February 16, 2011

Web Letters 1505-2011

Reflections on a Great Leader

Thank you for the tribute, “Neal C. Wilson, Retired Adventist World Church President, Passes to His Rest” (Jan. 20, 2011). I’m thankful the Lord placed him as head of our church when I was a young enthusiast for Adventist media to share the gospel with the world. I first caught the vision from H.M.S. Richards, Sr., who pioneered use of the media by the church. I graduated from college with a communication degree and carried that vision with me.
I was excited to discover that Wilson had the same vision, and that he was convicted that the church had to move into international broadcasting. I volunteered to serve the church in media ministry. Not only did Wilson have the vision of reaching the world for Christ, but he had the courage to launch Adventist World Radio (AWR) in spite of criticism from fellow church administrators who felt it was an unwise use of church money.
Wilson not only got AWR under way, he nurtured it in its growing years. In my 20 years with AWR in Portugal, Guam, Germany, and England, he was always a strong supporter and mentor. Only those who have gone out to launch projects for the church in foreign lands can know how desperately important it is to have such encouraging sponsors back home. He was like a father to me in those distant lands, and consequently I found the courage to stretch my abilities in the work beyond anything I could’ve imagined.
As the article stated, he was a statesman. I didn’t realize this fully until he came to Guam to help dedicate the AWR station there. We also invited the governor of Guam, Joseph Ada, to attend the grand opening. We were told by his aides that he could only spend a few minutes at our event. But when he met Wilson and they began to talk, he ended up spending four hours with us.
I pray that God will give our new world president the same vision and passion for the great gospel commission.
--Allen Steele
I read with intense interest the article regarding N. C. Wilson’s accomplishments during his years of leadership in the Adventist Church. However, the half has not been told. Before he was elected North American Division president and president of the World Adventist Church, many of us knew him as pastor of the Heliopolis Church in Cairo, Egypt. He subsequently became Egypt field president.
While a pastor in Egypt, he conducted a number of evangelistic meetings (called “efforts” in those days). Coming from a diverse religious background (my mother was Greek Orthodox; my father, Presbyterian), educated in a Catholic school for 12 years; friends mostly of the Muslim faith; I grew up confused in religious matters. Wilson was extremely patient in repeatedly explaining scriptural verses that my family and I had wrongly interpreted for years. Many more families were taught and brought to know the truth of the gospel through his repeated “efforts” in Egypt.
Wilson also planned Health Expo meetings with outstanding speakers from the General Conference Health Department and other health care Institutions. He invited Egyptian health officials to attend those meetings. They were impressed with the principles of Seventh-day Adventist healthful living that were in harmony with Islamic beliefs, e.g., no alcohol, no pork, etc. As a result Wilson had many friends in high places in the Egyptian Government. He learned to speak Arabic, which endeared him to the government officials, as well as to the corner shop merchants.
Elinor and N. C. Wilson opened their home and showed so much love and hospitality as we had never experienced before. They were always so pleasant and upbeat one would think they never had a worry in the world. It was exciting playing games such as volleyball and hearing his encouraging words, “good play.” But it was also comforting hearing his encouraging and hope-filled words at the death of our 21 year-old sister, Marie. He was there any time we needed him. I’m sure many other converts would have inspiring stories to tell about Wilson’s dedication and love for them.
One more thing in connection with the statement that Wilson “savored mountain climbing”: He definitely savored pyramid climbing! With his tall stature, he repeatedly climbed the largest pyramids with ease; as though he was climbing a flight of stairs. I once struggled to climb about half a dozen stones, during which time he had reached the top and returned. I was awed by this feat and in desperation gave up and returned back to solid ground.
I hate to think what would have happened to my family, and me in particular, if Wilson hadn’t heeded God’s call to go to Egypt as a young missionary. He was not only our pastor, but also our friend. He blessed us with his unselfish and loving ministry, for which we will be eternally grateful.
--Laurice Kafrouni Durrant
Keene, Texas
Thanks for the excellent article about the leadership of Neal C. Wilson. So much has been said, but I would mention a few things that show not only his skills as a leader, but his human side and lifestyle.
During one GC worship he shared with us that he always carried a small New Testament! He was a man of the Word.
Another time, he shared with the group how he and his wife communicated. He said that as they walked together, holding hands, shopping or leisurely, he squeezed her hand she knew that he was communicating, “I Love you.” He loved his wife and family!
My wife and I met him once at the supermarket. We were amazed at how many vegetables and greens he had in his cart. He explained that he ate a big bowl of vegetables every day! That speaks well for his longevity!
I have kept a phrase in my mind from one of his sermons: “Surrender to God, not to your surroundings!”
--Leo Ranzolin
Estero, Florida
Bigger is Not Always Better
Kudos for the article “Supersized Churches” (Jan. 20, 2011) by Clinton Wahlen. His article was well reasoned and identified some of the challenges faced by megachurches.
One factor not mentioned that separates Adventists from other churches and reduces the likelihood of Adventist megachurches is our worship on Sabbath. This factor alone creates a major hurdle to attracting significant numbers of new attendees.
Our pastors might elect to downplay doctrine and preach a more “generic” message to attract people. But without saying a word Sabbath keeping immediately separates us from the norm, thereby removing our church for serious consideration by most of the unchurched or non-Adventists.
\One of the megachurch challenges mentioned is that they typically spend much of their income on infrastructure and staff, thus diluting funding for ministry/mission work (down to 25 percent). We suffer from the same issue. Not because of size, but because of the disproportionate amount of local funds used for our highly valued Christian education system. A representative from the John Maxwell church consulting firm was astounded upon discovering how little of our church budget was available for ministry/mission work.
--John Indermuehle

Ready for Tough Issues
I found “Let Them Have Sex . . . Later by Melissa Breetzke and “Rekindling Our Purpose by Andrew W. Kerbs (Jan. 20, 2011) well-written and refreshing. Kudos to the authors and the editors!
After boldly tackling the thorny issue of Christmas in “The Holy and the Holly (Bill Knott, December 23, 2010) is the Adventist Review inclined to take up the matter of Halloween?
--Eugene Korff
Columbia, Maryland

Thinking About Education
When I started reading the editorial “A Temple Reborn” by Carlos Medley (Dec. 16, 2010), I thought, Why is the writer wasting our time with a history of a Baptist Temple? Then I read the rest of the story.
It’s sad to see that 26 percent of the teachers in our Adventist educational institutions are not Adventists. I hear so often that we need more programs or activities to keep our children in the church. What good are programs and activities if our children are not even being taught by people who uphold the pillars of our church?
Christ is coming soon. The time for revival and reformation must extend to our schools also. I’m glad to see that our church has recognized this need and is trying to do something about it--finally. And the other 74 percent of teachers--the Adventist ones—let’s make sure they are solidly committed Seventh-day Adventists, who by action and word model the principles God has given in His Word. Maybe then our young people will see such a difference in their teachers that they will want to serve the Lord as their teachers do.
--Chris Jenkins