Ten pastoral staff from the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) visited with Trans-European Division staff on Tuesday, April 11 with the aim of gaining an insight into how mission can be achieved within the secularised and diverse cultures of Europe.
Led by NZPUC Discipleship leader, Victor Kulakov, the group specifically chose to visit within the TED territory because both in New Zealand itself, and in the islands that make up the NZPUC territory, they see themselves facing similar issues.
During an intense morning of presentation and discussion, Daniel Duda, TED Education and Adventist Mission director, highlighted the challenges that are faced by the 11 Unions and 3 attached fields within the TED, regarding sharing the Gospel—whether in highly secularised countries like the Netherlands and Finland, or more religiously mono-cultural countries like Greece, Poland or Serbia where, despite a monopoly religion, secularism is making serious inroads.
“While 19th century methods are still having some success in a few areas, we have to be innovative and change our mindset in order to reach out to people groups who have radically changed their world-view either post-communism or post-Christianity,” Duda said.
Adrielle Carrasco, Health Ministries director for NZPUC found the debate refreshing. “It was such a blessing, and some great learnings and good challenges for us,” she said. Kulakov expressed appreciation for a clear understanding of strategy and objectives.
Part of that learning was a review of some of the success stories and mission experiments that have taken place in the TED over the past 12 months. Victor Hulbert, TED Communication director, took the group on a whirlwind tour of a variety of projects including Messy Church success in Croatia and Greece, a pizza church linked closely to an Adventist school and church in Finland, health clubs in South East Europe, a motor-bike club, and creative youth and pathfinder initiatives.
One word that came across very strongly was ‘compassion’. Both within the European refugee/migrant situation, and in other forms of outreach, Hulbert noted how genuine compassion makes a significant difference in people’s lives.
“We have been hugely blessed and learnt a number of very valuable things that we have committed to apply/try in our ministry.”
He also emphasised that while the church is good at developing and running its own programmes, being outward looking and seeing what the world is actually looking at may help the Church develop initiatives that touch more lives. As examples he showed how the church in the UK was highlighted for the work it did around the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI—and the courageous Adventist story of conscientious objectors. More recently he showed how Hungary and Poland (among others), were able to make significant community impacts by focusing on the Desmond Doss story during the release of the Hacksaw Ridge film.
David Neal, TED Stewardship director, and former Irish Mission president, highlighted how a mix of traditional and creative evangelism worked in Dublin during a two-year Mission to the Cities outreach in association with Mark Finley. He emphasised how the ‘Cuisle’ centre of influence in the front hall of the Dublin Ranelagh church drew in a whole new footfall of Irish people.
The fourth presenter was Patrick Johnson, Ministerial Association Secretary. He took the group on a different journey showing how good mentoring and discipleship can not only benefit the pastor and his family, but will, ultimately help the church grow as a positive discipleship track leads to a significant improvement, not only in building relationships, but in an increased and natural process of total member involvement.
It was hard to halt discussion at the end of the morning. Even with traditional “Thank you’s” expressed by the giving of South Pacific islanders shell necklaces, and the posed photo beneath the TED three-angels sculpture, the conversation continued, and will continue as the group travel to Amsterdam, Denmark and finally to Orlando, Florida before returning to New Zealand and the islands.
Following an evening debriefing, Kulakov expressed his gratefulness for the time together, noting “strong similarities in thinking and direction between TED and the South Pacific Division. We truly praise God.” He concluded, “We have been hugely blessed and learnt a number of very valuable things that we have committed to apply/try in our ministry.”
An original version of this story appears on the Trans-European Division website.