Aim: A Saving Bridge

Our church's media ministries touch many people in your district. Adventist Information Ministry puts you in touch with those who are ready for your visit.

Richard E. Green is a communications assistant far Adventist Information Ministry in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

How can you reach the unreached? In foreign lands geographic obstacles such as mountains and rivers, barriers of culture and language, and limited funds often hinder evangelists and missionaries. Unfortunately, these same difficulties all too often prevent the message from reaching people right here in the church's back yard, the North American Division.

While not billing itself as a cure-all for this problem, the Adventist Information Ministry (AIM) is working to bridge the occasionally insurmountable gulf between the clergy and the unreached. AIM provides a 24-hour answering service for individual Adventist clergy and their churches, as well as for more than 20 Adventist organizations and media programs.

Here is an example of how AIM, a Harvest 90 Ingathering brochure, and a pair of powerful witnesses worked together in bridging the gap.

 

William Cathey first learned of the gospel message in 1985 while serving time for larceny. At the Salisbury Prison Camp in North Carolina, he became acquainted with John Leffingwell, who gave Cathey several Adventist tracts and books and introduced him to the Spirit of Prophecy and Sabbath-keeping.

 

In April 1986 Cathey mailed to AIM an Ingathering brochure coupon for more literature. In his letter, he asked that an Adventist visit him in the Shelby Prison Camp, in Shelby, North Carolina, to which he had been transferred.

Larry Couture, then a chaplain at AIM, referred the request to Pastor David Prest, Jr., who went to visit Cathey. To Prest's surprise, Cathey was already familiar with the fundamentals of Adventist beliefs, having completed four sets of Bible studies on his own.

Prest continued to visit Cathey regularly, even after he was transferred to a different camp. Meanwhile, Cathey maintained his routine study of the Bible and read all of the Spirit of Prophecy books he had received.

On January 30,1988, Cathey was baptized and became a member of the Adventist church in Matthews, North Carolina. But the story does not end with his baptism. Upon his parole from prison in September 1988, Cathey requested a transfer of membership from the Matthews church to the Adventist church in Gastonia, North Carolina. Prest speculates that Cathey transferred because he likes the Gastonia pastor better. (Actually, Prest pastors both churches!) Truth be told, Cathey requested the transfer because on Saturday night, December 17, 1988 with Prest officiating he married Anne Dowdell, a member of the Gastonia church, and now resides in Gastonia.

John Leffingwell, an Adventist lay man, provided the spark that initiated this process, and AIM fanned the flame, passing the interest along to David Prest, the local pastor.

Passing the names along

AIM has established a careful procedure for making referrals to pastors and churches. Besides checking and double-checking everything to ensure that the names and addresses that we pass along are correct, our process includes assessing the interest of the people who contact AIM.

First, we answer our phones with the generic response "Thank you for calling our 800 number. This is _________ speaking. May I help you?" This opening allows us to answer requests generated by Adventist media programs (the sources of most of our calls), to take Adventist Book Center orders, and to field calls for Adventist Adoption and Family Services, the Association of Adventist Parents for Drug-free Youth, and the many other organizations we serve.

Our operators are trained to evaluate each caller's interest. With experience, they learn to anticipate the caller's needs, to ask the right questions, and to make appropriate offers.

Second, AIM operators attempt to upgrade. After they have placed the caller's order, they ask something like "Is there anything else I can do for you?" This question opens the door for the caller to make additional requests, or to confide to the operator personal problems or conflicts.

At this point AIM operators offer the caller a Bible correspondence course, literature that will meet his or her specific needs, personal Bible studies, or a home visit from a representative of the church. The operators pass the names of those they have successfully upgraded to AIM chaplains.

Third, after an AIM chaplain has checked and approved a name, the chaplain phones the local pastor, giving the pastor the name of the interest and any pertinent information the chaplain has picked up. AIM also specifies the interest's preference as to the time and day to receive a visit. AIM seeks to make these phone referrals within 24 hours of the caller's request for studies or a visit.

Remember the days when, as you followed up referrals from media programs, you often got doors slammed in your face? AIM is striving to make that kind of a response a fast-fading memory. An AIM chaplain contacts each upgraded caller to ascertain the depth of his or her interest in learning more of God's Word. We refer a Bible study to a pastor only when an AIM chaplain has spoken with the caller and verified his or her interest.

Finally, AIM chaplains keep in touch with the local pastors to monitor the progress of the referrals.

As another part of our service, we send out record cards of all calls received to the pastors in the fields from which the calls came. These cards are not interest cards in the sense of persons who want to join the church, but they do pass along to the pastor the names of those in his community who have received literature from the media programs and from AIM.

There is a high correlation between having frequent contacts with Adventists and becoming a member of the church. Many pastors maintain a list of persons in their community who have placed several requests through AIM, and follow a visitation plan that offers these persons further opportunities to learn the truth.

Because the chief aim of our work at AIM is the conversion of many souls to the gospel, we receive our greatest re ward when we learn of the baptism of those with whom we have been in con tact.

