Convicted by a Scrap of Paper
How Adventist World is changing lives in surprising ways
By Kimberly Luste Maran
One sheet of paper, torn and crumpled, waved in a whisper of wind, as if urging passersby to pick it up from the dusty road. Charles Pengani and his friends did just that, and their lives were changed forever.
Pengani and a small group of Christian believers in Malawi were working tirelessly to spread the gospel message in their country and in Mozambique. Passionate about preaching the message, they weren’t exactly sure how to go about their task. In September 2008 they prayed to God and, pouring out their hearts and desires, they asked Him to give them guidance.
They did not pray only once. They prayed again and again—for three days the group earnestly beseeched the Lord. On the fourth day they received an answer—a very tangible answer.
The group was walking along when they noticed the piece of paper. Picking it up, they saw the name and date: Adventist World, June 2006. Only two pages, 29 and 30, were cast on the road, but the believers took the sheet, thankful for this scrap of paper and convinced that God had left it there for them. From that tattered paper, these believers have apparently been convicted of the Adventist message and plan to go forward, learning and sharing.
Water for the Thirsty, Searching Soul
While Adventist World was primarily created to unite, inform, and inspire members, it is impossible to ignore the fact that for some, it is one of the only outreach tools they use. And for those who read the pages of Adventist World, it can (and has) indeed become a stream of water, drenching the thirsty soul of a searching person.
“It’s true the Adventist World magazine is tremendously helping us here in outreach efforts,” says Abraham Bakari, communication, PR, and religious liberty director for the Central African Union Mission in Cameroon. Bakari went to Kelo, Republic of Chad, to conduct an evangelistic campaign in April 2009. He carried hundreds of copies of the magazine to distribute to “the most deserving participants, those who were present day after day during the first week and last week,” explains Bakari. The place is renowned for being hostile toward the Adventist message because of a strong, established Protestant community. But when the attendees received their copies of Adventist World, they were impressed. “The quality of the magazine attracted their attention,” Bakari says, “and the negative image of a poor Adventist Church vanished and gave way to questions.”
The readers discovered a totally different church. They were amazed, especially when they read the cover story “The Bounty and the Bible,” by Herbert Ford and Wilona Karimabadi (January 2009). At the end of the evangelistic series, 18 people were baptized and more than 20 enrolled for deeper Bible studies.
But wait—there’s more. In August 2009 the FM radio station (Radio “Il Est Écrit”) broadcasting in Yaounde, Cameroon, organized a visit to the Central Prison of Kondengui, one of the biggest prisons in the country. Bakari and a group of Adventists brought and distributed to prisoners 1,000 copies of Adventist World, along with some foodstuff and clothes. Some of them wrote later to thank the Adventists and ask them to organize a prayer group inside the prison. Says Bakari, “And before we even responded to them, they started!” The prayer group has continued to meet.
“In some places we lack evangelistic materials, and Adventist World has turned out to be the main resource we have for both outreach and in-reach,” Bakari sums up. “At first we didn’t know what to do with the magazines, and they were packed somewhere unused. But once our members realized how powerful they were, we hardly have them at the Union office for more than a week. As soon as they arrive, people take them.”
Members are taking the lead when it comes to sharing Adventist World. Writes Ada Frech, from Nicaragua, “I enjoy reading the magazine, especially the cover story by James R. Nix entitled ‘A Unique Prophetic Movement’ (June 2009). I am a passionate reader of this magazine, and I do my missionary work—giving the magazine to people in buses, malls, banks, etc.”
Sowing Seeds, Growing Roots
The potential evangelistic impact of Adventist World magazine was nowhere in view when the project was first conceived in early 2004. Sparked by an idea from Adventist Review associate editor Roy Adams and others, General Conference president Jan Paulsen urged then Adventist Review senior editor William G. Johnsson to consider dramatically expanding the reach of that magazine to include regions and people groups not being served by the Review’s World edition, an edition printed the second week of each month as part of the journal’s four weekly editions. Within weeks, an initial proposal was on the president’s desk, sketching a plan to print nearly 1 million copies a month of the journal, primarily in English, with a smaller print run in Korean.
As the plan evolved during 2004, print partners were identified, funding sources were recruited, and staff members began fashioning plans for content that met the needs of the large and diverse worldwide Adventist family. By early 2005 it became apparent that an entirely new journal, now named Adventist World, would emerge, and in June at the St. Louis General Conference session, Johnsson introduced Adventist World to Paulsen as thousands gathered in the Edward Jones Dome. Design plans and distribution arrangements moved at a feverish pace to meet the September 1, 2005, rollout date for Adventist World. The first edition told of “The Underground Church”—stories of Adventist believers meeting under difficult circumstances, often in secret, around the globe.
Under editor Bill Knott, Adventist World moved in 2007 to print editions in Spanish, Portuguese, and French, and distribution in many more world regions. A Bahasa (Indonesian) edition also appeared, followed by a Russian edition (online only) in 2008, and a German edition in January 2010. Adventist World is now the most widely distributed magazine in the church’s 147-year history, and one of the largest Christian periodicals in the world.
With Branches Reaching Around the Globe
One of the most common buzz words of our time is “global.” If you wonder what “global” means, consider the span of this magazine.
