03 Jul

TITHING AGAINST ALL ODDS

There are two lessons I learned how to treat money. Both lessons came from my parents. Two stories come to mind. My father loved sweet baked goods. His store comes from the time shortly after WWII. After returning from his university, he would stop at a well-known Warsaw patisserie bakery, and ponder: Should I get that cake or not?

He would teach me and my siblings by a simple recollection. “I would stand in front of the window and then turn coins in my hand, and, more often than not, put them back into my pocket. It was too easy to spend, but, since it was Friday, a thought flashed in my mind that I would not have enough to place in the offering plate.”

My mother’s story was a bit different. She taught me how to plan my expenses and consider saving what came my way. The story I learned unfolded on my wedding day. “Son, I do not have much to give you, but you have been giving a gift to yourself and I was a steward of it. Remember how I told you that you can live with us in the same home after you started on you first job. Every month you paid me for your room and board. Here is a savings book in your name. You will need these funds for your own home now.” She then handed me “my own” savings.

Such lessons turned into my understanding of how blessings come our way, and how they involve each of us in going beyond covering the needs we might have. His blessings turn into a larger blessing when we recognize that what we have, we share with others.

If you ever met or have known a saint, an Adventist saint, you will recognize an amazing experience you will discover.

Meropi’s granddaughter, Esther Pocari, who was soon to be employed as a secretary in the newly re-established Albanian Adventist Mission, explained, “My grandma used to distribute pieces of paper with messages translated from the Bible. She gave them to everyone she met. I remember that whenever I visited her, she used to give me one to take with me. She put them in my pocket.”

One of Meropi’s greatest desires, when I visited with her, was to be relieved of the burden of keeping her tithe hidden. “What must I do with my tithe, which I have saved all these years?” she asked me. “Can you take it?” Meropi’s two sons explained that their mother would not keep the money in a bank because she didn’t trust the authorities.

Agreeing to return her tithe to the church, Meropi brought out a plastic bag from under her bed. In it was a carton full of Albanian leke and a few American dollars. For more that 20 years she had been on a $4.00 per month pension, yet she put aside her tithe and offerings. When we opened the carton, we found 24,629 leke and $41.00 in US funds. All told, she had saved the equivalent of US$533.89. For some of us, this may not be a large sum of money. For Meropi, living under duress and in fear that her tithe may be confiscated, this was more than what she saved.

A few weeks later, Meropi was delighted to hand over the tithe to Pastor David Currie, a missionary-evangelist and a colleague of mine from the Trans-European Division office. After meeting Meropi, David returned to his hotel room that evening to count her tithe money. He told me later that he felt as if he was touching a sacred package. “I could not help but get on my knees and thank God for the faith of this vibrant Christian.” Her saved tithe money was placed in a bank account of the revived Albanian Mission. In another emotionally rich experience, I had the privilege of studying the Bible and praying with Meropi, her family, and a few ready-to-be-baptized Albanian Christians.

On April 18, 1992, a wonderful entry was written in the annals of Adventist history. It was on that Easter Sabbath afternoon that Meropi’s dream to be baptized came true. She was joined by her daughter, Marherita, granddaughter, Esther, and five other believers. Together with Flora Sabbatino-Lewis, they became charter members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Albania.

Today, the church is not only present in this once-atheistic country but has established several congregations and is a vibrant contributor to what Meropi was dreaming about—building a church in her country. She waited four decades to see her dream come true.

After my last visit with Meropi and her family ended, and we bid farewell in her tiny one-bedroom flat, our eyes met but we did not need to say a word. As the family gathered on the balcony of their apartment block and we waved goodbye to each other, Meropi raised her hand, pointing heavenward. She nodded in the same direction. Words were not needed. We all knew—the Lord is coming back, and we shall meet again, for eternity.

What you think belongs to you, actually belongs to Someone else. Frugality in tithes and offerings does not work, in my view. For all belongs to Him and He shares it also with you.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

07 Mar

OH, THAT SWEET ISOLATION

Without hope, nothing makes sense.
– Archbishop Józef Życiński

Who would’ve known that the writer and satirist we enjoyed listening to every week would be sitting in my office. It was the devices of a colleague who knew him well and wanted him to get to know me.

One day, Teresa, a designer I worked with asked if Marcin, a famous humorist and writer, could quiz me about my religious beliefs. I was ready to meet him. “So, who are Adventists,” he asked? “I am a Christian,” he offered his own disclosure. “Are you one, too? How different is your tribe from mine?” he further asked. “Is [it] not enough to be a Christian?”

