Stories & Commentaries

ADRA Canada Reports How "ADRA School" in Uganda Helps Refugee Students

ADRA Canada Reports How "ADRA School" in Uganda Helps Refugee Students
Uganda the ADRA school

Photo provided by ADRA Canada.

Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo is causing thousands of people to flee to safety across the border into the country of Uganda. ADRA has been engaged in helping the refugees as they make new lives for themselves.

The government of Uganda has welcomed these incoming refugees. Not only have they provided a haven for people fleeing for their lives, they have generously given each family a small plot of land where they can grow vegetables. On these small allotments some are able to grow enough food to not only feed themselves, but also have enough to sell for other necessities. Some are even able to put together enough cash to send their children to boarding schools.

One school in the region is known for high academic standards and good morals. Built in 2003 for an earlier influx of refugees, the school is known far and wide as the “ADRA school.” Refugees who live close enough to the school are able to send their children as day students. About 150 students come from homes that are too far away for them to walk back and forth each day. These have become boarding students and live at the school.

Some of the boarders are as young as five years old. Their “dormitories” are actually the classrooms. The “dorm” for the younger students is bare of any beds and the students simply roll out mats on the floor at the end of the day. With minimum space, as many as three children share one mat. The principal of the school said, “We are definitely overcapacity, but how can we turn students away?”

One student, a 15-year-old girl from the DRC named Aganze, shares her story:

I was born and grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We had a small farm and life was good for us. I never dreamed that I would one day be a refugee, but it happened and here I am now living, as a refugee, far from my home.

We don’t know where they came from, but soldiers suddenly appeared in our village. They would kill some and torture others. They came several times. Each time they would come to our home asking for my father by name. He had done some work for foreigners and they were angry with him and wanted to kill him. Thanks be to God, each time they came, my father was able to escape. They would beat us trying to get us to tell them where he had gone. We didn’t know where he was hiding. This only made them more angry.

After one of these attacks, my father did not return. We were afraid that the soldiers had finally found him and had killed him. After two years of not hearing from him we began to lose hope that he was alive. My mother did her best to continue to care for my three siblings and me. Each day we lived in fear that the soldiers would return and hurt us again or even kill us.

One day a woman came to our village with news that our father was alive and that he was living in Uganda. He had sent this woman to find us and give us the message to come and join him. We were overjoyed with this good news! We packed up a few things, said goodbye to our little home and made the journey with the woman back to the refugee camp where she said our father was. I fell asleep in the car. When I woke up the next morning I was in my fathers arms! I was so happy to be reunited with my father.

Classrooms have been converted into “dormitories” for the boarding students.  Space is so tight that the children must sleep three to a mat.

Three students lie on a sleeping mat in a classroom converted into “dormitories” for the boarding students at the "ADRA school" in Uganda. Photo provided by ADRA Canada

The next day we registered as refugees, and we lived in the Nyakabande Refugee Transit Center for one whole year. We then joined a group of people being relocated to a refugee settlement in Rwamwanga. Our group filled 10 buses as we made our way to our new home. The United Nations welcomed us warmly and provided us with basic needs.

I was fortunate enough to be accepted at the "ADRA school." I like it here because it is a Christian school that believes in and worships God. Our school motto is, “Fear God and be wise!” I started here in Primary 3, but I have quickly advanced and I am now in Primary 7. The teachers are very helpful and kind here. I have learned English and am doing well in math and the sciences.

Some of us older girls have a challenge that makes it difficult to be in school on certain days of the month. ADRA has helped us out with this problem by providing the older girls with hygiene packages that contain sanitary pads.

Our school has many challenges. Our school family keeps growing every week. We need more classrooms! Some of the children have to meet under a tree. We don't have dormitories to sleep in. I share a home near the school with 15 other girls. Many of the younger students are just sleeping on the floor of one of the classrooms at night. During the dry season water becomes scarce and we have to walk several kilometers to get water.

But I thank God for this school and all of the ADRA supporters who make it possible.

 

— This article originally appeared on the ADRA Canada website on May 1, 2019.

kmaran Wed, 05/08/2019 - 09:05

Our Plans Versus God’s Plans

Our Plans Versus God’s Plans

I’m a pretty classic Type A personality. For the most part it serves me well. But typing the words “planning and organizational skills” as strengths on the self-evaluation portion of my annual performance review brought a smile to my face as I recalled when something wonderful happened last fall. Several colleagues and I dutifully prepped, planned, and organized an event; then everything fell apart.

