Presented Thursday, July 1, 2010
The Southern Asia Division (SUD) encompasses a great land mass, with diverse geographical structures and climatic conditions, cultures, religions, and languages. It consists of the countries of India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Maldives, each with its own uniqueness.
India, the largest territory of the SUD, is the cradle of four major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Out of a total population of 1.2 billion, 80.5 percent are Hindu, 13.4 percent are Muslim, and only 2.3 percent are Christian; and the majority of the Christians are Roman Catholic. Seventh-day Adventists are only very few, compared to the total population. Membership in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in SUD is about 1.5 million.
The Southern Asia Division, with the help of volunteers supported by various organizations, expanded its membership over the past five years by about 500,000. Approximately 100,000 have been added to the church every year, with an average of 274 individuals joining the church every day.
In megacities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Vizag, and Kolkata, we’ve seen significant progress. Reaching the staggering numbers of people who inhabit these huge populations remains a great challenge. But our pastors, trusting in the Almighty, have enjoyed remarkable success in city evangelism. Mark Finley conducted evangelistic meetings in Chennai in 2000, 2007, and 2009. Greater Chennai has 154 churches. Recently the Mumbai metro region established 17 organized churches and 54 companies with total membership of 10,424. Beyond that, 10 new stations have also been entered with the Adventist message.
An Act of Sacrifice
Samuel Naik, 48, a volunteer for our church in Orissa since 1990, was brutally attacked in 2008. A group of people entered Naik’s house in broad daylight and threatened him. While he stood between the mob and the church, someone from the mob stabbed him to death. Then his wife was raped. Samuel Naik, Adventist pastor, died a martyr’s death. His widow, Kadama Phula, is a delegate to this fifty-ninth General Conference session.
Work Among Tibetan Communities
Tibetans are Buddhists, and it’s difficult for them to accept Christianity. Two years ago, by the amazing providence of the Lord, Nepal Field administrators came in touch with a young Tibetan named Norbu Lama, who lived near Nepal’s border with China. Norbu’s father is a Tibetan-Nepali and his mother a Tibetan from China. Accepting an invitation from some Adventists, Norbu Lama traveled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend Adventist evangelistic meetings, where he heard about Jesus for the first time. He was impressed with the message he heard, but was afraid to accept Christianity.
With the Lord’s help, Norbu not only accepted Jesus as His Savior; he also began sharing the gospel with two of his friends, Karma Lama and Karsang Lama. Adventist pastors met them and baptized them both. Now we have three Tibetans working for Jesus in Tibet.
Adventists Enter Bhutan
As recently as the 2005 General Conference session in St. Louis, Bhutan was an unentered territory. Today we have 502 Adventists worshipping in various districts of Bhutan bordering India. We have seven organized churches, 25 congregations, two Bible workers, 16 volunteers, and a director. During the first quarter of this year 16 new members were added to our church. Two Tibetans have been baptized and 28 are ready for harvest as soon as the weather permits.
Sundarbans is a vast tract of forest and saltwater swamps forming the lower part of the Ganges Delta, extending about 160 miles along the Bay of Bengal from India’s Hooghly River Estuary to the Meghna River Estuary in Bangladesh.
We began spreading the Adventist message in these islands in 2000, and we have just over 5,000 members among the 500,000 people of these 25 islands. At present, 17 islands have been penetrated with the gospel, with the formation of 50 congregations who worship in 28 church buildings.
Work in Nepal
With only five ordained ministers, eight evangelists, 47 Global Outreach Volunteers, and 225 baptized members, the work in Nepal is daunting. The believers there have only nine church buildings in the entire country. Five congregations meet in rented halls and 61 companies meet in church members’ homes. Four more church buildings are under construction.
Only a few Seventh-day Adventists work in the Maldives, so the Advent work there has barely begun.
The Youth Department organized an evangelistic program known as The Elijah Project in all the SUD’s union conferences. The program was conducted successfully in 72 places. As many as 730 people, both young and old, joined the church. Many young people migrated to cities where they work as professionals in IT industries.
Adventist Media Center
Adventist World Radio (AWR) in India broadcasts half-hour programs every day in Hindi, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Punjabi, and English. We also record programs in Oriya and Gujarati. Our studios in Pune produce more programs than any other AWR studio in the world.
Besides the studios in Pune, we have a studio in Nepal and another in Mizoram. Programs are produced here in Nepali, Mizo, and Assamese. The radio speakers conduct evangelistic meetings in their respective fields and have had 446 baptisms.
Television is reaching more people in many places. In 2007 and 2008, 5,300 souls joined the church primarily through this ministry. Eight properties have been purchased, and 13 buildings and two parsonages have been constructed. We are using a number of local channels to broadcast in Tamil Nadu, Andhra, and Kerala. We also have programs in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and Mizo languages. A multilingual church at Anna Nagar was dedicated by visitors from the General Conference—Mark and Ernestine Finley, Brad and Kandus Thorp, and Gary Gibbs—in April 2009. A multimedia Hope Channel center is located in Chennai. Providentially, the Indian government granted it a license not long before it stopped granting licenses altogether. Recently Pastor S. Johnson was appointed director of Hope Channel, India.
Health Ministry through our eight hospitals in India and one in Nepal introduces the public to the healing ministry of Jesus Christ through compassionate and wholistic health care to all, without discrimination.
Women’s Ministries has initiated adult literacy programs in a number of places in different parts of India. Over the past five years 1,003 centers received the benefit of adult literacy education, which has benefited more than 22,000 women.
Women’s Ministries also assists in training women to support themselves in microbusinesses: weaving, basket-making, making pottery, growing livestock, selling fruit and vegetables. More than 650 families have benefited from this service.
Women’s Ministries initiated and conducted 2,408 evangelistic meetings during the quinquennium. As a result, 18,624 people accepted the Adventist message through the efforts of women in the church.
It all began in 2005 with just seven children. Ron and Dorothy Watts had a dream of bringing the children of new believers into our Adventist schools to help them grow in faith and in the church. Today, Adventist Child India (ACI) is partnering with sponsors from around the world to give poor children from the villages of India an opportunity to attend Adventist schools. ACI is bringing hope by educating our Adventist children who will become the church workers of tomorrow. We say, “Give a child an education, give the church a future.”
We have 261 Adventist schools in India with a total of 154,659 students and 8,057 teachers. The majority of our students come from non-Adventist families.
In addition, we have six colleges providing higher education to the youth of the community, both Adventist and non-Adventist. The future of the Adventist Church is promising because of the young people who are educated in our Adventist institutions.
A Cooperative Effort
The advancement of the gospel message; the construction of churches, schools, and clinics; and the sponsorship of students have been made possible by organizations such as Maranatha Volunteers International, ADRA, ASI, ShareHim, Gospel Outreach, Global Mission, Jesus for Asia, Hope Channel, Quiet Hour, Adventist Frontier Missions, Asian Aid, and ACI.
Families such as McNielus, Farli, and Saxton have donated time and money to make it happen. Pastor Robert Robinson has entered more than 1,350 of India’s 600,000 villages with the gospel message and built more than 1,200 churches. During the past five years Maranatha has constructed more than 800 church buildings all over India. In addition, 1,024 organized churches and 192 companies have been established.
The message of Jesus’ soon return is proclaimed through all these various means. May the Holy Spirit inspire our hearts so that many more will find joy and happiness at the feet of Jesus and be ready for His second coming.
We thank the world church for its valuable support and prayers. Namasthe.