July 13, 2010

Growing Together in Unity and Hope

By Bertil Wiklander, PresidentPresented June 30, 2010

The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Trans-European Division is to mobilize more than 112,000 members in more than 2,000 local churches and companies in 40 countries across Europe, Africa, and Asia, and to build the kingdom of God in an increasingly post-Christian Europe and in 16 countries in the 10-40 window from Sudan to Pakistan.

In 2005 the division aimed for a 15 percent growth increase. By December 31, 2009, God had blessed with a 20 percent increase in accessions resulting in growth of 14.27 percent. The number of registered Adventists in the division rose from 98,575 (2005) to 112,645 (2009). Tithe has also grown, despite the recession.

2010 1524 page20 intextC1 1

Baptism in the river Nile, Juba, South Sudan PHOTO: Paul Clee

From 2005 to 2009 the church initiated 272 new church plants and 1,412 new small groups, and conducted 2,383 evangelistic campaigns, more than 20 percent of which were conducted by youth.

In 2009—the Year of Evangelism—division staff, with pastors and members in South Sudan, planted four new churches. John Biar, a former pastor in the Episcopal Church, was led to Adventist meetings through dreams. He returned to his old churches as a witness of how God led him to the truth, and he is now an Adventist evangelist.

Division-led “mission boards” encouraged ministry to Jews and Muslims.  Friendship days linked to Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan were also instituted in Adventist churches. The Adventist-Jewish Friendship Conference in Jerusalem inspired participants to reach Jews scattered across Europe and concentrated in Israel. Major papers were printed in Comfort, Comfort My People: Towards a Growing Adventist-Jewish Friendship (editor, Richard Elofer, 2009). Statements on Adventist-Muslim relations and what constitutes “Muslim-friendly” ministry were developed as guidelines, as well.

The RELAY Christ Project
In 2008 the division launched a four-tiered, $5.5 million evangelism project titled “RELAY Christ.” This program focuses on children, youth, and Arabic-speaking individuals.

GC link divreports1. KIDS in Discipleship engages families in training children. In September 2009, 17 language groups had been trained and 25 countries had a trained KIDS team.

2. Youth RELAY involved Adventist youth from 25 countries in spiritual leadership, witnessing, and innovative missionary work. More than 200 youth have been trained in Denmark, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Pakistan, Poland, Serbia, and Sweden.

3. LifeConnect made an Adventist presence on the worldwide Web through digital programs reaching Europe’s NET Generation with the Adventist message. Five hundred and thirty young “digital missionaries” are connecting with unchurched visitors in Croatia, Bosnia, Denmark, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia, with more to follow.

4. Al Waad Media Center with Hope Channel creates an Adventist presence via satellite and Internet through spiritually creative TV/digital programs targeted to the Arabic-speaking Muslim population in Europe and the Middle East.

Departmental Work
Besides the RELAY project, division departments promoted methods, produced materials, and trained pastors and church members, with more than 3,500 leaders, pastors, and church planters trained for mission and outreach. Some highlights include the following:

  • The European Pastors Council is thriving, with nearly 900 participating pastors (2007).
  • The Valuegenesis youth survey was completed, providing valuable insights for reviving youth work (2008).
  • tedMEDIA produced 80 programs for Hope Channel.
  • Churches of Refuge increased youth retention. Pilot churches exist in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Norway.
  • The successful Pan-European Youth Congress in Munich (2009) resulted in the creation of the Munich Statement, inviting all unions to better involve youth in evangelism and leadership.
  • Church Ingathering generated more than $13.8 million, with ADRA receiving more than $102.3 million from private and government funding. Aid and development projects were implemented at a value of $94.4 million.

The Adriatic Union (Albania, Croatia, Slovenia) combined a training project with an evangelism school for youth: 63 pastors and members were trained, 32 people baptized, and new church plants were established. Community outreach in Banovina resulted in two new churches, and reconciliation seminars were held between Croats and Serbs in Vukovar.

The Baltic Union (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) is growing through youth evangelism in its three conferences. New church buildings have been dedicated across the union. In Lithuania the church received government recognition (2008).

2010 1524 page20 intextC2 1

Street evangelism in Poland
PHOTO: Pjotr Kot

The British Union (England, Republic of Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales) reached its largest membership ever: 30,534. Innovative church plants, such as “The Watering Hole,” are thriving. Activity and vibrancy characterize new immigrant communities, such as the Filipino-, Romanian-, Ghanaian-, and Portuguese-speaking communities. Stanborough church reclaimed 200 members through the discipleship pathway of LifeDevelopment and a ministry for families and children called “Messy Church,” and a new church plant in Southport resulted from young people going from door to door.

