A new resource for a new world:

An interview with two ESDA editors

Editor’s note: The editors of Ministry interviewed David Trim, PhD, the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research director and the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA) editor, and Dragoslava Santrac, PhD, the ESDA managing editor.

Pavel Goia (PG): We’ve seen ESDA—it looks tremendous! Please tell our readers exactly what ESDA is and how it is different from anything we’ve had before.

David Trim (DT): The Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, or the ESDA Online, is the Adventist Church’s first online reference work. It is a global church project that includes an estimated seven thousand entries accompanied by photographs, media, and original documents in an online portal accessible to anyone. The ESDA Online is a great tool for those seeking to do research and learn more about the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church around the world. But it is also full of inspiring stories that everyone will enjoy about how God has led the SDA Church in the past.

The first encyclopedia came out in 1966 and was revised in 1996. It was decided that the SDA Church needed a new reference work that embodies the diverse Adventist Church of the twenty-first century, reflecting the tremendous growth in the church in the last fifty years and the shifts in global membership. It also needs an online encyclopedia in this digital age, capable of interactive engagement by visitors. Available to the public since July 1, 2020, this free website will be continually updated and expanded.

Dragoslava Santrac (DS): Yes, and the ESDA draws on the expertise of over fifteen hundred authors worldwide. About fifty-five assistant and consultant editors from the church’s thirteen world divisions, the General Conference–attached union missions, and the General Conference headquarters work together on the encyclopedia. This worldwide assistance is bringing about a beautiful, well-rounded perspective of work carried out by local people and loyal missionaries.

PG: Is encyclopedia.adventist.org easy to use?

DT: Yes—and it’s free! The search field is prominently displayed, where users can type a name or term they want to explore. The search results page will immediately list all the relevant published articles and also show if some related articles are still in progress and upcoming. In addition to this simple search option, users can choose advanced search options and search topics by world division, country, or article categories. Thus, for example, one can search for missionary biographies pertaining to China only or the Inter-American Division, and so on. Finally, one can choose to simply browse all articles from the left side menu and access the entire article list. The main menu is always displayed on the left side of the page, and it provides information on the editors, authors, useful links, how to get involved, videos, et cetera.

DS: Also, on the right side of various articles, there are two sections: one called “More Photos” that is a photo gallery and one called “Related Content” that may have videos or PDFs of books and readings that go with the topic of the article being read. There is also a whole section called “Videos” that is constantly being populated. We also want to collect audio pieces for the ESDA.

Jeffrey Brown (JB): The ESDA has been live for almost two years now; how has the response been? What are the more popular categories?

DS: Our visitors have been very enthusiastic! They have been motivated to go through their own photos, letters, and other historical documents, and they call us and want to donate what they find. The ESDA had nearly twenty-eight thousand unique visitors during the month of March 2022. That’s almost three times more than in March 2021. However, we want more people to be aware of and use encyclopedia.adventist.org.

As expected, given that the ESDA articles are mostly in English right now, most visitors are from North America, Australia, Western Europe, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and the Caribbean, but many visitors also come from South America, especially Brazil, and the Philippines. In fact, I am excited to see visitors from almost every country in the world!

DT: The beauty of the ESDA being online is that we have been contacted about changes that are needed. Before, with a print encyclopedia, changes would have been impossible until another reprint. With this fluid online format, we can make necessary changes easily.

DS: The most popular category is biographies, especially life stories of missionaries. The next most popular category is country articles that tell the history of how the church developed and grew in certain parts of the world. Issue articles also attract many visitors (e.g., Adventist views on science and religion).

PG: How does the ESDA team make sure that we have an accurate picture of what happened?

DT: We have very strong quality assurance measures in place. All ESDA articles are signed and include notes and sources. They have been carefully peer reviewed. The goal of each ESDA article is to be primary source–based, honest, comprehensive, and thoroughly researched. Our “History of Theology” articles, which are about our beliefs and the way they developed, are scrutinized by a special committee of theologians and historians.

It takes a lot of time to find proper peer reviewers. So, if there’s a pastoral professional reading this that has expertise in a certain subject and wants to be a peer reviewer, please reach out to us. That would be very helpful to us.

All that is important because the ESDA seeks to supply reliable information on Adventist history. At the same time, the goal of each article is to be fully understandable to both church members and the public.

JB: As you know, pastors are busy with many tasks. So tell us, why should the pastor stop and take the time to look at the ESDA?

DS: First, use the ESDA as part of nurture and retention. Many ESDA stories showcase God’s deep care for us and can lead someone to trust God for the first time or anew. Reminding members of God’s personal interest in His people in the more recent past can rekindle a love for God. The ESDA shows how God led His church through challenging times and helped His people correct and learn from their mistakes, and all that can ignite hope and reconciliation.

