Zephyrin walked up the mountainside, breathing in the fresh scent of the eucalyptus forest. The morning sounds—crowing roosters, chattering children, and bleating goats—reached his ears as he walked past a small village. He greeted a man walking toward his farm, homemade hoe slung over his shoulder. Zephyrin, 29, is a Global Mission pioneer in the hills of northern Rwanda. Although Rwanda has one of the highest ratios of Adventists, some areas still have no believers. When he first came to this district two years earlier, he’d found just three Adventists.
Zephyrin studied the people’s needs, searching for a way to make friends for Jesus. He asked the chief for permission to teach adults to read and write. The chief agreed and gave him three rooms to use. Then he invited people to attend the classes.
Zephyrin was surprised when 126 people showed up for class. Armed with only a blackboard and some chalk, he began teaching several groups of adults. Eight months later most of the people could read and write at least a little. He formed new groups to study advanced reading and writing. When these groups graduated, they could read the Bible in their own language. Zephyrin started and ended class with prayer, and bit-by-bit he told the class members about God. When they asked, he explained the Bible truths to them. As interest increased, Zephyrin arranged to hold evangelistic meetings. And the people came.
About 500 people came to the first meetings. Zephyrin taught them for two weeks and then followed up with visits for a month. He held another two-week series of meetings and a one-month follow-up. He repeated this six times for a total of nine months, all the while continuing to teach literacy classes. With each series of meetings, the attendance grew.
He was amazed by the response. Almost 200 were baptized in the first baptism. Rosette, the wife of the local school headmaster, was one of the first to ask to be baptized. Zephyrin was concerned that her baptism would make her husband angry, as he hadn’t attended the meetings. But he attended her baptism and said, “Who knows? Maybe someday I will be baptized too.”
The headmaster kept his promise and was baptized during the next series of meetings. He has invited some of the church’s new singing groups to present programs in his school. He hopes to generate some interest in the Adventist faith near the school and start another group of believers.
Zephyrin was busier than ever. He continued teaching literacy classes while he held evangelistic meetings, visited interested families, and conducted early-morning worship services and Sabbath services. Within a year the number of believers grew from three to 300! The church’s mission headquarters purchased some land on which to build a church. They provided cement for the foundation and metal sheets for the roof for a church to seat 500. Zephyrin continued his evangelism and his baptisms. Today the church has 439 members, plus many children and visitors. In addition, several smaller groups have formed in neighboring locations.
We sometimes hear of “underground churches” which have to meet secretly because of persecution or government limitations to freedom. But in outback Australia a new Global Mission project has gone underground literally. Alan Tuionetoa and his wife Lani are the Global Mission pioneers of a small home church group that is just starting in the opal-mining town of Coober Pedy in South Australia. Their home—like many others in this unique desert town—is a dugout beneath the ground.
Even more interesting is the way this Global Mission project got started. For years Pastor Eric Davey visited isolated Aboriginal groups in the outback of Australia and made many friends. During a visit through the area two years ago with Pastor Don Fehlberg, the two Adventist pastors were asked to conduct the funeral of an aboriginal lady who had died. This led to several new contacts and Bible study requests in Coober Pedy.
As a result of their visit Pastors Davey and Fehlberg asked Global Mission to start a new church plant in this remote outback town. It took some time to find the right pioneer to lead the venture, but last summer Alan and Lani, moved to this isolated town. The first church meeting took place at the local Lion’s Club. 13 adults and four children attended the service. Alan is working with “core people” in the area who have known Pastor Fehlberg and Pastor Davey for years. “They’ve introduced me to other people in the area,” says Alan.
Alan is now conducting broader outreach within the local indigenous community and says, “My wife and I just go and talk with them. I’m hoping to start cooking classes.”
A Children’s Club with more than 20 children started last September. Alan bought a portable sound system, keyboard and guitar, funded by a generous donor. He would dearly like to have a bus to transport the kids to their activities.
“There’s a good possibility things will grow here. We just need to pray a lot and work hard. It’s exciting,” says Alan.
It was the day of the first baptism in Matsuyama, Taiwan, for Pastor Lee OneHo, and he was a little nervous. As a pioneer missionary pastor his task was to plant a new congregation in an unentered part of this northern Asian country, but he didn’t have a proper baptismal tank to baptize his first new member, Tamai Smiko, a 61-year-old shopkeeper, so he planned to baptize her in the sea. It was March. He prayed for good weather.
Tamai owns a small cosmetic shop in the coastal town of Matsuyama, and usually reads books when there were no customers. She’d come across Pastor OneHo’s church and was curious. She’d taken some literature and read it in her shop. She found the Biblical prophecies in Daniel and Revelations especially interesting. Pastor OneHo found excuses to go to the grocery store near her shop so he could stop in and talk to her about her reading. They started an informal Bible study. Eventually Pastor OneHo asked her if she was ready to be baptized and she excitedly said, “Yes!”
When Pastor OneHo later asked Tamai how she made up her mind so fast, she said, “I can’t believe, myself, how I answered you so easily back then.”
Because the closest Adventist church was too far from Matsuyama to go for the baptism, Pastor OneHo decided to risk the weather and baptize Tamai in the sea. Although the chosen day was unusually warm for the time of year, the water was still cold. Pastor OneHo hurried through the baptism hoping that Tamai wouldn’t get too cold. As he lifted her out of the water, she started shedding tears of joy. Pastor OneHo knew then that the cold water didn’t’ matter. Tamai’s new life in Christ was what mattered.
Now Tamai’s neighbor, Okiue, wants to know more about Tamai’s newfound faith. She started attending the small church plant in Matsuyama a few months ago and is studying the Bible with Pastor OneHo. He hopes to baptize her in the near future.
Three years ago literature evangelist Dariusz Ziarkiewicz visited the home of Teresa, a retiree in Lebork, a small city in northwestern Poland. She purchased several books from him, including Patriarchs and Prophets, The Desire of Ages, and The Great Controversy. Teresa devoured the books right away.
The books raised some serious questions in Teresa’s mind, so she talked to her religious leader about what she learned. He wasn’t able to give her what she considered “reasonable answers;” consequently, she compiled a list of questions to ask Dariusz, if he ever returned. Dariusz had passed her name on to Joe, the Global Mission pioneer who was starting a church plant in Lebork. When Joe arrived at her house, Teresa peppered him with questions. She was especially interested in salvation by faith and the Sabbath. When Joe asked her if she wanted to study the Bible with him, Teresa readily agreed.
At first she feared leaving her faith group, but as Teresa learned more about God’s plan for her life she felt compelled to join the Adventist church. She was baptized a few months ago, the first new Adventist in the Lebork church plant.
Courtesy: Polish Union Conference
Global Mission pioneers are local people who dedicate at least one year to starting new churches in areas or among people groups where there is little or no Adventist presence.
Mission 360° features inspiring stories about mission work.
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