June 28, 2010

Lift Up Christ—Tell the World!

BY Paul S. RatseraPresented Saturday, June 26, 2010

capAt the beginning of the 2005-2010 quinquennium Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) launched a five-year program entitled “Lift Up Christ—Tell the World!” It is based on the promise made by the Lord Jesus in John 12:32.

The program was built upon five special initiatives around which the entire division family would concentrate its energy and resources. These initiatives were designed to address the five most urgent needs in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division—needs that have now become our mission objectives.

The Epaphras Ministry (Col. 4:12)image
The Epaphras Ministry is a call to prayer. It links us and our work for God in SID to the Source of all power. Prayer is the cornerstone of all activities in the SID. No task is attempted without many hours spent in fervent prayer.

In the country of Malawi the government recently decided that, in order to save money, all universities had to squeeze their examination timetables into one week! All universities had to abide by this law and there would, therefore, be examinations on Saturdays. Adventist students contacted church leadership, and the union president, Dr. Saustin Mfune, immediately contacted government officials to whom he could appeal on behalf of the students who didn’t want to take tests on Sabbath. At the same time church members throughout the country were praying.

God intervened and government leaders agreed that they could go back to the original exam timetable. To top it all, a double blessing was received. For the past 30 years university graduations in Malawi have always taken place on a Saturday. Starting next year, graduations will take place on Wednesdays.

Paul’s Method (2 Tim. 2:2)
Paul’s Method is a challenge to train and equip God’s people so they can become able and effective workers for His kingdom.

With seven institutions of higher learning in SID, this division is training young people to be effective leaders, both in the church and in the marketplace. Formal SID schools are using the latest technology, improving the quality of Adventist education, and preparing children for a changing world.

Through its “Fishers of Men” personal ministries program (see Matt. 4:19), the division has developed a comprehensive approach to training and engaging new believers in witnessing. Immediately after their baptism, new believers are trained, equipGC link divreportsped, and encouraged to begin sharing their faith immediately.

The pilot program started in Zambia. More than 3,000 people were baptized. The very next day they attended follow-up training, which included information, motivation, and tools for soul winning—all in an effort to turn new converts into effective Fishers of Men and disciple makers. Similar programs have been hosted in several of our unions.

Isaac Davis, his wife, Sharon, and their children were baptized in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2008. Even though Isaac was paralized after being shot in the back, they attended the Fishers of Men program and got to work immediately.

One year later the Davis family ?had a cell group of 20 members and are planning to plant a church in their area.

Hezekiah Operation (2 Chron. 31:9-12)
The Hezekiah Operation is all about good stewardship. It promotes the need for all institutions within the division to become self-supporting through vibrant stewardship programs, regular auditing, strong internal controls, and good governance. It is an initiative that calls for good governance at all levels of church organization.

Tithe does not always have to be returned in money. In Botswana, with its large cattle ranches, many church members have chosen to return their tithes in kind. South Botswana Conference has even bought a farm and constructed holding pens to care for the scores of tithe animals (cattle, horses, donkeys, etc.) waiting to be sold.

Haggai Venture (Haggai 1:2, 8)
The Haggai Venture is a challenge to build up the infrastructure of the church—to house, educate, and care for the rapidly growing membership.

  SID is growing very quickly. This immense growth has resulted in a demand for better infrastructure and more buildings. Throughout the division, schools, universities, hospitals, offices, and media centers are being constructed.

Since 2007 great excitement has followed Maranatha Volunteers International in Mozambique, where volunteers from both outside and inside the division have been building churches. These new church buildings are veritable springs of living water, as they function as places of worship, adult education centers, and anti-malaria education centers. One-Day Churches have also been built recently in other unions in SID.

Baptism after a campaign in Antanan-?arivo, Madagascar

On the campus of Helderberg College, in South Africa, an old sports center was remodeled into recording studios, and a large new studio was added onto the roof area. This 1,000-square-meter facility houses TV studios for the Hope Channel and a radio studio for Adventist World Radio.

The gospel is being taken to every corner of this division through the airwaves. In remote villages in Madagascar, people are listening to Adventist programs. Entire villages have accepted Jesus as their Savior. One listener, Mr. Tavanandro, was a feared sorcerer who hated everyone. Through AWR health programs he was converted and is an elder in his local church.

