A Modern Missionary Family Follows in the Footsteps of Pioneers

Jonathan Contero and his family are moving from Spain to serve in secular Switzerland.

Adventist Mission
A Modern Missionary Family Follows in the Footsteps of Pioneers
Church leaders share some words of encouragement to the Contero family before they start their mission work in Switzerland. [Photo: Enno Müller]

A church planter from Spain is following in the footsteps of the first official Seventh-day Adventist missionary, John N. Andrews, by moving to Switzerland to proclaim Jesus’ soon coming. 

But Jonathan Contero faces a challenge that Andrews did not need to address on his arrival nearly 150 years ago: rampant secularism.

The mission undertaking by Contero, his wife, and two young children is part of Mission Refocus, a General Conference initiative to prioritize resources for frontline mission work. Among other things, it calls on every church organization and institution to support sending missionaries to the most challenging mission areas of the world. The goal of Mission Refocus is to fulfill Matthew 24:14, where Jesus promised that He would return when the gospel is preached in all the world. 

Contero described it as a privilege to be sent to the same French-speaking region of Switzerland where Andrews once served. He and his family will live there for at least five years.

“Our goal is to pour ourselves into enlarging the church and strengthening the mission,” he said. 

Before the Contero family begins their missionary work in Switzerland, church leaders pray over the family and their work. [Photo: Enno Müller]

Contero’s background makes him well positioned for the secularist and post-Christian challenges that await in Switzerland. For the past 11 years, he has worked as a pastor and church planter within a largely secular community in Madrid, Spain. Since 2019, he also has served as associate director of Global Mission’s Center for Secular and Post-Christian Mission at the General Conference. He will remain associate director while serving in Switzerland.

“The Switzerland that Andrews encountered was largely Christian,” Contero said. “Secularism is the most urgent challenge that we have as a global church, not only in Europe and other Western countries, but also in countries that are becoming increasingly post-Buddhist, post-Hindu, post-Muslim, post-Jewish, and so on.”

The Switzerland endeavor is the brainchild of Erton Köhler, secretary of the General Conference, and he expressed hope that it would “inspire other organizations, institutions, and local churches to see the world as our mission field.

“We would like to take advantage of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of our mission to renew the commitment to conclude the work our pioneers started,” Köhler said by email. “I truly believe that if we increase the commitment to the worldwide mission, it will not only give a special impulse to our global initiatives to reach ‘every nation, tribe, tongue and people’ (Rev. 14:6), but will also renew commitment to local mission.”

General Conference president Ted N. C. Wilson, who offered a prayer of dedication for Contero and his family during the 2023 Annual Council, said not every Adventist can move to Switzerland but every Adventist should seek to be a witness within his or her sphere of influence.

“There are individuals who will want to be part of the official missionary program of the church, and we encourage them to contact appropriate leaders in the church structure,” he said. 

“However, all members will want to tell the Lord, ‘I will go and be part of the final proclamation of Christ’s return,’ ” he added. “This response can be made wherever you are. We are living in the last days of earth’s history, and all should be part of Mission Refocus and Total Member Involvement.”

Total Member Involvement is a General Conference initiative that encourages every church member to be involved in some form of mission and service.

Contero’s undertaking shares similarities with that of Andrews, who set sail from America for Neuchatel, Switzerland, on September 15, 1874. Andrews was accompanied by his son, Charles, 16, and daughter, Mary, 12; his wife had died earlier. Contero will be traveling with his wife, Abigail, and their two children.

Like Andrews, Contero will be sponsored by the General Conference. He will also be going as a student of Andrews University, the Adventist Church’s flagship institution of higher education that is named after the first official missionary. Andrews University will represent all church organizations and institutions that participate in Mission Refocus.

Contero will have at least one major advantage over J. N. Andrews. Andrews didn’t speak French, while Contero speaks fluent French after studying for his bachelor’s degree in theology at Collonges Adventist University in Collonges, France. Contero’s wife studied there too.

“We spent two years studying at Collonges, and they were the best years of our student life,” he said.

Contero also has an MA in theology from Sagunto Adventist College in Sagunto, Spain, and is currently studying for a doctorate in missiology at Andrews University.

Adventist Mission