Many years later, when talking with a prominent church leader, I was corrected. He addressed me, “Ray, you are an Adventist Christian, not the other way around.”

Going back to my visitor, we sat for a couple of hours and talked about who Seventh-day Adventists are and why our Bible is shorter than his (Apocrypha). I wanted to let him know that we also have a sense of humor, perhaps not as sharp as his own and definitely not as popular as his radio comedy. This first encounter resulted in a long friendship between our families.

A year later, he brought me his newest book. He said that it would put a smile on my face. The book’s narrative included an encounter between primitive Amazon tribes. One had a familiar name—Adventists. A thought crossed my mind: was Marcin hinting at our own sweet isolation—down deep in a human jungle where tribes don’t get along?

My guest’s sense of humor clashed with my own sense of the world. I then probed into my own understanding of varieties of worldviews versus a need to define my own worldview for an outcome that can bring us close to one another.

So, what is my worldview, I pondered.

I was baptized at 15. Walking into a baptismal pool, the minister whispered to me, “Don’t be afraid. I am doing this for the first time, too. We shall overcome!” he smiled. We did.

Being a theologian, Prof. Konstanty Bulli explained to me that his biblical studies offered him an understanding of the “end of time,” which gives Adventists a conviction that though there will be an end to the affairs of this world and the end to all evil, we have nothing to worry about through Jesus Christ. We shall overcome. We are Adventists, and we are even called by that name. We are a people with conviction, driven by hope in the victorious end when Jesus returns, as promised.

I often ask myself, “Is my worldview, driven by the victorious conclusion informed by what Jesus foretold and through his pain, achieved?”

In conclusion, my worldview is not simply a statement, but an action to believe in, a mindset, an outlook for life, expressed through my spirituality. That’s what I observed in my parental home and in the stories of the elders. Everything was driven by hope.

I shall overcome. Full stop.

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

21 Dec

IF YOU ARE ALIVE, THERE IS HOPE FOR YOU

There is always light if only we are brave to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it
.
– Amanda Gorman

One of my father’s frequent comments was, “if you are alive, there is hope for you.” My memory of what it meant came to me while visiting Tirana, Albania.

I was taking an evening stroll through the central boulevard of the capital of Albania. Cars were hardly to be seen on the streets in those days. Naturally. Walking prevailed.

One could likely run into a prominent Albanian personality. He might be a popular actor, or a politician. And, if you care to stop, meet them, and listen, you are destined for a treat.

On a stroll you could meet and talk. Before then, someone was watching that they would not talk. They lived doomed in a classless society, where someone else decided your own fate.

But the change arrived in 1991.

Sitting in a small, overcrowded, and noisy café, I met Zef Bushati, an actor from the national theater, now an Albanian republican politician. He was running for a parliamentary election, and shared with me his concerns, desires, and vision. Speaking about his country’s future, he told me an Albanian legend. It soon became my own.

In the beginning, God created two people—a man and a woman. First, he created a man. He endowed him with traits and personality. When a woman was created, she equally received certain characteristics. God said to her, “I am going to give you something special. It is locked in this jar. Here it is, take it to the man.”

“What is inside?” she inquired.

“What I put inside is called curiosity. You must not open the jar. Carry it the way it is. If you look inside, it will disappear,” He answered.

She went on a journey to meet the man. But … she could not resist. Her perfectly shaped fingers soon popped the lid open. At this instant curiosity evaporated. She quickly closed the jar, thinking that no-one will notice any change, if there was one.

When she met the man, she handed the jar over to him. It was only hope that remained with her.

Looking around, often I feel like someone whose tomorrow may have been tampered with by someone else or gambled away by myself. Then I remember that, as long as I live, there is hope for me.

Believing Adventists know that their future is guaranteed by Jesus, the purveyor of our faith, guarded by hope and love.

In the words of Apostle Peter: Live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed his coming (2 Peter 3:11-12, NIV).

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

28 Jul

Becky, Farewell!

There were many of us that knew the news will come, but when it finally came, we were shocked. And we wish it hadn’t! A designer-editor of Mountain Views, Becky De Oliveira left us on June 21, 2023, after a valiant battle with cancer.

Her contribution to 25 editions of our magazine began in the summer of 2015. Her talent to illustrate what our authors proposed invited readers to go beyond the written words. She added art, and contemporary at that, that made space meet with time, including an invitation to reflect and wonder. Her talent and creativity enhanced our spiritual journey.

