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Pathfinder recounts terrifying experience of Florida high-school shooting

Columbia, Maryland, United States — At  Pompano  Beach Seventh-day Adventist Church, Florida, United States, Samantha Grady, a Seventh-day Adventist and Pathfinder, and her parents, shared parts of the moving testimony of her surviving the mass shooting that claimed the life of her close friend and 16 others at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, United States. Seventeen were killed and 14 were injured when the gunman, a former student, opened fire on campus and entered a building.

According to a news report on NBC Today.com, Samantha was working on an assignment about the Holocaust when she heard two shots in the hall-way. Her best friend pushed her down, and the two then ran toward a big book-shelf. The friend urged Grady to grab a book and use it for protection. Grady was injured but survived. According to family friends, Grady’s friend had been attending church with her. She did not survive.

W.  Derrick Lea, Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) director, stated that while the school had people in place to provide emotional and spiritual care in such situations, the ACS DR team from the Florida and Southeastern Adventist conferences set up a help center at the Pompano Beach Seventh-day Adventist Church, the closest Adventist church to the high school. Lea said, “Our local ACS DR plans to offer this help to the community—if people want to come in and talk—with certified emotional and spiritual care providers and will be prepared to assist if other needs come up.”

Teen survivors called for a march on Washington to demand action on gun control. Cameron Kasky, an 11th-grader, stated that the demonstration should transcend politics. “This isn’t about the Republicans,” Kasky said. “This isn’t about the Democrats. This is about the adults. We feel neglected, and at this point, you’re either with us or against us.”

Many churches within the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church participated in the marches. The North American Division has asked all members to please “keep our communities in prayer.” The Stoneman Douglas High School incident was the 18th school shooting in the United States thus far in 2018. [North American Division, Office of Communication]

Church leaders influence president of Uganda

Kampala, Uganda—Responding to an appeal by Ted N. C. Wilson, the Seventh-day Adventist Church General Conference president, to abolish Saturday exams, Uganda’s leader announced that he would take steps to accommodate the convictions of Adventist students—and also those of Sunday-keeping Christians and Friday-keeping Muslims. As with any successful appeal, seeds had previously been sown by faithful church members and church leaders in the East-Central Africa Division.

“I thank Pastor Wilson for visiting Uganda,” Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni wrote on Twitter. “I commend members of the SDA community in Uganda for their discipline. We shall consider the church’s request about our education institutions not conducting examinations on Saturday.”

He added: “We shall also look at the interests of other Christian denominations that need to be freed from school examinations on Sundays and also for the Muslim community on Fridays.”

Local Adventist Church leaders applauded the surprise development. “This is exciting! Many people have suffered,” said Daniel Matte, president of the Adventist Uganda Union Mission, whose own son had to repeat a three-year state university course in agriculture after exams fell on Saturday.

“This is more than we desired,” said Blasious Ruguri, president of the Adventist Church’s East-Central Africa Division, whose territory includes Uganda. “Everybody is being blessed.”

At the visit, Museveni asked about the origins of the Adventist Church, and Wilson offered a short history lesson, starting with the Protestant Reformation. Museveni seized on the fact that Adventists observe the Sabbath on Saturday, unlike other denominations that emerged from the Reformation.

Wilson expressed gratitude for the government’s support of religious freedom. After that, he made a personal appeal for Adventist students to be allowed to reschedule Saturday exams at public schools.

“No problem, no problem,” Museveni replied. “Why should we quarrel over days?”

Wilson offered a gift of a pen engraved with the name and emblem of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He suggested that Museveni could use the pen to sign important documents or, more important, to underline verses in the Bible.

Wilson also presented Museveni with a leather Bible, Ellen White’s Steps to Christ, and the booklet Help in Daily Living, which contains key chapters from White’s book The Ministry of Healing. He encouraged the president to read Steps to Christ, saying the book’s 13 chapters could be read easily in a single afternoon or between engagements.

 Attendees described the one-hour meeting as a unique worship service that broke usual protocol by replacing political speeches with friendly, spiritual conversation.

 Museveni has donated funds to Adventist projects, including a community center in the western town of Kasese, and he has spoken with admiration about Adventist efforts to improve the well-being of their communities.

“We had an extremely gracious meeting,” Wilson said. “He knows Adventists—in fact he was instructed as a very young schoolboy by Seventh-day Adventist teachers. He holds a warm spot in his heart for that and for what God is doing through His church in Uganda.” [Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission]

Pastors lead thousands in pledge to put God first

Silver Spring, Maryland, United States—Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists recently pledged to put God first in a special commitment ceremony that capped week-long Holy Convocations. These convocations were held simultaneously in Mexico City, Mexico, where 333 pastors from the Central Mexican Union Mission and other regions within the Inter-American Division participated, and in Manado, Indonesia, where 94 pastors from the Minahasa Conference joined in.

A Holy Convocation is a week of intense training and discipleship sponsored by the Stewardship department of a specific union or territory. Pastors and stewardship leaders come together to focus on personal revival and members’ spiritual growth. After morning training sessions, they visit church members in their homes, using a small card with a list of spiritual disciplines as a spring board for conversation. Each evening they preach a series of revival messages in area churches. The highlight of their experience is the Sabbath-morning commitment ceremony.

Pastors and lay leaders encouraged members in different areas: daily personal and family devotional time, improving relationships, establishing healthy habits, witnessing to others, keeping the Sabbath holy, and faithfully returning tithes and offerings.

Marcos Bomfim, director of Stewardship Ministries for the General Conference, says this is the ultimate goal of stewardship ministry. “Stewardship involves more than money. We are not here to work with money! Our main focus is revival and reformation, and pastoral visitation is a key issue. This visitation program is fundamental to pastoral ministry and encouraging the spirituality of church members.”

At the conclusion of the week, pastors and leaders rejoiced to witness more than 14,000 members from the two participating regions recommit their lives to the Lord, pledging to put Him first. [Beth Thomas, Adventist News Network]

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