Other services available to you

Both in concert with and in addition to conducting our regular media answering service, we believe that we can offer invaluable assistance to you, the pastor. Here are some of our services that could make your job easier:

Answering service to encourage response and attendance. Have you ever put a lot of time, energy, and money into the organization of a seminar or meeting and generated only a small attendance? It is important to give a permanent address and number where people can sign up or get more information about something that has been advertised. Now, would you rather have people calling your place or ours early in the morning and late in the evening to ask about an upcoming meeting?

 

Following a recent It Is Written miniseries on prophecy, more than 21,000 viewers responded. AIM upgraded each caller with an invitation to attend a Rev elation Seminar. Seventeen thousand of those we talked to indicated that they would like to be contacted if a Revelation Seminar was going to be held in their area. A study of Revelation seminars conducted in the Arizona and Rocky Mountain conferences confirmed that in those two conferences alone this referral system produced 300 more baptisms in the first six months of the year after these calls than there had been in the same period of the previous year.

 

Coupons and mailers. AIM processes returned coupons from Message, Signs of the Times, other Adventist publications, and Adventist advertisements placed in secular publications. Readers around the world mail these coupons to our offices. AIM can process information cards mailed in response to your advertisements, including the mailing of information your contacts request.

Radio and TV spots or programs. AIM's 24-hour, 30-phone answering service provides convenient, reliable answering for your TV spots, radio program responses, and media advertisements.

Follow-up and counseling. Do you pas tor a large district? Do you have to re place your car almost every year because of the mileage you put on it in serving your churches? Reaching those people under your care is important, and AIM can help you.

Myles Fudge lives with his parents in Flinton, Ontario, Canada, 50 miles from the nearest Adventist church. One day he picked up a Signs of the Times magazine, read it, and sent in a coupon to AIM requesting Adventist literature and a Bible study course. He also requested a personal visit from a church representative. Months later, after studying with both the local pastor and--by means of the telephone--an AIM chaplain, Myles was baptized. He is now a member of the conference church, and plans to attend an Adventist college to pursue a calling to youth ministry. AIM's telephone chaplain supplemented the local pastor's work in bringing this young man into the church.

Bilingual assistance possible. Do you live in an area populated by various ethnic groups? Does your radio or television dial contain some stations that broadcast in languages other than English? AIM has already fielded calls for several Hispanic programs and for Bible Story advertisements in various Spanish editions of nationally circulated magazines.

Because of the immense staffing challenge handling incoming calls in languages other than English and Spanish would pose, AIM is not currently set up to provide this service. But since AIM operates from the campus of Andrews University, we have the potential for multilingual outreach. More than one quarter of the students attending Andrews come from countries other than the United States, and many of these students are either bilingual or multilingual.

The story of Alfonso and Arelis Duran, a young Spanish couple who joined the church with help from an evangelist, a media program, and bilingual employees at AIM, illustrates what potential there is.

Alfonso heard Adventist evangelist Roland Lenhoff at a crusade in Switzerland in 1977. The message he learned so impressed him that he went to France and attended Saleve Adventist Seminary in Collonges for a time. He studied accounting and took a Bible correspondence course while at Collonges, but he didn't make a commitment to the Lord.

Alfonso returned to the United States in 1983. One day in September, two years later, he and his wife Arelis happened to see an It Is Written telecast on which evangelist Lenhoff was the associate speaker. Alfonso recognized him and called AIM to request the day's offer and the books Cosmic Conflict and Steps to Christ. He also asked for a church representative to visit him and his wife at their home in New Jersey.

 

AIM chaplain Eric Meyerpeter relayed the request to the local church pastor, who passed the information along to Caridad Paredes, personal ministries leader for the Spanish Adventist church in Union City. Paredes studied parts of two Bible lessons with the Durans, and they started attending church. Their attendance slacked off, however, because of work conflicts.

 

AIM chaplains updating the case in March and August 1986 reported that progress was slow. A further follow-up attempt was made in April 1988, but the Durans had moved. Then Dan Schramm, the chaplain pursuing the case, checked in the New Jersey Conference directory. There he discovered that Alfonso was the youth leader of the Union City Spanish church! In July 1987 Pastor Steve Bohr baptized the couple at the New Jersey camp meeting. From the first seedling contact with Adventists, the Durans had developed a blossoming, growing experience in the Lord.

AIM can extend and increase the potential of your ministry. You can use our address or telephone number in conjunction with radio, television, and newspaper advertisements for evangelistic meetings, seminars, or general information about Adventism. But a word of caution! Please contact AIM prior to using our number or address. Call us at (800) 253- 3000 and ask for Craig Willis or Rebecca Lofthouse. We'll be glad to discuss prices and contracts with you.

We're living in a media age. People are accustomed to toll-free numbers for faster, more convenient service. Use this technology to your advantage in disseminating the gospel. Make the callers feel like they're getting a good deal, a freebie, something for nothing. Isn't that a little bit like salvation? In fact, they are getting a good deal, the sort of deal that is guaranteed for a lifetime--and beyond. Give the people what they want and need, and you'll get their attention and the respect that befits a caring and growing organization like the Seventh-day Adventist Church. AIM can help you bridge the gulf to the unreached.


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Richard E. Green is a communications assistant far Adventist Information Ministry in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

August 1989

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