A team of pastors from the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference (NZPUC) visited with Trans-European Division (TED) staff in London on April 11 with the aim of gaining an insight into how mission can be achieved within secularised and diverse cultures.
Led by NZPUC Discipleship Ministries leader, Pastor Victor Kulakov, the group specifically chose to visit the TED territory because, both in New Zealand itself and in the islands that make up the NZPUC territory, they see themselves facing similar issues.
During an intense morning of presentation and discussion, Dr Daniel Duda, TED Education and Adventist Mission director, highlighted the challenges to sharing the Gospel that are faced by the 11 Unions and 3 attached fields within the TED—whether in highly secularised countries like the Netherlands and Finland or more religiously mono-cultural countries like Greece, Poland or Serbia where, despite a monopoly religion, secularism is making serious inroads.
“While 19th century methods are still having some success in a few areas, we have to be innovative and change our mindset in order to reach out to people groups who have radically changed their world-view, either post-communism or post-Christianity,” Dr Duda said.
Health Ministries director for NZPUC, Dr Adrielle Carrasco, found the debate refreshing. “It was such a blessing, and some great learnings and good challenges for us,” she said. Kulakov expressed appreciation for a clear understanding of strategy and objectives.
Part of that learning was a review of some of the success stories and mission experiments that have taken place in the TED over the past 12 months. TED Communication director, Victor Hulbert, took the group on a whirlwind virtual tour of a variety of projects including Messy Church success in Croatia and Greece, a pizza church linked closely to an Adventist school and church in Finland, health clubs in south-eastern Europe, a motorbike club, and creative youth and Pathfinder initiatives.
One word that came across very strongly was “compassion”. In relation to initiatives focused on the European refugee/migrant situation as well as other forms of outreach, Hulbert noted how genuine compassion makes a significant difference in people’s lives.
He also emphasised that while the Church is good at developing and running its own programs, being outward-looking and seeing what the world is actually looking at may help us develop initiatives that touch more lives. As examples he showed how the Church in the UK was highlighted for the work it did around the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI—and the stories of courageous Adventist conscientious objectors. More recently, Adventists in Hungary and Poland (among other places) were able to make significant community impacts by focusing on the Desmond Doss story during the release of the Hacksaw Ridge film.
TED Stewardship director and former Irish Mission president, David Neal, highlighted how a mix of traditional and creative evangelism in association with Mark Finley worked in Dublin during a two-year Mission to the Cities outreach. He emphasised how the ‘Cuisle’ centre of influence in the front hall of the Dublin Ranelagh Church drew in a whole new group of Irish people.
The fourth presenter was Patrick Johnson, TED Ministerial Association secretary. He took the group on a different journey, showing how good mentoring and discipleship can not only benefit the pastor and his family, but will ultimately help the Church grow as a positive discipleship track leads to a significant improvement not only in building relationships, but in an increased and natural process of Total Member Involvement.
Following an evening debriefing, Kulakov expressed his gratitude for the time together, noting “strong similarities in thinking and direction between TED and the South Pacific Division. We truly praise God,” he concluded. “We have been hugely blessed and learnt a number of very valuable things that we have committed to apply/try in our ministry.”
Following their visit to the TED offices, the group from NZPUC also made stops in Amsterdam, Denmark and Orlando (Florida) as part of their trip.