Tucked within Boa Vista do Ramos, located in Amazonas, Brazil, is the village of Nova Jerusalém — the home of Escole Técnica Adventista do Massauari (ETAM). This Adventist school is located along the Massauari River, a tributary of the Amazon River. Forty-five students, ages 5-14, attend ETAM.
For seven years 33 missionary groups have come to help expand its resources to serve the people of the region. The road to a greater school for the seven communities in this specific area, however, first began with two young medical missionaries, Daniel and Naissen Fernandes.
After getting married and completing their nursing degrees, the Fernandeses wanted to fulfill their shared childhood dream of serving throughout the continent of Africa. The couple, instead, was led by God to serve in an extremely remote location of their native country.
“We didn’t have a house, so we had to live on a boat for three years,” said Daniel, who explains that they were the first medical professionals ever to serve the region. “When you arrive in the mission field, especially in a place where you can see so many needs, you just want to work, serve, and help those in need, whatever their situation,” he said.
This inspired the couple to create what became known as Health Post, which allowed them to serve hundreds of people through clinical and health educational resources.
“What should we build next?” Daniel asked community members while operating the clinic. They responded, “Maybe we should build a school here.”
“That was the beginning of the dream,” said Daniel.
The only way missionaries with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) have reached the school in the Amazon rainforest has been by traveling 30 hours by boat from Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, a state of Brazil, and also the location of the regional ADRA base.
To say the location is in the “middle of nowhere,” is an easy yet unjust description. Boa Vista do Ramos is remote, but life is present and bountiful. The municipality’s 3.2 billion square miles of lush jungle, carved by the world’s largest and widest river and its ecosystem, is inhabited by approximately 18,000 people, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.
ETAM’s first 20 students walked through the jungle on dirt paths or traveled by paddle boats or motorized boats from the surrounding, yet distant communities to have school in a small, cramped room with only one teacher. “But the class grew as parents saw that the children were able to read and write. Holding them in one room wasn’t sufficient, and it became clear they needed more classrooms,” said Daniel.
At the conclusion of a missionary trip in 2013, an adult sponsor told Bradley Mills, the director of ADRA Brazil’s Amazon Region, that they wanted to donate money to help buy land for the school.
“Then the dream started to gain shape,” said Daniel. Every year thereafter, larger mission groups have traveled to ETAM to work on constructing new facilities for the school.
“It became the dream of many others,” said Rolf Maier, the architect of the project, who initially thought the vision was too large to accomplish. “For some reason God slowly put the same dream in my heart. He said ‘Rolf, you have to build this dream together with Daniel.’”
Fast-forward to 2018 when a group of more than 200 students and volunteers from the United States and South America arrived on eight boats to complete the final phase of the school’s construction.
The group made up ADRA Connections Extreme, an unprecedented project, which took place July 8-22.
“We have a lot of university students who wanted to get involved in a project, but also wanted to connect with each other, so we created a program called ADRA Connections Extreme, designed specifically for large-scale projects,” said Adam Wamack, manager of ADRA Connections. The humanitarian agency’s ADRA Connections program differs from its “extreme” counterpart because it sends students from various colleges to a variety of ADRA projects around the world at different times.
The colleges and universities represented from the United States were Pacific Union College, Loma Linda University, Walla Walla University, Oakwood University, La Sierra University, and Kettering College. The universities represented from South America were the Brazil Adventist University in São Paulo (UNASP), River Plate Adventist University in Argentina, and Peruvian Union University in Peru. The students represented two of the Adventist Church’s global divisions — the North American Division and the South American Division.
“Giving students the opportunity to go on a mission trip is an awesome opportunity, and we don’t want to understate that,” said Wamack. “But to add the ability to connect with other college and university students is just an exponential multiplier of the impact that you can have.”
Bringing a mostly westernized group of students to the Amazon presents a different type of culture shock. The river boats offered living conditions that placed the volunteers out of their comfort zones. The participants slept in hammocks on the boats’ upper level. The boats were able to accommodate up to 30 hammocks. The lower level had a kitchen, an open meeting area, and two bathrooms, one for men, one for women, that used river water for showering and flushing the toilet.
Students had experiences of sleeping next to snorers, falling out of their hammocks, and combating mosquitos, bees, ants, and other insects. One student woke up with a frog in his hammock.
There was no air-conditioning to escape the scorching temperatures, and no cellular service or wi-fi to upload photos on Instagram or text loved ones. Personal space was extremely limited. Adaptability skills were either deployed or developed.