That’s exactly when God showed up, stepped in, and revealed how His plans are always so much better than our plans.

Detained Delivery

The North American Division scheduled our third fresh produce giveaway the Sunday before Thanksgiving. But around the scheduled delivery time we received a phone call from the truck driver: he’d been detained at a nearby interstate weigh station for being over the weight limit. The driver had to stay there until another vehicle could come and unload some of his cargo. Although the giveaway wasn’t scheduled to begin for another hour, we already had several guests waiting in our parking lot. This was disappointing but manageable.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a few minutes’ delay. It was a couple hours before we heard from the delivery driver again. This time he called to say, “You know how you told me to hurry once I was able to leave the weigh station? Well, I’ve just been pulled over for speeding.” For the next several hours calls to his mobile phone went unanswered.

The following day we learned that during the traffic stop the patrol officer realized the driver didn’t have the required commercial driver’s license to operate the vehicle, so the truck and our 25,000 pounds of food had been impounded. We didn’t receive an explanation from the driver on Sunday because he’d left his phone in the back of the truck!

The situation was such a series of mishaps it might have been comical, except that by midmorning we had more than 200 families waiting in our building’s parking lot. Our anticipated witness was a disaster. Except that it really wasn’t. Those 200 families, who waited for several hours and ultimately went away without the promised produce or an explanation, remained patient, upbeat, and understanding.

One of our ministries had donated devotional books to be distributed at the event. Many families sat in their cars poring through those. Prayer groups formed on behalf of the missing driver. Children ran, laughed, and played together. Before the end of the day, our volunteers collected the contact information of more than 200 guests, and although we were never able to gain access to the food in the delivery vehicle, on the day before Thanksgiving we instead distributed grocery store gift cards to our new friends.

Bigger Dreams

We had planned to witness in a particular way, on a particular day, to a particular group of people. But God dreams bigger than we do. He took what would have been a few moments’ transaction and shaped it into a bonding experience. He created an opportunity for us to attend to the spiritual needs of our guests one day, and their nutritional needs a few days later. And He used all of us—volunteers and guests alike—to reflect His love to each other.

We’re planning another produce giveaway. My colleagues and I will once again prep, plan, and organize in advance of the event. After all, we are eager to represent Christ and our church effectively in service to our community.

It will be fun to see how things actually turn out. Maybe they will go exactly as we expect. Or maybe God has something else in mind.

What I know for sure is that I will be paying attention, because I know He loves us so very much, and is likely to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).

— Melissa Reid is associate director of the North American Religious Liberty Association.

kmaran Tue, 04/30/2019 - 13:13

Commentary: Is Adventism Relevant Anymore?

Commentary: Is Adventism Relevant Anymore?
dusty Bible being opened

Photo from iStock

The Common Problem

Two of my best friends left the church in the last year. Both of them went through Adventist Education from kindergarten through graduate school. Both come from Adventist families that have been members of the church for generations. Both of them are financially successful, respected, and well-liked by their peers, colleagues, and former Church communities. They were active in their local churches, never let meat touch their lips, never consumed alcohol, and generally were shining examples of traditional Adventism. But recently, quite independently, they stopped going to church and informed their communities they no longer considered themselves Seventh-day Adventists. 

Both of my friends told me, “the church is no longer relevant to my life.” For them, Adventism became spiritually and mentally draining rather than sustaining. It was something they constantly needed to justify to themselves and others.

For the most part they continue to believe the 28 Fundamental Beliefs in some capacity, but are so dismayed by the church’s execution of the Gospel Commission they simply lost faith in the church. 

You probably know someone who has had a similar church journey. Maybe you can relate yourself. The relevancy issue is a common problem in our church, and Christianity in general, throughout North America. According to the Pew Research Center, each year, approximately 1 percent fewer American adults “describe themselves as Christians.”[1]The inability of our church and its members to demonstrate the relevancy of Seventh-day Adventism is one of the greatest challenges we face as a denomination in this territory. There’s nothing wrong with the Gospel Message or the Adventist interpretation of it, but how we are representing our beliefs is limiting us. 

