Not only is it fashionable to have conferences in Africa today but it is necessary. Africa is changing so rapidly that without such contacts it is impossible for any one man or group of men to know "What Israel ought to do."
This conference on African trends has grown out of a necessity to sit down together with our leading African workers and discuss mutual problems in the light of our rapidly changing world.
In deciding who should attend the conference, careful consideration to these questions was given: How broad should be the representation? Should delegates come from the ministry only, or from teachers and other workers and some specially suitable laymen also? The year-end division committee considered these questions and it was decided that the conference would be called immediately following the division committee meeting in November, so that the full committee would be present as delegates, which, of course, includes all union presidents and one African field president from each of our unions. To this were added all the senior African workers who were attending the current leadership course at Solusi College, most of whom were ministers, although some were teachers and secretary-treasurers. In addition, several leading Africans of good education were also invited, such as those who had graduated from the first and second college courses at Solusi and who were holding union departmental positions. Several knowledgeable laymen were also invited.
The editor of the Sentinel Publishing House, the editor of the East African Publishing House, principals of training schools, union educational secretaries, presidents of the local conferences of the South African Union Conference, and also all who were on the Solusi staff were invited, if not as conference delegates, as observers. The visitors from the General Conference were: K. H. Emmerson, an associate treasurer, and M. E. Loewen, secretary of the Religious Liberty Department. K. Fleck, secretary-treasurer of the Central European Division was also present. Sabbath school classes were conducted in ten different languages which shows the breadth of representation at the conference, but there was no translation of any other part of the conference. English was the lingua franca used by all the delegates, which in itself speaks of a great advance in worker training.
Time and Place
The conference was held from November 22-27 at Solusi, the first mission station opened among unsaved peoples in 1894. It was named after Solusi, the local chief. Solusi is now Solusi College and is a senior college for this division. The facilities there were the best that could be found in this central area of our division, including a fine church in which to hold the conference.
Hot Issues—Cool Heads
The papers read covered topics vital to the work of God in Africa today. The first was "The Advent Message Cannot Change." However, our way of presenting it should. Next our division president, R. H. Pierson, re-emphasized the necessity to keep our work evangelistic in all its phases. The division secretary then considered the following question: "Are we keeping pace with political trends?" Another was "How can we maintain good relationships with the new African governments?" "The Place of the Missionary in Africa Today" was a lively issue, as was also "Is the African Church Bearing Its Share of the Financial Burden?" Such subjects sparked lively, protracted discussion periods, and while some questions needed tactful answers, never was an issue dodged. Frankness was the rule of the conference, but always tempered with Christian courtesy.
One subject, "Our Relationship to Labor Unions," was very timely for our organizations face this very question today. The advice given in the papers was from firsthand experience with several critical situations that had been resolved with much prayer and the Holy Spirit's guidance. "Education," "Islam and Resurgent Heathenism," "The Pastoral Care of the Churches," and "The Improvement of Our Church Services" rounded out the wide range of topics. The papers read will be kept for future reference, and the earnest discussions will be long remembered as each worker returns to face again, but this time with new confidence, the problems of modern Africa.
You may ask, "Was the conference a success?" And the answer is, "Yes, without doubt the conference was a success." Those of us who attended are sure that the results of this getting together and talking through the new problems and the new facets of present-day Africa has resulted in a stronger bond of unity between the workers of the Trans-Africa Division whether indigenous or expatriate workers. If you could have heard the one speech made by an African pastor from the Republic of South Africa, telling how much he appreciated his European brethren, and how as conditions had changed in South Africa the relationship between workers had actually improved, you would have realized that the Spirit of Christ prevailed. He closed his speech by saying, "We are determined to stand shoulder to shoulder to finish the Lord's work in our land." It cost considerable money to prepare for this conference, but it has been money well spent, and the results of the fresh vision found at the conference will prove it so.
Again and again throughout the conference it was emphasized by our African workers that they still need the missionaries in Africa and that they hoped the missionaries could be with them until the Lord comes. Yes, there is a place for missionaries in Africa today. There is a crying need for more missionaries, missionaries whose hearts are one with Christ and one with any man whatever his race or color, missionaries who have had special training for special jobs, men who have specialized and who can train our African workers to do the Lord's work in the most efficient manner possible.
So let not our young people in the homelands, nor our leaders overseas, give credence to the thought that missionaries are no longer needed or required or wanted in Africa. Until the work is finished in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Elisabethville, and Leopoldville, the Adventists in Washington, London, New York, Los Angeles, and Berlin cannot go into the kingdom of heaven. Our work is a worldwide work and we must go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, and as a people we must keep and expand our international spirit, and our worldwide outlook.
The conference on African trends was a great conference and an important milestone in the history of our missionary program. Those who attended felt the presence of the Holy Spirit and went back to the task of evangelizing Africa with renewed courage and confidence.