In Times of Pandemic, We Minister
No one would have predicted that a mere three months into a new decade, the entire world would basically come to a standstill. Phrases of self-quarantine, stay-at-home directives, pandemic, isolation became a part of daily vocabulary. Social media platforms are now the location where “watercooler” conversations take place. Adapting teaching, worship services, and even evangelistic outreach became creatively integrated as an online presence and ministry.
As the weeks slip by, members of the ATS community continue to engage in various opportunities by making contributions in virtual classrooms, at the local church levels for Friday night fellowship, Sabbath School, and Sabbath worship services. Their online interactions are taking place with a wide range of audiences, from adults to college students to youth.
Connection and interaction with others are basic human needs. With the closure of churches, self-isolation, and a dearth of social activities, many individuals feel cut off. To fill this void, online weekend and mid-week services help to ease some of the pain of not seeing church family. This is one of the primary areas ATS members are giving back at the local church level.
Friday Night Fellowship
“My husband and I lead out in a Friday night Bible study for young adults over Zoom,” reports Rahel Wells.
Online meetings have allowed Roy Gane to reach across borders and continents and meet with believers. “Using Zoom presentations, I began a weekly Friday night series on the biblical Sanctuary to a group in China,” says Dr. Gane.
The timing of a new It Is Written (IIW) Sabbath School and sermon series coincided with the stay-at-home orders of Tennessee, where the ministry is based. During Quarter 2, Michael Hasel, professor of Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology at Southern Adventist University, and Frank Hasel, associate director of the Biblical Research Institute meet with John Bradshaw, IIW speaker/director. They discuss each week’s lesson on “How to Interpret Scripture” using the current Adult Bible Study Guide. The Hasels co-authored the study guide.
In the weeks leading up to the launch, the three men have met digitally and filmed the programs. This allowed them to apply current events in the lessons.
Each of the episodes can be accessed here. https://itiswritten.tv/programs/29
“The Berrien Springs SDA Church asked me to lead a panel for the study of the Sabbath School lesson each week,” says Felix Cortes-Valles. “This is livestreamed through Facebook. ATS members Efraín Velázques and Elías Brasil de Souza have also participated, and other members will be included, too.” Viewers can tune in on Facebook using @bsschurch or using https://www.facebook.com/bsschurch/
“I host a pre-recorded online Sabbath School weekly with members of the School of Theology at Walla Walla University,” says Carl Cosaert. “The link to our YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQSTN4-U6G-IJkLHJZsdOYQ.”
Cosaert also hosted a live Sabbath School lesson on Blue Mountain Television Network. He hosted another for the Simi Valley Adventist Church, which aired on the church’s YouTube Channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PEB-Y6qO5A
Frank Hasel joins Senior Pastor Chad Stuart for a weekly conversation at the Spencerville SDA Church in Spencerville, Maryland. https://spencervillechurch.org/how-to-interpret-scripture-a-conversation-on-the-sabbath-school-quarterly-for-q2-2020/
Clinton Wahlen, Tom Shepherd, and Richard Davidson report they use livestreaming and Zoom to present the Sabbath School lessons.
Tridelphia SDA Church https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPskAn8I3WZ6FkUdr8JWnAw
Eau Claire SDA Church, Eau Claire, Michigan https://www.facebook.com/eauclairesda/videos/2576038052613229/
Sabbath Worship Services
Providing ministry through preaching the Word is another aspect that has involved ATS members during these weeks of virtual worship services. Richard Davidson, Efrain Velazquez, Tom Shephard, and others have taken to the airwaves to share the Gospel, celebrate the resurrection, examine end-time prophecies, and more.
Under normal conditions, worship speakers are limited by distance on where they preach and how many times they speak on a Sabbath morning. Online worship and time zones remove those obstacles. “On a recent Sabbath morning, JoAnn [Davidson] extended her service three-fold via Zoom,” reports Richard Davidson. “She preached two pre-recorded sermons–one in Eau Claire, Michigan, and the other in Hollywood, California–and taught the Sabbath School lesson at the Simi Valley, California church. Praise God for media potential to share the Word!”
Eau Claire, MI–“Fire on the Mountain”:
Hollywood, CA–“God Loves This Place”:
Pathfinders look forward to club meetings, working on honors, and, most of all, Camporees. So what’s a Pathfinder director to do when group gatherings are prohibited, but the Pathfinder year is in full swing? Anything is possible with Zoom, social media, and instructors and staff who are willing to use new methods.
Pathfinder honor classes by Zoom are popular, and many clubs are utilizing this format.
Michael Campbell and Tom Shepherd conducted livestream presentations on church history as a means of guidance through the earning of two Pathfinder honors.
And, yes, it’s possible to have Pathfinder Camporees these days. “I have been the speaker on several virtual camporees, including one in Guatemala that had 15,000 attendees on radio, YouTube, and Facebook. Everyone camped on their backyards,” says Efraín Velazquez II. “At the conclusion of that event, 40 people accepted the appeal for baptism, for God’s honor, and there are reports of more decisions that have been made since then.” https://www.interamerica.org/2020/04/young-people-camp-at-home-for-virtual-camporees-across-inter-america/
John Bradshaw’s “Hope Awakens” series from It Is Written, brought a message of hope that many needed to hear. Typically, behind the scenes during a series, Bible instructors are busy following upon with people who have indicated an interest in going deeper. This virtual event was no exception. “I served as a “virtual Bible instructor” with Bible study interests who attended the meetings,” says Clinton Wahlen.
