“The challenges we are experiencing in secularized Europe are a preview of the same challenges [that] other regions of the world [will experience] more or less soon,” Inter-European Division (EUD) president Mario Brito said at the end of the region’s Year-End Meeting in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, November 8, 2022.
“The way we are facing [those challenges], and in many cases overcoming them, will open perspectives and paths for the church in those regions,” Brito added. “Beyond the mission here, it is an invaluable contribution that, once again, the [Adventist] Church in Europe is seeking to contribute to the advancement of the work.”
In addition to the administrative work of reporting, approval of records and budgets, and scheduling of church activities, the November 3-8 meetings featured a focused analysis and discussion on the growing opportunities of communication through digital media for the development of a personal discipleship ministry. This discussion led to a collection of guidelines and the formation of a task force for the proposal of an integrated communication and media plan with a focus on mission, to be presented in 2023.
The meeting included some participants from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, including general vice-president Arthur Stele. Acknowledging the difficult conditions and circumstances for evangelization, Stele said he felt happy about the missionary efforts of the Adventist Church in Europe and the “true miracle” of the baptisms taking place.
Stele also made an emotional reference to the extraordinary work done by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Europe in supporting the Ukrainian population and Ukrainian refugees who have moved to countries that have welcomed them, both in the EUD and in the Trans-European Division. Stele said that the mission in Europe is “alive and thriving.”
Also from the General Conference, Lowell Cooper, Ganoune Diop, and Karnik Doukmetzian visited the EUD territory for this meeting. Cooper, former vice-president of the General Conference, was in charge of the moments of reflection and devotion, focusing on the personal relationship with Jesus as the answer to the fundamental questions of existence and relationship with others.
Diop, director of the General Conference Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department, offered a set of three presentations on the three angels’ messages, closely relating them to the message of hope with which God has mandated the Adventist Church for today. Doukmetzian, general counsel to the General Conference, conducted a training on the challenges facing the church and its local communities in the present day with regard to legal issues. Doukmetzian was joined by Lowell Cooper to address church organization, given the arrival of new officers to the EUD union regions.
Adventist World Radio (AWR) representatives presented the plan for next year’s project, “Christ for Europe,” taking place in May 2023, in which several churches from the EUD union regions will participate in a joint effort for mission in Europe with various levels of the church.
Saturday (Sabbath) was spent at the Plovdiv Congress Centre, with a program organized by the Bulgarian Union, presided over by Milen Georgiev. In addition to Sabbath School and worship services on Sabbath morning, the afternoon was filled with a question-and-answer session with General Conference officers, who, before EUD leaders and church members in Bulgaria, explained the workings of the General Conference and presented ideas and plans for the development of the worldwide mission.
According to EUD leaders, this Year-End Meeting, the first to take place in person since 2019, was a blessed opportunity for reunion among division leaders, officers, and lay members. In this city in central Bulgaria, considered to be the oldest urban center in Europe and a meeting point between cultures and civilizations, leaders reminded church representatives of the great challenges to mission in Europe. Above all, however, they traced new ways of overcoming those challenges for the sake of mission.