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Stories of Nazareth and San Gabriel: Annual Council Diary, Oct 9


In Nazareth today, there is a new Seventh-day Adventist pastor—Wisam Ali. A native of Nazareth, he got a call in 2015 from the Israel Field to work in his hometown. He and his family decided to begin their witnessing activities by offering English-as-second-language classes. They wondered if the students at daughter Rahel’s school would be interested. Rahel is the only Christian in a student body of 800. Parents were invited to the first session held at the Seventh-day Adventist New Hope Center where they learned that their children would be taught English with the Bible as the textbook, and they were invited to sign a paper in agreement. Forty students are now participating in these classes. Next a computer class was added, and the instructors found ways for the homework to involve using the Bible. 

Mrs. Adri Ali talked with her neighbors about what could be done for the Arab women of the community. They were interested in health classes with exercise included. Mrs. Ali designed a program around the eight principles of health and told the women who signed up they had to sign up for the whole program. “When it came to the lesson on trust in God, they were so amazed at our faith and our personal relationship with God. They sat there and cried. They are longing for such a relationship.” She said they teach healthy cooking techniques and have an half-hour exercise program. They had a segment on tea—herbal tea, teaching them the health benefits of different kinds of herbs. Recently, one of her neighbors asked when the program would be starting again? “I have to attend it.”

Their programs began in August 2015, and by February of 2016, they had two women from a Muslim background ready to be baptized. Pastor Ali showed pictures of the women, noting that he was not hiding their faces. He had asked them whether or not it was okay to show their faces. “Why should we be shy about Jesus?” was their response. They are not shy to be called Seventh-day Adventists, children of the King of Kings.

Their story was told during the Sabbath School hour at the Sabbath service for the General Conference Executive Committee. It was followed by the Divine Worship service where President Ted N.C. Wilson preached on “Remembering God’s Plan.”

“Memory is a wonderful thing,” Wilson began, using Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth” and then moving on to other things God told us to remember such as the Sabbath day. Wilson continued with his own list: “Remember the teachers who taught you, remember that life is precious.” He concluded, saying “Let’s never forget God’s hand in this Advent movement.” He encouraged the leaders to lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance in leading the educational programs of the church. 

In the LEAD session of the past two days, the administrators had spent time discussing the Seventh-day Adventist Education system. Wilson continued the theme with his sermon honoring the teachers who had taught him, including his mother. He praised God for teachers and then admonished them:

“Never lose that humble dependence on God for His direction and His model. Never think you are better than God and His holy instructions. In our educational work, according to God’s model, we are not to seek for self-willed independence, for academic freedom that pulls us away from the elevated and sacred responsibility to train students as part of God’s great final proclamation of biblical truth and prophetic understanding. We are to resist any efforts to employ higher criticism and the historical-critical method in our teaching and relation to the Bible which only alienates us from God and exalts self instead of Jesus. 

“In the classrooms, we are to lift up Christ, His Word, His righteousness, His sanctuary service, His saving power in the great controversy, His three angels’ messages, His creative power of a six-day recent creation, His health message, His last-day mission to the world, and His soon Second Coming. We are to challenge students to allow revival and reformation to be the dynamic foundation of their lives in their relationship to God. We want them to be part of Mission to the Cities and Comprehensive Health Ministry. Let them focus on Christ and His righteousness and faithfulness to God and His Word. Let them be part of Total Member Involvement under the leading of the Holy Spirit so they can actively participate in the last warning to the world. Jesus is coming soon!”

The world is in the process of neutralizing the Bible, Wilson suggested before calling upon archaeologist Michael Hasel to share stories of attempts at deconstructing the Word of God. Hasel began his lament on what has happened to the Bible with how it has been treated historically, saying that during the Enlightenment Moses was rejected as the author of the first five books of the Bible. By 1980, he said Abraham had been dismissed as a mythical character. He said that now predictive prophecy is dismissed, biblical history and prophecy have been removed, leaving Adventists as the only church that teaches Daniel and Revelation from a historicist position.

Dwain Esmond, a member of the White Estate, was called upon to defend the teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy. He said there is a flood—a flood of misinformation about Ellen G. White. He asked the administrators, “Do we still preach the philosophy of Adventist Christian education in the local church. Is obedience to all the commandments of God taught the children in their very first lesson.”

For the final testimony of the morning, Wilson brought to the podium the principal of San Gabriel Academy, Paul Negrete; Bonnie Iversen, the development director; and Velino Salazar, the president of the Southern California Conference and chairman of the San Gabriel School Board. Wilson enthusiastically told of his visit to the thriving academy and how impressed he had been when they told him about how they had used the book “Education” to revive their strategic planning. Principal Negrete said that in the United States, the education system is being challenged. “We looked at how we could improve our education, what differentiates us from other schools. Looking at the book “Education” helped us. We talked about what it would look like in the classroom and began revamping the place.” This year, he said, they are sitting down with teachers going over the principles.” Wilson said, that as an outsider, he saw the positive results of that study.

He concluded his sermon by pointing the audience to the books in the hymnal racks at their seats where they found copies of “Education” to take with them for a fresh read. “God intends to have his schools as a witness,” Wilson said. “Don’t forget God’s eternal instructions.”


Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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