April 28, 2018

Former Refugee Asks God to Bless Adventist Humanitarian Agency

Yaman* fled with his mother and four siblings from the bombs falling on his village in Syria. On a bitterly cold train station at the border of Macedonia, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) gave the family warm clothing. Last weekend, Yaman thanked ADRA for helping his family. “God bless the work of ADRA,” Yaman said to a large audience gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of ADRA Norway.

A Dangerous Journey

After a dangerous voyage from Turkey to Greece in a small boat, Yaman and his family headed north by train. At the Macedonian border, they met Britt Celine Oldebråten from ADRA Norway. Oldebråten serves as part of the ADRA emergency response team. As the thousands of refugees came off the train to continue their journey on foot, she instantly realized that many of them did not have adequate clothing to protect them from the icy winds.

Oldebråten immediately organized winter jackets for the refugees. As she was handing out food, she also learned that one of the families were headed for her home country. Their father had already arrived there sometime earlier.

Normally ADRA employees will not give out personal contact information, but it seemed important to Oldebråten to know what happened to the family on their way to Norway. “Please, tell me when you have arrived safely in Norway,” she said.

To both her surprise and that of Yaman, the family came to live just a few miles from her home. On Saturday, April 21, 2018, Yaman’s entire family were delighted not just to come but to take part in the 25th-anniversary celebrations.

Praise from Government Agency

During a Saturday afternoon program, Frederikke Storaker Kilander, assistant director at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), praised ADRA for their fine work. “We are particularly grateful for the way ADRA Norway is doing development work in very challenging conflict areas,” she said. Kilander quoted at length from an assessment report made by an outside consultant, praising the efficiency of the ADRA operations. “Please continue your work for those who need your help the most, as we look forward to a continued good working relationship,” she said.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Norway organized ADRA Norway as an independent foundation on April 19, 1993. Until that time, Adventist humanitarian work in Norway was organized as a department of the church. Over the years, many Norwegians have contributed significantly to the work of the international ADRA network.

God and the Plight of Children

During the Saturday morning sermon, ADRA International president Jonathan Duffy asked, “Does God look differently on the suffering of children in Malawi than the children of Norway?” He told the congregation that every day of the year, there are as many children dying from preventable diseases as if 100 planes had crashed. According to UNICEF statistics, he said, 15,000 children under the age of five die every single day.

Noting Jesus’ challenge in Matthew 5:13 —“You are the salt of the earth,” he said — Duffy reminded the congregation of their responsibility to help correct social injustice. He quoted John Stott, who in his book Issues Facing Christians Today wrote, “If society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked. The question to ask is, ‘Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?’”

Duffy pointed out that there is an increasing awareness in development circles of the important work churches are doing in helping to relieve suffering and create lasting change. The fact that ADRA is closely connected to the Adventist Church is a great asset.

During the weekend celebrations, ADRA highlighted how the agency is helping to reach some of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals the nations of the world have agreed to pursue. ADRA Norway, in cooperation with Norad, has specialized in contributing to Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. It is an area where the Seventh-day Adventist Church has a lot of experience through its global network of schools and universities, leaders said.

ADRA Norway has over the years become a trusted partner for Norad, something evident from the increasing funds Norad is channeling through ADRA. In 2010, Norad released grants of approximately $630,000 to ADRA projects. In 2018, that amount has reached $10 million. Managing such large sums on behalf of the Norwegian government is a responsibility ADRA team members take very seriously.

Currently, ADRA Norway is managing development projects in Ethiopia, Niger, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, and Thailand.

*Not his real name.