“It’s amazing to see the amount of introspection that has happened,” said Brigette Hinds-Reynolds, a doctoral public health education and promotion student at Loma Linda University, who has worked for numerous humanitarian projects and organizations over the years, including the United Nations. “The self-discipline of a volunteer and missionary is amazing,” said Hinds-Reynolds. “I ache, but I wake. It’s a mind change. It’s a purpose change.”
On face value the project was a large mission trip with a tremendous goal to help provide free education for up to 200 local youth. The college and university students helped build or finish the construction of the campus’ dormitory, cafeteria, library, administrative building, and housing units for teachers and missionaries. But the trip’s significance was as diverse as the young adults who volunteered to serve.
The trip was a student’s first time leaving the United States; it was anti-anxiety treatment for another student grieving the loss of a relative; it was a test to solidify the decision to become a medical missionary; it was a last-minute decision; it was a way to reignite a relationship with God; it was an extension of a desire to help educate children; it was the next piece to be sown in a pattern of lifelong service to an underdeveloped world.
“I would say that this group is the cream of the crop from all the colleges; they are exceptional kids,” said Elaine Halenz, who, along with her husband, Donald, joined the group as volunteers. The retired couple had worked for decades as teachers and missionaries in such countries as the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. “We love the enthusiasm and excitement that they have brought with them. It’s just great to be a part and they’ve accepted us at our ‘advanced ages.’”
The overall goal of the trip was to bring the God-inspired dream to life. However, the objective was extended to enhance the spiritual journeys of the participants.
“The most spiritual part of this trip is being able to come together with all these different cultures, people, all these different ages, working on a project together, waking up at 5:00 in the morning just to be able to help others,” said Lauren Cavilerro, a religious studies and social work major at La Sierra University. “I think that in and of itself is worship.”
“Our goal is not to change the community’s spiritual aspect, but to have our volunteers have a spiritual experience. We’ve focused a lot on how we’d like to shape the day-to-day experience that our volunteers will have while they’re on this trip,” said Wamack.
There were morning and evening worships that featured prayer, presentations from missionaries and volunteers, and musical performances
“It’s just amazing how people can get together, not know the same language, and still sing praises together and have worship every single night — and have a wonderful time,” said Ohimai Ahonkhai, who studies pre-law at Oakwood University.
The worships also served as a daily reset button for the participants.
“At the end of every day we’re exhausted and tired, and we haven’t seen each other from all the different schools. Getting to see each other, being able to worship with one another, and getting to really reflect on the reason we’re here doing this mission work is important,” said Ashton Hardin, fourth-year business management and legal studies student at La Sierra University. “We have a bigger goal, a bigger purpose, and that’s the kids. They deserve this. We’re changing lives; we’re impacting lives; but we’re also being impacted as well.
ETAM was inaugurated on July 20, at the conclusion of the project. The efforts of the students, organizers, and missionaries were praised during the ceremony by local government officials, teachers, and community members as the entire volunteer group sat in the chapel of the newly constructed dormitory.
“I don’t think I can express with words what we’ve done here,” said Fernandes while wiping tears from his eyes during the inauguration. “I thank all of you for having understood God’s plan and accepting God’s call for your lives.”
“Each one of them are answers to our prayers,” said Gabriela Rodrigues dos Santos, an ETAM teacher and one of the volunteers. “It’s inspiring to see how much effort and how much care they put into every detail of the school as they were working. I thank you for not giving up on us.”
“This is something that would seem impossible for other people, but we know this is God’s dream. And just as God wanted to dwell among the Israelites, He also wants to dwell among people in the Amazon today,” Rodrigues dos Santos continued. “Education can transform lives and it enables people to learn more about God. [They don’t know what life is like beyond the jungle.] This is all that they have. This school brings hope for them to dream bigger and go higher.”mylonmedley Mon, 12/17/2018 - 11:01
You know your symposium is a success when people are still discussing its subject long after the event has ended. From Oct.18–20, 2018, the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary (under the leadership of Ante Jerončič and Jiří Moskala) held a worldview symposium that stimulated much discussion. This event, themed “Transforming Worldview(s): Biblical Faithfulness in a Pluralistic Age,” was sponsored by the Adventist Theological Society and Biblical Research Institute (BRI). In addition to the promised academic exploration of the “significance of worldview formation for Adventist identity, theology, and mission,” attendees were led to examine their own worldview and its impact on their spirituality and ministry.
