Pastor leads out in refugee assistance program
Bern, Switzerland—Before 2013, Pastor Christian Molke was leading the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the German federal states of Hessen, Rheinland-Pfalz, and Saarland, with 34 pastors, 65 churches, and 4,600 members. In 2016, he found himself signing a contract with the Greek government to build a refugee camp. What a difference three years makes! Molke now serves as managing director of Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Germany.
More than 60 million people around the world are internally displaced, seeking asylum, or living as refugees in other countries. The United Nations has described the Syrian crisis, which has displaced approximately half of the country’s population, as the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.
In December 2016, Molke signed a contract with the Greek government to build a camp in Ktima Iraklis. Iraklis is centrally located with easy access to shopping, a hospital, and schools. At the camp there will be 85 heated residential containers, the size being approximately 25 square meters, each with its own electricity connection, kitchen, and sanitary facilities. In addition, service containers are set up that, among other things, will be used as rooms for social activities, laundry, education, and medical examinations. This is designed to ensure the people privacy and protection and to provide them with facilities to become self-sufficient. The refugee camp is expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of February 2017 and will accommodate up to 550 people.
ADRA has appealed to the international community to find a timely and humane solution to resettling the refugees stranded in Greece and other parts of the world and has called on the international community to address the circumstances that cause people to become refugees. ADRA also calls on pastors to talk to their congregations about what the Christian response should be to these events and how to follow Jesus’ example, even in difficult times.
Seventh-day Adventist churches in Europe have partnered with ADRA on projects to support refugees in their communities. ADRA challenges all pastors and churches to consider whether they have a role to play in reaching out to the millions of displaced people around the world and in our own communities. For Pastor Christian Molke, the answer was yes. [Adapted from Anna Lefik | EUDNews]
Brazil’s Seventh-day Adventists meet community needs
Manaus, Brazil—Following events in Brazil—a New Year’s Day massacre at a prison as well as flooding in the state of Rio Grande do Sul—Seventh-day Adventists in the nation are working to help meet human needs and share an affirmation of faith in the process.
A group of volunteers from the Seventh-day Adventist Church distributed water, food, and the outreach book In Search of Hope while standing in front of a banner stating “We’re here to pray with you” as a way of helping relatives of massacre victims from the prison riots that took place on January 1 in the city of Manaus. The volunteers prayed with family members.
Many of those present were trying to get information about their relatives, while others were there to identify those who perished. A total of 60 inmates were killed. “Many people were unable to eat, in addition to their emotional breakdown. We went to the place to show our solidarity and share hope. We tried to provide aid and spiritual support,” said Pastor Fabiano Denardi, regional publishing ministries director.
Tobson da Silva, a volunteer, said relatives’ mood was one of sadness, pain, and anguish, as some were uncertain whether their relatives were dead or had escaped. “We were there to, in some way, bring comfort in a sad moment such as this.”
This is the second-largest massacre in the history of Brazilian prisons, coming only behind the Carandiru prison massacre, when 111 inmates were killed in 1992.
Five days after the Manaus prison tragedy, thousands of people in and around Rolante, a city in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, were affected as flooding caused major damage to roads, bridges, and thousands of homes.
The Brazilian office of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency brought a truck from São Paulo to Rolante as part of relief operations. The truck contained a kitchen capable of preparing 15,000 meals a day, as well as a laundry that could process 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of laundry an hour. The truck also had an area where people could receive counseling. [news staff | ASN]
Church planting: The focus of South Pacific Division conference
Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia—A church planting conference, held at the Avondale College of Higher Education in Cooranbong, New South Wales, Australia, became a heady mix of tough facts and inspirational solutions.
“Yes, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a problem in the South Pacific Division (SPD),” said SPD president Pastor Glenn Townend in his opening address. “In many parts of our region, Adventists are practically unknown. In Sydney, one of the most extreme examples, you’d need to gather a crowd of 500 people before you’d have a statistical chance of finding an Adventist. Just one.”
“God is trusting us with resurrection power,” said Pastor Townend, citing the apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1. “It’s like we’ve been given a Formula 1 car and we’re just putt-putting along.” Judging by the keen attention and hearty amens, the audience—mostly male but representing a broad spread of the SPD—seemed to resonate with what Pastor Townend was saying and relish the challenge he presented.
“We’ve got just a bit over 200 people here; we had to turn a lot away,” said Dr. Wayne Krause, the SPD’s church-planting liaison and one of the conference’s key organizers. “We’re excited about the number of church members who are here—not just pastors and administrators—it’s around half church members. Because unless church members are planting churches, we’re never going to advance the work. We do not have the resources. And it’s not biblically correct that only pastors plant churches. So we’re trying to encourage many of our church members to see that they can either plant a church or be part of a church-planting team.”
“Have you hung a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door of your life?” asked seasoned church planter Kathy Hernandez, pointing out the spiritual barriers we can put in God’s way. Dr. Kleber Goncalves, director of the General Conference’s Center for Secular and Postmodern Studies and one of four presenters from outside the SPD, made a stark comparison: “We are living in a fairytale when we call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ but only meet for an hour per week. We don’t really care about one another. Jesus never said, ‘Go into the world and make church members.’ He said, ‘Go and make disciples.’ There’s a big difference.”
The conference included a number of church-plant case studies. Pastor Lloyd Grolimund related how the New Hope Adventist church in Sydney’s northwest has grown from “under a dozen” people to a congregation of 300 in less than two years using community service door knocks, a quality worship experience, and live-streamed and televised church services.
Pastor Faafetai Matai, from the Trans Pacific Union Mission in Fiji, recalled his visit to the Lau Valley Adventist Church on the outskirts of Honiara, Solomon Islands. Church members there are successfully reaching people in the seven squatter settlements that surround their church building, establishing regular Bible studies, evangelistic video viewings, worship services, and even a school.
“I think we’ve made the mistake of focusing on membership,” said Pastor Townend. “Being a member is important, but being an ongoing disciple grows out of that. We’ve also focused on knowledge—knowing the fundamental beliefs—again, important, but actually living them and learning how to be a ‘loving and loveable Christian’ and involved in the different disciplines of being a disciple is what we’re focusing on. And it’s very biblical, and many people are realizing the need and seeing results by following the biblical plan.”
“Multiplying Disciple Planting Churches” was the official title of the conference. Repeated communications coming from Pastor Townend and other church leaders have made it abundantly clear that “discipleship” is a key theme for the SPD. But how does this fit into church planting? “The reason we plant churches is that they’re the best place to grow disciples, to make disciples,” said Dr. Krause. “New disciples go best into new communities.” So what is so special about new church communities? Dr. Krause explains: “It’s new. It’s something I can get involved in. The jobs aren’t already filled. The same person hasn’t held the eldership role for many years. New people, young people, are encouraged to get involved. There’s an excitement because no one has told them it can’t be done.” [Kent Kingston | Adventist Record]
administrators—it’s around half church members. Because unless church members are planting churches, we’re never going to advance the work. We do not have the resources. And it’s not biblically correct that only pastors plant churches. So we’re trying to encourage many of our church members to see that they can either plant a church or be part of a church-planting team.” “Have you hung a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door of your life?” asked seasoned church planter Kathy Hernandez, pointing out the spiritual barriers we can put in God’s way. Dr. Kleber Goncalves, director of the General Conference’s Center for Secular and Postmodern Studies and one of four presenters from outside the SPD, made a stark comparison: “We are living in a fairytale when we call each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ but only meet for an hour per week. We don’t really care about one another. Jesus never said, ‘Go into the world and make church members.’ He said, ‘Go and make disciples.’ There’s a big difference.”