Members making an impact, thousands seeking hope, surge in Bible studies

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With so much rapid change occurring in response to COVID-19, South Pacific Division president Glenn Townend shares some updates from across Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.

Pacific islands

  • The mission presidents from Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Fiji livestreamed Sabbath messages through Facebook, some of which were played on national television.
  • Churches in Kiribati are full and overflowing for the first time in history. Although Kiribati has no known cases of COVID-19 at present, the government has warned its citizens that they will be unable to treat people effectively if they catch the virus.
  • Hope FM in Papua New Guinea is receiving thousands of requests from listeners to share messages of hope. In response, the Adventist radio station is recording messages every week in different formats and styles to reach as many people as possible.

Australia

  • The Australian Union Conference (AUC) office is receiving an influx of requests for Bible studies, as well as questions from the public on their website and via phone searching for faith with questions such as, “Is this the end of the world?”
  • Within the AUC, eGiving is up 30 per cent for the month of March.
  • Greater Sydney Conference youth directors Simon Gigliotti and Phil Yates are hosting weekly Bible studies on the topic of Revelation. During their first Wednesday night meeting on April 1, they had 50 young people join the Zoom meeting.
  • Division secretary assistant Jane Gibson-Opetaia has been intentional about contacting friends and family to see who needs help. Her family has delivered groceries and care packages, cooked meals and called older people from church. Other SPD staff members are helping to source resources.
  • Glenn and Pam Townend are letterboxing cards to their neighbours which ask the question, “How can I help you?”. They have received appreciative phone calls for their efforts every day so far.

New Zealand Pacific Union

  • President of the Cook Islands Mission, Pastor Eric Toleafoa, was self-isolating for 14 days. He is now back to normal business.
  • A member of the Adventist church in French Polynesia has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • More than 1000 people in New Zealand joined a two-hour youth event on Zoom on Friday night March 28, which included both fun and serious Bible study.

Reflecting on how the Church has adapted to the rapidly evolving pandemic environment, Pastor Townend said he is “proud of the leaders and members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church”.

“With very little notice, churches were closed and creativity kicked in. I have seen livestreamed and pre-recorded worship services, ideas for micro small groups, resources for kids to worship at home, ideas on how to return tithes and give offerings besides eGiving; support groups developing via WhatsApp, Zoom prayer meetings, network support via email and crisis phone support, the sharing of health information. It has been wonderful,” he said.