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Youth Evangelism Goes High-Tech

BY TAASHI ROWE, Adventist News Network staff

Adventist leaders in Germany and Switzerland say an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people tuned in to the second Youth Satellite Evangelistic conducted by the church late last year.

Link2Life (L2L), an eight-night event, allowed young people to attend a live evangelistic series at the Marienh�he Adventist Church in Darmstadt, Germany, or watch from satellite downlink sites or over the Internet. The programs appealed to today's media-driven culture with titles such as: I'm 'live!, Be a Star!, Backstage, Delete, and Sex Sells.

"We used entertainment lingo that youth understand to explain a spiritual topic," said Stephan Sigg, German Swiss Conference youth director who spoke all eight nights. He explained, 'Be a star' paralleled the recent glut of reality talent shows. You have to give a good performance in order to get noticed and to get enough votes. This is even true in our daily life. But there is no [audition] for heaven, no performance to deliver. Jesus accepts and loves you just the way you are."

Another topic, Delete, spoke of God's anti-virus program. "As users of the Internet we need virus protection, firewalls, and so on in order to prevent our computer from a system crash. Jesus is God's anti-virus program that saves and protects us from the consequences of sin," Sigg said.

"The program was very different from the normal church experience," said Martin Mainka, 14. "The music was better and the message was understandable for young people." The setting mirrored an Internet caf�, with sofas, tables, a live band on one side, and young people sitting on stage during the program. Each evening there were three young people who moderated the program, performed music, and conducted interviews with young people. There was a segment that showed photos, homepages, and comments sent in by other young people. These were followed by quizzes. There were also short episodes of a soap opera played every night that matched the topic of the evening.

With a theme of Trust, the stage and setting was like an Internet caf� with sofas, tables, a live-band on one side and young people sitting on stage during the program. [Photo: Link2Life]
One youth pastor described the diverse group of people who came to watch the program at his church as: "pierced, long-haired, old, children, trendy ones, whole families, and all of them feel comfortable together, although they are a mixture of people and some do not understand yet what it is all about, this Jesus."

Martin Knoll, youth director for the North German Union who coordinated the program, reported receiving 1,000 e-mail responses from visitors and viewers.

L2L is a biennial evangelism event organized by the Adventist Media Center in Germany, which produces the "Stimme der Hoffnung" broadcast. Its aim is to reach youth via satellite, particularly those who do not attend church. The first L2L was in 2002, organized by the local conferences in Germany and Switzerland. That program led to more than 70 baptisms. This year nearly a third of the people who attended the event were not members of the Adventist Church, said Sigg.

Suicide Truck Bomb Damages Bagdad Adventist Church
A suicide truck bomb, which rocked the center of Baghdad March 9, broke the two remaining stained glass windows of the Baghdad Seventh-day Adventist Church. The blast also shattered the floor-to-ceiling window, which separates the parents� room from the worship hall inside the building. The explosion occurred close to Iraq�s Ministry of Agriculture, just 100 metres (109 yards) from the church, at about 6.30 a.m. local time. No church members were inside the building at the time.

The Baghdad church has now been damaged three times during the last 17 months. A car bomb at the Red Cross building in October 2003, located just 200 meters (118 yards) from the church, took out several windows and covered some of the church�s office workers with glass. Then in September 2004, a car packed with 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of explosives was detonated just outside the side entrance of the church, causing U.S.$150,000 worth of damage. Nobody was injured.

A suicide truck bomb, that went off 100 meters from the Baghdad Seventh-day Adventist Church, broke its two remaining stained glass windows. [Photo: Middle East Union of Seventh-day Adventists]
The Baghdad Adventist Church was deliberately targeted, church sources said of the September 2004 incident, which prompted church leaders, out of concern for members� safety, to cancel Sabbath services and advise members to meet in homes.

�A few days ago we were rejoicing that worship services had resumed at the church after the September incident,� says Michael Porter, Middle East Union president. �Now our Iraqi brothers and sisters must endure another period of uncertainty.�

Basim Fargo, secretary for the Adventist Church in Iraq, reports that extensive repairs had been undertaken during the last several months to replace the entire electrical circuit that was damaged by the September blast. �We have boarded up windows and done what we can to make the church premises barely usable, but much of the building remains unrepaired.� So far, all efforts to secure funding for the repairs have been unsuccessful.

�This latest hostile incident, while not specifically targeting the Adventist church, could not have come at a worse time for the morale of our members,� says Homer Trecartin, Middle East Union secretary-treasurer. Already the church administration in Iraq has received 24 requests for membership transfers in 2004. That translates to one Iraqi member in every nine emigrating to a congregation in another country. The indication is that many more have already left without officially transferring their membership.

�While we are eager for our members to remain and flourish,� says Trecartin, �these latest statistics are hardly surprising. Their daily routine of insecurity is nerve-racking. They cannot see the situation improving. We are praying that the Lord will give the Adventists a supernatural courage and make them a force of peace in this land of turmoil.                 --Middle East Union Communication Department/AR.

Hillary Clinton to Headline Religious Liberty Dinner
Liberty magazine and North American Religious Liberty Association (NARLA) are teaming up with the International Religious Liberty Association for the third straight year to present the annual religious liberty dinner on April 7 in the U.S. Senate Caucus Room in Washington, D.C. This years' keynote speaker will be Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. The first year Congressman Christopher Smith, who has done an outstanding job supporting religious liberty around the world, addressed the group.

"Our first two years we had Republican presenters [Congressman Christopher Smith of New Jersey and Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas]," notes James Standish, NARLA executive director. "This year, it was important to have a Democrat. Senator Clinton has provided critical support for the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, and that is something we greatly appreciate as we work to ensure every believer is treated with the dignity and respect their fidelity to God deserves."

