By Kathryn Proffitt
Life is full of surprises. As a young girl, I often dreamed of what I might be when I grew up. As I became older I decided to become a dental hygienist. Later, life led me in another direction: that of becoming the CEO of a small long-distance telecommunications company. I never imagined that one day I would become an ambassador for my country, the United States of America.
My story is proof that God has an amazing plan for each of our lives. If we surrender to His will, His plans for our lives will be infinitely greater than anything we can imagine.
I’ll briefly share how I became an ambassador, as well as a few lessons learned from my experience. For the full story, see “How an Adventist Became a U.S. Ambassador,” at www.adventistreview.org/church-news/story3357-how-an-adventist-became-a-u.s.-ambassador.
An Awkward Journey
My journey began in a most unlikely way. In 1992 then U.S. president Bill Clinton decided to update the obsolete Telecommunications Act. Through a series of miracles I was asked to represent the competitive telecommunications industry at a meeting held at the White House to discuss the proposed legislation. Those who attended this first meeting ultimately became ad-hoc telecommunication policy advisers to the White House. Two years later I was invited to a small dinner with President Clinton and 20 business leaders.
I prayed all night before the dinner, asking the Lord to give me just the right words to say. While I didn’t know exactly what I was going to say,
I knew what I did not want to say! Because politics in Washington is so divisive, I knew I didn’t want President Clinton to learn that I was not even a member of his political party.
During the dinner we were seated around a large table with the president. To begin, we introduced ourselves and made a brief statement about our industry.
When it was my turn, I started off all right, giving my name and the name of my company. But then, to my horror, I heard myself speaking the very words I would never have said voluntarily!
I announced that I was not a Democrat (Clinton’s political party), but was a registered Republican. I then informed President Clinton that I had not voted for him in the last election. Furthermore, I told him that I was so upset when he was elected president that I cried. By this time everyone was staring at me!
Taking a deep breath, I nervously continued by saying what I had hoped to say before my unplanned outburst, telling Clinton I appreciated what he was doing to support consumers and free competition in the telecommunications marketplace.
After a long pause, Clinton stood. Then to my surprise, he began slowly clapping his hands, giving me a standing ovation!
President Clinton never forgot me. After his reelection, he nominated me to be the United States ambassador to the Republic of Malta.
My title, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, meant that I had unlimited power and authority to transact business on behalf of the United States of America. But my authority was delegated authority, conditional upon my being faithful to the policies of the U.S. government, regardless of my personal beliefs. Had I not honored this trust, I would have been immediately recalled and stripped of all authority.
Clinton emphasized the importance of my supporting policy in a letter he wrote to me shortly after my Senate confirmation. In his letter the president explained that while debate and dissent serve a vital role in policymaking, once policy is formed I was required to support it fully. Not only was I obligated
to support U.S. policy—I was also expected to make sure all members of my mission did the same.
A Higher Calling
I was honored to serve as United States ambassador to the Republic of Malta from 1997 to 2001. But each
of us has been given an even higher calling. We have been called to serve
as ambassadors of Jesus, the King of the universe.
Today I have the honor and
privilege of serving the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church as a member of the General Conference (GC) Executive Committee (see https://executivecommittee.adventist.org). Members of this committee represent 20 million Seventh-day Adventists in more than 200 countries. Outside of the General Conference in session, the GC Executive Committee is the highest governing authority of the church. It generally meets twice
a year, during its Spring Meeting in April and its Annual Council each
October, and other times as needed.
The GC Executive Committee is comprised of representatives from every world division of the church, including leaders, pastors, other denominational employees, and lay members. As Executive Committee members, we have a delegated authority to support faithfully the actions taken by the world church, regardless of our personal opinions on the subject.
Similar to ambassadors, union and local conferences, church institutions, and other church entities also have a delegated authority, with a great deal of power. But that power is also con-ditional. In their local con-stitutions and bylaws each union con-ference is required, by language that cannot be changed, to remain in harmony with the voted actions of the world church. This condition—the agreement of moving together in harmony with these voted actions—assures our unity as a church that is diverse in language, culture, and people.
Satan will use whatever issue he can to divide us, distract us from mission, and destroy the organizational unity we have enjoyed as a church for more than 150 years. We must press together, not allowing any issue to divide us.
While policy is important, the unity of the church is a doctrine
(see Fundamental Belief 14, https://www.adventist.org).
The unity of God’s people was among the last things for which Jesus prayed, proving this doctrine is critically important to our Lord. We
must always look to the head of our church—Jesus Christ—who pleaded with His Father, during that agonizing night in Gethsemane, that we may be one: “As You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21).
Jesus is coming soon. Let’s press together, focus on mission, and be true ambassadors for Him! n
Ambassador Kathryn Proffitt served as United States ambassador to Malta from
1997 to 2001.