New ways of ministering are necessary now.
Tarek* sat up in bed. What was that noise? Were they coming to kill him? Turning his head, he saw his wife sleeping soundly beside him. Confirming that his children were safely sleeping, he tried to go back to sleep, but he couldn’t. He and his family had become Christians, and to many, that was unforgivable.
It had been psychological torture knowing that nothing could save him from being killed for his faith in God—not even his excellent degree or job. With God’s help they escaped into another country that had more liberty.
Now living as refugees, Tarek and his family often felt discouraged. It’s exhausting never to feel safe or at home. Watching Cami Oetman of Adventist World Radio present the Unlocking Bible Prophecies (UBP) series was just what he needed. He decided to reach out and submit a prayer request on AWR’s evangelism website. A young volunteer named Leanne answered with the following prayer:
“Dear God, thank You for this connection that I’ve been able to make with Tarek today. I pray for him, Lord, as he is living with the real challenges of being a refugee. I praise You, Lord, that You are a refuge in times of trial. You are our safe place. What the enemy has meant for evil, You can turn to good (Gen. 50:20). Thank You for not forgetting our cries (Ps. 9:9-12). Thank You for Your promise that You will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). I ask that You send Your Holy Spirit to guide Tarek and his family. Thank You for listening to our prayer. In Jesus’ name, amen.”
She then continued, “Tarek, I will continue to pray for you and your family. Please let me know how you are doing. If you have any further prayer requests or Bible questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.”
A few days later, Tarek replied, “Thank you so much! You have no idea how much you have encouraged me. I believe that God hears our voice. Please do not forget me and my family in your prayers.”
BEHIND THE SCREENS
These, and many other stories, bring joy to the hearts of the volunteers at Adventist World Radio’s Center for Digital Evangelism (CDE) in the Philippines. The digital missionaries at the CDE are temporarily housed, with a crowded workspace. But new living facilities and a much larger office are under construction.
Because of COVID-19, progress has been delayed, and more volunteers have been needed for this series of meetings. Ultimately, God provided additional volunteers working from their homes in the United States, the Philippines, Brazil, and Thailand.
But who is Leanne, the volunteer who prayed for Tarek? She was recruited by one of her close friends, Christina—a fellow student at Southern Adventist University. Leanne said, “If you had asked me earlier this year, I would never have guessed that I’d be spending my afternoons volunteering with AWR. I saw my friend Christina using two computer screens to keep up with the instant prayer requests and Bible questions at a rate neither she nor the volunteers in the Philippines could keep up with. Glancing at me, she asked, ‘You want to help?’”
Leanne had her reservations, given that she’s a nursing major, not a theology major. She didn’t feel qualified to answer requests, and she’d never felt very comfortable praying with strangers. But once she started volunteering, that seed of doubt was replaced with comfort. If she received a question too complicated for her to answer, she just reassigned it to a pastor on duty. She also found that AWR has a database full of resources, which made writing customized prayers or Bible answers much simpler.
Every day, Leanne looked forward to her shift, because, as she said, “There’s nothing like being there for people on their journey with God. While this is a very different way than I had planned to spend my summer, I wouldn’t change it, because I’ve had a frontrow seat to see God at work.”
By the end of the series, Leanne was able to connect people who wanted to join the Adventist Church with a local church pastor or Bible worker in such countries as Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, India, the Philippines, and Canada.
And who is Leanne’s friend, Christina? She’s a missionary kid who assists the director for AWR’s Centers for Digital Evangelism. As soon as the evangelism website (awr.org/bible) went live, messages began pouring in like water from a firefighter’s hose. More help was needed, so Christina jumped online.
“Is anyone there?” a message leaped off the screen.
Christina typed back: “Yes, I am here. How can I help you?”
The girl on the other end poured out the details of her desperate situation in which suicide seemed the only answer. Christina talked to her, sharing, among other things, words of encouragement from the Bible. Christina assured the girl that her life was invaluable, and that she mattered to God and to many others.
Late at night when she finally closed her laptop, Christina sighed deeply. “Well, I never expected that! I was supposed to travel abroad this summer, but here I am at home—sharing hope with people all over the world.”
As the series progressed, Christina helped train new volunteers and answer their questions so they could be as effective as possible.
THE DIGITAL MISSION FIELD
If you were to ask Tobias Kazmierzak, manager of the CDE in the Philippines, along with his wife, Julia, what he thinks about the digital missionaries, he would say, “It is inspiring to see the excitement in every volunteer’s face as we think about ways in which we can reach and follow up with people in the digital world. It is touching to hear how thankful people are when we respond to their messages. Doing this with inspired young people is a real joy!”
CDE volunteers such as Pratik and Surrender helped connect a man from a non-Christian faith with a local Adventist church, where he has found the answers he’s been seeking. Dianne would tell you stories of lives that have changed from hopelessness to purpose and meaning. Listen to Mellen or Van Nezza as they tell about former Adventists who have returned to church and are reaching their friends with the gospel.
I wish you could see the CDE volunteers working as shift advisors to help answer questions from the new volunteers as they work to become comfortable with this new way of ministry and the intricacies of the software and follow-up system.
AWR even received messages like this from closed countries: “I accept God and the seventh-day Sabbath. I want to uphold it des- perately. I am experiencing attacks from all sides. Pray that I will have the needed strength, courage, and peace from God.”
Today, through social media channels, cell phones, websites, YouTube, and more, we can touch the world in ways our pioneers only dreamed of. The prophet Isaiah said, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isa. 6:8, NIV).
If you hear God’s call and are interested in joining the team at the CDE in the Philippines, or if you’d like to learn more about volunteering from your home, please contact Adventist World Radio.
Next month part two of this article will appear on the Adventist World website, featuring stories of how other volunteers were able to partner with AWR to impact the world for Jesus in very real ways. You, too, can volunteer, even if you have a full-time job or are a full-time student. Exciting adventures with God await. To watch the video, click: https://vimeo.com/460799553.
*Name has been changed.