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Croatian Adventist pastor receives 2016 human rights award

Zagreb, Croatia—Adventist pastor Dragutin Matak was one of three individuals awarded the 2016 Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights award Friday, December 9, 2016, at a ceremony in Zagreb. He and Dubravka Šimonović and Inoslav Bešker were recognized for promoting human rights, religious liberty, and interreligious dialogue.

Dr. Matak is an Adventist pastor and theologian who is also general secretary of the Croatian Religious Freedom Association. He involves himself in all of the major religious and politically current issues in Croatia and the Balkans. Among his recent activities, Matak was part of a delegation of religious representatives from Croatia who visited the religious and political leaders of Iran during the summer. As such, his contribution to public life in Croatia is widely known and appreciated.

In his acceptance speech Matak emphasized the need for personal moral responsibility in achieving human and religious freedom.

Dr. Dubravka Šimonović is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and she is a member of the UNHCR Advisory Group on Gender, Forced Displacement and Protection. Dr. Inoslav Bešker has spent a lifetime in journalism and is renowned for his outstanding contribution to human rights. Representatives of the Seventh- day Adventist Church in Croatia and the Adriatic Union supported this achievement by attending the ceremony. [tedNEWS]

The Holy Spirit disrupts Adventist pastors’ meeting at Oakwood University

Huntsville, Alabama, United States—“A God opportunity that I have hungered after for forty years,” said Ben Jones, president of the South Central Conference and chair of the Tuesday morning, December 6, 2016, devotional session where Pastor Tricia Wynn-Payne of Indiana had challenged her congregation to “wait for it.” As many as 1,000 attendees heard Pastor Wynn-Payne speak from Acts 1:4, where the resurrected Jesus commanded His disciples to “wait for the promise of the Father.” “Powerful,” said Dr. Anthony Medley, senior pastor of the Emmanuel-Brinklow congregation in Ashton, Maryland. And Pastor Lola Moore Johnston said, “It was obvious that spiritual warfare took place before. We become overwhelmed by the enormity of the assignment and turn inward to focus on our skill set. But it was evident to me that the preacher took her own words seriously: she waited for it. She waited for the Holy Spirit to do His work in her.” Her ministry gave “unmistakable” evidence of “God’s handiwork,” said Dr. Jesse Wilson, director of the Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Council (PELC), the largest and old- est annual gathering of Seventh-day Adventist pastors and leaders in the world, meeting annually at Oakwood University.

The results were spiritually stunning. “Pastor Tricia disrupted everything,” one attendee said; “the Holy Spirit showed up and took us by surprise.” Pastor Wynne-Payne, a trained physical therapist who left her nets in response to God’s call to pastoral ministry, said she was still processing what had happened, even the day after. The message and worship experience so disrupted the proceedings that organizers spontaneously invited those who were interested to gather in one of the meeting rooms to pray. The next meeting scheduled for that room was long delayed as the prayer session continued for more than an hour. One after another, with no pause between prayers, pastors, administrators, and lay people lifted their voices and hearts to God in confession of sin, surrender to the Spirit’s will, and pleas for His anointing in their lives as well as His church’s program here on earth at the end of time.

As Elder Jones made final remarks and the solemn yet thrilling spiritual experience drew to its close, someone offered a comment that was pregnant with allusion to the historical experience that inspired Pastor Wynn- Payne’s sermon (see Acts 1:4, 5): he had counted the number of people in the room—not a straightforward task, since people were crowded in against the walls and squeezed into corners. Nevertheless, he wanted it to be known that about 120 individuals had been praying in the room. [Lael Caesar | Adventist Review]

Inter-America trains administrators and committee leaders online

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-America Division (IAD) provided their newly appointed church administrators an online orientation to assist them as they lead and make decisions for the fulfillment of the work in its territory.

The one-day training session was organized under the IAD’s Segment Leaders Development (SeLD) program and focused primarily on those who serve on committees and boards, organizers said. It was also open to individuals in key leadership areas in the IAD, including institutions, schools, and churches. It had connections in 280 locations, and more than 2,500 views of the program were accessed within 24 hours after the webcast.

“This is the first time we are reaching all committee and board members across the division in an effort to train and equip board members in their responsibility to help lead this church,” said Israel Leito, president of the IAD.

Many come from various environments and may not understand the organization as it is, noted Leito. Leito reminded leaders that no concentration of authority rests in any of the church’s organizational levels, from local field, union, division to the General Conference level. “Authority is disbursed; committees have authority granted and render accountability to the constituencies they serve,” he said.

Adventist General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson congratulated IAD leaders for the governance training session and encouraged viewers to be loyal to Christ’s church and His mission. “We need authentic, genuine, humble, Christian leaders in the IAD who govern, who supervise, who encourage as Christ did,” said Wilson. “God wants you to be transformed to lead effectively before Christ’s return.” The president reminded leaders to study the Word of God, pray, and share with others about the transforming relationship with the Lord in dedicated service to fulfill the mission of the church.

The online training also included training sessions by IAD executive secretary Elie Henry, division treasurer Filiberto Verduzco, and SeLD coordinator Balvin Braham on the function of unions, local fields, and institutions in the organization; the function of policy in boards and committees; the fiduciary responsibility of leaders; conflict of interest; and groupthink on boards and committees. Viewers were able to submit questions during the program to be discussed during question and answer sessions featured after each training segment during the six-hour program. A case study exercise for leaders was also featured.

Braham said the leadership development the IAD has undertaken for more than ten years is all-important for the church organization to thrive and function effectively in today’s environment of continuous change. Usually, dozens of newly appointed administrators travel to IAD Headquarters in Miami, Florida, for annual development training. But the online program became a cost-effective and time- efficient method to reach the large and diverse group of leaders.

“It is imperative that we invest in training and development to avoid mistakes that result from lack of information and knowledge,” said Balvin Braham. “To deepen or change the organization culture and make the organization relevant to achieve desired results, leader development must be intentional and continuous.”

Leaders were happy that the live, online program had connections in 280 locations, and more than 2,500 views of the program were accessed within 24 hours after the webcast. According to Braham, plans are underway for a face-to-face leader development conference to be held July 10–17, 2017, in Miami, Florida. “This conference will include a wider cross section of individuals. Church elders, pastors, department leaders, and administrators at all levels are invited to attend. [Libna Stevens | Inter-America Division]

To view IAD’s SeLD online training session, visit webcast.interamerica.org.

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