September 5, 2014

In a First, Adventists Hold a Bible Conference in Laos

A group of Adventists in Laos heard an
unprecedented series of seminars on clean vs. unclean meat, Sabbath-keeping,
and the authority of the Bible from a trio of visiting scholars — and
appreciated their country’s first Bible Conference so much that they asked for
it to be organized every year.

About 60 Bible workers and pastors attended
the conference in Laos on a recent weekend as the Seventh-day Adventist Church
stepped up efforts to share Jesus in a part of the world that was off-limits
for decades. Similar Bible conferences also were held in neighboring Vietnam
and Cambodia last month.

Organizers said the event was remarkable because even
though most of the attendees were illiterate, with little education, they
understood the message as it was presented.

“Furthermore, they enjoyed it so much that
they requested more conferences on an annual basis,” one organizer said.

Ahead of the conference, some organizers worried about the impact three days of scholarly presentations in a
country that lacks a tradition of formal education and where the languages of
many people do not have a written script. 

But, the organizers said, the three presenters used
such down-to-earth theology and practical lessons that the
audience eagerly absorbed what they heard. As an example, one said, listeners
appreciated an explanation from Jiří Moskala, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, that unclean animals that are living cannot
transfer uncleanness to clean animals or humans, so people can handle pet dogs,
cats, horses, and camels without becoming unclean.

The other speakers were Greg Whitsett, director of the Global Mission Center for East Asian Religions under the General Conference, who discussed how to keep the Sabbath from an Asian perspective and how to live honorably and graciously with God and others as a minority religion in a non-Christian population; and Michael W. Campbell, assistant professor of historical and theological studies at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in the Philippines, who spoke on the authority of Scripture, the biblical foundations for understanding temperance, and the non-immortality of the soul from an Asian perspective.

The Adventist Church got a first foothold in
Laos in 1957, but it was halted during the Vietnam
War in the late 1960s. The church’s work officially restarted in 2007, and today it has about 2,000 members living in 13 of the country’s 18 provinces. The first Seventh-day
Adventist minister was ordained in 2009, and five ministers now work in the

The presenters asked the conference
attendees about the greatest challenge facing the Adventist Church in their
country and were told that it was a lack of resources, especially trained

“Since the prospect of going to college
seems like such a far-removed possibility for many of them, they expressed deep
and heartfelt appreciation for this unprecedented opportunity to attend the
conference,” Campbell said.

Plans are already under way for a follow-up
Bible Conference in Laos next year.

Contact Adventist Review news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected].
Twitter: @ARMcChesney