Saturday, October 15, 2022, was a celebration Sabbath for the more than 180 Seventh-day Adventist communication leaders who met in Bucharest, Romania, for the 2022 Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) Europe convention. The day program included listening to personal testimonies, participating in congregational singing, and reflecting on the implications of being an Adventist communicator in the 21st century. It also included moments of delving into God’s Word.
“Write the vision, and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it,” was the text taken from the Bible book of Habakkuk, which set the tone for the day’s events.
“This is still our challenge today,” Inter-European Division (EUD) communication director Paulo Macedo said. “GAiN is about how to connect with people who might find [it] harder and harder to read, listen, and watch what we have to say.”
From the Romanian Parliament
Participants received greetings and a personal testimony from Pavel Popescu, a member of the Chamber of Deputies of Romania and secretary of the Commission for Information and Communication Technology of the Chamber of Deputies. Popescu, a Seventh-day Adventist, thanked organizers for the opportunity to address the group, and he recounted how in 2019, he was asked by the then-president of his party to run a digital campaign for the European Parliament.
Popescu acknowledged the influence his church upbringing had in the way he chose to communicate. “Most of the experience I had was actually from my local church, from Sabbath School and Adventist TV programs,” he said. He shared how he coordinated a professional team and how his party eventually won the elections.
Noting the importance of communicating to connect with people, Popescu told his audience how a short video featuring Romanians in the diaspora became that campaign’s reel. “It was the video that certainly helped us win the campaign,” he said.
Where Is Truth?
Popescu also shared how for most of 2022, he has participated in important meetings as his party assess the geopolitical situation in the region. “In absolutely every meeting, we ask, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ ‘Where is truth in all this?’”
He drew a parallel with what happens in the spiritual realm. “No matter who in this world is trying to tell us what truth is, there is one truth, which is Bible truth,” Popescu said. And the truth is, “this world will end, and Jesus will come to save us and take us home. Always remember that truth will prevail. Through billions of reels, only one will prevail.”
How to Move Forward
Simret Mahary led the main Sabbath message. Mahary serves as a pastor in Germany where he created the “Culture Lounge,” which is a venue in the city of Frankfurt that is being used to bring people together through music, art, and reflections. The Culture Lounge has helped church members connect with people living in a secular metropolis, inviting them to ask deep questions and explore new ideas.
Reflecting on the GAiN motto, “Forward: Keep Moving,” Mahary said it is essential that Adventist communicators know how and where to move. “How do we move forward as we move forward?” he asked.
Mahary used Abram’s story in Genesis 11 and 12 to reflect on someone who was on a journey, and called Adventist communicators to allow that story to inform their forward movements.
Reflecting on Our Ancestors
First, Mahary noted, we often overlook the fact that Abram’s journey didn’t start with Abram. Abram’s father Terah had left with the family from Ur to live in Haran. “In order to move forward, we must recognize the stories of those who have gone before us,” Mahary said. “We must reflect on their dreams, their broken dreams, and their limitations.” He added, “It’s when we connect with our church stories, even if they are painful, that we can realize where we are now, so that we can guess what our next step will be.”
Mahary called participants to connect even “with the painful past [of] our ancestors and those who brought us here. How reconciled or puzzled or curious or fair are we? Sometimes, this can be a task of a lifetime to find out how they impacted where we are,” he said.
Understanding and Moving On
For Mahary, who as teen immigrated to Germany from Ethiopia, to move forward it is essential to remember our personal and spiritual stories. He recounted how in his case, this meant leaving his Christian Orthodox background in Ethiopia to live with a brother who had become Adventist in Germany.
Understanding our story and accepting other people’s stories is essential as we try to find out what our next step will be. “For Abram, his next step after his father died was to continue on that journey, to move on,” Mahary said. “God told him, ‘Take the next step, and I will be with you.’” Mahary asked, “What is your next step that will make you vulnerable, because you have never gone before? It’s a huge thing to actually take it and to go to a place where you don’t have control, when you are vulnerable.”
Loving through Our Brokenness
But not everything was smooth sailing for Abram, Mahary reminded Adventist communicators. He pointed out that Abram, after arriving in Canaan and finding famine in the land, had to change his plans and go down to Egypt. Abram might have wondered why God allowed something like that to happen. But he kept trusting God. “Let us have the humility of not knowing, and living with not knowing, and trusting nevertheless in the Lord,” Mahary said.
Finally, Mahary called Adventist communicators to learn to live with limited resources, and keep moving on, even when the realities in our life do not come together. “In this world, we are thirsty, and we stay thirsty. We must live with constant yearning, longing for a better place.”
Likewise, Abram never saw God’s promise completely fulfilled in his lifetime. All he had was the promise of God’s company. Like Abram, in this world “we will live and die hungry. Living in a shadow will be the reality that we must face as humans,” Mahary said.
At the same time, Mahary said we must learn to keep trusting and loving even through our unfulfilled dreams and limitations, just like Abram did. “Moving forward, for me, means loving forward,” Mahary said. “In this life of exile, we can aspire to love, and see what God does in our lives and in the lives of those whom we aspire to move forward.”