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NAD Issues Response to Recent Deaths and Racial Turmoil in U.S.

NAD Issues Response to Recent Deaths and Racial Turmoil in U.S.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is responding to the tragic killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, George Floyd in Minnesota, and other recent events that clearly document the racial divide destroying the quality of life for so many and the very fabric of our democratic society. As Christians we condemn such actions of hate and violence and call for justice to be served for the victims and their families.

Walls of separation that serve to destroy the essential rights of human dignity, self-worth, and freedom have been built up. These rights are required for all Americans to live and thrive in their local communities. Some of those who have been trusted to protect all members of society have broken their solemn pact to serve others; especially those in need. Americans should never have to live in fear of going out in public just because of the color of their skin or their ethnicity. We can and must do better.

We urge all our church members to prayerfully consider how they interact with everyone in their communities. We ask you to speak out against injustice and hatred, just as Jesus did when He was on this earth. We can make a difference for those who are marginalized and betrayed by others, and we must provide a forum for the voices of the victims of hatred and racism. Our actions can speak louder than words. We can lead by example in how we treat others and demand that all people be treated equally and fairly. As the most ethnically-diverse Christian faith in the United States, our voices represent nearly every community in this country. They must be heard as we serve to heal our broken communities with the love and compassion of Jesus.

— North American Division Administration

kmaran Fri, 05/29/2020 - 10:35

In India, It Is Written and Local Church Leaders Reopen Churches, Provide Community Services

In India, It Is Written and Local Church Leaders Reopen Churches, Provide Community Services
This boy is one of the villagers near one of the recently re-opened Adventist churches in east central India receive medical exams.

This boy is one of the villagers near one of the recently re-opened Adventist churches in east central India receive medical exams. Photo provided by It Is Written

After years in disrepair and closure, 53 churches in east central India have reopened with the help of It Is Written. Spiritual, health, and social services have been initiated to keep them active.

Earlier this year, the It Is Written Eyes for India program conducted a medical camp for 100 villages including the 53 villages with newly-reopened churches. Medical physicians from the U.S. provided free medical expertise and partnered with local nursing students. More than 2,300 patients were treated, over 4,500 people were screened for cataracts, and 927 were selected for cataract surgery, which began on February 24. 

During February 2020, two It Is Written mission teams traveled to India to hold revival meetings at 20 locations covering the 100 villages that also received medical care. Over the course of the month, approximately 4,500 people attended these meetings throughout the sites. God poured out His blessings, and 1,197 people accepted Jesus into their hearts. Dedicated local church leaders, Bible workers, and volunteers were vital to making these events successful, and drawing people closer to Jesus.

Coming Together to Help

In November 2018, It Is Written began an initiative with local church leaders to reopen 50 churches that had been closed due to lack of funding. The initial assessment was not encouraging. In addition to being without a pastor, the church yards were covered in garbage, windows were broken, and doors had rusted shut. Some churches were used to store tobacco or cotton while others were serving as shelters for beggars, sheep, and buffalo.

To ensure the 53 churches stayed open, new church leaders had to be trained and paid. Twenty-five Bible workers were selected and began training. They studied the life and teachings of Jesus; Bible doctrines; Daniel and Revelation; history of the church; world religions; health principle; the gift of prophecy; major and minor prophets; and the writings of Paul. Jack Phillips, It Is Written Bible work coordinator, traveled to India and conducted a special course on practical methods for giving Bible studies and reaching the local communities.

After thorough training, each of these Bible workers were placed in the villages to care for their two assigned churches. They cleaned each church, and professionals made repairs and painted walls. Each church was given a new PA system, a culturally-essential component to corporate worship. The Bible workers faced prejudice from community members because community members’ trust was damaged or broken when the church closed.

It Is Written Bible and health workers in India

Bible and health workers in India work together to help keep more than 50 Adventist churches open. 

Community Care

Community health workers were hired to help the Bible workers overcome this prejudice. These women created a way for the Bible worker to enter the community with the gospel. Each health worker was given training, a scale, stethoscope, blood pressure machine, and the book Where There is No Doctor in Telugu, the local language.

The health workers checked glucose and blood pressure levels, cared for fevers, and bandaged wounds. They taught about cleanliness and educated the villagers about the harmfulness of tobacco and alcohol. These women visited every home — Hindu, Muslims, and any other religion — praying for the people’s suffering at the end of the visit. Some of the villagers accepted Christ because of the health workers’ invitations.

