At the recent Autumn Council we were cheered when Pastor R. Gerber, treasurer of the Southern European Division, told the thrilling story of his recent visit to Russia. He met with some of our believers there and brought greetings from more than 26,000 faithful Adventists scattered throughout the U.S.S.R. Since we have been cut off from this great field for so long, his report, together with W. A. Scharffenberg's rehearsal of his experiences there, was indeed a tonic to our souls.
The president of the Inter-American Division, Arthur Roth, presented the captivating story of the personal evangelistic work of our lay workers. A number have paid the supreme sacrifice for Christ. Nine of our believers in one field lost their lives during the first nine months of this year. But in this same land of turmoil where a few years ago we had not more than 2,000 believers we now have 8,000, and the union leader wrote that "1955 was a wonderful year for us. We baptized 1,322 persons."
In the Inter-American Division today we have more than 112,000 baptized Seventh-day Adventists. The little island of Jamaica alone has more than 23,000 believers—six to every square mile; and Trinidad, four Adventists to every square mile!
Not all areas of earth are as responsive to our message. The Middle East is a contrast. "This is a troubled spot in today's world," said G. J. Appel, president of the division, "but in spite of the problems, the work is moving ahead. More than 300,000 are enrolled in our five Voice of Prophecy schools. Through this work six new places were opened for evangelism within a few weeks' time. In Libya, where the doors have been so long closed to Protestant missions, we opened a small hospital in Benghazi in April, 1956."
In the Southern African Division, the president, R. S. Watts, declared that "a new Africa is pressing upon the world with great rapidity. It is groping for a new kind of self-assertion in world affairs." But there is no continent in the world where the masses of people in widely scattered areas respond more readily to the message of the soon coming of Christ. During the first half of 1956, 7,230 have joined our ranks through baptism, while more than 100,000 are in our preparation classes.
From Southern Europe, M. V. Campbell told of the remarkable influence of the Voice of Prophecy. Even in the old land of Spain, people are responding wonderfully to the message for this hour. Our lay members are witnessing faithfully. One sister dedicated every night of the week to God. As a result of her Bible studies, thirty new members were added to the church.
In Morocco, where thousands of Europeans have lost their lives and property, we are thankful that, to date, not a single Seventh-day Adventist has suffered loss. One of the most interesting territories of this division is the state of Israel.
O. O. Mattison, of the Southern Asia Division, believes that in his great field the greatest upsurge of religious revival in all the world is taking place. Pakistan is the center of a terrific drive for the spread of Islam, while the Hindus are using the evangelistic methods of Christendom to expand their influence.
"In Burma there is a mighty revival of Buddhism," he said, but in this country Seventh-day Adventists have been brought into the limelight in an unusual way. A young man attending the Mandalay University determined not to write examinations scheduled for Sabbath. After a period of considerable trial, final victory came with a declaration that all examinations that had been listed for Sabbath should be changed to another day, not only in that particular university, but throughout all Burma.
In the Far Eastern Division, where we have nearly 85,000 members, F. A. Mote says, "Evangelism is the keynote of the Far East." Encouraging news from free Korea tells how more than one hundred persons are baptized each year as a result of the medical missionary work at the Seoul Sanitarium. Our Voice of Prophecy workers there are grading about 10,000 Voice of Prophecy lessons each month. South Korean church membership has increased 200 per cent since 1952. C. W. Lee says that in North Korea our church is also making substantial gains.
On the island of Formosa two young men from our new training school called at the police office to secure permits for canvassing. When they explained their work to the policemen, the officers were so impressed that they said, "This is a wonderful work you are doing. We will gladly issue you permits. More than that, we will go with you ourselves and introduce you to the people in their homes."
W. E. Murray, president of the South American Division, told us that we have more than 80,000 baptized believers there. "Evangelism is our keynote," he said. Throughout 1956, more than 120 evangelistic campaigns were conducted. In the city of Tucuman, in northwest Argentina, one of the banks of the city paid all the travel and hotel expenses of forty young choir members from our River Plate College so they could attend the city evangelistic meetings. The young people sang to a large audience, including the governor of the state and seventy members of the government and army.
Many unusual things seem to happen in South America. A dog that had wandered away from home for several days finally came back; but he carried in his mouth a Bible-story book. Where he got it nobody knows. But it interested the young son, and his parents too. A few days later a colporteur called at that home. He was selling a book similar to the one the dog had brought home. The family bought this new book and some other literature. Later they accepted the message, and the man is now building a new church for the believers there and a house for the Seventh-day Adventist pastor. When dogs become evangelists, that is news!
A. F. Tarr brought greetings from the 50,000 members in the Northern European Division. In Iceland a member of parliament expressed the opinion: "People always become better citizens when they join your church." And that surely is as it should be.
There is a new awakening of interest in the country of Emperor Haile Selassie. He has offered to build another hospital in Ethiopia, in a place where as yet we have no work. Moreover, he has offered to pay the salaries of all the doctors and nurses. Our medical missionaries in his land are a noble example of devoted service, and they have made a real impression on this ancient people.
From the Australasian Division, F. G. Clifford told us how in the Bismarck-Solomons Union we have one baptized Seventh. day Adventist for every forty-six persons in that territory. In some areas of New Guinea where we had no work two years ago, thousands are now turning to the Lord. In Australia our church enjoyed a 44-per-cent growth between the years 1947 and 1954.
L. C. Naden, division secretary, told of encouraging openings on television in Australia. The minister of one of the largest Protestant congregations in Sydney arranged for a showing of Faith for Today in his church. The place was packed as they listened attentively to our televised message. It is anticipated that our TV programs will have a mighty influence in that field.
Wilhelm Mueller, of the Central European Division, told of the work in Germany, where we have 25,000 believers in the West and 19,000 in the East. "We have many handicaps," he said, "yet the faithfulness of our brethren in the observance of the Sabbath and in returning to God the tithe is always a source of great encouragement."
One could not listen to accounts like these without recognizing the urgency of the hour in which we live. It is a supreme hour—God's supreme hour. He is ready to work with us as never before. It is a time that calls for complete dedication, for the hour of triumph has struck. God's call today, like His call to ancient Israel, is, "Go forward!"