Change in Church's Operations in the Middle East…

09 October 2011, Silver Springs, MD, USA  [Miroslav Pujic, tedNEWS] The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s top officials, represented at the General Conference (GC) Annual Council, voted today to accept a recommendation to realign the mission fields of the Euro-Africa Division (EUD) and the Trans-European Division (TED). For the TED, this means that the Middle East Union Mission is joined with other fields in North Africa, Turkey and Iran to form a new union called Greater Middle East Union Mission (GMEU). The union will be placed directly under the oversight of the GC. South Sudan will be placed under the East-Central Africa Division with offices in Nairobi. Pakistan will be moved to the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, and Israel Field will be directly under the GC as an attached field on its own. The decision also includes Afghanistan, which is aligned with the Euro-Asia Division. Cyprus will remain with the TED. All the changes will take effect on 1st of January 2012.

The rationale for the decision is to give more resources to the Middle East, to keep countries with similar cultures together, and to focus on the needs and mission challenges of this part of the world. It is also a way to give the two European divisions more time to focus on the mission challenges in Europe.

Dr Bertil Wiklander, Trans-European Division President, took an active part in the discussion on the floor and said, after the decision: “Of course at first we were disappointed when we were informed about this proposal. We have personal ties to our people in these territories and have spent much time in praying and working for them and with them. In one way, it feels like the biblical saying that ‘we planted the trees but others will eat their fruit’; but that is how it can be sometimes in the church. We must remember that we are all united and work for the same goal.”

There has been growth and development everywhere in the Middle East Union, Pakistan Union Mission, and the Israel Field in the past. The Middle East Union Mission has grown from the 8,000 members when it was handed over to the TED from the General Conference, and now it has 20,000 members. “We have thoroughly enjoyed working with these fields and have given our best time, talents, and resources to them”, says Wiklander. He continued, “But change has now come and we accept what our world church has decided. The good thing is that as a division we will now be able to focus our energy and attention on the mission challenges in Europe.”

Regarding the most challenging part of the work in the Middle East region, Wiklander pointed out that “We have not had much success with evangelism among Arabic Muslims in the Middle East, but then no one else has either. Since 2006, we have built up a new work around the concept of Muslim-Friendliness and of being open and transparent about who we are as Seventh-day Adventists. We have set up Al Waad TV-Radio-Online ministries based on that principle, which we believe will give us progress. But the big need is missionaries, that is, pastors who are educated in how to mingle with people”, concluded Wiklander.

By having the Greater Middle East Union Mission under the General Conference, the whole world church will become more aware of the needs and work in this important region. This part of the “10-40 Window” will be a special Mission Field for the whole world church. “This is a strategic move that could give new impetus to the work; and that is our prayer. We are as eager to see growth in these fields as in Europe”, concluded Wiklander. [tedNEWS]
Photos by: Ansel Oliver

tedNEWS Staff: Miroslav Pujic, director; Deana Stojkovic, editor
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