October 13, 2014

Surfer Pastor and Child Evangelists Lead Efforts to Share Jesus


Church representatives from across the globe shared their
most successful and unique initiatives to reach unbelievers in the world’s
largest cities — including a pastor who witnesses on his surfboard and child
evangelists who draw large crowds.

The initiatives were part of the Council on Evangelism and
Witness report presented on Friday and Sabbath to delegates of the 2014
Seventh-day Adventist Annual Council.

Many of the evangelism efforts included a common theme from
the past year: How to spread the gospel in cities and metropolitan areas
populated with millions of unbelievers.

“We have huge, huge challenges in our divisional territory,
but we strongly believe this is the Lord’s work,” said Jairyong Lee, president
of the Northern-Asia Pacific Division.

The Asian continent, he said, has 60 percent of the world’s
population, yet it’s only 4 percent Christian.

<strong>BLOOD-STAINED BIBLE:</strong> Evangelist Mark Finley holding a blood-stained Bible that reminded a man in Colombia of his religious roots. The anecdote was one of several stories told on Friday night and Saturday afternoon during the Council on Evangelism and Witness. Credit: Ansel Oliver /ANN

In the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division, home to cities
such as Cape Town and Luanda, the church hosted evangelism programs at 1,682
sites, and 500 of those were led by children, some as young as 6. As a result,
686 new churches were planted, and high-ranking government officials began to
embrace the health message.

The Southern Asia Division emphasized outreach by
encouraging laypeople to take two to three months to become literature
evangelists in their own neighborhoods.

In South America, a novel effort features a surfer-turned
pastor who spreads the gospel on a beach in the Brazilian state of São Paulo
hosting studies while sitting on his surfboard and reading from a waterproof

Not all evangelism efforts involved in-person outreach. In
Romania, Norel Iacob, editor of Semnel Timpului, that country’s Signs of the Times magazine, explained
the best way to reach a mainstream audience was to “write about the most
important news stories and events from a biblical perspective.” The magazine’s
website, he said, has become popular, attracting 300,000 unique visitors a
month, and among its readers is a former president of Romania.

Leaders of the East-Central Africa Division have focused on
public outreach by talented youth staging concerts on the streets of large
cities, drawing considerable interest from passersby, said Blasious Ruguri, the
division president. People stop to listen, he said, then inquire about who the
singers are.

“Then the young singers share a book like Steps to Christ, The Great Controversy,
Desire of Ages
, and become friends,” he said, referring to titles authored
by Adventist Church co-founder Ellen G. White.

Recent campaigns in that region have led to nearly 34,000
baptisms and 104 new churches in places such as Rwanda, Tanzania and Burundi.

Representatives from the United States told about efforts on
both coasts, including the large-scale NY13 effort in New York, and a major
health ministry in California.

NY13, a multifaceted outreach effort, resulted in 64 new
church companies in New York City. A similar effort will extend into the Southern
New England Conference and Northeastern Conference next year for an initiative
called Compassion Boston.

North American Division president Dan Jackson, in a video
presentation, summarized Bridges to our Community, a three-day health fair in
San Francisco and Oakland, California that provided more than $5 million in
free medical care to nearly 3,000 people in April.

Planning is now under way for health evangelism in the
Southwestern Union in preparation for the July 2015 General Conference session
that will be held in San Antonio, Texas.

Outreach in Ireland centered around filling people’s needs
in their neighborhoods, said Janos Kovas-Biro, evangelism coordinator for the
Trans-European Division. “We found out there were family needs, financial needs,
health needs, and intellectual needs, and also needs in taking care of

In between the evangelism presentations, Mark Finley,
assistant to the General Conference president, used an anecdote to encourage
regional leaders to keep the faith.

Holding an old, brown Bible, Finley told of a small group
meeting 70 years ago in Bucaramanga, Colombia, when a killer entered the home
to slay the Adventists. A husband and wife were targeted. After the husband was
killed, the wife took their son to a window and handed him off to someone
outside. The wife was then killed.

When the boy was already a man in his 70s, he became curious
about his past and went to an evangelistic campaign featuring Robert Costa of
the “Escrito Está” television program. The man got baptized.

Also in attendance at that crusade was the son of the
killer, and he has since been baptized.

The men have pledged to persuade their own families to join
the Adventist church.

That initial group of 15 Adventists meeting in the home in
Bucaramanga has blossomed into a church community that is 20,000 strong in the
region, said Finley, who told the story while clutching the blood-stained Bible
that belonged to the man's parents 70 years ago.