The event connected pastors and elders and provided them with tools for mission.
Published on: 12-06-2023
Two hundred and forty-three local Seventh-day Adventist church leaders, including 43 pastors from around the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, attended the Reflecting Hope training retreat in Hinckley, England, over the weekend of November 3-5 to share, learn, praise, and pray around the theme “Chosen.” The retreat provided training for an upcoming evangelism initiative.
Reflecting Hope is a contemporary, lay-led, clergy-engaged, locality-appropriate evangelistic initiative supported by Adventist World Radio. It is the British Union Conference (BUC) response to the Christ for Europe mission initiative of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. In 2023, the Reflecting Hope program was piloted in 62 congregations throughout the territory, which includes Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and North and South England.
Chosen for Mission
Gifford Rhamie, pastor, lecturer, and founder of Rockstone Consultancy, delivered the opening session titled, “I Saw the Lord,” based on Isaiah 6:1-8. “Do you know God … His voice, His accent?” was one of Rhamie’s opening questions as he expanded on the notion of “seeing” God. “How to deliver an effective Bible study” was the topic of his second presentation, on Saturday evening.
Using the same passage of Scripture, Ian Sweeney, field secretary of the Trans-European Division (TED) of the Adventist Church, titled his first sermon, “The King Is Dead. Long Live the King.” His presentation began with recounting the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the crowds of mourners who paid homage to her as she lay in state in Westminster Hall in the Palace of Westminster in London. “At the height of the mourning, people queued for 22 hours,” Sweeney said, “and the queue was five miles [eight kilometers] long.”
He detailed the disruption caused by the death of monarchs in any era, including the death of King Uzziah during Isaiah’s lifetime. Despite the upheaval and the uncertainty, “God chose Isaiah” at that time to deliver a complex message to Judah.
Sweeney’s closing message on Sunday morning, also based on the passage from Isaiah, challenged the attendees to surrender to God with the words, “Here I am, send me,” in the knowledge that the mission task will often be challenging and unrewarding.
Women led the morning devotionals. TED stewardship director Heli Otamo-Csizmadia said she believes that “God has a sense of humor,” as she recalled her call to ministry from the nursing profession. Lecturer in biblical languages at Newbold College of Higher Education Ivana Mendez used visual aids as she explored the theme “Chosen” in her Sunday morning presentation.
One of the weekend’s highlights was the Saturday (Sabbath) morning mission report from the UK and Ireland. The report details varied from the direct proclamation of the gospel through traditional evangelistic methods to the cycling initiative of the Scottish Mission, in which riders traveled to the Shetland Islands to deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“The Everlasting Gospel: The Good News of Total Freedom” and “Hope for the World” were the two presentations given by Ganoune Diop, director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty at the General Conference. In his second presentation, Diop asked the poignant question, “Are Adventists champions of hope?” He concluded that their message is based around the hope of the soon return of Jesus Christ as He provides hope for daily living while His people are on earth.
As part of the Reflecting Hope pilot project, the core team of organizers created a catalog of resources for use by the membership to make evangelism more creative and relevant. An essential seasonal resource is The Innkeeper’s Story. Written by Sharon Platt-McDonald, BUC Women’s, Health, and Community Services director, it tells the story of the birth of the Savior Jesus through the eyes of an onlooker, the innkeeper. To date, churches have ordered 50,000 copies of this resource for holiday outreach activities.
In addition to the resources offered by the Reflecting Hope team, present at the event were representatives of The Stanborough Press, the BUC Resource Centre, the Adventist Discovery Centre, the BUC Women’s and Health Department, and the European branch of Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi).
One participant commented on the weekend, “At first, I felt inadequate. ‘I’m here, Lord, but please send someone else if you can.’ That was Friday. By Sunday, it was, ‘I’m here, Lord, send me.’ This weekend has done that for me through the Holy Spirit. Thank you, BUC. Thank you, Lord. I will go!”