The Sabbath-afternoon program at the General Conference Session offered a smorgasbord of reports painting a vibrant portrait of how church members around the globe are answering the call to go and spread the gospel in some of the darkest corners of the world.
Hosts Tiffany Brown, an intern with the office of Global Mission Urban Center, and Caleb Haakenson from Adventist Mission introduced the audience to stories of people who have already responded in such areas as youth ministry, health ministry, and media.
The two-hour program highlights included:
Adventurers (ages 4–9) and Pathfinders (ages 10–17) fully appreciate the assignment to go on God’s errands, delegates were told. Camporees around the world drew thousands of youths who expressed their love for Jesus in a myriad of ways. One ministry, called Mission Caleb in the South American Division, encourages youth and young adults to take vacation time to serve their communities and engage in evangelistic outreach.
Mission to the Cities
Paul Ogaga, a ministry leader with One Year in Mission, the church initiative that invites young adults to commit a year to mission, relayed a story from the Northern Nigeria Union that caught his attention. Initially the plan in one locale was to begin giving Bible studies, but organizers soon realized they had to first address the needs of the people. “We started doing repairs and in the evening do Bible studies,” Ogaga said. “It made friends and led to baptisms.”
In Tokyo, a partnership began in 2019 among the Northern Asia-Pacific Division, the Japan Union Conference, and the General Conference. A church-planting movement titled “Mission Unusual Tokyo” seeks to create new faith communities in a highly secularized urban environment. In one locale, a young woman who noted how friends came together to witness to her mother began studying the Bible and was connected with the Mission Unusual Tokyo team. The team offered her friendship and mentorship, and she was baptized after experiencing the genuine love of God.
Loma Linda University Health president Richard Hart introduced alumni of the denomination’s premier medical university who are serving in remote parts of the world. The group included James Fernando, medical director in Sierra Leone, and his wife, Rachel, who serves as a physician assistant; Denny Hong, a doctor in Kenya; Mel Bersaba, medical director in Sierra Leone; Wilson Thomas, who serves in Malawi; Andrew and Megan Trecartin, physicians in Chad; Jeffrey and Michelle Cho, formerly physicians in Haiti and now transitioning to Belize; and Staci Davenport, medical director in St. Lucia.
The Heroes Bible Challenge game created by the GC Communication Department was found online by a young man. He was given permission by the department to add unique sounds to each hero. He soon became interested in the stories even more than the technology. Choosing a “deeper dive” into the Bible, he eventually joined the Adventist Church.
Young Cipriano had a near-death experience and was bedridden. His grandfather connected his TV, and he happened upon Hope Sabbath School. He said he could feel the Lord reaching out to him, and Hope Channel became his church. “I’m filled with thankfulness and love Jesus with my whole heart,” he said.
Michael Kruger, president of ADRA International, highlighted growth in the church’s development and relief agency by noting that persons impacted by ADRA grew from 15.7 million in 2016 to more than 35 million in 2020. ADRA now enjoys one of the largest footprints of any church-affiliated development program.
“When Dorian struck the Bahamas in 2019, we couldn’t get in,” Kruger noted. “There were no flights; roads had been washed away. You know who was already there? The local Adventist church. In the first forty-eight hours, we were able to fund their efforts to supply people in need.”
Adventist Volunteer Services
GC associate secretary Elbert Kuhn interviewed Zach Kirstein, who spent the 2021-2022 school year serving as a student missionary at an orphanage in Bolivia. Kirstein, a student at Southern Adventist University, is the great-great-great-great-great grandson of J. N. Andrews, the first official missionary sent by the Adventist Church in 1874.
“I Will Go” Cycling Team
The audience erupted in applause as the “I Will Go” riders cycled into the dome, outfitted in the gear they wore on a trip of more than 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers) from Washington, D.C., to St. Louis. Along the way they distributed more than 4,000 pieces of literature, including hundreds of copies of Ellen White’s classic The Great Controversy, which first brought Adventism to the families of several of the team cyclists.
Adventist education is one of the most persistently successful aspects of the Adventist mission effort. Every year, thousands of students are baptized into the church, and thousands more family members find faith by attending school programs, religious services, and church activities. Nearly one million students around the globe learn about a loving God through Adventist education. A video highlighted how students from various backgrounds, including at mission schools like Arizona’s Holbrook Indian School, find both high-quality education and faith in Adventist classrooms.
Women’s ministries featured outreach to vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, including sewing masks and donating clothing. Women around the globe launched initiatives to share meals, broadcast online workshops, and create radio programs, including sponsoring daily morning worship experiences on Google Hangouts. GC Women’s Ministries director Heather-Dawn Small said, “Despite challenges, women are blessing others and making a difference in people’s lives.”