Newly opened churches began conducting night literacy classes in 26 of the churches. Eight adult literacy volunteers taught basic reading and writing along with Christian songs. They also prayed with the students and encouraged each to come back to the church on Sabbath. Through their efforts, people accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior through baptism. 

It Is Written Eye camp

It Is Written Eyes for India program conducted a medical camp for 100 villages including the 53 villages with newly-reopened churches.

A United States sewing ministry partnered with the churches to offer sewing classes for local women. The women learned how to make garments, were given a brand-new sewing machine, and were invited to accept Christ as Savior. They left the class spiritually fed and with training to become financially independent.

The health and social services were augmented with spiritual resources. Theology students conducted a three-day evangelism program in each of the 53 churches. Their program helped support the Bible workers in reaching the unreached and gathering the scattered members. These students visited the entire village, prayed with everyone they could, and invited the community to the meetings at the church.

Later, another seven-day revival meeting occurred in 10 of the newly-opened churches. These meetings were targeted to the local youth, who learned songs, Bible stories, and skits. The youth left encouraged to be the strength of the new churches. Many young people gave their lives to Jesus Christ through these meetings.

And the younger children were not left out. Last summer, over 60 days, two college students conducted Vacation Bible School in 20 of the reopened churches. They worked with the village children, taught them new songs and Bible stories, and made crafts. Nearly 800 children participated. 

Baptisms in India in early 2020

After local Bible workers, church leaders, students, volunteers, and It Is Written representatives minister to needs, baptisms occur in east central India in early 2020.

The Work Continues

And the work hasn’t stopped. Ongoing plans include quarterly meetings conducted by a local Indian evangelist to cover spiritual growth topics such as the Sabbath, stewardship, continuous soul winning, children’s Sabbath school, and health. The churches continue to hold youth ministry events and widow prayer ministry activities.

Every quarter, the church will also conduct an eight-day training for elders to equip them to serve the church and community. And 48 more churches have been selected for reopening and have already been cleaned.

In May, the It Is Written Hope Awakens sermons were translated into seven Indian languages and livestreamed in Facebook to the entire local area. Thousands have seen the broadcasts.

The infrastructure is established to help ensure these churches stay open for many years to come and continue growing and serving their communities with the love of Jesus.

This project was made possible through the support of It Is Written donors. To learn more and donate to future It Is Written mission and humanitarian projects, click here and select “It Is Written Missions.”

— Josephine Biegler is the It Is Written India Mission coordinator.

 

 

kmaran Wed, 05/27/2020 - 15:25

Fostering Hope in Alaska’s Native American Communities

Fostering Hope in Alaska’s Native American Communities
Shoni and Haley Evans

Shoni and Haley Evans visit Maryland during the fall of 2019. Photo by Mylon Medley

“I understand you want to be a foster mom,” said a woman who’d knocked on the Evans family’s front door in a small community in Alaska.

“I . . . maybe,” replied Shoni Evans nervously.

“Well, these two babies need a foster mom,” the woman said insistently.

Evans had seen these native babies before with their foster mom at the local Adventist church she attended. But during this reintroduction the woman holding them brought them into the Evans home and laid them on their couch along with medical equipment.

“They had been stepped on and had punctured lungs. They were not in good shape,” said Evans.

The woman left to send a health-care provider to teach Evans how to care for the babies’ tremendous needs. Later that evening Evans’ husband returned home from work.

I left and there were two [babies]. I come back, there’s four. What did you do?” asked Shoni’s husband.

“Aren’t they precious? We’re going to be foster parents,” Evans replied.

This was not what the newlyweds had planned on, considering they were fresh out of Southern Adventist University with two small babies and mounting bills. They’d recently moved from the Collegedale, Tennessee, area to Bethel, Alaska, where Michael was given the opportunity to be a pilot for Grant Aviation, a regional airline that operates in the state. Because of conflicts with work scheduling and Sabbath observance, Michael took a job with Bering Air, which was based in Nome, a town in western Alaska right below the Arctic Circle.

Nearly two decades ago the couple joined the small Adventist community that nurtured them and welcomed them in various ways, including the unexpected visit with the doubly unexpected gift.