The symposium’s keynote speaker, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary in Deerfield, Illinois, presented a topic titled “Being Biblical in a Pluralistic Academy.” He used this presentation to establish the primacy of the Scriptures over every other resource, be it academic or otherwise. He punctuated his assertion by reminding his hearers of what was to be Israel’s God-given response to pluralism. Moses’ counsel in Deuteronomy 4:5–6 reveals not just the primacy but the singular nature of the lens with which God provided His people: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people’” (NIV).
Vanhoozer further declared that, “If faith’s influence is failing today, it may be because we (as Christians) have failed at connecting the Bible to this age. Living biblically is not just following principles but living what God the Father is doing through the Son and Spirit to redeem creation.” This thought-provoking statement led a number of seminarians to a self-examination of their witnessing influence toward others.
The critical question for the weekend lay in determining the length and breadth of biblical thinking and living. Is the biblical worldview to be the sole, primary one or a secondary contributing factor that guides our perspectives, practices, ministries, policies and rules of life?
During the event, attendees often referred back to Kwabena Donkor’s Sabbath sermon, “Worldview, Deception and Christ.” In sharing the Colossian church’s struggle with divergent worldviews, Donkor, associate director of BRI, stressed the fact that such struggles remain in Christ’s church today. As an example, he noted that in his country, Ghana, “we struggle with a certain ontology that embodies a hierarchy of beings in a certain order: God, angels, spirits, ancestors, male, female. This is the African ontology. And this has significant implications for how we live our lives … and impacts us spiritually.” His revelation highlighted the issue of dual allegiances and the relevance of this issue to those who are in the business of soul winning.
Essential to the symposium was the revelation of the dynamic nature of the term “worldview.” Each presenter highlighted a specific nuance of the concept, and some redefined it altogether.
Bruce Bauer, director of the Doctor of Missiology program at Andrews University, began with a more traditional view of the concept, establishing that “worldview is the totality of the culturally structured images and assumptions (including value and commitment or allegiance assumptions) by which a people both perceive and respond to reality.”
For Larry Lichtenwalter, president, dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, and director of the Adventist Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies at Middle East University in Beirut, Lebanon, said “The essence of a worldview lies deep in the inner recesses of the human self. It is situated within one’s self. It involves the mind but is more a matter of the heart than of the mind. It touches the soul. It is an ethical and spiritual orientation.”
Encouraging attendees to see two aspects of the concept, John C. Peckham, professor of theology and Christian philosophy at Andrews University, noted, “Worldview in the minimal sense might refer to some core beliefs that shape one’s perspective of reality, and worldview in the maximal sense may refer to the totality of one's experiences that shape one’s overall perspective of reality.”
Martin Hanna, associate professor of systematic theology at Andrews University, took hold of a surgeon’s knife and dissected the term for his hearers explaining that “a worldview facilitates science-theology dialogue by the way it answers questions of epistemology (how do we know?), ontology (what do we know?) and axiology (how should we respond to our knowledge?).”
With the necessary definitions in place, attendees were taken on thought-provoking journeys that revealed, as some expressed, "profound implications."
Speaking in relation to the Christian university, Vanhoozer, in his keynote address, asserted that “the biblical story of the triune God’s self-communication to creation ought to be the ground and grammar of the social imaginary that serves as the unifying framework of the Christian university.” Elaborating further, he put forth the idea that “every Christian scholar ought to follow Plantinga’s advice to Christian philosophers to let faith rather than secular concerns set your discipline’s agenda or dictate its methods.”
When it comes to Bible study, exegesis and theology formation, Ed Zinke, retired associate director of BRI, made it clear that “we cannot come to Scripture through any other philosophical system than Scripture itself if we are to understand the biblical worldview. Neither is it appropriate to synthesize Scripture with other worldviews, if we are truly to come to a biblical understanding of our world. Our concept of God, Scripture, faith, epistemology, etc., must all come from Scripture. We must accept the power of Scripture, God’s Word, above that of all other human philosophies or disciplines.”
Lichtenwalter and Boubakar Sanou, assistant professor of world mission at Andrews University, offered perspectives relating to mission. Lichtenwalter’s work with Muslims has led to the understanding that “in order to effectively engage Muslims on the level of either their internal narrative or their exterior practice, Adventists must first grasp the implications of their own distinctive biblically informed worldview and faith in relation to that of Islam. Only then can they more fully understand the implications of Islamic worldview and the nature of Islam within their Great Controversy metanarrative. Only then can they better intuit the existential impact which Islamic worldview has on the heart, soul and everyday life of a Muslim.”
