Mission to Cities Goals, Prayer Needs Outlined by World Division Leaders at Spring Meeting Session
Church divisions seek to reach the world's largest cities.
Ambitious goals — and audacious prayer requests — were outlined Tuesday afternoon, April 12, by leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's 13 world divisions during the second of three Spring Meeting sessions held at the world church's headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
Homer Trecartin, outgoing president of the Adventist Church's Middle East-North Africa region, said five of the world's "most un-entered cities" are within this area, which is overwhelmingly Muslim. During the past four years, he said, "God has helped the team to plant people in some of the unentered cities. I have seen not just by faith, but actually glimpses of what God is planning to do in MENA."
Trecartin charged Rick McEdward, outgoing director of the Global Mission Centers and associate director of Adventist Mission who was just elected to head the MENA region, to follow through on the start made in the area during the recent period. (Just before the Spring Meeting, Adventist leaders elected Trecartin to serve as director of the Global Mission Centers.)
In presenting their reports, leaders of the Adventist Church’s divisions revealed the creativity found among the world’s 19 million church members when it comes to reaching neighbors with the everlasting gospel.
In the church's West-Central Africa Division, for example, a "center of influence" to be called the Millennium Guest House will open in Monrovia, Liberia, with a goal of reaching higher levels of society. Elie D. Weick-Dido, division president, said five-day stop smoking programs will be offered, along with outreaches to children, women and men, as well as health ministry. The project has attracted the attention of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a noted Christian, who has said she will attend opening ceremonies for the facility.
Raafat Kamal, Trans-European Division president, asked for prayer for the church-run schools in the region, and with good reason. Eighty percent of the students at the Adventist school in Tampere, Finland, come from non-Adventist backgrounds, he said. In Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, the Seventh-day Adventist school is the only Christian school in the entire nation, Kamal said, and is under pressure as a result. He said the division this year is focusing on team-building to implement Mission to the Cities goals during the rest of the quinquennium.
In the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, president Saw Samuel said 12 of the 14 countries in the region are within the "10/40 window," an area defined as a geographical rectangle in the eastern hemisphere between the 10 and 40 northern lines of latitude, where more than 60 percent of the world's population live, most of whom have not yet been reached with the gospel message.He said the church is placing special emphasis on outreach in Buddhist and Muslim nations in the division. Efforts to engage young people in expressing their faith are underway, with a goal of developing a mobile app to meet their needs.
Adventist congregations in nations such as Zimbabwe, a part of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division led by Paul Ratsara, are not allowed to simply grow numerically, he said. Instead, those churches must spin off groups of people to an unentered neighborhood to start a church plant and attract neighbors who haven't yet been reached. He said this strategy would be expanded throughout the division's territory, along with an emphasis on reaching affluent people and meeting their spiritual needs. Ratsara asked for prayer to support outreach efforts in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Harare, Zimbabwe.
On the eastern coast of Australia, South Pacific Division president Glenn C. Townend said, only one in four thousand people is a Seventh-day Adventist. To increase the church's reach there, church-owned real estate is being sold or reassigned to become centers of influence that reach out to a community. When one conference announced it had acquired a home in a certain area for a church plant, the youth secretary asked to be transferred to commence that work, saying that neighborhood contained people he wanted to reach.
Some 72 cities in the South American Division contain more than 500,000 inhabitants each, said division president Erton Köhler. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in that area is investing $7 million to plant churches in these cities, an amount he said would be matched by church unions. Last year, he added, the division planted 1,181 new churches, of which 39 percent were in those larger cities. Division office employees raised money to build a new Adventist Church in Brasilia, capital of Brazil and the division headquarters city. Seventy-one centers of influence are scheduled to open in the region, with Santiago, Chile, a special emphasis area. A center for refugees in São Paulo, Brazil, is drawing praise for its work with Middle Eastern refugees arriving in the country.
"Pray for our work in China," asked Jaiyrong Lee, president of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, where many of the region’s 80 cities of 1.5 million (or more) residents are without an Adventist presence. In many of these Chinese cities, he reported, pioneers are opening health centers which also house rooms for weekly worship and prayer. The efforts are so commercially successful that after a year's operation, part of all of intended division financial grants are refused, Lee said, and the sponsoring organization is asked to use the funds to start additional outposts.
A postmodern and largely secular city such as Los Angeles, California, might seem a tough mission field, but North American Division president Dan Jackson told church leaders an upcoming medical clinic is expected to draw 12,000 people who will be assisted by 4,300 Seventh-day Adventist volunteers. Such clinics, including a 2015 one in San Antonio, Texas, have been great entry points for the Adventist message. Jackson noted that each of the 300 people baptized during a recent evangelistic series in Phoenix, Tucson and Yuma, Arizona, was invited to a picnic the following week, and given a Bible, music and materials to share with others. Outreach training was also provided, he said.
Centers of influence are also a means for the Inter-European Division, said president Mario Brito. In Milan, Egyptian refugees found an Adventist center as a place to learn about Jesus and care for their children. Several have expressed interest in the church and are preparing for baptism and at least one has already been baptized. Brito said the program would expand throughout the region.
Shortly after the end of Spring Meeting, Seventh-day Adventists in Caracas, Venezuela, will welcome General Conference president Ted Wilson and leaders from the Inter-American Division for a worship service with 23,000 people, at which 3,000 will be baptized. This is the result of evangelism in the city and the use of centers of influence to reach people, said Josney Rodriguez, East Venezuelan Union president, who addressed the meeting via Skype.
"We have given to the church members a lot of the instruments" to reach the cities of the Euro-Asia Division, president Mikhail F. Kaminskiy said. But the challenge of reaching many lands within the confines of the former Soviet Union remain. One member in Kazhakstan was jailed for evangelism. Others are finding more success, with young Adventists in Rostov, Russia, using volunteer service In a local hospital as a way to reach patients. In another city, an Adventist worker uses skills from his former work as an acrobat and clown to draw crowds in public, Kaminskiy said.
One enterprising Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Eldoret, western Kenya, part of the East-Central Africa Division has begun an outreach to pastors of other churches, president Blasious Ruguri said. Holding seminars for the pastors on how to minister more effectively, the Adventist Church introduces the church's doctrines and some pastors respond; in one case, the church and its 1,000 members also joined the Adventist movement.
While more than one billion people are to be found in the Southern Asia Division, president Ezras Lakra said nations such as Nepal and Bhutan can only be reached via media evangelism, since proselytizing is forbidden. In India, he said, centers of influence focus on public service and health programs, drawing a positive response. Bible study cards are offered, and the availability of prayer at the centers attracts even non-Christians, he said.