Relevance

Seventh-day Adventism has a rare set of applicable beliefs that can be readily put into action in our day-to-day lives. Like other Christians, we are called to be Christ-like, and share Christ’s love with others, but our doctrines about how we do so are so amazingly poignant for our modern world it strikes me as only Divinely-inspired. Whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, educated or illiterate, Adventism has something remarkably special to offer. 

Seventh-day Adventism, as inspired by God, has many answers to society’s and our own individual challenges. The answer starts with Jesus Christ. As our Lord and Savior, He wants the best for us in all things, and that doesn’t mean just in heaven. Jesus wants the best for us in the here and now, not only in the hereafter. The Seventh-day Adventist interpretation of the Bible gives us an extremely pragmatic roadmap for how Christ’s love can show us an alternative to the world’s pain and suffering today, right now. 

One of our core beliefs as Adventists is in the value of physical and mental health. You might not be able to see it when you look around at the people who congregate in your church sanctuary, or sense it when you read how your fellow members interact on social media. Yet, the Adventist value of protecting and developing the health of the  whole person is an incredible foundation for mitigating pain and suffering in this life. 

I recently learned that 71 percent of the people who live in the county where I live in Michigan are either “overweight or obese.”[2]Now consider for a moment what that means for nearly 3 out of every 4 people who are my neighbors. This means higher rates of diabetes, cancer, heart disease, gallstones, and depression — just to name a few of the problems associated with obesity.[3]The Adventist health message, if properly shared and modeled, has an answer to some of the most undesirable health issues a person can face. This is not something to be taken lightly, this is a division-wide problem Seventh-day Adventists can directly help with. 

One of my favorite doctrines is the Sabbath. It provides a solution to so many of the crises we face in the twenty-first century. Here are several distressing statistics on American society’s challenges the Sabbath and our health message can help alleviate. Stress causes 1 million Americans to miss work every day.[4]Suicide is the 10thleading cause of death in the U.S., with 47,173 suicides taking place in 2017. In 2017, there were 1.3 million suicide attempts in the U.S.[5]Almost 1 in 2 people report “strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance in their relationships.”[6]Obviously, we are a stressed out, lonely, and sad people in need of a Savior. 

This is why I’m so thrilled about the Sabbath. I get stressed out, I get lonely, and I’m disposed to negative thoughts just like everyone else, but for an entire day once a week, I focus on God, rest, family, and friends. Because of the Sabbath and the health message, my mind, body, and spirit are clear, rested, and rejuvenated. My God knows what I need to be healthy, and the community my church has given me supports me and those I love from so many of the crushing relational and stress related issues we face in North America. 

relevant Adventists help others

Photo from iStock

By emphasizing a vegetarian lifestyle and the belief that God cares about His Creation and doesn’t want to see it meaninglessly destroyed, Adventists, sometimes unknowingly, espouse environmental stewardship. About three quarters of Americans believe global warming is taking place, and “53 percent believe it is attributable to human activity.”[7]Regardless of your views on global warming, caring about our planet (aka God’s Creation) is something most people take seriously, and something we as Adventists should be proud of. 

Depending on who you ask, the Adventist educational system is either the largest or second largest system in the world, and although education isn’t necessarily a doctrine, it is something we as Adventists take seriously. Every year, Adventists invest billions of dollars in uplifting students to know their Creator and to be ministers in a host of different professions around the globe.

Adventist investment in education is an incredibly consequential service-oriented and socially-minded ministry. Education reduces poverty, increases income, improves health, strengthens economies, decreases infant mortality, makes countries more peaceful, improves gender equality, and combats serious disease.[8]  In short, Adventist education changes the lives of millions of people every year, and I am one of them. 

Although there are a host of other ways in which Adventism is relevant to the world, I’d like to mention one that resonates with all of us who are hurting, broken, anxious, and depressed. Hope. The “Advent” in Seventh-day Adventist comes from our belief that Jesus will soon return to earth and take us to heaven. We don’t live a nihilistic existence where good things happen only by accident and nothing really matters. We know God’s return is imminent and all of our pain and suffering are only temporary. Martin Luther once said, “Everything that is done in this world is done with hope,” and so I’m happy to have it. 

The Responsibility

I believe in the aforementioned blessings offered by Adventist doctrines, and yet, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I too am sometimes frustrated by the corporate church and its members. There are times when I am tempted to walk away, and it would be easy for me to do so, because Adventism has equipped me with the values, traditions, and general personal foundation to allow me to live a happy, healthy, and productive life. 