Using the Bible as his primary source, Sanou reminded attendees that “Scripture narrates the various missionary endeavors undertaken by God to redeem humanity. Because humans are all influenced and limited by the assumptions of their worldview, God takes into consideration various aspects of their less-than-perfect contextual frame of reference in the process of revealing his Word so that they can understand His revelations and meaningfully relate to Him. With this precedent, biblical scholars who care about the spiritual transformation and growth of their audiences must be acquainted not only with the principles and methods for interpreting Scripture, but also with the principles and methods for interpreting the context of their audiences.”
In the final presentation of the symposium, Bauer presented the topic “The Importance of Worldview Change in the Conversion Process.” His paper revealed sobering realities regarding our conversion numbers. He pointed out that “too often Adventists only stress the importance of converting a person’s belief system and changing their behavior to reflect Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle and behavior in the conversion process and neglect dealing with the deep cultural values and assumptions. This lack often contributes to syncretism and dual allegiance.” His presentation shed light on the danger of “neglecting worldview change in the conversion process and offer[ed] several missiological suggestions for remedying this situation.”
Moskala asked this question when he moderated the panel discussion: “How do you transform a person’s worldview?”
In answer to that very necessary question, Sanou offered the following wisdom: “We know God is out there where we have not yet been. Since He is there … we should pray and ask God to reveal to us where He is already at work in other people’s lives. And then it is our job to only join God, on God’s terms.” This sentiment was shared by the panelists who, in their own way, surmised that worldview transformation is, ultimately, God’s very necessary work.
To find out more about the symposium and its presenters, contact Ante Jerončič, associate professor of ethics and theology, Andrews University, at email@example.com.
— Esther Green is a seminary student writer.kmaran Tue, 12/11/2018 - 21:08
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That is, until we realize all the work that needs to be done. Have you made your to-do list and checked it twice?
Christmas is all too often the most stressful time of the year. This can lead to unintended anger or outbursts, emotional or mental breakdowns, or physical problems such as high blood pressure. The holidays can be harmful, instead of refreshing our faith in our soon-returning Savior.
But there is hope for a truly joyous holiday season. The potential side effects of increased stress can be eased by becoming more resilient. Resilience is our ability to cope with or bounce back from negative events. It includes behaviors, thoughts, and actions. We all have some of it; and like faith, resilience can grow through God’s power.
A strong social network with family and friends can improve your resilience. The January/February 2015 issue of Vibrant Life (www.VibrantLife.com) has articles and tips about how to meaningfully connect with family and friends. It’s important that these connections are deep, sincere, and mutually fulfilling, which is a blessing from God (Ps. 133).
Here are four other tips to help alleviate stressors this time of year and build your resilience:
Much of the holiday pressure comes from our personal and cultural expectations and norms. Make up your mind that it’s OK to let some of them go. Don’t demand from yourself or others what is not absolutely necessary. Exercise your flexibility. Invite others to contribute toward making the festivities a success; perhaps God wants to develop some skills in them.
Save yourself time by donating to a charity in the name of your loved one. Give a card or picture explaining the ministry to open up conversation. Or consider gifting them tickets to an upcoming church-sponsored event or retreat, such as the NAD Health Summit in January. Give a gift that will strengthen their ministry and heavenly influence.
Holidays can be especially painful for those who struggle with loneliness. Our beautiful Sabbath smiles can sometimes disguise our emotional needs. Do you see them at your church? Why not make room for them at your holiday table? Consider how you can implement Luke 14:12-14 in your celebrations. Someone near you is praying that Psalm 68:6 comes true this year: God sets the lonely in families.
Yes, it’s true: getting enough sleep and regular exercise, and partaking in a healthful diet, also improve how you cope with stress. Bundle up the family and take a quick walk around the block. Or play musical chairs inside. Simple activities can make a big difference.
But sometimes, no matter how much we do, the pain of the season can be quite unbearable. The holidays don’t make memories of past abuse, trauma, or neglect disappear. If this is your experience, find a qualified counselor who will respect your faith in God and encourage you to exercise it. Let God give you the gift of complete healing.
In Leviticus 23, when instructing the Israelites about the national feasts, the Lord repeatedly tells them not to do any “servile” or “regular” work. Commenting on this precept Ellen White wrote: “God gave direction to the Israelites to assemble before Him at set periods . . . and observe special days, wherein no unnecessary work was to be done, but the time was to be devoted to a consideration of the blessings which He had bestowed upon them.”*
Being exhausted and burned out does not glorify God, nor does it draw us closer to Him or to salvation. The year is drawing to a close. We have just a few more days to make this year really count for eternity. What one thing—the one thing needful—will you do?
* Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 2, p. 598.
— Angeline B. David, DrPH, MHS, RDN, is health ministries director for the North American Division; visit www.nadhealth.org for details on next month’s health summit.kmaran Thu, 12/06/2018 - 12:16
As a Gospel worker, I share Jesus' warnings to those who live at the end of the age. The Bible speaks of a time of trouble such as the world has never seen before, a time when no one can buy or sell. Many of my friends believe that time has arrived has arrived in Saipan.
Super Typhoon Yutu destroyed our tiny island. I could tell you there are 300 power line poles down because of the 178 m.p.h. winds, or that more than a thousand homes were destroyed, or about the dozens of flipped-over cars and buses, but the hurt in our hearts, seeing our friend’s homeless, and our church destroyed, cannot be enumerated.
In the morning at first light, after the typhoon, I checked in with all my church members, finding them wherever I could. I was shocked to discover not just my home had been damaged, but essentially every home I encountered was damaged to some extent.
Often, I would see a person alone sitting in the pile of garbage that used to be their home with their face in their hands crying. After I checked in with all my people and, to God be the glory, found them safe, I went to the see the churches and school. The main Adventist church was flooded and the school severely damaged. The San Antonio church was destroyed. The walls had collapsed and the roof was gone.
I climbed over the broken pieces to get to the sanctuary. Here too the roof was gone, and water was pouring in. I wanted to save what I could — the Bibles or the hymnals or something — but everything that hadn’t blown away was swollen with water. The night before I watched the roof come off my home without fear or anxiety, but seeing God's house, the church I love, and helped build ruined was too much. Just before I lost control of my emotions, God sent "Elder Eric" Mahinay and his son Michael. They came in at just the right time with smiles and encouragement. “It is bad,” Eric said, ”but with God's help we will rebuild.”
The mad scramble to set a place back in order can be overwhelming. God's people immediately went to work. The people gathered at the church and school to clean and make repairs, everyone smiling, shaking hands, and working hard together. People with machetes and chainsaws attacked the fallen trees, children gathered garbage in bags, all the water was shop vacuumed from the central church. The broken glass was removed without a drop of blood being spilled. If you could have seen God's people working together, joy would be gushing through your heart. It was awesome! I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God!
There are huge lines of cars, miles long, zigzagging through the downed power lines, waiting to buy gas and water. Some were waiting in line overnight to purchase essentials. The school and the church both have generators that need gas to run. I wanted to be a help, so I gathered all the gas cans I could find, loaded them into the church van, and prepared to spend the night waiting for my turn to buy gas for the school.
As I was driving to the gas station in my village, I realized that I was helpless. Even if I waited all night in line there was no guarantee there would be any gas for us. Some stations had already run out so I stopped and prayed and I asked God to provide for us.
I continued to drive and all of a sudden I came to a gas station with no line. The attendant was putting up a sign that said "cash only." With the power out and no access to the ATM, people didn't have cash, but I did, and I was able to go and purchase gas without waiting in line.
I returned to the school and they were shocked to see me back so quickly. They expected me to be gone a long time waiting. I told them what had happened and all the teachers and the principal filled their cars so they could get to and from work the following week. God provided.
I am thankful to God. Through the typhoon experience He’s teaching me that He can provide for me in every circumstance of life and when that time of trouble comes, I will know that I can trust Him, because I am trusting Him now.
A few days after the typhoon Sabbath came and the church members gathered for worship. I drove the church van, picking up people for church. I thought it was going to be a sad occasion, but there was joy like I’ve never seen!
Everyone was happy; everyone was praising; everyone was even singing! It was the influence of the Holy Spirit like I’ve never seen before. When I got to church I found the Holy Spirit present in a powerful way, people were smiling singing and hugging. It was the highest, holiest Sabbath I’ve ever experienced.
God’s love was immediately put into action as the church had assembled care packages filled with things such as water and rice for needy church members — people with nothing were so happy to have something.
And during the service, I got to offer the pastoral prayer. I was upfront and able to look at the faces of the people as we sang “He Leadeth Me." I watched the people give their hearts to God, loving Him even in adversity.
I’m so happy I’m here in Saipan, I’m so happy I’m a Christian. And I’m so happy Jesus is coming soon.
— Kris Akenberger, is the Guam-Micronesia Mission Bible Worker in Saipan.kmaran Wed, 10/31/2018 - 19:12