It is never conclusive to describe who she was, Becky, my American sister. Hours of conversations made one discover her thoughtful, perceptive, and real approach to everydayness. Hers was a poetry of life, so needed in our real world. And we enjoyed talking about the weather as well.

If you wanted to laugh, Becky was your strong option.

Her cultural hue included Britishness as her studies took her to England. And you could easily talk with her about faith, motherhood, and weave into it a dose of dry humor. And she loved chocolate.

After our regular editorial meetings in local cafes, she started reminding me about taking a selfie with her, if I forgot to take it. Dozens of them. We miss her, but also know that we will see her again. Lord, please come soon. Meanwhile, our thoughts enshrine the family—Japhet, her husband, Joshua with Gretchen, her daughter in law, and Jonah.

—Rajmund Dabrowski, editor

26 Jul

BLACK SUIT, WHITE SHIRT, AND A BLACK TIE

Religion is at its best when it makes us
ask hard questions of ourselves.
It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking
we have all the answers for everybody else.
– Archibald Macleish

“Is Adventist Hymnal the only acceptable worship music in our churches?” asked a communication director from one of the West African Adventist Conferences.

“Or, can we sing our own songs, too?” he further asked.

You should have been there and listened to the heated discussion which erupted among the younger and not so young colleagues; a few humorous comments were supplied. One of them offered a background comment: “Pastor, we are serious. And in case you wish to know, tomorrow morning you will be preaching, and it is expected that you wear your full ministerial suit. But it will be very hot!” he said with a full grin.

As I listened and had little to offer as a definitive answer, it became obvious that “newness” and “change” will have a long road to acceptance in their culture. And it wasn’t only a cultural matter. Their heated debate was summed up by one of them: “What the missionaries taught us, we shall continue to do.” On Sabbath, I sweated in one hundred degree weather.

Today, I am asking myself, what is authentic in my religious experience? Is it what I learned when I was a kid or what I practice now, knowing more and living in a contemporary world?

Frankly, neither the hymnal nor what clothes we wear is essential to our religious experience. And more. Is it what I think and believe that matters or is it what one learns from the Holy Word and puts it into practice?

A colleague of mine frequently used an absurdly religious vocabulary even when mundane topics were commented upon. At first, I thought to myself, “He must be a very pious person.” I quickly learned that he failed to convince me about his religiosity. Just because one uses an abundance of religious words and concepts does not mean that you are religious.

A known author and retreat director, Fr. Thomas Dubay, concludes that, in the context of religious life, “authenticity is reality without sham.” He adds, “The human person is authentic to the extent that he lives the truth. He conforms his mind, words, actions to what is. His mind reflects reality, his speech reflects his mind.”

In the words of Jesus: Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt. 7:21, NIV).

In short, a Christian person keeps Jesus as the absolute example of what it means to abide in God’s truth. In a natural way, my personal authenticity as a follower of Christ contributes to the authenticity represented by the community I belong to. Adventist authenticity is reflected in who I am as its member.

Apart from the obvious Adventist practices, based on what we accept as doctrinal like any religious group, we also have a ballast of add-ons. But, depending on our cultural values and traditions, we aim to differ from others. Those differences are often kept as essential to our faith. We abstain from some stuff, and many an Adventist regard other things as salvific. You cannot be an Adventist if … [You can create your own list of do’s and don’ts that will truly exemplify you as an Adventist!]

We are authentic through our Scripture studies. We are mission minded. And, as Adventists, “you seem to have no time to lose,” as a clergyman from another denomination told me. “You are growing. We do not,” he explained.

Meanwhile, as in the blessing regularly shared at my church worship, “May Jesus bless you with courage, that you will dare to be who you are.”

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

24 Apr

ALL THOSE TIKTOKS AND STUFF

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack
A crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

– Anthem, Leonard Cohen

 

His demeanor displayed anger as he said, “Our young people are heavily influenced by today’s culture. All those TikToks and stuff. It takes them away from the church.”

As usual, when something goes wrong, it’s the messenger that gets a black eye.

There was a day when I was learning what it meant to be in the world. It was my own church where I was growing up that made sure I heard it loudly and clearly. Years later, I thought of it as an upside-down education. There was an extreme lesson in the way a church elder made sure that girls would not be allowed inside the sanctuary in miniskirts. He stood by the door on Sabbath morning with a ruler.