The Hope Channel has become one of the most popular religious channels in Africa, reaching all sectors of the population. Queen Mantfombi, Zulu queen, said: “The Hope Channel is a pastor in our home.” In Angola, Novo Tempo, the Portuguese Hope Channel, is making a major impact.

To boost local programming on the Hope Channel, the division has hosted three Project Hopes in Zambia, Angola, and South Africa. Volunteers work together during such a project and between 100 and 200 new programs are produced by media workers and volunteers in about three weeks. The SID media team is forging ahead to create locally produced content and launch the all-new, multilingual Hope Channel Africa soon.

Zechariah Project (Zech. 8:22, 23)
The Zechariah Project is a call ?to evangelism—both to personal ?evangelism and to church-organized evangelism.

In the country of Zimbabwe the national sports stadium in Harare hosted the world’s largest Voice of Prophecy (VOP) Bible Correspondence School graduation with 25,000 graduates. The funding of the project was a partnership between local churches and Light Bearers International.

Another record breaker was the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) Congress held in Luanda, Angola, where more than 44,000 people gathered on the final day of the conference, making this the largest such event in the world thus far. Church leaders commended the government of Angola for respecting and acknowledging religious freedom.

The SID has had great success as a result of satellite evangelism. Hope for Cities—Johannesburg, hosted by Mark Finley, was translated into 13 languages simultaneously. On the final Sabbath more than 20,000 people came together in the Johannesburg Stadium to praise God and welcome new believers through baptism. More than 8,000 sets of DVDs of this series have been distributed throughout the region.

In a country where around 1,000 people die of AIDS each day, the HIV/AIDS pandemic requires proactive attention by the faith community. Silence about HIV/AIDS has reigned for too long in the church. Church leaders in the SID rallied for HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.

Just off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean lies Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world. The Adventist Church is very active there. In 2007 a large evangelistic campaign was organized in Antananarivo, the capital city. Almost all the church members in the city were involved in this outreach project. Four months before the campaign, VOP cards were handed out in the neighborhoods. One month before the campaign, each VOP student was invited to join one of the 1,100 small groups gathering regularly throughout the city. These students and the public were invited to attend nightly sermons for an entire week. More than 30,000 people gathered in the stadium! 

Dubbed the “Year of Reaping and Celebration,” 2010 represents the pinnacle of the quinquennial program. The program climaxes in the training of 620,000 laypersons around the division who will each be equipped with a specially prepared manual and assigned to conduct an evangelistic campaign. The campaigns will be conducted in every conceivable venue—literally from city halls to humble village homes—by men, women, youth, and children! The division expects an unprecedented harvest of souls.

Pastor Paul Mawela with day-care ?children

Paul and Martha Mawela, a South African pastor and his wife, went to retire in an unentered area. Still full of zeal, they put up a tent to do evangelism, but hardly anybody came. They realized that they needed a change ?in strategy.

Today, this couple and their team take care of 794 orphans, giving them one meal per day at seven different locations. They also support 90 child-led families in which orphans, some ?as young as 12 years old, take care of their siblings. At three different centers 78 elderly people are also fed daily; they are given spiritual food as well.

Caregivers go out into the community daily, and people are also taught crafts and skills so that they can earn their own money. A tent is pitched, food is cooked, and the community is taught about tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS.

The church has grown so much that a larger church will soon be built on land donated by the chief of the area.

Telling the World
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean region strives to keep good relationships with government leaders.

In Botswana a Sabbath worship service was hosted with the intention of ministering to the Botswana members of parliament at the parliamentary village. Most members of parliament, including the head of state, attended. He expressed gratitude for what the Adventist Church was doing for the community.

Kneeling in faith at the cross, one has reached the highest place that one can attain! Through the structured programs of SID, through the five initiatives, this division is lifting up Christ. With 2.5 million members in 23 countries, SID is on board, in an intentional way, with the program of the Adventist Church, to “Tell the World” to be ready for Jesus to take us home!

Paul S. Ratsara is the President of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division.