Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the global Seventh-Day Adventist Church, opened the Annual Council session on Tuesday morning, for the first time on Zoom. Wilson emphasized the times we are living in are “highly unprecedented, but God has worked many miracles for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church during the past few months.” The Annual Council session on Leadership, Education And Development (LEAD), began with a video on prayer, and singing.
Mike Ryan, former vice-president and special assistant to the president, explained why “I Will Go” is the central theme of this year’s LEAD conference. ‘I Will Go,’ the Adventist Church’s strategic plan for the new quinquennium, was originally taken from a mission youth program at River Plate Adventist University in Argentina which has been turned into a global church strategy. ‘I will Go’ aims to revive the concept of worldwide mission by calling each church member to become involved in spreading the Gospel Message. Ryan emphasized, “The most important resource in this church is people filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The presentations highlighted a number of projects happening around the world as examples of the diversity of the ‘I Will Go’ strategic plan. Each project emphasized how ‘I Will Go’ can be implemented easily into people's daily lives.
Linda Koh, Director of Children’s Ministries for the global Adventist Church, outlined the plans for the Armor of God Project, a two-year initiative which aims to help children and youth grow spiritually. “The Armor of God app contains stories, animations, activates, songs and puzzles that encourage young people to learn how to face temptations by putting on the whole armor of God.” It is set to launch in early 2021.
A video from the South American Division shared encouraging statistics on the number of people that are being reached through the internet, radio and television:
· 279,421 daily messages being sent
· 30,000 active students involved in Digital Bible School
· 1 Million people have had Bible Studies online and in print over the past 5 years
· 90 hours of new content is being shared weekly
The goal is to keep the Adventist Church united and integrated at this time, through the use of digital communication tools.
Masumi Shimada, president of the Japan Union Conference, shared his vision for evangelism. Programs such as Youth Rush and Gideon300 have been established to train young people in how to be missionaries. Churches have grown in Japan as a result of prayer and testimony.
One Vision Project founded by Enoch Kanagaraj is an action group in the Philippines that aims to bring people together to share resources and skills. One Vision is made up solely of volunteers who are currently working with 52 different community groups. It has become a center of influence through its work in providing services to the community such as hot meals and counseling services. One Vision has opened the door for interfaith dialogue within the community and outreach has increased by 40% as a result of their efforts.
During his presentation Rick McEdward, president of the Middle East and North Africa Union told how volunteers from Middle East University and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency cleaned up the streets of Beirut, Lebanon after a devastating explosion and took the time to minister to their community. “Evangelism takes on different shapes and forms depending on where you serve,” he said. Although the church is only made up of 250 members, they are making a huge impact in their local community.
A panel led by Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, director of education for the global Adventist Church, featured representatives from Loma Linda University, Andrews University, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies and the Adventist University of Africa tell us how their students and staff are embodying the ‘I Will Go’ initiative during the pandemic. Programs such as P.I.N.S (Promote, Initiate, Network, Service) created by the Adventist University of Africa, encourages students to get involved with ‘I Will Go’ in a strategic way by using the resources they already have to create opportunities to serve the community.
Gary Blanchard, youth ministries director for the global Adventist Church, discussed the importance of young people being involved in mission work by shining a spotlight on Public Campus Ministries. Up to 80% of students who attend secular universities lose their faith while they are there. Public Campus Ministries represents a spiritual identity for young people and allows students to collaborate with universities. “Without the energy and enthusiasm of young people, we will go nowhere. Young people come with strength, courage, motivation and know how.” Public Campus Ministries enables young people to get involved in service and unites youth from across the globe.
Aligning Resources with God’s Mission
Ray Wahlen, Undertreasurer of the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, ended the day by discussing the importance of setting aside budgetary measures to support the ‘I Will Go’ strategic plan. Wahlen encourages church representatives to examine their church budget and consider whether the budget is a reflection of the current goals of the church and in alignment with God's plan. Wahlen emphasized God is in control of the mission and finances. “All we need to do is ensure that the manner in which we spend His resources is in alignment with His plan.”
The first-day of the LEAD Conference came to a close with a short video, featuring church members from across the world, praying “COVID has closed too many churches for too long but we are praying for a miracle, increase the number of church members who pray and study your word. Increase the numbers who worship you every Sabbath whether in church or online and grow your people to the honor and glory of Your Name.”