As I was on my way to study in England in 1966, my own father was worried that I might walk off the Adventist “straight and narrow” road. “You are inclined to imitate those beatniks,” he often said. He asked one of the church leaders living in England, Bert B. Beach, to look after me. Obviously, I needed a chaperone.

My dad told him that I tended “to enjoy too much of that pop music,” which was partially true, and my hair was longer than what Adventist youth ought to have. “You look like one of the Beatles,” he would tell me. A few years later, I was nearly sent home from university unless I got a haircut. It was regarded as a bad influence on other students in an Adventist school, so I was told. Much, much later, Bert jokingly remarked, “You enjoyed that music, didn’t you? Today, I must admit,” he said, “their music is closer to what I imagine we will hear in heaven.”

When talking about culture, through which all of us meander, whether it is art, music, literature, or fashion, my own experience with it was an expression of who I was. My own Bible study made me realize that my religion is not expressed by the volume of religious words I use. Such words and concepts come when they are needed. Christian presence and its media content makes a difference when motivated by the values of one’s faith.

If I were to evaluate the capital of my spiritual country, it would have to be Scripture. The location of my geographical bearing is centered in the Holy Word. And Scripture is at the foundation of the culture by which I am surrounded, that I know and respect.

There was a moment that made the Scripture meaningful for me, and meaningful in ways that charted each of my todays and tomorrows.

Once upon a time, in the 1970s, I was involved with the life and work of Poland’s premier artist, Czesław Niemen. He was a composer, a singer, a painter, a poet, and a friend. I helped him with his professional activities, traveled with him, even organized a tour or two, translating into English some of his lyrics. I will dare to say, what Bob Dylan is to America, Niemen was to Poland …

Niemen’s art was serious. His was a spiritual presence for the nation—a contemporary expression of who the Poles are, coupled with a call to continue to revise our lives. He sang: “Strange is this world, a world where a man hates his fellow man …” He called for a revival where values are reclaimed. Where we move toward each other and respond to our common needs. Niemen’s faith and his religious background made him a bridge builder between the world of needs and the world of God’s compassion.

Enter a day when I decided to share with him my personal worldview, a view described by singularity of purpose as defined by my Bible. Niemen was raised in a home and community where a priest read what he chose from the Scriptures. I introduced Niemen to my Bible. I said: “Czesław, read it for yourself.”

It was a few days after I gave him a brand-new translation of the Bible that I saw him again and he said: “Why did you hide this treasure from me for so long? Are you serious about what you stand for? Listen to this.” He opened the Book of Job, chapter 29. I’ve never forgotten to go back to that passage again and again. From that day in 1979, I was given my marching orders … Niemen impacted my life by pointing to an alignment of the internalization of practicing and sharing what God says in His Word.

“Good faith Christians are rounded in Scripture and practice the art of seeing people,” words that polish my Christian attitude and put me where I am.

Our culture always gets richer when we base it on God’s Word. It takes practice to make a difference. It requires creative relevance. Consider the attitude of Apostle Paul: Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. … I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! (I Cor 9:20-23 MSG).

Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

31 Jan

DREAMING SERIOUS DREAMS

Let me share a dream from a long time ago. Memory takes me back. My head was bent over homework—third grade stuff or so. There I was thinking my serious, though childish, thoughts. Daydreaming a bit but it was all very serious. 

I imagined that my life would be very fast and filled with much fun. I would work, of course, but it would be the management-type stuff.

Plus, I would have a fast car. Red or black or yellow and so low, that even now I wonder how these cars manage the bumpy streets of your town.

And she by my side. I would marry her, and she would be the prettiest woman in town. Dressed in fashionable clothes. 

What else?

The house—yeah, the garden in front and back.

The church—yeah, no steeples, just an A-frame would be enough, with all sorts of good people in it.

The bank—no need to worry about it. 

Oh, yes. Those were the dreams. Full of hazy images with plenty of fashion, mystique, and soothing feelings. Later, I pondered why such a dream. I was just a kid.

Then, the soapy bubble of pretty and exciting future burst. As I later reflected, all went in different directions—some true, the rest going completely astray. Who could have anticipated it would turn out like that? After all, I had thought about probable outcomes.

Now, I am in our Colorado home. While looking through my cluttered drawer in my desk, a thought passes that, in all honesty, my place belongs just where the clutter is. Such clutter seems to be my addiction. And it dawns on me that the whole matter has little to do with nostalgia or sentiment. 

