July 6, 2006

Adventist News

ADRA Partners With UN
to Fight Human Trafficking

capThe Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) leadership from its office in Thailand met recently with representatives from the United Nations to discuss ADRA’s Keep Girls Safe Project, an initiative that combats human trafficking in Thailand. Rough estimates indicate that 800,000 prostitutes under the age of 18 live in Thailand, and 200,000 of these are age 12 or younger.

[Courtesy of Ketchum Public Relations Department]

The Keep Girls Safe Project works to reduce the threat of commercial sexual exploitation to vulnerable girls and young women from disadvantaged regions of northern Thailand by empowering them through educational support; supplying uniforms, textbooks, stationery, and transportation; and training in vocational skills. Depending upon need, some girls receive assistance with living expenses and housing. The project also raises awareness in the community to the risk and problems of human trafficking.

“Activities to raise awareness will ensure that the target group, their families, and the general community are aware of the dangers of the sex trade and thus enable them to make positive choices that will reduce the incidence of commercial sexual exploitation of their children in Thailand,” said Greg Young, country director of ADRA/Thailand.
The meeting took place at the United Nations office in Bangkok with Young; Sunita Winitkoonchai, ADRA/Thailand program coordinator; and Titima Wanwilaiwan, regional coordinator of ADRA/Thailand, representing ADRA. United Nations representatives included Orawan Raweekoon, information assistant for the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking (UNIAP); and Panadda Changmanee, UNIAP National Project coordinator.
“The meeting was very beneficial for both sides,” said Young. “It’s important that ADRA works with government agencies, the community, and other NGOs [non-government organizations] to better respond to the needs of the children.”                       —Adventist Development and Relief Organization/AR.

U.S. Court Awards Sabbath Keeper $311K
In a major decision sure to encourage Sabbathkeepers everywhere, United States federal district court in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has ruled for a Seventh-day Adventist who sought accommodation for his Sabbathkeeping beliefs. The worker was awarded U.S.$311,166.75 in lost wages and punitive damages. It is believed to be one of the few such cases in which punitive damages¯designed to “reform or deter the defendant,” as one definition puts it¯have been awarded to a Sabbathkeeper.

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Todd Sturgill, age 41 and a resident of Springdale, Arkansas, was a 19-year driver for United Parcel Service when he joined the Adventist Church in May of 2004. In July of that year, Sturgill asked his employer for accommodation on Friday evenings during the upcoming holiday delivery season. After three months, Sturgill was told he would receive no accommodation, and was fired when he refused to continue deliveries past sunset on a Friday evening.

“Through all of this, my faith has grown,” Sturgill said. “Maybe a lot of people might want to try and blame God for what happened, but I wouldn’t change a thing. If I had lost [in court] today, I still would have been thankful for what I’d done, standing up for what I believe.”

“While we are gratified over today’s outcome, one message is clear,” said Todd McFarland, associate general counsel for the Seventh-day Adventist world church. “The United States needs to enact the Workplace Religious Freedom Act to safeguard the rights of working people.”

Joining McFarland in this case were Fayetteville attorney Charles M. Kester of the Kester Law Firm, and now-retired associate general counsel Mitchell A. Tyner, who previously handled religious liberty issues for the world church. Tyner noted that offerings from Adventist members in North America played a part in bringing the Sturgill case to this victory.                                                      —Adventist News Network/PARL/AR.

TURKEY: In Ephesus, Bible Conference Begins With Call to Future
“Our future is what beckons us and challenges us. And we must walk into that future without distancing ourselves from the ‘wall’ at our backs. We must feel its support constantly,” Seventh-day Adventist world church president Jan Paulsen said during a July 8 message at a gathering of 240 Adventist theologians and scholars in Izmir, Turkey.

He spoke on the second day of the 10-day Second International Bible Conference on the role of theology in the modern church. The conference takes place at a resort near the Aegean Sea, not far from where the apostle Paul preached to Jesus’ followers 2,000 years earlier.


International Bible Conference participants scan the landscape from the top of ancient Pergamum's acropolis.  [Bill Knott/photo] 

“We’re here to learn from each other,” said Angel Manuel Rodríguez, director of the church’s Biblical Research Institute, in remarks opening the event on July 7. He said the group was also there to “reaffirm our commitment to the mission of the Adventist Church,” with lectures that “aim at the practical dimension.”

The event is meeting under the theme, “The Nature, Mission, and the Unity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” and is sponsored by the Biblical Research Institute, the Adventist Theological Society, and the Horn Archeological Institute at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Along with 12 plenary sessions, there will be more than 100 specialized presentations in study groups on a variety of Biblical topics ranging from a discussion on the “Rabbinic Exegesis of Deuteronomy 24:1 and Adventist Hermeneutics” to “Sanctuary and the Character of God” to “The Seventh-day Adventist Theologian and Ordination,” as well as topics relating to Adventist ecclesiology.

The presenters come from seminaries in Europe, Africa, Asia, Central and South America, as well as the United States. The event will also take the participants to the seven churches identified in the book of Revelation (chapters 2 and 3), ancient Troy, and the island of Patmos.

“We are here in one of the most important eras in world history and the history of the church,” said Ulrich Frikart, president of the church’s Euro-Africa region, which includes Turkey. “We are here on prophetic ground.”

Visits to key places in early Christianity during the conference will bring attendees face-to-face with traditions, but Paulsen said that while we appreciate and lean upon the “wall” of tradition, teachings, and policies the church has built up, our focus must be on what he called “the openness which lies before us,” and not on the past.

“Jesus Christ must be the unequivocally identified and acknowledged guide into the future,” Paulsen said. “Any ‘brand’ of Seventh-day Adventism that does not have Jesus Christ at its center, recognizable and affirmed, should not be allowed space within our community.”

To read Pastor Paulsen's complete address, click here.                                 —Adventist News Network/AR.

New President Elected for Kansas-Nebraska Conference 

Ron Carlson, vice president for administration of the Iowa-Missouri Conference, was recently elected president of the Kansas-Nebraska Conference. He succeeds Jim Hoehn, who retired.

Previous denominational positions include pastor at Sunnydale Adventist Academy (Iowa-Missouri Conference), 1985-1992; senior pastor at Fairmont church in Lodi, California (Northern California Conference), 1992-2000; and his current position as vice president for administration from 2000-present. [Kansas-Nebraska photo]                                
                                                               —Kansas-Nebraska Conference Communication Department/AR.