By the grace of God, Adventism has given me a worldview by which I can bypass so many of the avoidable problems society faces. I am the product of Seventh-day Adventism, and a beneficiary of the blessings that adherence to its beliefs and Christ’s love offer. 

But I believe those of us who have also reaped the rewards of Adventism, have a responsibility to the church to repay what it has given us. The responsibility is to try to be a blessing to the community of faith that we benefited and continue to benefit from on a daily basis. I refuse to turn my back on something that has given me so much, especially in its hour of need. 

Although I am sometimes frustrated with the church, and understand wanting to walk away, it is not frustration with the church’s beliefs, but rather with the people that make up the church. 

It’s important to remember that people, all of us, are flawed. We often get in our own way.

People will come and go, but truth remains, and I can work with truth. 

— Adam Fenner, Ph.D., is director of the Adventist Learning Community.

ARTICLE UPDATED 13:11 EDT, June 12, 2019

[1]Pew Research Center, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” May 12, 2015, accessed at: https://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.

[2]John Matuszak, “Berrien obesity rates are alarming,” The Hearld-Palladium, June 7, 2012: accessed at: https://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/berrien-obesity-rates-are-alarming/article_19de58c3-0e8f-5859-8415-e70607e94bbd.html.

[6]Arthur C. Brooks, “How Loneliness Is Tearing America Apart,” The New York Times, November 23,2018: accessed at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/23/opinion/loneliness-political-polarization.html

[7]Josh Kurtz, “Millennials’ Climate Views Could Sway 10 House Elections This November,” E&E News, March 5, 2018: access at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/millennials-rsquo-climate-views-could-sway-10-house-elections-this-november/.

kmaran Thu, 04/25/2019 - 09:29

U.S. Supreme Court Asks Government to Express View on Church Member's Case

U.S. Supreme Court Asks Government to Express View on Church Member's Case
current issues Patterson case

iStock

Seventh-day Adventist church member Darrell Patterson’s religious discrimination case against Walgreens continues to gain interest and support. Patterson asked the United States Supreme Court to hear his religious discrimination case (see the September 2018 edition of Adventist Journey for more detail). He was fired by Walgreens in 2011 because he refused to work at a call center on the Sabbath.

Since Patterson’s petition was filed last fall, several encouraging developments have occurred. First, other religious denominations and religious liberty groups filed friend of the court briefs in support. This wide-ranging collation included Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs. Second, Walgreens was ordered by the court to respond to Patterson’s request, something it had declined to do on its own.

More good news came in January when four of the justices filed a “statement” concerning a different religious discrimination case dealing with a football coach fired for praying after games. In declining to hear his case, Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh strongly signaled interest in reexamining TWA v. Hardison.

This 1977 case set an extremely harmful legal precedent that religious employees have been fighting ever since. Patterson asked the court to revisit this decision, and the reference to Hardison by the justices was seen as interest in Patterson’s case.

In March the court reinforced its interest by asking the U.S. government to file a brief. This relatively rare request is made when the justices think the government, which has responsibility for enforcing the law, can help inform their decision. This was such a strong indication of interest by the court that it sparked an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal (Mar. 22, 2019) by Pepperdine law professor Michael Helfand urging the government to support Patterson.

Darrell Patterson

Darrell Patterson’s religious discrimination case against Walgreens continues to gain interest and support. He was fired by Walgreens in 2011 because he refused to work at a call center on the Sabbath. Photo by Dan Weber

The government is likely to file its recommendation sometime during the summer. The justices will then decide, probably sometime in October or November, whether to take the case. If the Supreme Court does decide to take the case, it likely will be argued in early 2020, with a decision handed down before the end of June 2020.

Of course, none of this guarantees that the court will take Patterson’s case, let alone that he will win if it does. However, for the first time in over 40 years there is a very real opportunity to undo the mistake made in Hardison.

This opportunity did not come about by accident. It is the result of a faithful church member who stood up for the Sabbath eight years ago and a church that invests the resources to defend its members.

— Todd McFarland is associate general counsel for the Office of General Counsel of the Seventh-day Adventist Church; click here for background article and copy of "Cert Petition."

kmaran Wed, 04/17/2019 - 10:12

 

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