East-Central Africa, Euro-Asia present five-year reports to Session

East-Central Africa, Euro-Asia present five-year reports to Session

Business Meetings | Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN

Regions face challenges to see growth; a call for church ownership embraced

Newly elected world church Vice President Geoffrey Mbwana introduces a five-year report from East-Central Africa, where until his election today he served as president. [photo: Robert East]
Newly elected world church Vice President Geoffrey Mbwana introduces a five-year report from East-Central Africa, where until his election today he served as president. [photo: Robert East]

Two reports delivered to the Seventh-day Adventist World Session Sunday illustrated the Seventh-day Adventist Church's work in East-Central Africa and in Euro-Asia.

The Adventist Church in East-Central Africa is growing in membership and resources, despite the challenges of rampant poverty and ethnic tensions in the region.

"We have not been alone these past five years," said outgoing regional President Geoffrey Mbwana, recognizing the contribution of resources from other world regions.

"We are here tonight to say 'Thank-you,'" said Mbwana, who earlier today accepted appointment as a world church vice president.

Spiritual and financial maturation has marked the past five years in East-Central Africa, one of the church's fastest-growing regions, a video report informed delegates in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Tens of thousands of people have accepted the church's message since last Session, a 19 percent increase from the previous five years. Annual tithe increased dramatically, more than doubling from $10 to $21 million during the past five years.

Members continue to wrestle with the region's challenges, the report said. "Some of our people are losing the battle of life. Each new day carries with it a slim chance of a new future," the video's narrator said over footage of extreme poverty and the aftermath of recent tribal wars in Kenya.

"But you also hear of triumphs. People have found hope within the turmoil of this region," the report continued, as delegates on the floor of the Georgia Dome watched images of a vibrant, diverse and, above all, resilient community.

The region has acknowledged a need for greater self-sufficiency. Strengthening leadership is among efforts to ensure a more secure future and respond to a call to take ownership of their church.

In Euro-Asia, the church's largest territory, outgoing President Artur Stele told delegates that the region's history has inspired among members a faith in God that eclipses any challenge. Like Mbwana, Stele was also elected as a world church vice president this afternoon.

"Imagine what would happen if every church administrator, every pastor and every member lived 'every day with Jesus, every day for Jesus and every day by the power of Jesus,'" Stele said, referring to the region's motto for the past five years.

A video report that followed began with the daunting scope of the region, which encompasses myriad cultures and faiths.

The region's participation in Follow the Bible was particularly meaningful when a group of pastors who worked for the church during Soviet oppression witnessed the Bible pass freely across the region and were reminded of a time when they were forced to hide small copies of Scripture in their pockets to avoid arrest or worse.

Adventists in Euro-Asia are active in their communities, the report said, citing numerous projects, including substance abuse rehabilitation and a program called City of Hope, in which the region partnered with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to financially support orphans and needy children in the region.

Delegates also saw footage of public evangelism efforts, a prominent part of the region's goal to reach big cities, where 60 percent of its population is concentrated. Some 7,000 efforts were conducted in the past five years. For those not attracted to large public events, church members launched café churches, where the gospel is shared in nontraditional ways, often over a cup of tea.