Although Adventist World is registered and financed by the Adventist Church in Korea, its management and editorial teams are located both at the General Conference in Maryland, United States, and in Korea. These teams make sure that every month one and a half million copies are printed in seven languages in eight countries simultaneously1 to be distributed to 120 countries, from Gambia (West Africa) to Mongolia (Asia), and from Aruba (Caribbean) to Zimbabwe (Southern Africa). That’s a lot of paper traveling all around the world—in trucks; on boats, planes, and buses; on motorcycles and bicycles. In fact, just the print run coming out of our presses in Hagerstown, Maryland, represents 100 tons of paper. That’s four trailer loads—every month!
But that’s not all. The journal’s presence on the Internet has flourished. Adventist World appears in 12 languages on the Web, including Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Russian, Urdu, Vietnamese, and more. In order to accomplish this, Adventist World works with 12 translators, plus as many proofreaders, scattered around the globe—from Graz, Austria, to Lahore, Pakistan; from Tatui, Brazil, to Beirut, Lebanon.
Their work, however, would not make a significant impact globally if it weren’t for the five Webmasters in the Philippines2 and the United States who upload the material on two servers, located in Utah and Michigan, United States.
That’s the meaning of “global.”
Of course, Adventist World is not the only church ministry to have gone global. Adventist World Radio is global, Hope Channel is global, and both are expanding their presence around the planet. The magazine works closely with these partner ministries, enjoying a synergy not possible otherwise. It works with AWR to promote our Web site in Vietnam over the airwaves. Adventist World advertises its Web sites on Hope Channel to attract viewers to read the magazine online in their own language.
For the first time in history, this periodical has the means and the tools to achieve a global awareness. It can be seen and read potentially by almost 4 billion people. Adventist World is committed to leveraging its resources to have a global impact—branching out and spreading the gospel message to all the world.
Prayers and Letters Fall Like Leaves
The fruits of this global endeavor are glimpsed in the scores of letters and prayer requests that rain down like leaves each month. Often readers will write that they are praying for a certain person; or that they’ve been moved by a particular article.
Such was the case for Hulda Mamani, from Brazil, who writes: “I always anxiously wait for the next issue of Adventist World, and the first thing I do is to look for the missionary stories. To read these stories moves me very much and tears roll over my face while seeing God’s power working in the life of other people.” She explains how the October 2008 article “No Fault of Their Own,” by Loren Seibold, prompted her to think about how to help the type of people mentioned in the article. According to Mamani, she is “waiting for God’s call to do a similar work, and stories like this and others fill my soul with the zeal of working for others.”
Other impressions have grown over time. Writes Greta Ansombe, from Watford, England: “For a long time I have had the intention of writing to thank Mark Finley for the Bible studies that he prepares for the Adventist World. They have been immensely helpful to me and of great benefit for my father, who recently died at the age of 98.
“In the last few years he was beginning to struggle with diminished comprehension. He was also obsessed with guilt over the things that he had done in his life, fearing that they would cut him off from God…. I was able to read Mark Finley’s Bible studies to him over and over again. He was able to comprehend them due to their simplicity of structure and received comfort from them. I, in turn, received comfort and encouragement on seeing my father’s spirits lifted.”
Requests and comments are frequent, but sometimes, readers write to offer assistance. Calvin Achieng was very touched by the member experiences printed in the magazine. A Kenyan by nationality, he is studying at Dalian Medical University in China. In his first year there, Achieng wrote to Adventist World (December 2009), asking that the magazine send him words of encouragement and additional spiritual materials as he was finding it difficult to locate an Adventist church. Adventist World responded to him—and printed his letter in the March 2010 issue.
A few weeks later, Marlene King-Adams, from Australia, wrote to explain that she had taught English in Dalian and knew of a person who could help Achieng find a church in that city. Achieng has now communicated with “Esther,” and she has agreed to take him to church. An excited Achieng responded, “Thanks a lot, Amen, thank you!”
Adventist World not only quenches the thirsty soul; it plants seeds! Of course, most of its prayer requests and letters come from Adventist readers in many countries.3 But a surprising percentage each month is written by non-Adventists who have gotten their hands on a copy of the magazine—sometimes from a hotel lobby, the market, or from a friend. Both Bayissa Gamachu and Daniel Mamo, from Ethopia, received Adventist World and have expressed keen interest in learning more about our church and its ministry. While Gamachu got a copy from a friend, Mamo picked up the magazine from an eye clinic in Addis Ababa. Says Mamo, “I am part of a Jewish family, and in our religion I only read the Torah (Old Testament). I want you to teach me about the New Testament.”
The responses Adventist World receives from readers represent not just printed matter. There’s an exchange—a relationship—that has developed in which Adventist World has been able to plant, nurture, and harvest souls for Christ.
But for the Grace of God
These stories and facts serve as testaments to the mighty workings of the Lord. As His branches, stretching out to humanity and attempting to bring all to Him so they may obtain succor from the Tree of Life, the Adventist World staff is gratified, yet humbled, to be a part of His plans. And incredible as it is, even from a scrap of paper, God is using this journal to make a world of difference.
1 Languages include English, Korean, Bahasa, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and German; printed in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Korea, Indonesia, Germany, and Austria.
2 In March 2010 Adventist World’s Webmasters in the Philippines decided to invest part of their earnings in a mission project in Indonesia. They traveled there, financed and built a church, and held Bible seminars attended by 300 people. According to Webmaster Raimond Luntungan, “Adventist World has made a great impact on the churches we were helping, and on the people we met there.”
3 From June 2009 to March 2010 alone, we received prayer requests and letters from the following 48 countries and territories: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Bermuda, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, England, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Grenada, Ghana, Guadeloupe, Haiti, India, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Republic of Burundi, Seychelles, South Africa, Sudan, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, United States, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.