Project Atlas – Project Atlas is a new virtual evangelistic series aimed at post-Christian people and is sponsored by the Peoria (Illinois) Seventh-day Adventist Church. This series of videos explores the role of faith in a post-Christian world. You can view Rahel Wells’ contribution at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLz11XjeGq9LtguimkKqgfJtUMbavNtwW_
El Equipo – For Spanish listeners, Efrain Velazquez II joins with Eliezer Graterol, Gamaliel Feliciano, Chaplain (Major) Carlos Molina, and Julio Chazarreta for a weekly program on hope, faith, prayer and other related subjects https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhiXqnRgpwQ
Pivot Points – In an exclusive online series, Adventist Review Ministries examines COVID-19 and how we cope with how it impacts us. Rahel Wells, Frank Hasel, Gerald Klingbeil, and Lael Caesar are featured in a discussion about the relationship between COVID-19 and theology. Did God Send COVID-19, and is it meant only for unbelievers? Should governments be able to close churches? Is this one of Revelation's plagues? https://www.artvnow.
The Church and the Coronavirus “Theology, Church History, and the Corona Virus” –
Nicholas Miller hosts a weekly presentation co-sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and the Lake Union Conference. He was joined by Tom Shepherd, Teresa Reeve, Boubakar Sanou, and John Reeve in a panel to discuss how we are not in the circumstances of Revelation 13 yet, but more still in Romans 13, in the context of Leviticus 13 and how we should respond with the love and concern of 1 Corinthians 13. https://www.lakeunionherald.org/covid-19/the-church-and-the-coronavirus
Real Religion – “In January, we recorded several episodes for the soon-to-be-released television show Real Religion, sponsored by the Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary,” says Efraín Velazquez. “The topics are based on the official positions of the Adventist Church on several issues (i.e., abortion, military, homosexuality, creation, ecology, etc.).
Adventist colleges and universities around the world have moved to online classes to complete the 2019-2020 academic year. The Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary also adapted to this format. Numerous members are fulfilling their teaching duties through online meetings with students.
The Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary (IATS) provides Continuing Education courses on Eschatology for several unions in Panama, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Dutch Antilles, and Honduras.
Adventist students who are attending public and private universities on non-Adventist campuses participated in an online presentation that featured evolution as the topic. Following the lecture, there was time for the students to ask questions. “I am glad that Dr. Cardé, a research biologist, was a part of the hour-long question and answer period,” says Efraín Velazquez. “The students asked profound and probing questions. He provided answers on a couple of the tough questions.”
When you look at the past three to four months, it seems as though the world has been brought to its knees by COVID-19. Imagine this time without the benefit of technology. No Zoom. No social media platforms. No email. No texting, What’s App, or Signal. These may seem as though they are tools of the secular world. And yet, God allowed them to be created so His work and His Word would not be curtailed. We may feel chained to our homes, but the Apostle Paul reminded Timothy and us in 2 Timothy 2:9, “God’s word is not chained.” He has and will continue to provide all we need to tell His story and bring others to the foot of the cross.
Educators Study Integration of Faith and Science
More than 350 academy teachers attended a three-day continuing education event organized by the Department of Education of the Northeast India Union of Seventh-day Adventists. The meeting was held on the campus of Riverside Adventist Academy in the Garo Hills region. Ronny Nalin of the Geological Research Institute presented several lectures on faith and science.
Bible-era Temple Discovered
Dr. Michael Hasel, Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology and Director of the Institute of Archaeology at Southern Adventist University, co-led a team of researchers that uncovered an ancient biblical-era temple in Israel. Located in the National Park Tel Lachish, the ruins have been dated to the 12th century. They are a part of the ancient Canaanite city of Lachish.
Artifacts discovered at the site include bronze cauldrons, ancient Egyptian goddess Hathor inspired jewelry, daggers and ax-heads decorated with images of birds and scarabs, a gold-plated bottle inscribed with the name of Pharaoh Rameses II, and two bronze figurines of armed “smiting gods.”
One of the most exciting finds was a pottery sherd engraved with an ancient Canaanite script. According to a statement released by Hebrew University, the piece of pottery bears the Hebrew letter “samech” marked by an elongated vertical line crossed by three perpendicular shorter lines. “This makes it the oldest known example of the letter and a unique specimen for the study of ancient alphabets,” explained Hebrew University in the statement.
Moskala’s Book on Judgement and Salvation Published
Jiri Moskala’s book El Juicio y la salvación: El significado del ministerio de Cristo en el santuario celestial [Judgment and Salvation: The Meaning of Christ's Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary], was published in December 2019. The Bolivia Adventist University (BAU) is the publisher.
Moskala was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at a symposium organized by the BAU, where the book was to be presented. However, political protests in Bolivia had escalated to the point that the symposium had to be cancelled.
The book’s impact in Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina has been so substantial that the Inter-American Division Publishing House will republish it the next year in Spanish, and English as well.