Trans-Europe, ADRA

Former refugee asks God to bless ADRA

The Adventist humanitarian agency celebrates 25 years in Norway

Norway | Tor Tjeransen, communication director, Norwegian Union

Yaman* fled with his mother and four siblings from the bombs falling on his village in Syria. On a bitterly cold train station at the border of Macedonia, ADRA gave the family warm clothing. Last weekend Yaman thanked ADRA for helping his family. “God bless the work of ADRA,” Yaman said to a large audience gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ADRA Norway.

After a dangerous voyage from Turkey to Greece in a small boat, Yaman and his family headed north by train. At the Macedonian border they met Britt Celine Oldebråten from ADRA Norway. Oldebråten serves as part of the ADRA emergency response team. As the thousands of refugees came off the train to continue their journey on foot, she instantly realized that many of them did not have adequate clothing to protect them from the icy winds.

Oldebråten immediately organized winter jackets for the refugees. As she was handing out food she also learned that one of the families were headed for her home country.  Their father had already arrived there some time earlier.

Normally ADRA employees will not give out personal contact information, but it seemed important to Oldebråten to know what happened to the family on their way to Norway. “Please, tell me when you have arrived safely in Norway,” she said.

To both her surprise and that of Yaman, the family came to live just a few kilometres from her home.  On Saturday, 21 April, Yaman’s entire family were delighted not just to come, but to take part in the 25th anniversary celebrations.

Praise from government agency

During a Sabbath afternoon program, Frederikke Storaker Kilander, Assistant Director at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), praised ADRA for their fine work. She stated that the government agency was particularly grateful for the way ADRA Norway is doing development work in very challenging conflict areas. Kilander quoted at length from an assessment report made by an outside consultant, praising the efficiency of the ADRA operations. “Please continue your work for those who need your help the most, and we look forward to a continued good working relationship,” she said.

The Adventist church in Norway organized ADRA Norway as an independent foundation on April 19, 1993. Up until that time the humanitarian work of the Adventist church in Norway was organized as a department of the church. Many Norwegians have over the years contributed significantly to the work of the international ADRA network.

How does God look on the plight of children?

During his Sabbath morning sermon, Jonathan Duffy, President of ADRA International, asked, “Does God look differently on the suffering of children in Malawi than the children of Norway?” He told the congregation that every day of the year, there are as many children dying from preventable diseases as if 100 planes had crashed. According to UNICEF statistics: 15,000 children under the age of five die every single day.

Noting Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 5:13 that “You are the salt of the earth,” Duffy reminded the congregation of their responsibility to help correct social injustice. He quoted John Stott who addressed pressing issues in his book  Issues facing Christians Today:

“If society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked. The question to ask is, ‘Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?’”

Duffy pointed out that there is an increasing awareness in development circles of the important work churches are doing in helping to relieve suffering and create lasting change. The fact that ADRA is closely connected to the Adventist Church is a great asset.

While Trans-European Division president, Raafat Kamal, could not be present at the event, he sent personal greetings that reflected on interactions he had experienced with ADRA Norway ‘on the cutting edge’.

During the weekend celebrations, ADRA highlighted how the agency is helping to reach some of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals the nations of the world have agreed to pursue. ADRA Norway, in cooperation with Norad, has specialized in contributing to Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. This is an area where the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a lot of experience through it’s global network of schools and universities.

ADRA Norway has over the years become a trusted partner for Norad. This is evident from the rise in funding Norad is channelling through ADRA. In 2010, Norad released grants of approximately US$630,000 to ADRA projects. In 2018, that sum has grown to US$10 million. Managing such large sums on behalf of the Norwegian government is a responsibility the members of the ADRA team take very seriously.

Currently ADRA Norway are managing development projects in Ethiopia, Niger, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan and Thailand.

*Not his real name.

Based on an article first published on the website.