African Church Leaders Visit Local Membership in the Bahamas

Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division administrators toured church facilities in Nassau, New Providence.

Henry R. Moncur III, ATCU Communication and IAD News Staff
African Church Leaders Visit Local Membership in the Bahamas
Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division and Inter-American Division leaders stand with Atlantic Caribbean Union leaders at the church’s headquarters in Nassau, the Bahamas, during a two-day tour to visit the territory, April 12-13. [Photo: John Garcia]

Leaders from the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) and the Inter-American Division (IAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church visited leaders and members in the Atlantic Caribbean Union (ATCU) region during a two-day tour, April 12-13. Leaders learned about the union territory’s history and church growth initiatives and met local pastors and members across Nassau, the Bahamas.

According to Elie Henry, president of the IAD, the visit accommodated a request from SID leaders to see how the church’s mission is accomplished in the Inter-American Division territory. “We wanted to go to a place where we can spend the Sabbath [Saturday] and see the church in action,” Henry said.

Harrington Akombwa, president of SID, said that to see what was done in the territory was history in the making for the SID leaders. “The linkage of these two divisions is historic,” he said. “The biggest division in the world church is in Africa. The second largest is our division, well above four million [members], and your division is the third in membership,” he said. “So, when we come together, we are not competing with one another but networking. This brings glory to God in heaven.” The visit was an opportunity to learn from each other and then collaborate to finish the mission, he added.

Leaders arrived in New Providence, the Bahamas, home to ATCU’s headquarters as well as home to the South Bahamas Conference, on April 12. They first visited Grand Bahama Academy, where they were welcomed by music from the school’s band, taken on a tour of the campus facilities, given produce grown in the school’s garden, and updated on the school’s plans for development.

“We can see it in the experience we had in visiting the school that you are teaching the students how to care for nature and that the school can make a difference for the community,” Henry said.

Before the visit to ATCU, SID leaders spent a day at the IAD headquarters in Miami, Florida, United States, to learn about evangelism initiatives and mission strategies throughout the territory, Henry said.

In his remarks at a welcoming ceremony at the union’s headquarters, Akombwa highlighted the importance of the visit as he spoke to church administrators, workers and pastors. “We heard how organized you are as a division, and we said we want to learn. Your reports are among the best in the entire world. You are doing very well,” Akombwa said.

Leonard Johnson, secretary of the IAD, tied the visit to a historic moment. Johnson noted how the first prime minister of the Bahamas, the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling, who was a Seventh-day Adventist, played an instrumental role in the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. “It is historic that at this moment, we have leaders from South Africa now here in the Bahamas to meet with and learn from others in advancing mission,” Johnson said.

Leaders saw the church in action on April 13 when they attended an evangelistic outreach campaign underway on the island.

Henry expressed excitement about the passion and fervor demonstrated by the membership during the evangelistic meeting and the way the gospel was being preached in the territory. “Coming here to one of the newest and youngest unions in IAD, we are delighted to see that you are doing marvelous things for God. The way you are taking the work forward and growing is inspiring,” he said. He called on the members to accept the challenge to go and seek those who have not yet accepted Christ.

Leaders also attended a joint service of several Adventist Haitian Creole churches on the island at the Grants Town Seventh-day Adventist Church, where Bishop Delton Fernander, president of the Bahamas Christian Council, welcomed the IAD and SID leaders on behalf of the Christian diaspora in the Bahamas.

“I am grateful that we have found you at your best, doing evangelism. This is the reason why we exist as a church,” Akombwa said. He challenged the members to persist in evangelism. “We have a message that we need to get out to the people. … Keep on doing the work of evangelism,” he said.

The visit provided opportunities for the division leaders to see how organizational restructuring has benefited the work in the region, said Peter Kerr, president of ATCU. “We feel blessed beyond measure to have been considered by the leadership of the Inter-American Division as the union out of the 24 unions of the division that would be honored with the visit of our leaders from the Inter-American Division and the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division,” he said.

In reflecting on the visit, Henry said they saw the church in motion for mission. “This visit shows ATCU at its finest, doing mission, and I want to encourage the members to continue with that fire for the Lord.”

Gideon Reyneke, secretary of SID, in summing up the two-day experience, said, “Mission is the heartthrob of our division, and everything needs to be focused on mission,” he said. “Ours is to have every member an active disciple doing something for God. We are blessed to have been here.”

The Atlantic Caribbean Union oversees the work of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Bahamas, Cayman Islands, and Turks and Caicos, organized in four conferences. There are more than 27,000 church members worshipping in 91 churches and congregations. ATCU also operates three primary schools and a secondary school.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.

Henry R. Moncur III, ATCU Communication and IAD News Staff