Two years ago, President George W. Bush appeared in a church sponsored video promoting Liberty magazine and complimenting the Adventist Church for its religious liberty initiatives.

"The purpose of inviting key congressional leaders to present at the dinner is not to endorse the full range of their policies," says Liberty editor Lincoln Steed, "rather, it is to hear their views on religious liberty issues, expose them to our views, and to thank them for the ways they have supported religious liberty over the years."

In past years, attendees at the dinner have included diplomats from more than 30 nations, representatives from the White House, state department, justice department, Congress, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom, and Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe; and representatives from many religious groups.

"This year is going to be particularly special," notes Standish. "We are extending invitations to NARLA members to attend the dinner and related events. Other activities include a training sessions for religious liberty activists, visits to members of Congress to talk about religious liberty initiatives, a day long Constitutional history trip to the homes of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, and a seminar on America and Islam in Prophecy."

To learn more about the dinner and related, events, and how to become an active NARLA member, visit Space is limited, so it is important to RSVP as early as possible.

Churches Attract Immigrants by Teaching Them English
A growing number of congregations across the country are carrying out the biblical directive that Christians make disciples of all nations by introducing ESL (English as Second Language) programs. Some supplement them with career and citizenship help, child care, and other services.

At West End Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee, volunteers teach immigrants not only how to conjugate verbs but how to ride the bus. They take immigrants to baseball games, invite them home on Thanksgiving Day, and encourage them as they obtain green cards and buy homes.

"I entered this [program] first to improve my English," says Junjun Huong, a medical researcher at Vanderbilt University and a success story of the church's ESL program. "Then I start the Bible. From studying the Bible, I love Jesus."

The Nashville congregation is one of more than 100 offering ESL programs through FriendSpeak, the domestic part of the international mission group Let's Start Talking, based in Bedford, Texas.

--Religion News Service.

Christian Leaders Hold Historic Meeting in Myanmar
For the first time since the once-open nation of Burma entered a phase of martial law, renamed itself Myanmar, and turned away from significant contact with the world, more than 40 leaders of that Christian community met in Rangoon, Myanmar, on February 10 to express their commitment to religious freedom and Christian solidarity. The occasion for the meeting was the visit of John Graz, secretary of the Conference of Secretaries of the Christian World Communions and director of the General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department (PARL); Lincoln Steed, editor of Liberty Magazine, and Hiskia Missah, PARL director for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division.

The Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC), the umbrella group most recognized by the government, called the meeting and invited a number of Christian groups not normally associated with the MCC.

Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country, and Christians make up only 6 percent of its 52 million population. About 25,000 Adventists live in Myanmar.

Smith Za Thawng, general secretary of the MCC, and Saw Mar Gay Gyi, MCC president and general secretary for the Myanmar Bible Society, welcomed the overseas guests, which included Christian delegations from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar, the Myanmar Evangelical Christian Fellowship, the Church of the Brethren, Mynamar Baptist Convention, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The group discussed ways to maximize Christian cooperation in Myanmar.

"This is an important time," said Thawng, "because in a few days Mynamar is beginning the process of developing a new constitution."

The MCC leadership expressed appreciation to the Adventist Church and Kenneth Htang Suanzanang, president of the Upper Myanmar Mission, for working with them to make the gathering possible. More such consultations are being planned.

--NAD Public Affairs and Religious Liberty/AR.

ADRA Completes Batwa Pygmy
School Project in Uganda

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Uganda has recently completed a Ntandi Pygmy Primary School rehabilitation and construction project in Bundibugyo district, western Uganda. The project has improved the learning environment of Batwa pygmies and other children through the rehabilitation and completion of a five-classroom block. Local leaders and the Batwa pygmies were actively involved in project activities. Nearly 120 pupils are now attending classes from grades one through four.

During the rehabilitation three classrooms were renovated and furnished, and two new classrooms, an office, and latrines were constructed. Funding for the project was provided by ADRA International and private donations.

For more information about ADRA, go to       --ADRA/AR.

News Note:

  • Because of a major appeal to help with relief work launched just days after the devastating tsunami hit the coasts of Southeast Asia, about �236,000 (US$451,000) has so far been donated to ADRA/United Kingdom for tsunami relief.                                         --BUC News/AR.


    Spending Questions

    NATHAN BROWN, editor of the South Pacific edition of Signs of the Times and the South Pacific Division Record

    With each holiday- or special event-driven spending spree, the media and political leaders continue to send mixed messages. Of course, the loudest voices are the ubiquitous advertising campaigns, sales, and special offers. The message is simple: "Buy, buy, and buy some more!" Whatever the occasion, buy for your loved ones to show them how much you love them; buy for yourself-you work hard and you deserve it.

    In the background the politicians and economists tell us it is good news that consumer spending continues to grow. In a recent report, spending is up 9 percent in Australia, compared to the same period a year ago, with suggestions that this trend will continue. In just a two-week period last December, Australians spent A$8 billion (about US$6.3 billion). It's good for the economy, so it's good for the country, say the experts.

    But at the same time, less-heard voices are warning that Australia's credit card debts have hit a record A$28.2 billion (about US$22 billion). That's up 13 percent from the previous year, and double that of just four years ago. It's an impressive figure among just 20 million Australians.

    Last August I participated in the South Pacific Division's stewardship summit. Among topics considered was the potential impact of such consumerism upon giving patterns in the church. But rather than our Christian commitment being seen as a victim, it would be better if the church held up the true answer to and protection against these trends: "Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing [and all the other stuff we buy]? . . . Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern" (Matthew 6:25, 32, 33, NLT).

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    © 2005, Adventist Review.