A commentary on the recent Trans-European Division Midyear Meetings.
Published on: 05-31-2023
As I write, I’m on a night flight over Europe travelling through both Trans-European (TED) and Inter-European (EUD) division territory. With the cabin in total darkness as fellow passengers sleep, I look out of the window into the dark night, the darkness broken by clusters of glowing lights on the ground revealing major European cities with millions of citizens.
Earlier in the day, I had attended the Spring Meetings of the TED Executive Committee, held in St. Albans, England. The primary purpose of which was for TED treasurer Nenad Jepuranovic to give an account of the previous year finances.
“Quite incredible, really,” Jepuranovic said, announcing a record increase of tithe return of 7.3 percent. “At the beginning of 2022, we were still in recovery mode from the COVID-19 pandemic! We give thanks to our members for their faithfulness,” he emphasized.
Jepuranovic then shared how this faithfulness “helped the TED in its dual roles of supporting the work of the global church (returning an amount to the General Conference) and of supporting the mission of its constituent unions and attached fields.” Through a process known as tithe-sharing reversion, “the TED returned to the Unions 30 percent of the total tithe-sharing, to be used for evangelism projects,” Jepuranovic said.
Christ for Europe
Due to the timing of this meeting, a ‘spring bounce’ was in the air, overlapping as it did with the Christ for Europe evangelistic initiative. Mission director Anthony Wagener Smith reported that more than 75 venues across the TED were open for outreach, witness, and evangelism using a variety of traditional and innovative methods to share the gospel. Some of those venues included initiatives in major cities such as Athens, Kraków, Budapest, Belgrade, Dublin, London, Manchester, Oslo, and Stockholm, to name a few places.
In contrast to city evangelism, one group has even been involved in outreach on the remote Shetland Islands. As reported elsewhere, lead preachers and presenters from the General Conference leadership (and from other parts of the world) have collaborated with local congregations to share the gospel.
Fresh from two nearby initiatives and invitees to the Spring Meetings were Alexander and Desiree Bryant, the North American Division president and his wife. They have been leading out in the “Reflecting Hope for a Better Life” series in Croydon, London, England, with local pastor Royston Smith. Also present was Robert Osei-Bonsu, president of the West-Central Africa Division who had been leading out in a series in Lewisham, London, with local church pastor Kwadwo Kwarteng-Ampofu.
New Stewardship Director
Heli Otamo-Csizmadia, a pastor native of Finland, was elected director of the TED Stewardship Ministries department. Otamo-Csizmadia, who replaces Maureen Rock after her retirement, studied at Newbold College of Higher Education and has served as a pastor in both Finland and Hungary since 1998. She also has experience in youth work and church planting.
“For me, stewardship is about my relationship and commitment to God. It is my expression and reaction to His care and friendship,” Otamo-Csizmadia said, reflecting on her new role. “God has given us the charge to take care of His creation in all its aspects, and all resources. So, I will humbly and gladly help others to discover the joy of committing to our relationship with the Creator.”
TED president Daniel Duda welcomed Otamo-Csizmadia’s appointment. “Heli Otamo-Csizmadia has shown to be a capable pastor with a good grasp of the various departments of the Adventist Church,” Duda said. “She brings to her new role a pastoral heart, and language skills that will be a blessing to our fields. We welcome Heli to our team and look forward to a fruitful collaboration.”
More of You, Holy Spirit
Looking out of the cabin window again, more lights from more cities — and a teachable moment. We cannot ‘pass over’ them because they represent the ‘why’ of TED’s mission — to extend God’s love, grow lifelong disciples, and multiply communities. This is our purpose; this is who we are.
Those gleaming clusters of lights also reminded me of TED field secretary Ian Sweeney’s devotional thoughts to Executive Committee members at the start of the day, sharing what he describes as “somewhat unfinished musings” about the prophecy of Joel. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh …” (Joel 2:28). As he considered Joel’s prophecy, Sweeney asked an insightful question: “Why do we want the Holy Spirit to be revealed so much in our time?”
He answered, “Some of us want the latter rain for selfish reasons — so God can save us — but don’t bother with anybody else,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t want to build relationships and intimacy with people; we just want to hand a leaflet and ‘be done’ with the work.”
Assuring Executive Committee members that “we live in the age of the Spirit,” Sweeney challenged all to examine their motivations. “May whatever we do be done for the right reasons. May our motivation be the same as God’s, out of love for people.”
Sweeney concluded his devotional thought with a moving prayer, asking God to “give us the same heart as You possess, a heart of love.”
As I think about his message, I can’t help but wonder about the effect it would have on the people of the cities I am flying over. A wonderful challenge lies ahead. As we live in the age of the Spirit, I believe we have the most beautiful opportunity to pierce the darkness with God’s love and compassion.