BATTLE CREEK, Michigan — As the 2018 Annual Council of the Seventh-day Adventist Church concluded October 17, reports from Adventist World Radio, Christian Record Services, and related organizations comprised the final session, which was abbreviated compared to the previous three days.
Adventist World Radio president Duane McKey, along with Cami Oetman, vice president for advancement, teamed up to present AWR’s valuable contributions to the advancement of church’s outreach. One of the stories they shared was of a young couple in Zambia. The wife had been a long-time Adventist while the husband was of a different fold. As they approached marriage, he assured her that he respected and supported her faith and desire to go to church on Saturday. He changed his attitude a few months and eventually became coercive, then abusive.
One night, the woman had, on multiple occasions, a quick, simple dream in which she saw a small radio. They didn’t own one, so she found this odd. She awoke later to begin the day’s chores while the husband was out. When he came back, he showed her the new radio he purchased. As he turned it on to find music, the hymn “Lift Up the Trumpet” rang through their living room. Annoyed, he changed the channel, only to hear the same hymn. More annoyed, he turned the dial the opposite direction. You guessed it. That radio could only find the AWR broadcasts.
As she listened to the radio on a daily basis while keeping house, he caught some of the programming from the other room and attempted to use the Bible to disprove the messages. However, he soon reached conviction, encouraged her to return to the Adventist church, and committed to going with her. They are leading members in their local congregation to this day.
Diane Thurber, President of Christian Record Services for the Blind, and Larry Evans, Assistant to the President for Adventist Special Needs Ministries, discussed their collaborative soul-winning labors among those who are differently abled.One sobering fact they shared was how much the deaf community constitutes an unreached people group, as only two percent are Christians. For those interested in learning more, their websites are www.christianrecord.org and www.specialneeds.adventist.org, respectively.
They highlighted the account of a gentleman named Randy, who receives some services from CRS. He is unfortunately laden with three major disabilities: blindness, mutism, and cerebral palsy. He uses a conversation board to communicate and lives in a group home for those who suffer from the latter infirmity. His father called CRS one time to reveal to them Randy’s desire to share the gospel with his neighbors, and recommend that a particular book, which could give these residents some hope, be placed in the home’s library.
CRS was supportive of and pursued the idea. However, they discovered that the book, unbeknown to Randy and his father, who are connected with a different faith, included messages contrary to biblical, Adventist teachings. They prayerfully considered how to address the situation and eventually sent to these gentlemen a carefully crafted letter that thanked them for their zeal, expressed concern about the book, and recommended three similar alternatives for the library.
Randy’s father wrote back and expressed appreciation for CRS’s honesty and compassion and care for his son, indicating he wasn’t aware of their Adventist association. He also requested to receive the same material his son receives so they could study and grow together. Randy wrote on his board that he would like a CRS representative to visit them and see how their mission efforts at the home are unfolding. Diane worked out the logistics of how and when to get from Nebraska to Ohio and met them at Randy’s home, accompanied by the local church pastor. The visit was a wonderful success.
The final segment of the Council was dedicated to a report on the evangelism taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. I have not included any details here due to the sensitive nature of this work. In fact, it was purposely saved for the very end so the live stream could be halted early and not reactivated.
As my interviewees shared their input with me regarding the Council, some common threads ran through much of their sentiments. The proceedings of Sunday figured prominently, the details of which are covered in a separate article by my colleague, who witnessed the proceedings on my behalf due to extenuating circumstances.
Marc Coleman, who works with Adventist Frontier Missions as its international field director, provided his assessment:
I suppose the elephant in the room was the background of the decision on ordination. Of course, that wasn’t directly discussed; the compliance issue was discussed. And I guess what concerned me is that afterwards there have been a number of statements from different entities of the church to come out that let us know that still the decision that was come to still is eliciting quite a bit of backlash [or] reaction, and the reaction concerns me because when we leave, when we made a decision together and when we leave, we ought to know that with quite a degree of certainty that we’ll abide by the tough decision that we’ve made as a church.
Clifford Goldstein, Editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide, was more expressive, calling the “whole divide in the church…exceedingly painful” and “very disturbing.” However, this didn’t set the tone for his overall impressions of the Council. He left Battle Creek with his eyes forward and his head up, so to speak.
I’m always amazed at how the openness, the transparency…you know we had this very heavy meeting on Sunday; strong emotions; yet the floor was opened. It was streamed all over the world. I’ve always been amazed how the Adventist Church operates, and this is nothing new, but just seeing it again Sunday, with the contentious and difficult issue…I just was again taken away by how amazing this church is and just the openness with which we do a lot of our business.
Speaking personally, being aware of what transpired, not only on Sunday, but also three years ago near the Alamo, I was pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the affability and mutual respect that flowed through Kellogg Arena. Kat Taylor, an Oklahoma native and part of the prayer team this week, identified a similar trend.
God’s Spirit was present here. Even though there are differences of opinions and people that have different viewpoints on a variety of topics, God’s Spirit controlled, and there wasn’t negativity that a lot of people expected.
Teresa Sherard of Ava, MO would tend to agree:
I think the conference to me has been really imbued by the Holy Spirit. I think the spirit has been very cordial. People are very free to express their deeply held opinions and values and I think that they were respected, and I think the process was…really led by the Holy Spirit, and I think that things are going quite well.