July 7, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens, Inter-American Division News
“A crisis situation like we are facing right now is an opportunity to call people to an understanding of who Christ is and that He is the answer to the problems we face,” said Adventist World Church President Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, as he addressed thousands of church administrators, institutional leaders, department heads and pastors today, on day two of Inter-America’s annual Segment Leadership Development (SeLD) Conference. “Energize church members in total member involvement, helping them to truly understand how they can be part of God’s amazing proclamation.”
“The difficult tense situation about human relations, difficulties that we face all over the world whether racial difficulties, socio economic difficulties, educational difficulties, tribal difficulties, everyone of us is called to show dignity to human beings,” said Pastor Wilson.
The fallout of COVID-19 is going to be unbelievable, stated Pastor Wilson, but “God is going to guide us and bring what is important to the forefront to keep in mind the Three Angels’ Message and point people who need Jesus.”
Clear in the mission
In order to be effective in the organization, leaders must be clear in their purpose in the mission, especially while facing strange things like the coronavirus affecting the entire world, said Pastor Wilson. He shared simple, heart-felt advice for Inter-American leaders to continue steadfast in leading in times of emergency.
“Do what’s right as a leader, walk humbly with your God, and lean on the Lord completely,” he said after quoting Micah 6:8. Pastor Wilson reminded leaders to pray earnestly every day for wisdom, seek counsel from the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White, one of the Adventist Church’s co-founders, and be aware, awake and understanding of what is going on. “You have to focus on the actual problem and the ultimate goal, and understand that God wants to work through you to glorify His name through you.”
Pastor Wilson encouraged leaders to be patient, treat people with respect and dignity, overcome evil with good and that no one is working for themselves but for the Lord. He also reminded church leaders to work together, listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit, get enough sleep, drink enough water, eat the right things, exercise, and stay close to communication experts who know how to get the message across in a crisis situation.
“You are going to face lots of crises in the future. You won’t be able to relax and go back to life how it used to be. It’s not going to be easy in the future,” said Pastor Wilson. “Be an anchor of stability, a pillar of hope. Be someone who in a crisis situation is willing to listen, leaning on the Lord, working quickly and working with people but relying quickly on the power of the Lord.”
The more than 3,300 leaders who registered to this year’s 4th Inter-American annual SeLD Conference viewed Pastor Wilson’s message during the morning general session on the zoom video conference platform
Impact of COVID-19 in IAD
On her plenary session today, IAD Health Ministries Director Belkis Archbold, first shared how health ministries directors have been reminding the church membership on practicing healthy habits during the present pandemic crisis, just as church has been promoting for decades across the territory.
“I have been ] convinced that God has been preparing us as a church for previous pandemics and this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Archbold. “Throughout history, God has continued admonishing and warning us of what we should do to receive His direction, and health is one of those.” It’s about keeping to the eight healthy habits outlined in the church’s health message coined by the IAD as I Want to Live Healthy initiative, which includes a lifestyle of fresh air, rest, water, exercise, self-control, good nutrition, sunshine, and trust in God.
Archbold shared the results of a brief survey done two months with 4,242 persons who responded from 10 countries across the IAD territory. Of those who responded, 127 shared that they had been infected with COVID-19, 636 said that a member of the family had been infected, 2,545 knew someone who had contracted the virus, and 314 had lost someone they knew to the disease.
“If you add all these values, in one way or another it shows us that 85 percent were affected in one way or another by the coronavirus,” said Archbold. And those figures could actually be higher since only a portion of the unions responded to the survey.
Most concerning results indicated that the coronavirus pandemic has stressed, made anxious, worried, angered, irritated, and left persons restless. Responses showed that 34 percent had felt anxious and nervous; 68 percent are constantly worried; 59 percent said they had emotional problems; 51 percent felt irritated easily, and 47 percent felt restless and lacked concentration.
Mental health red alert
“This was only a portion of what we were able to see affecting the territory,” said Archbold, “but a greater pandemic of mental health is headed our way, with depression taking place, panic attacks, and anger that is invading homes.”
There is help available, according to Archbold. “Put in your request because we continue offering mental health training with a special team set up with Loma Linda University and professionals in the IAD.”
It’s a red alert that needs to be dealt with, she explained. Yes, there’s the great commission to preach the message as found in Matthew 28:19-20, but in John 21:17 a great responsibility is commanded for leaders to take care of the flock, to watch out for them and nurture them, said Archbold. “Mental health is something that needs prompt attention and help is available.”
“There is no doubt that the church in Inter-America could have been more impacted negatively, but I believe that the IAD has been preparing for this pandemic so let us not close our eyes and close our heart, and address the mental health needs to the membership,” said Archbold. “As God’s people we need to share a testimony to everyone that the message of health is a message sent by God because He loves us.”
IAD Treasurer Filiberto Verduzco shared with SeLD delegates the church’s financial strategies for leading through the pandemic.
“As we look at the financial behavior throughout the years, we notice that there are greater levels of turbulence affecting the church [financially] as we get closer to the end times,” said Verduzco.
“We are all being affected by a financial crisis in Inter-America and around the world church,” said Verduzco. “Every single church institution in the IAD territory is being affected.” That means, the more than 23,000 churches and congregations, 24 unions, all local fields, educational institutions, health centers and ADRA offices across the territory have not escaped financial strain during the pandemic lockdown.
Experts are saying that the coronavirus is changing the entire world and that the financial crisis it’s causing is worse than any recession endured in the past 100 years, stated Verduzco.
“Nothing to fear”
Verduzco focused on several guiding principles that can address the financial administration of church entities.
“We have nothing to fear as long as we make sure that Jesus is part of our team,” said Verduzco. “It’s God’s business, not ours.” He also stated that measures will have to be taken “to bring expenses within the narrow compass of our income.” The measures of adjustment will have to be clearly studied by church entities and their board to cut costs and continue fulfilling its mission, as financial policies are put in place to implement.
“We must make decisions as individuals and administrators of institutions to adjust our expenses while in the circle of available income,” said Verduzco. He pointed out that in April, church administrators were sent guidelines and suggestions as to how to begin adjusting their operating expenses in the weeks and months that followed. “Every [church] entity must be responsible for itself as we face the reality affecting us in this time of crisis, and plans are put into motion.”
It’s a difficult financial situation that shows dangers but also presents opportunities to make changes and positive decisions for the future, said Verduzco. “We have to reset and look at the way that we work and how we manage the finances in our churches. We must not forget how God has led and blessed His church in the past.” Verduzco reminded leaders to remember to make Jesus part of their management team as they navigate through the current crisis.
Day two of SeLD Conference also saw delegates taking part in two-dozen breakout seminar presentations.
The Conference continues July 8-9, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Miami Time. For updates, visit us at interamerica.org
For SeLD Conference’s program schedule details and resources, go to seld.interamerica.org