The Danish Union (Denmark, Greenland, and Faroe Islands) successfully planted churches, even among teenagers. Replanting the Café church in Copenhagen gave it a clear Seventh-day Adventist identity. In the “Follow the Bible” project, the Bible traveled in a private plane to every Adventist church in Denmark, with the project featured on Danish national TV.

The Finland Union encourages innovative evangelistic outreach: KIDS in Discipleship is used in church planting; environmental and lifestyle evangelism attracts attention in many places; the “house church” concept is gaining momentum; Elijah seminars are conducted by youth; and a new Russian church has been planted.

The Greek Mission (attached field) conducted health seminars across the country. Seven families began Bible studies, and soon a new church was formed. Two hundred trained “missionaries” established three groups in three cities and many small groups.

The Hungarian Union is reaching intellectuals in cultural and university settings through “Open Bible University,” and families through health evangelism for children in public schools. Young people are active evangelists through involvement in The Midnight Cry Gospel Choir.

The Iceland Conference (attached field) put God’s love into action as members repaired bicycles and did gardening for free. These activities were followed by seminars on health and cooking, family budgeting, and Bible studies. Strong media interest in this outreach increased its impact. The pastoral team was strengthened and a new church was purchased in Akureyri in the north.

The Israel Field (attached field) has many students in its Hebrew Bible Correspondence School and started a radio ministry. Health ministries are successful among Jews and Palestinians. There is new emphasis on work among children and youth, and the publishing ministry is growing.

The Middle East Union (Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, among others) headquarters returned to Beirut from Cyprus in 2007, after 25 years. In Ras al-Khaimah, a sheikh from the United Arab Emirates granted a piece of land, giving the church legal registration and a right to visas for the first time. The space includes an office for the newly organized (Persian) Gulf Field. Headquarters for the South Sudan Field is under preparation in Juba. In the Sudan Field office property in Khartoum was purchased, and a guest room service, to assist the church in becoming self-supporting, was built in Malakal. The huge pension liability of the union has largely been settled, and Middle East University has renovated most buildings on its attractive campus.

The Netherlands Union started seven new church plants. Three of these are now growing churches with profound community impact. “Faith Challenge” is a thriving program offering courses in beliefs, community building, and outreach. The union intentionally promotes diversity as a divine gift, while fostering unity in Christ.

The Norwegian Union uses house churches and small groups as starting points for church planting. A strong TV ministry is functioning with new facilities developed at the union office.

The Pakistan Union targeted 11 big cities, and membership increased by 40 percent. Through the British Union and the division, each pastor was given a motorbike, which increased their mobility, resulting in greater soul winning. A stable financial situation made it possible to build (or renovate) 45 properties and churches. With student enrollment up 65 percent, many schools are now self-supporting.

The Polish Union held youth camp meetings that led to many baptisms. Youth were engaged in distributing 200,000 copies of the Missionary Book of the Year. Canoeing teams shared the book through the Masurian Lake District. A strong media and publishing work provides TV, DVD, and digital material, as well as books and magazines.

The South-East European Union (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Serbia, including Kosova) started a Hungarian church plant in a suburb of Novi Sad, and three new plants in Macedonia, two of which are Gypsy congregations. In Nova Gradiska, Bosnia, a new church building was completed in the town center. ADRA opened a safe house for women and children suffering from domestic violence, and efforts to reach Muslims in the Sand?zak area were made.

The Swedish Union experienced membership growth for the first time in many years because of a successful campaign called 100/500 (“winning 100 members in 500 days”). The Youth Bible School at Ekebyhomsskolan is thriving, and the division’s RELAY Youth Institute of Evangelism contributed to enthusiastic witnessing across the country.

Newbold College
The college remains the spiritual and intellectual center of the division. The school saw 326 students graduate from 2005-2009 (254 from 2000-2005). Doctoral studies are offered in partnership with the University of Wales, and last year a new media degree was added to other degree programs. Jane Sabes became principal in 2008 and has given vigorous attention to efficient student recruitment.

The Trans-European Division family is thankful to God for His grace and blessings, and also thanks the world church, members, and friends for generous support and assistance in countless ways. We commit ourselves to continuing to serve our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully, through the power of the Holy Spirit, until He comes.