Reports feature Southern Asia-Pacific, Trans-Europe and West-Central Africa

Reports feature Southern Asia-Pacific, Trans-Europe and West-Central Africa

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

Adventist presence among Lisu people in remote China; West-Central Africa achieving financial independence

One young member from Trans-Europe onstage during the evening program on June 30. Through her region's Kids In Discipleship program, children are sharing their faith with neighborhood friends. [photo: Josef Kissinger]
One young member from Trans-Europe onstage during the evening program on June 30. Through her region's Kids In Discipleship program, children are sharing their faith with neighborhood friends. [photo: Josef Kissinger]

Representatives from West-Central Africa onstage as their church President Gilbert Wari introduces the region's report. [photo: Robert East]
Representatives from West-Central Africa onstage as their church President Gilbert Wari introduces the region's report. [photo: Robert East]

An audience in the Georgia Dome tonight heard reports from the church's Southern Asia-Pacific, Trans-European and West-Central African regions, where cultural, economic and religious diversity poses both challenges and opportunities for growth.

Delegates in Atlanta for the Seventh-day Adventist Church's 59th General Conference Session welcomed colleagues from both Vietnam and Timor-Leste this week, countries in Southern Asia-Pacific where outreach is difficult.

In 2005, there were 35 Adventists in Timor-Leste; today, there are 500, the region's president, Alberto C. Gulfan, told the audience.

Gulfan also said a membership audit conducted in 2005 and 2006 ultimately led to growth and stronger faith among Adventists in the region, now home to 1.4 million members.

The Lisu, a 1.2-million-member ethnic group who live in remote regions of southwestern China, northern Thailand, Myanmar and eastern India, remained untouched by the Adventist message until recently. Now, through the work of Global Mission pioneers and friendship evangelism, Lisu attend church every Saturday.

In the Philippines, where text-messaging is ubiquitous, the church's text-messaging ministry is seeing new subscribers. Through a partnership with a national telecommunications provider, the church sends bible verses, daily prayer, bible trivia, church news and more directly to subscribers' personal cell phones.

Some 5,000 Adventist congregations in the Southern Asia-Pacific region participated in a world church Health Ministries initiative to make local churches community health centers. Members there offer classes on nutrition, smoking cessation and exercise.

Trans-Europe is the church's smallest region by membership, but the largest in terms of "countries and challenges," its president, Bertil Wiklander, said.

With many of the region's countries among those yet unentered by the church, regional leadership welcomes even the smallest growth. "We praise God for every baptism we have, even if it is only one or two," Wiklander said.

The region has charted a 20 percent growth in baptisms over the past five years, and members have planted almost 300 new churches.

A cursory first glance at the region in its video report illustrated the area's affluence and self-reliance. Later, the region revealed the reality behind the façade -- loneliness, despair, crime, poverty, the "decay" of families and "fight" to keep young people in the church.

Dramatic music played as the region's top leadership streamed through a hallway toward a meeting room, where they presented specific regional programs that tackle perceived needs.

In Iceland, one seven-year-old invited his neighborhood friend to church because of the region's Kids in Discipleship program, which now covers 25 of its 40 countries.

At Stirling Station -- a ranch in Norway with a distinctly Australian flavor -- a couple runs a community-based church plant. Their project brings kids and their families together for hands-on activities ranging from woodworking to leatherworks, and has resulted in new members.

Twenty-one church plants in the Netherlands are attracting community members through relationships, a "long process" but ultimately a "really successful one," the country's church leader said in the report.

Gilbert Wari, church president for West-Central Africa, the final region to report tonight, said the area had focused on personal evangelism during the past five years.

Women's Ministries leaders in Cote d'Ivoire, where the region is headquartered, led outreach on a local university campus, embracing the region's slogan, "Win one, each one." After students began accepting the Adventist message, the university gave them a place to worship on campus.

The region has also grown in financial self-sufficiency, from 30 to 70 percent over the past five years, a treasurer from West-Central Africa said in the report.

Stewardship conferences, meant to educate new members on the importance of returning tithe and offerings, were part of the region's concerted effort to work toward financial independence.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, recent civil wars destroyed church infrastructure and left many surviving Adventists homeless and jobless. An effort to plant new churches and nurture members in small groups is helping shaken members rebuild their lives and faith, the report said.