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16 November 2016 | Bečići, Montenegro [Victor Hulbert]

Warm smiles, big hugs and plenty of chatter clearly indicate that Year-end Meetings in the Trans-European Division are far more than ‘just for business’. As Executive Committee members arrive in the low-cost splendour of an off-peak holiday resort in Montenegro, friendships are renewed, deep conversations are shared, and ideas are exchanged that influence the direction of the TED for the coming year.

Being at TED Year-end Meetings is, in fact, almost like a family gathering. The family spirit pervaded proceedings right from Friday morning, 11 November until the final singing of the theme song on the following Tuesday.

Thomas MüllerThat spirit was best summed up by Thomas Müller, President of the Danish Union. Resplendent in bow tie and jacket, he shared, “I am happy today. Happy to feel that the family is there when you need it.” This was more than a reflection on the positive direction in which the Danish Church is heading. It was an affirmation of the support he had received from across the Division as he had struggled with a serious illness during previous months.

Dr John BaildamHe is not alone. For Dr John Baildam, Principal of Newbold College of Higher Education, this was his first major trip after months of treatment that affected his immune system and prevented him from being in close proximity to people. While he never stopped working during his illness he found himself deighted to be back among friends.

Wim Altink (left) and Raafat KamalWim Altink, recently bereaved Netherlands Union president stood at the lectern alongside TED President, Raafat Kamal to bravely share his loss and thank so many who have supported him during his wife’s fight with cancer. During the final afternoon, he expressed how much he felt he had been surrounded by love in these meetings.

Such expressions fitted in well with Dr Daniel Duda’s Sabbath Sabbath School Lesson thoughts regarding Job’s ‘friends’. Sometimes you don’t need a lecture, you just need a hug.

That is the way the TED family is. All 14 presidents took time on Friday lunchtime to record a short sympathy video for Audrey Andersson. She was sorely missed during the meetings as she grieves the recent loss of her husband, Lars. As one of the presidents stated in his message, “What is Year-end Meetings without Audrey to brightly tell us that “policy is fun”.

Patrick JohnsonThat policy did come – with a long Sunday afternoon discussion on the GC Unity in Mission document [see: TED seek unity within diversity of cultures and perspectives], voted policy changes, appropriations of finance for Mission focused projects, and reports of progress in sometimes difficult areas.

As has been good practice for several years, that policy also came ‘paper free’ – a strong environmental emphasis that the TED office has run for several years with all documentation, including the agenda, shared electronically.

What were the highlights?

Messy Church brings down the walls of Jericho.
Clair Sanches shared how the Messy Church programme across Europe has been changing lives, bringing children, with their parents, into a church environment, especially in traditionally difficult countries like Greece where Messy Church is thriving in Katarini and other locations.

A short video of Croatian children marching around the walls of Jericho, blowing trumpets and banging drum, only to see the cardboard box walls collapse, brought the house down in Croatia and at Year-end Meetings. Clair pointed out that 19 out of every 20 Christians are saved before the age of 25. Attendees agreed that more effort should be put into children’s ministries. Including training pastors during their ministerial studies.

Dr Tihomir LazicCampus Ministries
That statistic also helped focus minds on Campus Ministries. Leaving home for university is often the time when youth also are most likely to leave their faith. Yet for Dr Tihomir Lazic it is also an opportunity. He commended those territories that have established a good Adventist presence on University campuses. He is now planning for student symposiums, Adventist identity courses based at Newbold College, increasing online training using the TED online conferencing system, and a set of student focused Q&A videos.

Hacksaw Ridge witness
With the Desmond Doss movie now on general release in numerous countries, TED Communication director, Victor Hulbert, commended those Unions who have made special efforts to share their faith during this unique witnessing window. While the British Union shared their initiative for a special edition of the FOCUS magazine with other Unions in Europe and beyond, Hulbert particularly highlighted Poland and its youth who have used social media, their website, and street activities to highlight the story behind the film.