Mike and Shoni Evans

Shoni Evans is a family service social worker for a children’s home that is part of the Nome Community Center. In addition, she and her husband Michael have been foster parents several times over.

A Statewide Crisis

In recent years Alaska’s rate of children in foster care has remained more than double the rate of the lower United States, according to a 2018 publication by Alaska Children’s Trust.1 In 2016 alone, 2,810 children were in the Alaskan foster care system. Further, while Alaska Native American children make up about 20 percent of all children in the state, they accounted for about 60 percent of all children in foster care from 2006 through 2013, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Institute of Social and Economic Research2 of the University of Alaska—Anchorage.

The numbers have captured the attention of Alaska’s leaders who consider it a “crisis.” This served as the foundation for the signing of the Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact3 Between Certain Alaska Native Tribes and Tribal Organizations and the State of Alaska on December 15, 2017. Many of the 229 federally recognized Alaska Native American tribes committed to supporting the state’s Office of Children’s Services and other agencies with the goal of preserving native family structures and creating more healthy environments for children to flourish.

Socioeconomic ills broadly affect Alaska Native American communities that are scattered throughout the state—some are as far north as the Arctic Circle, others can be found among the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, an archipelago scattered westward in the Pacific Ocean and stretching toward the International Date Line. The disparities relate to education attainment, poverty, and household income, according to a 2017 report by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.4 The disparities are particularly felt among Alaskan Native Americans under the age of 20, who make up a third of the native population. Of the 10,000 children living in the state’s high-poverty areas, 9,000 are Alaska Native American.5

Because of the isolated nature of the villages, there are geographically based systems called “hubs” that provide access to a variety of resources and services, including hospitals, grocery stores, and airports. Nome, where Evans lives, is a hub for Alaska’s Norton Sound region.

Church in Nome

A church in Nome, Alaska; photo provided by Shoni Evans

“We have a town of 2,300 people. We’re beyond the road system, we have to fly everywhere. As a hub, our town serves 19 smaller villages. These villages can be anywhere from 25 people to our largest one of 750,” said Evans. “There’s extreme poverty in the villages. Some don’t have infrastructure for water and sewer. In some of our villages, it’s like a Third World country.”

Evans is a family service social worker for a children’s home that is part of the Nome Community Center. The home serves as an emergency shelter for up to 10 children at a time. The center, equipped with staff of 16, can take children as young as infants all the way to 18-year-olds. She has nurtured more than 300 children during her nearly 20 years of working with the home. Under their care the children go to school and engage in a wide variety of activities from dog-mushing to swimming in the ocean.

“We usually get called from state social workers. The children staying in our home can come from any one of those 19 villages. We can get called anytime, day or night,” said Evans. “We bring them into the home. We feed them. It’s always one of the first things . . . we give them lots of hugs and assurance that they’re in a safe place now. We love them. We hold them. We pray with them. We sing to them. They learn about Jesus through our staff. We want them to have a happy life.”

Most of the children stay between three and six months. Allowances are made for longer stays if a healthy, permanent home is not located quickly. Evans and her staff aim to place children in their own villages, if possible.

“The children are amazing. They’re resilient, but there’s such a drug and alcohol problem out there. There’s a hopelessness,” said Evans. “The children struggle because they have nowhere to go. They see that their future is the drug and alcohol [abuse] that they see while growing up in their villages.”

Planting Seeds

Evans cherishes every interaction with every child she comes into contact with through her work. She believes lasting impacts are born in those moments.

“I can give some hope to these children—even those I meet for a brief moment. God allows me to have some in my arms for five minutes, while we’ve been able to have others for 18 years. It doesn’t matter how long we have them. God allows us to plant a tiny seed of hope within their hearts.”

Evans’ deep well of compassion is drawn from her own experiences from childhood and adolescent years.

“I’m adopted by an amazing family, so adoption has always been close to my heart. I want to give these children what my adoptive family gave me,” said Evans.

Growing up, she struggled with a learning disorder and had trouble excelling in the classroom. “School never came easy. Friends never came easy,” Evans said. “My first year in college I totally failed.”

During her second year of college she had a professor who helped her realize that her failures could be used as a blessing for others.

“Shoni, you can do this. I believe in you, and you can help children like you because you have been there. You have felt it. You understand,” recounts Evans of her conversation with the professor.

