1960 to 1965: The year of jubilee

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In 1960, the Adventist Church celebrated its “Jubilee” of 75 years of Adventism in the South Pacific. Specifically, the date referred to the first Sabbath school held in Australia on July 4, 1885. Seventy-five years later, on July 4, 1960, the Australasian Record released a “Jubilee Year Special” that was distributed in colour. We believe it to be the first issue of Record released in colour. 

The cover of this issue showed an illustration of Ellen White’s vision of global evangelism. She saw lights spreading like stars, growing brighter as more lights were kindled. The whole world was illuminated by these lights. When questioned if these countries were named, Mrs White said, “I did not hear any names, except one. I remember the angel said, ‘Australia’.” Thirty-one years later, Pastor Ole Andres Olsen recalled Mrs White’s plea for Australia. She had foreseen people in Australia searching for truth and becoming a glorious people in God’s kingdom.

To celebrate the jubilee year, a combined, coordinated evangelistic endeavour– “the greatest that has yet been undertaken in this field”–was planned for the South Pacific. Each conference/union set themselves a goal to gain new members, with the overall number being 5000 “new souls” gained throughout the year. George Burnside, the ministerial secretary for the Australasian Division, wrote: “This Jubilee year is the year of opportunity. Five thousand baptisms in 1960 will give new life and strength to the church. This united purpose will fittingly celebrate the seventy-five years of advent preaching in Australasia. Let us as one go forward with one purpose to perform the one essential task.”

The Jubilee edition featured reports on the growth and progress of all church organisations and entities in the South Pacific Division. Here we share interesting snippets from three of these reports.

Treasurer of the Australasian Division, Pastor Eric Johanson, wrote:

“It was not long after the Advent Message came to this field that our people in Australia and New Zealand had placed upon them the privilege and responsibility of carrying it to what we have come to know as the island field of the South Pacific. And right loyally have they responded with both men and means, so that today we have something like 200 white missionaries in this area and a church membership of more than 37,500. Naturally, to maintain such a force requires a strongly supported and well-organised home base. This we have.”

President of the Bismarck-Solomons Union Mission, Pastor Eric Boehm, wrote:

“World War II interrupted the work but failed to destroy it. European missionaries were withdrawn, but national workers held the ship on its course. With the return of the white missionaries at the close of the war the mission was still found to be strong and flourishing. Post-war missionaries laboured to establish schools, first in the villages, then at higher levels. Aside from village schools a well-qualified training school for Christian workers now operates under the name of the Jones Missionary College. . . God has blessed His work in the Bismarck-Solomons Union Mission. Today, with a church membership of 8,084, every thirty-first person within its territory is a baptised believer, and its 16,095 Sabbath School members represent one Sabbath-keeper for every fifteen of the population. This year we have set ourselves an aim to baptise 900 souls.”

President of the Coral Sea Union Mission, Pastor John Keith, shared:

“Converts were not easily gained, for after forty years the fruitage was only forty. At the end of December 1959, we had a membership of 3,939 in Papua, and I am sure you rejoice with us in this wonderful growth and feel gratitude to those who sacrificed all to sow the seed for this harvest.” Statistics from 2021 have Papua New Guinea Union Mission at 1107 churches with a membership of 390,680.

Thanks to Adventist Statistics we have found the membership gain that the jubilee year evangelism drive was able to achieve. Unfortunately, they were just short of their goal of 5000 new members–gaining 4569 new members in 1960. Which is still an amazing achievement!

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