The phrase “lest we forget” is used today so that society does not forget the sacrifices of war. Most people are not aware that the phrase was used in the Bible 3000 years ago (Deuteronomy 4:7-9, NKJV) so that God’s people did not forget the way God had cared for them.
Adventists regularly quote, “We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us” (3SM 162.3).
Do we fear the future? This Division has had to operate through depressions, recessions, world wars, cold wars, natural disasters and pandemics—tough times are not new.
The Great Depression of the 1930s is regarded as one of the greatest financial crises of modern times. J T Hammond was the Division treasurer from 1921 to 1936. In his 1930 report he said, “Whether the present financial depression will be of short or of long duration is difficult to forecast. But there is no question that it is serious, and already greatly affecting many of the people of this land.” Tithe declined about 20 per cent during the depression years. Members and the public responded with offerings and gifts.
In 1936 Hammond’s report said that, “as far as Australasia is concerned, we are informed that it is now largely a thing of the past. It certainly brought great perplexities and difficulties, but we can look back over the past six years and see that not only did it fail to hinder God’s work in this Division, but that actually greater progress was made during this period of adversity than during more normal times.”
We now face a pandemic and financial uncertainties that some say could be the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. I can learn from others who have gone before me and my own experiences as the Division chief financial officer. I have seen first-hand how God has provided during difficult times.
After the SARS pandemic (2003), global financial crisis (2008) and swine flu pandemic (2009/10), the following year tithe increased each time by six per cent across the Division. [pullquote]
In February 2011 the Christchurch earthquake left many without jobs and homes. A lot of members relocated out of the South NZ Conference. That same year, in 2011, Conference tithe increased by 17 per cent—a greater increase than the five previous years combined. In 2015 Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu, destroying crops, churches, homes and affecting members’ jobs and income. Tithe increased more than 30 per cent.
This pandemic is creating opportunities for mission that we have been praying for and now is a time to move forward with confidence. What else can we learn from the past?
“During the past few years many have lost the savings of a lifetime overnight. There is only one safe place today: ‘Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven’ (Matthew 6:20). Those who have invested in the great cause of God can already enter into the joy of their Lord, in knowing that, under God’s blessing, their gifts have helped to lead many to Christ. But a greater and more wonderful time is coming when, in that great company that none can number and which will gather around God’s throne, the Lord will reveal in full the interest on those investments” (J T Hammond, 1936 Treasurer’s report).
I am encouraged as I look back and see the faithfulness of members during both good and bad times. Since our churches have closed we have already seen a very large increase in eGiving transactions in Australia and New Zealand. During this pandemic my prayer is that our generation will remember the lessons of the past and again remain faithful by putting God first with their finances.
Rodney Brady is chief financial officer for the South Pacific Division.