In an effort to continue expanding mission outreach to different people groups across the territory, the Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (IAD) recently sought to equip more than 700 of its church leaders, administrators, pastors, and mission coordinators to build bridges to Muslims.
The first-of-its-kind event, coined as the Adventist Muslim Relations Training Symposium, sought to provide new knowledge, skills, and attitudes as mission leaders engage in dialogue with their Muslim friends. The six-day virtual symposium on Islamic studies began on January 11 and ended with a certification ceremony on February 1, 2021.
“It is a great day for the Inter-American Division today,” Elie Henry, president of the Adventist Church in the IAD, said as he addressed hundreds of leaders during the online ceremony. “You have a new way to look at cross-cultural ministry.” It’s just the beginning, he said, but part of the larger-scale plan to implement the Adventist Church’s extensive I Will Go mission initiative in reaching every corner of the IAD with the message of hope.
“We are working really hard [in the IAD] to present God in all the different cultures throughout the territory,” Henry said. “We believe that it is time for us to work diligently together, to be open and creative in presenting Jesus, making sure to invite unreached people everywhere to follow Him.”
A Critical Time
More intentional efforts are underway to connect with nearly half a million Muslims who reside in more than 20 countries and islands in the territory, said Samuel Telemaque, IAD director of Adventist Mission and main organizer of the symposium.
“This is a critical time in the history of the IAD as a new vision for cross-cultural mission gains strength, as a new era of mission to show genuine love for our Muslim friends,” Telemaque said.
Petras Bahadur, director of the Global Center for Adventist Muslim Relations (AMR) of the Adventist Church, was one of the keynote presenters during the training. He applauded the IAD leadership for the initiative and congratulated the hundreds who completed the 20 hours of training.
A Vision and a Mission
“God has a vision, and we must have vision and mission for people in our territory,” Bahadur said. He encouraged leaders to pray for immigrants and to understand them better.
Samuel Lumwe, associate director of the AMR Global Center and another keynote speaker at the symposium, reminded leaders about the importance of discipleship.
In a pre-recorded video, Adventist Church president Ted N. C. Wilson greeted the event’s delegates and thanked them for sharing the wonderful truths of Jesus Christ. “Look to the Holy Spirit in leading you after this seminar on how to touch the lives of people,” Wilson said.
Gary Krause, director of Adventist Mission for the Adventist Church, reminded church leaders that the same principles they learned during the training symposium apply to all cross-cultural mission efforts. “Sometimes we may not know what to say, what not to say,” he said. “We may do something wrong, but people recognize a heart that is coming to them in love.… Do all you can to build bridges in your communities.”
For Clive Dottin, director of Adventist Mission for the Adventist Church in the Caribbean Union, headquartered in Trinidad, the lessons learned during the symposium will prove to be a blessing for mission leaders and ambassadors across the region. The lecturers, he said, displayed technical, conceptual, and interdependent competencies. “This combination provided the synergy that guaranteed the success of this amazing cross-cultural training program,” Dottin said.
The next step in cross-cultural outreach is for church leaders to establish an Adventist Mission Board in each of the 24 unions in the IAD territory, Telemaque said. The board, he said, will assess the needs of the people groups, facilitate daily dialogues, establish unique women’s ministries, identify neutral places for worship, and extend a special invitation for a special one-week dialogue program scheduled in January 2022.