Raafat Kamal, who was elected on Thursday as the next
president of the church’s Trans-European Division, acknowledged that
Seventh-day Adventists face an enormous challenge in 21st-century Europe but said
he believed new ways would be found to share the message of Jesus’ second
Kamal was elected by the General Conference’s Executive
Committee, the top governing body of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to
replace Bertil Wiklander as president of the 22-nation region that includes
Britain, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and a swath of countries stretching from Finland
“The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a unique prophetic
message for the people of Europe at the end of time,” said Kamal, referring to
the three angels’ message about Jesus’ coming in Revelation 14.
“I am excited about the opportunities that we have within
our reach and humbled by the fact that God is using us to accomplish His
mission,” he said in an interview. “The question before us is how God will
transform our minority church from being a fortress influenced by secular
society into a force to transform local communities.”
Kamal, who has served as the division’s field secretary and
Wiklander’s assistant for the past seven years, said a spiritual decline
accompanied by growing materialism presented a challenge for the Adventist
“Europe, possibly for the first time in 1,000 years, is now
a mission field,” he said.
The reality that the continent that gave birth to the
Protestant Reformation in 1517 is now a mission field has major implications for
Adventists, he said.
Complicating matters, Adventists account for only about 0.01
percent of the 200 million people living in the division’s territory, or one in
every 2,385 people, he said.
World church President Ted N.C. Wilson said new methods were
needed to sensitize people to religion and to find approaches that reached their
“We will be praying that the new president will help to
increase the focus on these very important eternal objectives that are very
precious to the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” he said in an interview at a health conference in Geneva, Switzerland.
Wilson and other members of the General Conference’s
Executive Committee voted on Kamal’s candidacy at a closed meeting on
the sidelines of the health conference.
Wilson noted that a sculpture of the three angels decorates
an outdoor wall of the Trans-European Division’s headquarters in St. Albans,
“Those three angels have been there for decades, but they
are not outdated, they are not passé. They are more relevant than ever,” he
Kamal was nominated at a June 27 meeting of the Trans-European
Division’s Executive Committee at the St. Albans headquarters. Wilson,
who attended the meeting, said committee members made a list of all the desired
characteristics for the new division president and compiled a list with a
number of candidates’ names.
“We took time to pray a lot during the proceedings,” he said.
“We had different people praying. We had silent prayer. … Then we nominated
Raafat Kamal on the first vote and prayed for him.”
Wiklander, who will turn 68 in September, said he was
retiring for personal reasons and had reached the decision with his wife.
“I have had the privilege and joy of serving the church as
division president for 19 years, which is a long time considering the amount of
travel required,” he said. “In my Swedish culture, one retires at 65 years of
age, and I have passed that.”
He said he looked forward spending more time with family,
serving the church through biblical scholarship, and seeking God through music,
art, and poetry.
“I will remain open to continue serving the church as much
as I can and as needed,” he said.
Raafat (pronounced: Rah-afat) Kamal, 50, was born in Lebanon
and holds two undergraduate degrees, in business and theology, as well as four
master’s degrees, in systematic theology; educational administration and
curriculum; Islamic philosophy and theology; and business administration.
Before joining the Trans-European Division in 2007, he
worked for seven years as executive director of ADRA UK (2000-2005) and ADRA
Trans Europe (2005-2007).
He married Heidi Kamal Kendel, a native of Norway and
registered nurse, in 1987, and together they have two daughters.
Asked what inspires him, Kamal pointed to Lamentations 3:22,
23, which reads: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His
compassions fail not. They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.”
“I’m inspired to know and experience God’s faithfulness,
love, mercies and compassions new every morning,” he said.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges that you faced as
president, and how did you resolve them?
A: The biggest challenges were to lead the church as a whole in very diverse
cultural settings, to take seriously our calling as an agent of God's mission,
and to develop leaders.
I sought to address these challenges with a deep personal
devotional life, being accessible to the people who needed me, having a
presence in the field, and placing a relentless emphasis on mission and
leadership in sermons, devotionals, lectures, and other communications. I
sought to set a valid personal example in Christian leadership, focusing on
teamwork, written strategic plans that integrated the work of the unions with
the division services, a leadership newsletter, and countless seminars and
God has blessed us more than we deserve. I have particularly
enjoyed working with outstanding officers and departmental teams. I will miss
the wonderful staff at the TED office.
Q: What advice would you offer to your successor?
A: I don't think my successor needs my advice. But if he
asked for it, I would say: trust in God, focus on His end-time mission, be
yourself, be approachable and meet the people, and be a model of Christ-like
Q: What will be your main priorities as Trans-European Division
A: My first priority is to build on the good work of my
predecessor, Elder Bertil Wiklander, by implementing the goals and actions of his
strategic 2012-2015 plan titled “Making God Known in Europe. “
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will endeavor
to work with our division’s 1,170 churches and congregations, comprising 84,000
members, to become local expressions of the body of Christ, both worshiping and
witnessing, called and sent to make God known to more than 200 million
Q: What is the division’s biggest challenge, and how do you
intend to tackle it?
A: Europe is a challenging continent for everyone who
desires to spread the gospel. It is a continent in spiritual decline.
In addressing this, we need to remember that all of our
church’s activities should be biblically based, Christ-centered, Holy Spirit-driven,
community focused, to the glory of God, and for the good of His creation.
Based on these principles, it is my intention for the next few months to pray,
listen, consult, and dream with fellow Adventists as we
seek to realize God’s will for our church in 21st-century Europe.
Contact Adventist Review news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected].