, with Adventist Review staff
João Martins has been elected director the newly created European office of ADRA, an entity and position that has been under discussion for several years but came to a head during a Seventh-day Adventist Church-organized refugee summit in early 2016.
Martins, who currently serves as ADRA director for the Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division, will be based in Brussels and develop a team that will coordinate ADRA country directors across Europe.
“His vision is that ADRA in Europe may be an agency of reference, reflecting the character of God by the promotion of human dignity in a suffering world,” the Inter-European Division and Trans-European Division said in a joint statement.
Martins was appointed as ADRA Europe director following recommendations from both divisions during their annual church business meetings known as Spring Meetings.
European leaders of the Adventist Church hope that the new ADRA office will allow more refugees to receive assistance as the continent struggles with a refugee crisis.
Leaders from ADRA and Adventist Church agreed to create the new position of regional coordinator at a two-day European Refugee Summit in Zagreb, Croatia, in late January. In that role, Martins is to ensure that adequate assistance is available to refugees across Europe, including in countries such as Macedonia, where ADRA’s offices are staffed solely by volunteers, and in Greece, which does not have an ADRA office.
Read also: Adventists Hold Summit to Coordinate Response to Europe's Refugee Crisis
Martins, a native of Portugal, said he lives and breathes ADRA. After completing a degree in enterprise management at Évora University, he headed to Angola, finding himself in what he describes as “a very harsh situation” managing relief projects during a civil war in the African country.
“This first experience created a very positive and unforgettable impact in my life,” he said. “After returning back to my country and working in a multinational company, I found that being in ADRA is a much more meaningful way of life, where I can serve God and humanity.”
As a result, he headed to Reading University in Britain, completing an master’s degree in applied development studies. He then returned to Portugal, where he served for 12 years as finance and programs director and then as country director for ADRA Portugal. During this time he worked closely with other nongovernmental organizations in Portugal, implementing a system of national programs and raising the church awareness about social issues.
Since October 2015, Martins has served as ADRA director for the Inter-European Division, which encompasses 13 countries in Europe. The role has given him an opportunity to familiarize himself with the challenges that a regional director faces, especially in the context of the movement of refugees across Europe.
Martin said he would like to create a regional structure “that will be able to serve effectively the ADRA country offices in their partnerships with each other, the church, potential institutional donors, other civil society organizations, and the ADRA network.”
Martins was baptized in 1990 and has since served as a local elder as well as youth leader at local, regional, and national levels. He is married to Ausenda Martins and has a 10-year-old son.
In a separate ADRA development, Jonathan Duffy, president of ADRA International, has pledged that the organization would step up disaster relief efforts and boost activities that empower women and girls. He was speaking at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, organized by the United Nations and held in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 23 and 24. Watch Duffy's speech.