Today, my dreams connect me with reality, a reality dotted with experiences, happy moments, and occasional tears. My relationships, family ties, emotions, and desires show me that though much has changed, much more needs to change. And my understanding of what I believe and how my faith took me through life connected me far beyond my personal preference. Now, I have my thoughts and desires under the controlling power of Jesus. No change needed there.

Looking back, and pondering the present, my thoughts and life itself continue to change. My life was meant to be different from those childhood dreams. And when in church, I wish to be challenged to move always forward, but without ignoring the present concerns. Like a brief exchange I had with Michael one Sabbath years ago. I asked him, “Why have you stopped going to church with us?” His words were simple. “I would love to be treated as who I am. The Hope church has an ashtray at the entrance. There, we welcome everyone.”

As a Christian, I am fully awake and aware that though life has its turns, with Christ, I can navigate! And a healthy relationship with God means that I am focusing on him and others more than on me. For with Him, I realize that the world of childhood dreams gives in to the world of mature results. Often different, yet full of meaning.

No need to look for another leading option. No need to be stuck with only one version of religious/church life or the preferred doctrines. You know the truth. Jesus is at my life’s steering wheel!

Rajmund Dabrowski is the RMC communication director and editor of Mountain Views. Email him at: [email protected]

21 Oct

Living For the Other World

“Live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed his coming.” 2 Peter 3:11-12 NIV

I am yet to meet an Adventist Christian who doesn’t have an agenda for present-day Christianity. Often, we are ready to offer advice, and plenty of it–the church shouldn’t do this; the leadership should do that.

“When will they start listening to someone like me?” we frequently hear. We even utter it, too. And we have so much to say.

My recent journey into my personal views on what’s important for my own church led me to the observation that the celibacy of thoughts doesn’t go very far. One needs a partnership with deeds! It is precisely this that I learned by looking into the life of the early Christian church.

It’s amazing what a bit of “dusting off” of one’s spiritual journey can bring out. I discovered that without a vision for the future, my present life offers, at best, illusions of happiness. To illustrate, here are two wise comments.

C S Lewis wrote that “if you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.”

An ancient history academic from the Cracow’s Jagiellonian University, Aleksander Krawczuk, compliments Lewis and says that “in early Christianity, it was different. They were aloof, meek, humble, persecuted, disinclined, suspicious and suspected. After all, they lived in the constant expectation of the return of Christ. The present world, they thought, will cease to exist at any moment. It is utterly ridiculous to even speculate about their views on government or politics. They weren’t interested. They didn’t care. They believed that the world is about to be dead. Important for them was to prepare oneself for Christ’s coming.”

Whew! Have we Christians ever strayed sideways from the days when hope was printed on our forehead and the reason to be on this earth was to tell someone to be ready. After all, it’s the Lord who is coming back.

Maybe, rather than worrying about how the church is behaving, and how policies are applied, we ought to be living like the early church. Individually. With no apprehension. Right now. Ourselves!

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of Mountain Views. Email him at [email protected]

02 Jun

SANDY HODGSON TO BROADEN TEACHER SUPPORT FOR RMC EDUCATION

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Denver, Colorado … Following 24 years as an educator in Rocky Mountain Conference, and 18 years as a teacher, and seven as a teaching principal at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado, Sandy Hodgson is moving to a new position as RMC assistant director of education.

“As we look to the future of RMC education, we are blessed to bring Sandy Hodgson’s 24 years of experience to broaden our teacher support. As we increase our professional development opportunities and bring added resources to our small schools, I know that Sandy will be a blessing to our teachers, said Diane Harris, RMC superintendent of education.

Sandy appreciates the invitation to serve in a broader education field. Commenting for NewsNuggets, she explained that as educators, “we are compelled to see our students grow into their God-given ability to become thinking and responsible individuals, and we are challenged to help them to be who they already are.” She pointed out that creativity in education is an element that helps students remember what education brings to their young lives, and it helps them to be creative, too.

Years as a missionary abroad in Italy and Germany with her husband, Greg, have helped her illustrate her teaching, recognizing the diversity and richness of culture and history.

“We are educating kids in so many ways, but the kids are also educating us,” she said.

Among the lessons she acquired from her teaching career is resilience. She recognizes the many differences students represent in their home situations and cultures. Especially during the pandemic, the resilience of the children through difficult times was coming through. It was a learning experience for her to see that “there was an innocence lost, but there’s still a little bit of it and [what you see] is the resilience. There is still that spark of laughter, the sparkle in their eyes. You could see the smiles [even] when we wore masks all the time. You could see the smile in their eyes, and you knew there were things that had brought them joy.”

Hodgson recognizes that the pace of her work will change; she is grateful for the lessons gained in her years in the classrooms that will come with her to the new position within RMC education as she joins the department on July 1.

Harris added that “Sandy has exemplified a commitment to our CHERISH core values and has many years of experience as a teaching principal. Her creativity and experience will be an asset to all of our teachers.”

As she explained her philosophy of education, Sandy could not but refer to the core values which are enshrined in the acronym CHERISH, a foundation for education–– Christ-centered, honor, exploration, responsibility, integrity, service, and heroism all encapsulate her philosophy.

“Obviously, you want the outcomes to be the product of your mission. Don’t we want citizens that are going to take care of each other, that is going to respect and honor each other, that are going to save the planet [through] all those little things? What can they do to make this world a better place?

“Jesus is coming soon, but at the same time, we hold fast, and we keep working until then. We keep building; as RMC president Mic Thurber often emphasizes, “You keep working as though it could last lifetimes and lifetimes. We must be good stewards of the planet.”

“We must also be good stewards of our money. We must be good stewards of our mind and our body. I guess for me, even though I want Jesus to come soon, and I want us to all go to heaven if it lasts another generation and another generation, we need to be prepared to take care of this earth and the people that are on it,” she explained.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and the editor of NewsNuggets. Photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

01 Jun

WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO US?

What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.

— NT Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

We were having lunch near the Washington National Cathedral. There were three or four of us–two high-level clergy of another Christian denomination, and two Seventh-day Adventist Christians. As we concluded a conversation on ways to cooperate in international aid and development and how we could work jointly in combating poverty, it was time to plan a timeline for our efforts.

Deciding on who would research what, one of the bishops asked, “So, shall we meet and report our findings in three months?”

“Did you actually mean three weeks?” I asked.

Turning to his colleague, the bishop commented, “Look, let’s remember that we are meeting with Seventh-day Adventists. They are a missionary church. We can learn from them. That’s why they continue to grow, and we are standing still. They have no time to lose.”

It is always better to be told by others than to brag about our own success. Their reaction reminded me of a comment by a Vanderbilt University professor, Paul K. Conkin in his book American Originals: Homemade Varieties of Christianity: “It is worth noting that no other American-based denomination have ever attempted to transform itself so fully into a worldwide fellowship.” (p. 144).

Reflecting on my Adventist journey for several decades, I must not overlook the essence of our church witness. It was usually called “evangelism,” but mostly “witnessing” to … other Christians.

It was perhaps 60+ years ago when this experience happened that stands out in my memory. My father held a series of evangelistic meetings about a premier Adventist topic: “The Last Day Events.” A woman came to our door (the meetings were held in a church, and we lived on the second floor of the same church building) and as it appeared, she had responded to an invitation to have a Bible study.

My father ushered her into our living-room, and I eavesdropped from a bedroom next door. I will never forget how the conversation went between our guest and my father.

“What brought you to our meetings? Were you invited by someone?” he asked.

“I heard about your church. I was searching for a church that would teach what I also believe. You Adventists resent Catholics. I do, too,” she answered.

That’s what she said. Her comment was rough, but genuine. Obviously, she spoke about a perception many people have developed about our church, a reputation assigned to a Protestant faith community in a Catholic country. Whether she was right or not, my own perception developed along similar lines. For many, an evangelist’s concentration mostly on teachings and practices of Catholicism would contribute to it all.

I grew up in such an evangelistic atmosphere. Over the decades, I also learned what Ellen G. White wrote: “There are many who need our sympathy and advice, but not that advice which implies superiority in the giver and inferiority in the receiver.” (Testimonies, vol 3, p. 534) When you say that you have the truth, they hear that you are better than they are.

She also said, “There are many among the Catholics who live up to the light they have far better than many who claim to believe present truth, and God will just as surely test and prove them as He has tested and proved us.” (Evangelism, p. 144)

And since my youth, I have learned even more. Our Christian call is to share Him who sends us into the world with the Gospel of Good News. Just as the Twelve, whom He sent into the world, we are to preach and teach the world about Jesus. Jesus alone. And the church will grow. Until He returns.

 Rajmund Dabrowski is the editor of Mountain Views and RMC communication director. Email him at [email protected]

 

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