With newfound determination, and the assistance from the same professor who would also edit her papers and help her study for tests, Evans was able to complete college. From that initial conversation, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to helping children.

Meet Haley

A shining example of Evans’ commitment to helping Alaskan Native American children is through the adoption of her youngest daughter Haley.

Evans knew Haley before Haley came into the world. She had worked with Haley’s biological mother and developed a friendly relationship with her. When Haley was born 10 weeks premature, Evans’ husband served as a medevac pilot to get the mother and Haley to Anchorage for medical care. Haley was two pounds eight ounces at birth and had drug addictions because of her mother’s drug use. She spent five weeks in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU).

Evans planned to adopt Haley, and had arranged for her mother to still have a place in her life.

“She was an amazing young woman, I grew to love her,” said Evans of Haley’s mom. “She had a lot of struggles with drugs and alcohol. She had talked to us and had consented to go to rehab.”

Evans said the young woman had her family’s full support and thanked God for the enthusiasm directed toward recovery. But shortly after calling Evans to share her desire to go through rehab in an effort to have Haley fully back in her life again, Haley’s biological mother committed suicide.

“It was very hard,” said Evans. “After her mom passed away, her grandfather would come see Haley about every afternoon. He loved her. He’d sit in my big rocking chair and rock her. It was absolutely a beautiful thing. But he wasn’t healthy enough to take care of her.“

Haley’s grandfather passed away when she was 3 months old. He was the last family member who would have been able to take her.

Miracle Child

Haley had severe medical issues that stemmed from complications surrounding her birth. She was born with a hole in her heart and needed a heart and lung machine until she was 9 months old. She also had twisted bowels, and impaired vision and hearing on her right side. She needed to be medevaced three times in her first year of life because her heart had stopped beating or she had had difficulty breathing.

Evans was adamant that Haley remain connected with her extended family, who loved her but were unable to take care of her. Haley’s aunt—her biological mother’s sister—was the person who approached Evans about officially adopting Haley.

“I wrapped my arms around her and said, ‘Eva, you’re not losing a niece, you’re gaining a sister.’ We have always raised Haley that way,” said Evans.

Haley is now 10 years old. Most of her health issues miraculously resolved themselves over the years, which has stunned her health-care providers. She’s in the fifth grade and is homeschooled by Evans, and assists her mom at work by playing with the babies living in the children’s home. Haley also takes every chance she can to mush with her team of dogs.

Haley is blessed to be part of two loving families—her biological family and her adoptive family, which is made up of Shoni, her husband, Michael, their four biological children, and two adopted children, including Haley.

“God healed her for a purpose,” said Evans. “I don’t know what that’s going to be, but it’s going to be a lot of fun to sit back and see why Haley is who Haley is.”

---

1 Alaska Children’s Trust, “Alaska Family and Community,” http://static1.squarespace.com/static/586370cec534a5dbdedba846/t/5c68661f085229f287660e67/1550345794451/KIDSCOUNT-Family-Community-Report.pdf

accessed Jan. 30, 2020.

2 Diwakar Vadapalli, Virgene Hanna, and Jessica Passini, “Trends in Age, Gender, and Ethnicity Among Children in Foster Care in Alaska,” https://iseralaska.org/static/legacy_publication_links/2014_12-TrendsInAgeGenderAndEthnicityAmongFosterChildrenInAlaska.pdf, accessed Jan. 30, 2020.

3 “Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact Between Certain Alaska Native Tribes and Tribal Organizations and the State of Alaska,” Dec. 15, 2017, http://static1.squarespace.com/static/586370cec534a5dbdedba846/t/5c68661f085229f287660e67/1550345794451/KIDSCOUNT-Family-Community-Report.pdf, accessed Jan. 30, 2020.

4 Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium Epidemiology Center, “Alaska Native Health Status Report,” Second Edition. August 2017, http://anthctoday.org/epicenter/publications/HealthStatusReport/AN_HealthStatusReport_FINAL2017.pdf, accessed Jan. 30, 2020.

5 Alaska Children’s Trust, “Alaska Family and Community,” http://static1.squarespace.com/static/586370cec534a5dbdedba846/t/5c68661f085229f287660e67/1550345794451/KIDSCOUNT-Family-Community-Report.pdf, accessed Jan. 30, 2020.

 

 

kmaran Tue, 05/26/2020 - 23:11

Religious Liberty