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Alberto C. Gulfan Jr., longtime Adventist leader in Southeast Asia, passes away

Silang, Cavite, PhilippinesAlberto C. Gulfan Jr., retired president of the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), passed away on September 26, 2015.

Gulfan served the church for 42 years. During that time, he was a lit­erature evangelist, church and district pastor, hospital chaplain, health edu­cator, union health and temperance director, mission president, union ministerial secretary, union executive secretary, and union president before being elected president of the SSD.

He served as the SSD president from 2003 to July 2015. Throughout his tenure, he fully supported world church initiatives and helped develop the Integrated Evangelism Lifestyle initiative for SSD. But for many, he is best known for his passion for evangelism, as he regularly conducted as many as six evangelistic series per year—all while maintaining his busy presidential sched­ule. Elder Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist General Conference, remembers Gulfan as “a wonderful champion of God’s truth and evangelistic proclamation.” Gulfan was a lifelong Adventist. He was married to Helen Bocala-Gulfan, SSD women’s ministries director and Shepherdess International coordinator, for 38 years. He cherished their three children—Helen Zella, Lloyd, and Jarbien Pol, as well as their two grandchildren, Sam and Hugh. [Southern Asia-Pacific Division]

Long-awaited Adventist School Opens in Timor-Leste with 32 Students

Dili, Timor-Leste—For some chil­dren, the start of a school year is a dreaded time as they leave behind their summer fun. However, students at the new Timor-Leste Adventist International School (TAIS) in the capital city of Dili could hardly wait for opening day on September 28, 2015.

School staff anticipated approximately 10 Kindergarten/International School Preparation (K/ISP) students; however, the staff was surprised when almost 30 children enrolled for the K/ ISP class.

Since the school’s temporary building is small, it can accommodate only a few classes at a time. In spite of this challenge, the staff did not want to turn away interested students and parents. They will instead offer both morning and afternoon K/ISP sessions to accommodate all the students. 

Timor-Leste Mission (TLM) administrators credit the unexpected enrollment total to a community approach that involves building rela­tionships and meeting practical needs in the community. Missionary couple Janette and Manuel Lonoza arrived in late June and quickly began making friends with the community children. In July they partnered with church members and One Year in Mission Timor-Leste to introduce informal game times to the children.

Next, TAIS staff offered a free children’s English as a second language (ESL) program. The other component involved TAIS staff visiting homes of potential students and holding an informational meeting for parents. In addition, church members shared news about the school with friends and family.

Next year, the plan is to add grades 3 and 4. In order to do this, a larger, permanent building is needed. Members have been praying for such an Adventist school for years. Donations from the third quarter 2015 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will hopefully make this a reality.

Although the Adventist Church began its work in Timor-Leste in the 1970s, a 20-year occupation of the island by Indonesia halted its activity. Thus, the first Adventist church was finally established in 1992. Organized as a field in 2009 and a mission in 2011, the Adventist Church continues its growth in the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste with one official church in the capital of Dili and more than 500 members in the country. Predominantly Catholic, Timor-Leste is one of only two Christian countries in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division. [Teresa Costello, with additional reporting from Kevin Costello]

Religious freedom takes center stage in Madagascar at Adventist-sponsored festival

Antananarivo, Madagascar—More than 17,000 people rallied in Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, to pledge their support for religious liberty. The day-long Festival of Religious Freedom, held September 26, 2015, was the first such event to be held in that Indian Ocean island nation.

The festival drew community and national leaders, including govern­ment minister Olivier Mahafaly, who heads the Ministry of the Interior and Decentralization. Its purpose, said organizers, was to focus national attention on an often-overlooked, yet fundamental, human right, and to say “thank you” to the national government for continuing to protect the  ability of all Malagasy citizens to worship in peace and security.

John Graz, longtime religious liberty advocate and former sec­retary general of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), gave the keynote address at the festival, which was broad­cast by the national media. Graz also met with Madagascar’s prime minister, Jean Ravelonarivo, and commended the government for its continuing strong commitment to religious freedom and its care for reli­gious minorities. Ravelonarivo thanked the Adventist Church for supporting the principle of religious freedom for all people of faith and spoke about the value Adventists add to Malagasy society through the church’s health and education work.

There are 140,000 Adventists in Madagascar. Just over half the country’s population of 23 million people practice indigenous animist beliefs, while about 40 percent claim affiliation with a Christian denomination. [Laurent Brabant/IRLA Staff] 

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