Second, the ESDA provides fantastic materials for sermon illustrations, mission stories, youth and children’s programs, and prayer meetings. It can be especially useful in narrative preaching. Go through the ESDA and find a story that can be used to strengthen the theme of the sermon. Hang your point on a story from Adventist history!

Teachers and pastors can have a week of prayer about God’s wonderful leading of His people in recent history and base their sermons on the ESDA articles from their territories and use many photographs on the ESDA website for visual presentations. Do you have the next children’s story? Visit the ESDA for an abundance of motivational and captivating stories!

Third, church administrators, evangelists, and others who minister to people worldwide can use the ESDA to learn about the regions that they visit. Articles in PDF format can be downloaded from the ESDA website and shared in places with no internet access.

DT: We’ve heard reports of many local churches being revived because they now are reassured that what was done or happened in their part of the world matters to the world church.

Use the ESDA to encourage people to get involved in preserving their Adventist heritage and local church history. Get your young people excited about what happened in their area and be inspired to share God’s love like others have in the past. Have them talk to the elders in the church, write their church’s history, and collect photos, old bulletins, and other materials to tell their church’s story. It will not be something for the ESDA, but it will bring the church together.

DS: Yes, we have over nine thousand photographs on the ESDA and counting. Many of them have never been seen before as they were found in the archives of various institutions or belonged to families who recently shared them. So, there’s a lot there that can be used as literal illustrations for preaching and teaching.

JB: Would the ESDA be helpful for non-Adventist visitors as well?

DT: Yes, we believe so. For those who have met an Adventist, encountered an Adventist institution, seen an Adventist TV show, or tuned into an Adventist radio station, and have asked the question, “Who are these Adventists?” one of our hopes is that a Google search would show at the top the result from encyclopedia.adventist.org so that they get authoritative, balanced, reliable information. It also shows that we have nothing to hide.

PG: I believe stories are important. Can you share a specific story or quote from the ESDA that you think will appeal to our readers?

DT: Of particular relevance to your readers, the ESDA has many articles on pastors, evangelists, and administrators, like E. E. Cleveland, an exceptionally gifted preacher who trained thousands of pastors and ministerial students in evangelistic methods. It also has unsung heroes of pastoral ministry, such as David Sibley, who gave forty-one years of service as an evangelist and deeply respected administrator for the church in the South Pacific. These stories are insightful and encouraging.

DS: When E. E. Cleveland conducted his first series of evangelistic tent meetings in Fayetteville, North Carolina, storms blew the tent down twice, forcing the postponement of opening night, and only fifteen people showed up when it finally arrived. But Cleveland refused to lower either the fervor of his preaching or his expectation of success. With no funds available, he reserved airtime for a radio broadcast live at nine-fifteen Sunday mornings on WNCP in Fayetteville, promising to pay when he arrived for the first broadcast. His church members responded enthusiastically with the funds needed for the broadcast. By the end of the three-month series, eighty-four people were baptized.

Then we have a special poem, “Miracle” by Alfonso Anderson, who, with his wife Mayte, devoted more than thirty years to pioneering mission work in Japan and in the Philippines, where they survived three years in the harsh conditions of World War II internment camps. In the first stanza, it says, “I ask for neither name nor niche in corridor of fame, . . . nor laurels in earth’s game.” Read the rest of Alfonso’s poem by visiting encyclopedia.adventist.org.

To honor their legacies, the ESDA must not be seen as the Adventist “hall of fame.” If we want to truly honor our pioneers and past missionaries, we should let their stories, of forgotten heroes, inspire us to action, unity, and faithfulness in the Lord’s work.

JB: You have mentioned that this is really a worldwide project with over fifteen hundred participants. But what about your visitors who do not speak English?

DS: As one of the main goals of this encyclopedia is to be a missional tool to “reach the world,” it becomes necessary to make the ESDA available in as many languages as possible, not just in English. I am happy to say that we’ve made progress with this and already have articles available in Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, and Korean. We are still looking for ways to add more translated articles and include more languages.

DT: If there are pastors or church members who are translators out there who are willing to volunteer their time for the church, please contact us! We would especially like to have articles about a particular part of the world available in the language they understand.

PG: God said, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others” (Hab. 2:2, NLT). Thank you, Drs. Trim and Santrac, for giving our contemporary readers such an accessible resource for accurately conveying God’s message. Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

DT: Yes. We ask that our pastors read the ESDA and recommend it to others. Also, we invite researchers, teachers, students, and members with expertise on many given subjects—not only historians and theologians—to contribute articles on many available topics. Email us at [email protected], and we will connect you with the regional editor in your part of the world where you can become part of this reference work.

We welcome help in other areas, too, including peer reviewing, proofreading, conducting interviews to collect historical information based on overall traditions, and submitting historical documents and photographs. We are also open to considering unplanned articles.

Above all, we invite your readers to use this resource in their ministry. We pray the ESDA will be a blessing to them and their members.

Follow the ESDA on Twitter @EncyclopediaSDA. ESDA tweets are in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus