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Meeting Summaries 4–Sabbath

The high day at the World Assembly was Sabbath. The number of attendees swelled to fill the tent. There was a lot of music from different countries. Our thoughts rose to the glories on high as we heard the soaring music from well-prepared choirs, notably the German choir, the Colombian choir, the delegate men's choir, and the international choir, as well as the international orchestra. We were blessed beyond measure by them, smaller choirs, and other musicians.

 

MORNING WORSHIP

Pastor Humberto Avellaneda presented the Sabbath morning worship, drawing important thoughts from the apostle Paul’s description in Acts 22:4-10 of Jesus’ meeting him on the way to Damascus. Every part of one’s life has a reason, and everyone has a purpose to fulfill.

Paul needed to leave one way and go to another. Usually such a change is marked by pain and intense lessons, and this can be seen in the apostle’s experience.  The blindness with which he was left after seeing the light made him analyze his way and see that there was a better way marked by sensitivity to the Master’s voice.

This same sequence can be seen in the life of Jacob, who left home to escape his brother’s wrath, only to have to return later to face him. Just as Paul’s experience was marked by an encounter with Jesus, so was Jacob’s. In both cases, the painful episode was a great blessing in preparing them to carry out their commission. This was expressed, in the case of Paul, by Jesus’ reply when Paul asked Him, “What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do.” Jesus had Paul’s attention now, and the apostle became sensitive to the Master’s voice and instructions.

Furthermore, it became clear to Paul, as it had to Jacob, that his human strength was gone. God cannot empower a person who trusts himself instead of the heavenly voice. At this conference, we are being asked to leave our own way and to ask God to show us His way, the appointed way that is all light for oneself and others who are waiting for someone to come and tell them of the gospel.

 

SERMON
“THE TIME OF REFORMATION” (Hebrews 9:10)

After a meeting for the Sabbath school teachers and the Sabbath school, the service was presented by Pastor Tzvetan Petkov, newly elected General Conference President.

However, before he spoke, there were a welcome given by Pastor Francesco Caputo, host for the entire World Assembly and President of the Italian Field, and a story for the children. Very beautiful special music was presented by the International Orchestra, the Spanish choir, the United States choir, the Italian choir, the German choir singing “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, and the International Choir.

Pastor Petkov greeted the congregation with the words, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” Hebrews 9:9, 10 has three themes: (1) conscience, (2) gifts and sacrifices, and (3) reformation. Impressive as they were, the sanctuary services were not able to perfect the human conscience. Jesus illustrated this with the parable of the Pharisee and the publican.  It is not sufficient to clean the outside of a cup that is full of greed and self-indulgence. This is what happens when one clings to forms because one does not want to see inside–wants to silence conviction.

Revelation 3 shows the sickness of Laodicea; the people in this period think they are rich and good, but the reality is quite different; they are blind, because they are rich in forms. The parable of the good Samaritan shows that, if the Holy Spirit is not present in a person to bring about change,  his religion is worthless. Similarly, if we do not change–reform–church rituals and participation in them make no sense.

In Matthew 13:52, Jesus spoke about the scribe who is like a householder taking from his treasure new and old things. For the conscience to be purified, the Holy Spirit needs to be active in it every day. Jesus said that He gave a new commandment that His disciples should love one another, but that commandment was really old. Such treasure is rich. If the believer pleads for the Holy Spirit’s guidance every day, that conscience will grow upward until the person becomes a new creature.

The afternoon program began with the children’s and youth program, hosted by Pastor Joel Barnedo, outgoing Youth Department Leader, and Pastor Jose Vicente Giner, incoming Youth Department Leader. The special music presented by the children and young people was delightful.

 

INCOMING DIVISION LEADERS’ FORUM

Pastor Parmenas Shirima moderated this forum, which consisted of the Leaders of the six divisions presenting both the potential and the dangers in their areas. Pastor Alfred Ngwenya explained that there are 55 countries in Africa, and the message of Reform has reached thirty of them. There is a wide variety of different languages, religions, and cultures in the African continent. The plan is to have each worker train another, each leader train another, and each minister train another.

The Asian Division will be led in the new term by Pastor Roland De La Paz. Asia is the largest continent, here are 4.5 billion people in China–59.7 percent of the world population of about 7 billion people. There are plans to train leaders, make fields and unions autonomous, and inspire the young people to participate in church activities.

Pastor Francesco Caputo, re-elected Leader of the European Division, explained that the countries of Europe have about 25 different languages. The plan is to have a headquarters office for the European Division. Prayers are solicited for this division.

Pastor Danilo Monterroso will lead the Latin American Division again, as he has for the last four years. Of the 18 countries in the region. 15 speak primarily Spanish, with Brazil speaking Portuguese, Belize speaking English, and French Guyana speaking French. Out of 180 million people in the division, there are 14,750 members–a small percentage. The plan is to hold symposiums, streamline the administration, preserve the Biblical doctrine, raise the standards of health, and plan music encounters.

The North American/Caribbean Division is new. It will be led by Pastor Pablo Hunger. With about 1,000 members, this division has only about 2.8% of the total church members. Besides the United States and Canada, the territory encompasses 28 countries speaking six different languages. We need to pray especially for the Puerto Rican Field, which suffered the loss of two churches in the last hurricane.

The Oceania Division, led once again by Pastor Antonin Salavyov, is the smallest of all the divisions in size and population. However, it contains thousands of islands, which makes travel expensive and complicated. The gospel needs to reach to the ends of the world. May God  bless every effort to advance His kingdom into the world.

 

TESTIMONY AND EXPERIENCE HOUR

Led by Elder Stefano La Corte, Good Samaritan Department Leader, and Sister Raquel Orce, incoming Publishing Department Leader, experiences and music from many areas showed how God has protected His people. The Good Samaritan Department has been very busy in the last five years on two main fronts–countries suffering from natural disasters and newly opened mission fields.

We heard stories from Peru, Mexico, Turkey, Ukraine, and Tanzania; and we heard music from Ecuador (harp with guitars), Asia, Germany, and Switzerland. A musical highlight was when the Swiss choir joined Pastor Jose Vicente Giner in singing “The Holy City” in Spanish.

 

SABBATH CLOSE

Pastor Adalicio Souza, incoming Family Department Leader, explained that it is not possible to visit every country, but the department would like to organize teams to provide family counseling and produce online materials.

It should be clear to us that there is a difference between a house and a home. When God made man in his own image–male and female–and performed the first wedding, he provided the structure for the best place where learning takes place for both parents and children. Purity, warmth, love, happiness, and kindness should rule in the home, making it the foundation of society and the church. In fact, the Spirit of prophecy writes that the church and the nation depend on the influence of the family.

The great enemy of God and man is very angry with families and is doing everything possible to destroy it from the inside and from the outside. But God turned on the fire of love in the home, and He wants to keep that fire burning. The church needs ministers with a strong sense of the spiritual standards found in the Scriptures to protect individuals, families, and churches. Every effort to uphold the divine pattern for the family and the church will weaken the attacks of evil.

 

FAREWELL

After dinner, it was time to say good-bye. Pastor Douglas Francis, serving as moderator for the meeting, reminded the congregation that we cannot forget the past–indeed, we must not. Brother Norbert Gutknecht, son of Pastor Siegmund Gutknecht, who served many terms as President of the General Conference and travelled extensively in missionary service, expressed his joy at being present at the conference and read Romans 8:28. From his youth, Brother Norbert accompanied his father and helped establish the headquarters and missionary school in Nairobi, Kenya. Pastor Gutknecht passed away about six years ago, being preceded in death by his wife. Brother Norbert encouraged the gospel workers to go and preach the gospel.

Pastor Henry Andrade, General Conference President from 1993 to 1997, was also called forward to give his blessing, and he urged the people to be humble so God can work. There should never be any compromise of Biblical principles. His final words were: “Go with God.”

And Pastor Antonino Di Franca, General Conference President from 1997 to 2002, came to the front to read Revelation 22:17, “Behold, I come quickly.” Those who study  the Scriptures are blessed. All who are preparing for the Saviour’s coming will be blessed. Let all be united in His promises, word, and service.

After two more choir presentations, Pastor Francesco Caputo told that he had had a dream to host the General Conference in Italy, and now it had been accomplished. He thanked the Lord and everyone who made it possible, including the Italian Field Committee and the outgoing General Conference Committee.

Pastor Idel Suarez, Jr., likewise thanked all who had contributed to the blessings of the conference and added some others, including Brothers Fernando Leon and Esteban Hunger for online, technical, and media support before, during, and after this conference; the brothers and sisters who prepared wonderful meals at the Tortoreto mission house; the musicians, conductors, and choirs; the translation team; the Publishing Department; and all who spoke, presented specials, and supported the World Assembly with their offerings.

Referring to the reformation under King Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 31:1, Brother Suarez focused on  what the people had done. They went home to put away the images. The church will be strong when everyone is involved in some form of missionary outreach. They removed the idols and images from their home. We need to do the same, removing from our homes and lives everything that can defile the mind and heart.

The next chapter of 2 Chronicles documents the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem and how God delivered His people. That siege was similar to what will happen under the coming Sunday law. It has been reported that on October 31, Protestants will declare that there are no Protestants any more, having all embraced the Catholic faith. But we need to continue protesting against everything that is contrary to God’s way and character and the purity of His people. Let us ask Him what idols need to be thrown out and ask Jesus to come back into our hearts. Will we be ready when the siege comes?

Pastor Suarez called his wife and three daughters to the stage and declared, as did Joshua: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15.

Pastor Tzvetan Petkov then expressed his gratitude to all who attended the conference, the delegates, all who worked to make the World Assembly a blessing, the previous administration, the translators, the media team, the choirs and musicians, and the presenters.

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26. There is strength in unity; let us return to the original Adventist teachings, and help especially the young people with this. Let us increase the membership by each one winning one and being active in missionary service.

“If God be for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31. The last text was Malachi 4:5, 6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Shalom!