding area at the hospital's lecture hall to assist in the relief of the victims of the island's first tsunami attack.

"Our hospital team came together as soon as we received word about the disaster," said the president and chief executive officer, Teddric Jon Mohr.                                                    --Adventist News Network

If you would like to help tsunami victims, visit the ADRA website.


BY BILL KNOTT, associate editor, Adventist Review, with reporting by John Arthur, Trans-European Division publishing director

t's not at all what you would expect in a place like this," says one visiting Adventist leader as he gestures toward the dramatic vista of a nearby fjord.

"Adventist students from Brazil sell a picture book about Africa in the mountains of Norway. Now there's an illustration of a truly international church."

For the 81 young literature evangelists (LEs) who canvassed the length and breadth of Norway in the summer of 2004 to earn tuition money for the fall term at an Adventist college or university, there wasn't a lot of time to linger on the novelty of it all. In a country with 1,700 miles (2,735 km) of coastline, hundreds of fjords, and more than 160,000 lakes, simply getting to their daily sales destinations was challenging enough. Working day by day with one of the most secular populations in northern Europe made the work, well, "interesting."

"The canvassing experience has been without parallel," says Charles Nyaranga from Kenya. "Having worked for six summers in Norway I find that it has helped me to understand people like nothing else ever has."

Nyaranga, who holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and religious philosophy from Spicer Memorial College in India, initially found it strange to encounter so few people who believe in God. In his own land, he says, it is unusual to find people who don't believe in God.

"God has helped me to have many serious discussions about Christianity," Nyaranga adds, "and I have been able to pray with many people." One young mother who had been bedridden for ten years from a spinal cord injury and could only speak to him through a window urged him to call back a week later. Charles prayed for her before he departed, and when he returned one week later, she was feeling much better. Charles also rejoiced when she ordered several of the books he was selling.

Sixty-one of the summer literature evangelists came from outside Norway-47 from Africa, India, and South America, and 14 from the countries of Eastern Europe. They were joined by 20 Norwegian students of the Mattison school 50 miles east of Oslo who targeted some coastal villages on the west coast of the country near Bergen. Together the teams sold books and magazines focused on healthful lifestyle, child rearing, and the modern relevance of Christianity valued in excess of 4.6 million Norwegian krone, or about U.S.$750,000.

One remarkably successful summer LE personally accounted for nearly six percent of the sales-worth more than 281,000 krone (about U.S.$46,000). Peter Ogbuleka of Nigeria topped the sales chart for the second year in a row to help finance his continuing medical studies at River Plate Adventist University in Argentina. He averaged almost 60 hours of work each week during four months of summer canvassing.

Not all of the LEs experienced stellar success, however. Students from Poland, Serbia, and Montenegro found the work more difficult than those from other regions, probably owing to the influx of migrants from former "Eastern bloc" countries who are now attempting to sell a wide variety of goods to the Norwegian public.

Many of the international students took advantage of an opportunity provided by the Norwegian Publishing House (Norsk Bokforlag) to rent a motor scooter for summer use to help them reach potential customers in areas where houses are widely scattered. Cool weather, even in the middle of the summer, made the work challenging to those from warmer climates, and frequent showers in the more mountainous areas sometimes limited their ability to reach far-flung destinations.

Almost all the summer LEs reported strong sales of a highly unusual volume published specifically for their use in the summer program by Norsk Bokforlag. Adventist photographer Tom Schandy's magnificent picture volume on Africa offers stunning images of a land many Norwegians consider exotic and intriguing. The book proved a near-perfect way to pique the curiosity of potential customers, and frequently led to opportunities to place other gospel and health-related literature in the home.

"This project is something of a departure from our usual way of thinking about literature evangelism," says Tor Tjeransen, president of the Norwegian Union Conference. "Our circumstances in this country have required us to think outside the box about many aspects of our approach to the public. Tom Schandy's wonderful volume has opened hundreds of doors that might otherwise have been closed to us, and has ended by extending the range of where we can place message materials."

Church and publishing leaders estimate that nearly 20,000 residents across Norway purchased Adventist books and magazines during the summer of 2004. Opportunities for further Bible study, friendship evangelism, and community contacts have also been greatly enhanced by the presence of so many friendly young Adventists on doorsteps throughout the country.

WORLD CHURCH: General Conference Session Notice
Official notice is hereby given that the fifty-eighth session of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists will be held June 29 to July 9, 2005, in America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The first meeting will begin at 15:00 hours, June 29, 2005. All duly accredited delegates are urged to be present at that time. --Jan Paulsen, General Conference president; Matthew Bediako, General Conference secretary.


Antony Flew and the
Evidence of God

BY TIMOTHY G. STANDISH, research scientist for the Geoscience Research Institute

t is tempting to picture atheists as closed-minded to the evidence of God's workings in nature and the human heart. But this is commonly untrue. Recent news about the once famously atheistic Antony Flew clearly shows this.

After publishing "Theology and Falsification" in 1950, Flew championed atheism for more than 50 years. And yet he is not immune to scientific evidence, stating that he "follow[s] the evidence, wherever it leads." Now 81 years old, Flew concludes that "the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design." Following this evidence of Intelligent Design (ID), he rejects atheism for a god who designed nature.

Flew now describes himself as a deist. He still rejects Christianity, reacting in horror at the thought of the wicked suffering eternally. This shows the importance of clearly understanding God's mercy and holding a Bible-based doctrine of the state of the dead, both of which rule out an eternally burning hell. Flew's pilgrimage from atheism to theism also reveals the ID argument's power as suggested in Romans 1:20, "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (NIV).

Religious motivation is a commonly raised objection to ID, yet Flew, when an atheist, could hardly have been religiously motivated to accept the design argument for God. His design-based rejection of atheism demonstrates that open-minded atheists along with Christians and other religious people can, independent of religious beliefs, see evidence of design in nature. While ID-like Darwinian evolution-has religious implications, ID follows where the evidence leads. It turns out that good science and sound theology converge on similar conclusions.

1 Antony Flew December 9, 2004, "Famous Atheist Now Believes in God,"
2 Antony Flew, 2004, in an interview to be printed in Philosphia Christi,

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© 2004, Adventist Review.