July 1, 2010

Empowered By God's Grace

By Alberto C. Gulfan, Jr., PresidentPresented June 30, 2010

The Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) is a region of immense diversity. The 18 countries that comprise the division territory is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and colors. The region, with more than 30,000 islands and islets and more than 2,000 spoken languages and dialects, is dominated by four major world religions and diverse political ideologies. The economic landscape presents a contrast between the affluent and the very poor.

More than 100,000 people attended the Sabbath School/Personal Ministries Congress at Mountain View College in April 2009.

In the face of these challenges, SSD keeps its charge of feeding the flock and leading God’s sheep in the right path. During the past five years, SSD reached in to strengthen and inspire church members and reached out to gather more souls for God’s kingdom.

In 2009 SSD held the largest gathering of believers in its history. Thirty thousand delegates registered, but more than 100,000 attended the divisionwide Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Congress. This multitude camped at Mountain View College in South Philippines to learn how to be more effective witnesses through small group ministries and community service.

To develop faith among the young, SSD packed the past five years with activities designed to lead children and youth into a loving, serving relationship with Jesus, and a commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Children were involved in the “Follow the Bible” initiative through the Junior Bible Reading Guide. This is particularly true in the country of Bangladesh. In the One Bible-One Child campaign, more than 10,000 Bibles were distributed to the children in Indonesia and the Philippines.

What started as a simple text message ministry became a full-blown mobile phone ministry through the AdventSIM—a community-specific subscriber identity module designed by a giant telephone company for Seventh-day Adventists. Church news, inspirational messages, and Adventist beliefs are among the features of this SIM—a first among Adventists worldwide.

GC link divreportsHope Channel International launched Project Hope Philippines, bringing in 400 volunteers and technicians to the SSD headquarters to produce 147 half-hour television episodes. Emboldened by this initiative, Hope Channel’s all-Filipino production crew produced a three-week satellite series from Asia’s Latin City, Zamboanga. More than 1,000 people filled Garden Orchid Hotel and Convention Center nightly to hear SSD president Alberto C. Gulfan, Jr., lecture about family values and Bible doctrines. More than 100 people accepted Jesus through baptism, while several hundreds more were baptized in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and other parts of the division.

Women illustrate the vibrancy of church life in SSD. Through congresses and conventions they strengthen each other for church and community functions. At these meetings they socialize and bond with women of different races as they deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ. They organize prison ministry teams, health missions, evangelistic campaigns, and much more.

Through an initiative called “Every Church a Community Health Center,” SSD motivates local church members to become advocates of healthful living in their communities. More than 5,000 congregations throughout the division currently offer classes on nutrition, smoking cessation, exercise, and many health-related concerns, thus becoming health and wellness centers for themselves and their neighbors.

Through contacts made by literature evangelists (LEs), more than 75,000 persons joined the church through baptism. In 2009 more than 1,000 LEs gathered at the Cebu City Convention Center to refocus and recharge. SSD is blessed by the ministry of more than 3,000 full-time LEs, one of the largest, if not the largest concentration of LEs in the world.

Manado Adventist Hospital in North Celebes, Indonesia, is the newest Adventist hospital in the SSD. It has been serving the community for three years.

The biggest gathering of young people in the SSD was the youth camp held at the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP) in October 2009. It brought in more than 6,000 campers from most of the 18 countries of the SSD. The campgrounds at AUP became a sea of youth as they hurried and tumbled in their various activities. At the end of the week more than 100 young people publicly demonstrated their allegiance to Christ and their commitment to His work through baptism at the university swimming pool.

“Hope for Big Cities” found its strongest impact in the cities of Jakarta, Indonesia, and Makati City, Philippines. Seven world church leaders joined several local evangelists in 2007 and conducted a series of simultaneous evangelistic meetings, bringing in nearly 2,000 souls for God’s kingdom in Jakarta, SSD’s largest city in terms of population. Makati City, the business hub of the Philippines, heard the good news of salvation in 2008 and resulted in the baptism of more than 400 precious souls.

Education and health ministries would not be behind in preparing people for God’s kingdom. These past five years the Adventist University of the Philippines (AUP), recognized by the Philippines as one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the country, was granted the autonomous status of the government’s education department. AUP has the largest foreign student population among all public and private universities in the country. Mission College in Thailand also received special recognition from the Thai government by having been elevated into a university, thus becoming the Asia-Pacific International University. Central Philippine Adventist College offers opportunities to deserving young people through the program “Education That Saves,” a plan that allows young people to put up small cottages within campus boundaries, where they can live and cook for themselves while attending school, paying only the tuition and general matriculation fees.

The small group has become the greatest tool of bringing people to Christ. Church members now saturate towns and cities with the message of Jesus’ soon return. One of the places that has used small group ministries very effectively is Southern Mindanao Mission. As a result of this kind of approach, 27 pastors from different Protestant denominations were baptized in early 2009 and have become active warriors for the Lord. They have organized themselves as Gideons for Christ and have become instrumental in the establishment of five new churches in the area.

2010 1524 page12 linkDuring the past five years SSD has added three new missions: Palawan Adventist Mission in North Philippines, Zamboanga Peninsula Mission in South Philippines, and Central Java Mission in West Indonesia. Singapore Mission has been elevated to a conference. North Philippine Union also achieved conference status during this past five years.

At the end of 2009 the membership of the SSD reached beyond the 1 million mark. This banner year has brought to church more than 75,000 persons. During the past five years SSD membership had a net increase of more than 200,000.

This is Southern Asia-Pacific Division: inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, empowered by His grace. To God be the glory.