Youth witness during the Hacksaw Ridge release in PolandRóbert Csizmadia, Hungarian Union Executive Secretary shared how the Hungarian film distributor actually came to the Adventist Church and asked the church to help to make sure their translation was accurate. Róbert says, “We are genuinely surprised by God!” Cinema goers may be surprised as well, since the Church now has the opportunity for a 15 second advert to show before the screening of every film. Like Poland, they have also translated the Desmond Doss wiki page and are preparing for the film release on 27 December.

Seeing ‘the big picture’ opportunity in witness was just one aspect of the Communication report. The team are also looking to 2017 with a build-up of resources to help church members and the public understand Adventist perspectives on 500 years of the Reformation. This will include a series of videos designed specifically for teens and an emphasis on re:formation during this year’s European GAiN Conference.

Gavin AnthonyMinisterial Burnout
The Health, Family and Ministerial Association team joined together to make a moving presentation on ministerial burnout. Newly elected Iceland Conference president, Gavin Anthony, gave an honest and very personal account of dealing with burnout in his own life. This included how others, including colleagues, misunderstood his condition, and some explanation of how he eventually found solutions.

Health director, Torben Bergland, shared statistics from surveys that the TED has been running with ministers in several Unions and noted the need for a change in the landscape, including better support mechanisms for what, as pastors, can often be a very lonely and isolated life.

This was equally true in the Presidents Council where ideas were shared on how they can support each other better. This may include more time spent sharing together, including time with their families, and making use of the newly installed video conferencing equipment in the TED office to keep in common contact.

Dr Ann GibsonThis maybe fitted well with leadership training provided in a two-hour session on Monday afternoon by Dr Ann Gibson of Andrews University. She asked the question, “Does everyone trust you?” She then went on to note how culture can seriously affect the meaning of words like ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’, or even the way trust develops between individuals. With a mixture of lecture and practical exercise, she helped leaders develop skills that will help them build bridges and develop understanding.

Worship
Derek MorrisHope Channel President, Derek MorrisWhile business sessions are vital, it is the Spirit filled worship that was the highlight for TED president, Raafat Kamal. “Friday evening and Sabbath was an amazing period,” he stated, noting how GC treasurer, Juan Prestol-Puesán and Hope Channel president, Derek Morris, on Sabbath shared personal messages of hope.

Morris challenged leaders with the danger of “making plans, forming committees while not immersing ourselves in The Word.” In a solid, scripturally-based presentation he emphasised that the Scriptures are “life changing words” and that our calling as Adventists is that “We are called to tell the truth about Jesus.”

Morris is outward looking. He said, “I rejoice with all who uplift Jesus.” At the same time, he noted our need as Adventists to highlight the Son of God as our Creator, the Lord of the Sabbath, our Healer, our Strong Deliverer, our Great High Priest and our soon coming King.

Worship was made even more special this year, as the beginning of TED Year-end Meetings coincided with the end of the South England Conference Ministerial meetings at the same venue. Joint worship led to increased talent, including worship leaders and a powerful massed choir. It also demonstrated how small the world is as SEC pastors made or renewed acquaintances with Church leaders from across the 22 countries of the TED.

Early morning excerciseReports and plans
A short article like this cannot do justice to all the plans and reports shared by TED directors and by the Presidents of each Union and attached field. Each one deserves a mention: the Global Youth progamme that Alastair Agbaje is developing out of Global Youth day, the happy hands stores spreading across Scandinavia, the creative Stewardship initiative that will support a 50% budget in Unions for the next two years, the opportunities for staff to develop with the MA in leadership. A selection of the Union reports will shortly be available on the TED website. More from the directors can be found on their departmental web pages.

Perhaps what is most important is not a report of the plans, of which there will be much more in the Spring Meeting next May, but that together leaders and members across the TED are working to make God known. [tedNEWS]

For more pictures from Year-End Meetings visit the TED Facebook page.

See also: Joint worship and Sabbath memories in Montenegro.
              TED seeks unity within diversity of cultures and perspectives.


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, director; Esti Pujic, editor
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