Reports spotlight Inter-American, Euro-African regions

Reports spotlight Inter-American, Euro-African regions

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

Small but growing in Europe; steel drums in the Dome

Representatives from Inter-America illustrate their vibrant culture in the Georgia Dome Tuesday evening. [photo: Josef Kissinger]
Representatives from Inter-America illustrate their vibrant culture in the Georgia Dome Tuesday evening. [photo: Josef Kissinger]

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Euro-Africa faces a daunting mix of cultures, political systems and religions, but an Arabic television show and vibrant Health Ministries program are among initiatives spurring "consistent" growth in the region.

In Inter-America, 60 percent of Adventists are between the ages of 16 and 35, contributing to a young and rapidly growing membership.

Both church regions shared five-year reports with delegates and hundreds of excited spectators, many cheering for their region, in the Georgia Dome for tonight's program.

Euro-Africa spans 29 countries, among them Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran and other members of the 10-40 Window, a region stretching from Northern Africa to East Asia, where proselytizing is often illegal and many are unreached.

Many of region's countries face growing ethnic diversity -- almost half of Adventists in Spain emigrated from Romania.

"We even have the Vatican here," newly re-elected regional President Bruno Vertallier said.

Despite challenges, the region's members find ways to impact their communities. The launch in 2008 of an Arabic language Hope Channel broadcast from Beirut, Lebanon, is expected to make inroads in the region. And a recent collaboration with the World Health Organization, headquartered in the region, is bolstering the church's reputation as a caring, compassionate community, a video report showed.

In 1999, the region launched health expos, following Jesus' example of meeting physical and emotional needs, as well as spiritual ones. The expos continue to be popular with community members, who appreciate the practical guidance in well-being.

"There is a pace for everything," including church growth, the report said. "We may not be a quickly growing region, but our activities are numerous and we keep stepping forward."

Euro-Africa charted close to 177,000 Adventists in mid-2009, a "slight increase" from 2005 and a testament to the region's numerous outreach and community impact projects, the report said.

In Italy, an experimental Sabbath School program focusing on relationships, fellowship and outreach has doubled attendance. In Bulgaria, Adventists shared the book Steps to Christ in homes, covering half the country.

While Euro-African representatives at Session had planned to rain down Toblerone bars -- an iconic candy bar from the region -- on the audience, food restrictions in the Dome interfered. "We will not have Toblerone tonight, but if you come to the Euro-Africa booth [in the exhibitor hall], you will have your Toblerone," said Vertallier, waving a massive candy bar.

Representatives of the church's Inter-American region marched on stage to the infectious music of steel drums.

Before their video report, Theart St. Pierre, church president for Haiti, thanked the world church for its "support, prayers and generosity."

"It is clear that God is good, we are part of a great family and that family is bound by a love without borders," St. Pierre told the audience.

Inter-America is the world church's largest region by membership, with more than 3.2 million members. One in 12 Jamaicans is an Adventist, and it was clear from their applause that many were present in the Dome tonight.

Regional President Israel Leito praised the "ideas, initiatives and dedication" of members in the report. "It's not what we do, but who we are as Christ-loving people" he said, reciting the region's motto.

Luis Eduardo Giraldo, a security guard by trade, joined the police force soon after becoming an Adventist to widen his opportunities to share his faith. His work on the streets led him to launch a rehabilitation center for young people struggling with addiction. More than 30 youth have accepted the Adventist message this year through Giraldo's ministry.

In East Jamaica, Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries President Cecil Foster heads up the Good Samaritan Inn, where people on the street can find shelter at night. Twice weekly, about 400 people eat lunch at the Inn.

A similar project in Inter-America, Day of Kindness and Compassion, mobilized members to distribute more than 1 million meals in a single day.

Rapid growth in Inter-America has exhausted pastoral resources in some areas, but Adventist laypeople are stepping up to the challenge, planting and nurturing churches.