Albanian church celebrates 30th anniversary
Sabbath, April 23, 2022, was a day of celebration for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Albania as hundreds gathered in Tirana to praise God for the 30th anniversary of the church’s establishment there. Leaders from the Albanian Mission and the Adriatic Union were present, and many international guests joined online.
Audrey Andersson, executive secretary of the Trans-European Division (TED), thanked the church in Albania for its commitment to mission and delivered the best wishes of Raafat Kamal, TED president. “We’ll soon celebrate in heaven, as Jesus is coming back soon,” Andersson remarked. Officers of the Adriatic Union Conference (AUC) also thanked church members for their commitment and resilience.
Delmar Reis, Albanian Mission president and organizer of the event, shared a glimpse into the future of the Albanian church, and participants shared touching testimonies, inspiring songs, and heartfelt prayers.
Sali Berisha and religious liberty
The climax of the program was a congratulatory video message by former Albanian president and prime minister Sali Berisha. “Thousands of Albanians have been helped by the Adventist Church and by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA),” he stated. Berisha, who had seen the birth of the Adventist Church in Albania during his tenure, said that “Adventists are like the good Samaritan in the Gospel”—always ready to rescue and help.
In 2012, Berisha was commended by the Religious Liberty Association for the outstanding and exemplary level of religious liberty and the peaceful coexistence among religions in Albania. The same year, Bertil Wiklander, then president of TED, presented Berisha with a plaque in recognition of his unique contribution to religious liberty and the promotion of humanitarian values for the Albanian people.
Berisha recalled how former US president Jimmy Carter, a good friend of his, repeatedly asked him to help and support the mission of Adventists in Albania. “Jimmy Carter visited Albania two times in the nineties,” he said. “On those occasions, but also through letters that I’ve kept, he asked me to [keep] an eye out for the Adventists.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Albania
Adventism in Albania has much older roots, reaching as far back as 100 years. Albania’s Adventist martyr of faith, Daniel Lewis, a pharmacist from Boston, returned to his native Albania in the 1930s to share the Advent message. Following World War II and the installment of a Communist regime, Lewis was imprisoned and tortured. He died in prison because of his Scripture-based beliefs, including keeping the seventh-day Sabbath.
After studying the Bible with Daniel Lewis in the 1940s, Meropi Gjika accepted the Adventist message of Christian hope. When Christian churches were banished from the country by the post–World War II Communist government, Gjika endured more than four decades of religious repression. Despite having no contact with a larger Adventist community, she continued, for 46 years, to put aside tithes and offerings from her small income. In 2001, Ray Dabrowski, then communication director of the Adventist Church, called Gjika an enduring “symbol of faith, hope, love, and obedience.” [Andreas Mazza, TED News]
Sharing books step into the community
More than 65,000 copies of a new sharing book were delivered to communities around Australia and New Zealand throughout May 2022 and the succeeding months. Step Beyond, a paraphrase of the classic Steps to Christ by Ellen White, includes local contact details and special offers to connect with community members who are interested in growing their understanding and experience of faith.
“Steps to Christ is a book many of our church members have read at some point,” said Terry Johnson, president of the Australian Union Conference (AUC). “This new edition is something that we can be confident in sharing with friends, family, and people in our communities.”
Johnson explained that there is currently 1 Adventist for every 406 people in Australia. “If we believe that God is calling all people, we need resources that we can use to share the gospel widely and effectively,” he reflects. “And I believe this particular book is easily shared and accepted, read and digested.”
“Step Beyond is a tangible gift to share Jesus,” said Brenton Lowe, Adventist Media Literature Ministry coordinator. “It serves as a reason to visit our neighbors or invite a friend over for dinner to make meaningful connections and give a hope-filled gift. It is sharing Jesus made simple; you can be a friend and let the message of the book transform their life.” [Nathan Brown, Adventist Record]
Church in Southern Africa opens new media-powered radio facilities
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA
There was joy and jubilation at the Southern Africa–Indian Ocean Division (SID) headquarters in Pretoria, South Africa, on March 6, 2022, when church leaders participated in the long-awaited launching of the Adventist World Radio (AWR) online radio station powered by SIDmedia. More than 150 people, including leaders and guests, attended the event.
The launch of AWR powered by SIDmedia was a testimony that, indeed, dreams do come true, church leaders said. The guest of honor was AWR Africa regional director Immanuel Ogwal from Uganda. He celebrated the historic launch, calling it “a game changer in evangelism.”
Ogwal was one of the first guests to be interviewed live by Sibongile Lugube, one of the station’s presenters and producers. “The launch of this radio station will complement the church’s strategic plan of ‘I Will Go’ as the church intensifies the spreading of the gospel using all forms of media platforms,” Ogwal said. Radio is indeed one of those platforms that can reach some of the most remote areas in the territory, church leaders said.
SID president Solomon Maphosa commended the media ministry, saying this was “the best news and music to my ears, as the church embraces media evangelism as a tool for spreading the gospel.” Maphosa, who is passionate about radio ministry, added, “It gives me great pleasure to be part and parcel of this new vehicle for evangelism. I have worked in radio before, so I know the power of radio. Radio can reach places where some of us as pastors cannot go,” he said.
Speaking on the same occasion, SIDmedia board chair Hopeson Bonya celebrated the work of SIDmedia in using technology to share the good news of Jesus. “The work being done by SIDmedia is very commendable,” Bonya said. “As leaders, we want to promote media evangelism in all its forms so that we can finish the work ahead of us.”
SID executive secretary Gideon Reyneke did the honors by cutting the ribbon at the new SIDmedia studios. Taking to the airwaves, AWR SIDmedia station manager Sipho Kaleni could not hide his excitement as the station harvested the first fruits of the ministry during the Maranatha Drive show. Grace Maoka, who tuned into AWR SIDmedia on the second day of its live broadcast, called the station to say she wanted to give her life to Jesus.
On the first Sabbath after the launch, SIDmedia took the radio station to the people by visiting Mooikloof Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pretoria, South Africa. During this live broadcast activation, eight more people decided to give their lives to Jesus. Leaders believe these first fruits are a sure sign that God’s hand is at play. “We give Him all the praise and glory for all this wonderful work,” they said. [Noel Sibanda, Adventist Echo]