Southern Africa-Indian Ocean

Southern Africa, North America present five-year reports to Session

Delegation demonstrates the vuvuzela; 'education is evangelism in North America,' VP says

Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Edwin Manuel Garcia/ANN

Leaders watch a video report from North America during the Sabbath evening General Conference Session program in the Georgia Dome on June 26. [photo: Josef Kissinger]

Leaders watch a video report from North America during the Sabbath evening General Conference Session program in the Georgia Dome on June 26. [photo: Josef Kissinger]

Seventh-day Adventist evangelistic campaigns routinely draw tens of thousands of worshippers to stadiums in Southern Africa, where church membership has grown to 2.5 million members.

And in North America, church membership has grown to a record high of more than 1 million, including nearly 50,000 baptized in 2009.

Those were the highlights of the formal reports presented by Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region President Paul S. Ratsara, North American region President Don Schneider and other leaders from both regions at the General Conference Session on Saturday evening.

In Southern Africa, many of the newly baptized members receive formal training in outreach, while others join comprehensive efforts to meet critical needs, such as assisting children whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS.

Ratsara opened the report from the podium, standing with dozens of members from the region, which covers 23 countries, including Angola, South Africa and Madagascar.

Many held a long plastic horn called the vuvuzela, a sort of national instrument extremely popular with South African fans at the 2010 World Cup soccer matches, where teams have complained about the loud sound, which resembles the buzzing of bee swarms.

"This is the drum in Africa of the 21st century," Ratsara told several thousand in attendance at the Georgia Dome, before the delegation blew the horns.

The region's 20-minute video report focused heavily on evangelism efforts; a building boom of churches, schools, universities, hospitals and media centers; and the positive influence the church is having on the continent.

One segment highlighted the "Fishers of Men" program in Zambia, an outreach campaign that trained 3,000 new members to share their faith the day after being baptized. The program has been implemented in several countries, helping to propel the area to become one of the fastest growing of the church's 13 world regions.

The North American region video presentation opened with a scene depicting the Advent movement from 1844 and the origins of the then rapidly growing Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Some of the sepia-toned footage showed a conference room where early leaders talked about church growth -- then cameras switched to a modern conference room where today's leaders proudly rattled off key statistics to demonstrate church growth, such as:

- 200,000 baptisms in the past five years

- More than 300 medical facilities

- 109 academies, 15 colleges and universities, more than 750 elementary schools and nearly 400 early childhood centers.

"Adventist education is evangelism," declared Larry Blackmer, the region's vice president for Education.

The video also featured outreach efforts in the United States and Canada on behalf of Women's Ministries, the Youth Department, Community Services, and Adventist Media Ministries, among other departments.

It also told the story of Southern California church member Judith Miranda, who, along with a friend, knocked on thousands of doors in the tony beachside city of Malibu as part of their personal outreach effort.

The result of the effort was satisfying: The Summer of 2008 saw the opening services of the Malibu Seventh-day Adventist Fellowship.