For more than 130 years, the Adventist Church has been passionate about mission. J. N. Andrews was the first official Seventh-day Adventist missionary, boarding a ship for Europe in 1874. But thousands would follow in his footsteps, leaving the comfort of home to share God’s love in unfamiliar and sometimes dangerous places. Some would even give their lives.
What about today? Is mission still a priority for the Adventist Church?
“From its very beginning, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been a missionary movement,” says Gary Krause, director of the Office of Adventist Mission at the Seventh-day Adventist World Headquarters. “Of course, it took the church a few years to realize that ‘going into all the world’ meant more than just North America. But when that realization came, it became a conviction. We started sending missionaries all over the world, a tremendous number for such a small denomination. Mission became our first priority. The very reason our church exists.”
Adventist missionaries today come from everywhere around the globe and serve wherever there’s a need. They come from different countries, cultures, and career paths, but they’re united in a common goal, to share the love and hope of Jesus with a world that desperately needs Him.
From teeming cities to remote jungle villages, missionaries such as Elmer Ribeyro are making a difference in the lives of people who have no where else to turn.
Even as a child, Dr. Ribeyro felt God was calling him to be a medical missionary. “I felt a desire to become a doctor and prayed that God would open doors for me to become one,” says Ribeyro. “I knew I wanted to serve in Africa some day.”
Originally from Peru, Dr. Ribeyro a skilled surgeon, and his wife, Angelica, a trained pharmacist, work at a small clinic in Sierra Leone, a country recently torn apart by a brutal civil war.
Medical missionaries such as Dr. Ribeyro serve a vital role in the outreach of the church. They’re often the first point of contact the local community has with Seventh-day Adventists. The care and compassion that the Ribeyros show their patients is a small glimpse of the love that Jesus shows us all.
Samir Berbawy was born in Egypt, grew up in Lebanon, and eventually immigrated to the United States where he became an Adventist educator.
When their children served as student missionaries at Nile Union Academy, Samir and his wife, Tanya, visited the Adventist school. Samir felt compelled by God to return to his homeland to make a difference in the lives of the young people in the church.
Eventually, Samir was asked to return to Egypt as a missionary and he now serves as president of the Egyptian field.
Every year scores of Adventist missionaries are trained and sent all over the world. Through such practical means as education, health care, church planting, and literacy training, they endeavor to reach the unreached and touch the untouchables. Missionaries have been, and still are, the Holy Spirit’s instruments to make us what we are today, a global spiritual family.
In the small country of Lesotho, two Adventist missionaries are sewing seeds of hope among people infected with HIV.
Veteran missionaries to Africa, Drs. Oscar and Eugenia Giordano have served the church in some of the continent’s most grueling environments.
Together, they founded Adventist AIDS International Ministries, a church-run organization that combines love, compassion, and education to help victims of HIV/AIDS live meaningful lives.
“We can see how lives are changing,” says Eugenia Giordano. “We can see people having hope. People that were dying and sick. Through this ministry they say, ‘Now I have hope.’”
“Jesus would approach these people,” says Oscar Giordano. “He would touch them; give them His tangible presence, which means a lot for a person who is completely alone. That touch of love will last a long time … care and compassion starts the healing process.”
As a former missionary and associate professor of Mission at Walla Walla University, Paul Dybdahl tries to instill a sense of urgency for mission in his students.
“There’s a perception on the part of many Christians, in the West at least, that the missionary enterprise, quote unquote, has been more successful than it really has been,” says Dr. Dybdahl. “The shift has been, “We’ve done well, most of the world already knows and so there’s this idea that it’s not as necessary now when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There’s still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done.”
Southern Asia-Pacific Division
Rick McEdward is a pastor with a missionary’s heart. Six years ago, he and his wife, Marcia, and their children moved to Asia, one of the most challenging areas for mission in the world. Rick has a burden for sharing God’s love with people of various world religions.
As Adventist Mission Coordinator for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, Rick works with Global Mission pioneers to start new groups of believers in cities and remote jungle areas.
“Recently I visited a small village in the jungle of Indonesia, where we’ve had a Global Mission project for several years,” says McEdward. “There is a small group of five families who now meet to worship every week. We have a Global Mission pioneer who goes to the village each week to conduct Bible studies and share God’s love with the people. There’s been some opposition to our work in the past but as the pioneer and church families keep sharing their love, the community has opened up and accepted God’s word.”
For the past eight years Milan Moskala has served as a medial missionary in Dhaka, Bangladesh, one of the poorest places on earth. Its slums are packed with people who lack the bare essentials of life.
Originally from the Czech Republic, Dr. Moskala spent years ministering to war refugees in Bosnia. An accomplished dentist, he does a lot more than fix teeth. He often visits schools he has set up deep in the heart of the Dhaka slums.
“Everywhere there are thousands of children without parents, without support, just begging, working, trying to survive picking food out of garbage places, and fighting among themselves,” says Dr. Moskala. “They are living very miserable lives.”
These schools provide an education to children who would have had no chance to succeed on their own. It also provides them with the only meal they may eat that day. In the evenings, Dr. Moskala visits houses in the slums and teaches people about healthy living.
Dr. Moskala’s acts of kindness reflect the love of a God who otherwise would remain unknown to this community.
In the past few minutes, you’ve had a glimpse into the lives of several missionary families. They’re just a handful of the hundreds around the world who often work in dangerous, lonely places without adequate resources. They’re determined to make a difference, but they need our help.
Your mission offerings can work little miracles all around the world. You can feed a child. Bring a sense of joy and purpose to an AIDs victim. Put a Bible in the hands of someone who has never even seen God’s word.
“It’s wonderful when you see a life changed,” says Oscar Giordano. “When you see the joy of the people who’ve experience the healing power of Jesus Christ. I invite, I urge, my brothers and sisters allover the world to get involved and to support through their offerings the work that is being done on the front line.”
Laurie Falvo is a Communication Projects Manager for the Office of Adventist Mission.
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