Movement and color will be the abiding impressions of a presentation given by Seventh-day Adventists from the church’s West-Central Africa region July 6th at the Edward Jones Dome, where the church is holding its 58th business session. As the entire delegation came onto the stage photographers had a field day. Flowing robes and headdresses in vibrant greens and stunning reds, but with a preponderance of gold, generated an impression of warmth and life. Accompanied by a trumpet and African drums they chanted the refrain, “Blow the trumpet, mission possible.”
Leader of the church in the region, Pastor Luka Daniel, appeared on the stage dressed in an elegant white robe accompanied by his wife wearing brilliant red with a white sash. After introducing his two administrative colleagues, Daniel handed the stage over to the Ambassadors, an acapella group of singers whose rhythmical dance and haunting song brought spontaneous applause from the audience.
The main report, containing the obligatory facts, figures and statistics, was presented in a fifteen-minute video. Applause and hoots of affectionate laughter came from the floor when Jan Paulsen, current world leader of the Adventist church, was pictured wearing traditional African costume. Paulsen, a Norwegian, had served in West Africa in the early years of his ministry and was ordained while in Ghana.
Entitled “The Challenge of Change,” the video referred frequently to the organizational upheaval that has taken place in the Adventist church on the African continent in the last three years. The administrative changes, though necessary, had the result of considerably reducing the size of the West-African region, leaving them with a ‘mere’ 629,000 members.
The number of assets has also been reduced by the re-organization: the Central-West African region now has just three Adventist universities instead of six.
Despite this, many positive things are happening in the region. The Adventist church is well respected and on average there is one Adventist member for every 421 other members of the population. This ratio increases dramatically in certain countries. For example, in Ghana one in every 73 people is an Adventist.
There is also considerable respect for the church from the governments of the West-Central Africa region, as illustrated when Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo attended a Adventist meeting at one of the universities. Other government officials have been closely involved with the church and praise the work it does.
Evangelism is strong in the region and a number of major campaigns have been run during the last three years. In Ghana’s Valley View University, 3,000 students from non-Adventist families were baptized in one year.
In Cameroon, American evangelist Doug Batchelor ran a series of meetings from the country’s capital city and had them relayed to numerous sites by satellite. 1,000 were baptized in the main venue and a further 4,800 in the relay areas.
In November 2003, Don Schneider, leader of the Adventist church in America, ran a three-week satellite evangelism series in Nigeria. The result: 3,000 were baptized at the main site and a further 16,700 in other areas.
Big events were not the only focus for evangelism however. Josephine Wagu was highlighted as one individual whose special dedication had made a major difference. Simply through a systematic distribution of Bible lesson tracts, her work led to 185 people being baptized.
The Adventist church is also making progress in the West-Central Africa region through print and media technology. The Advent Press in Ghana recently installed a sophisticated four-color machine capable of printing thousands of books per day. A media center in Ghana is now producing radio and television programs.
Involving large numbers of people in major projects results in progress, church leaders say. An international congress of Adventist women held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, attracted 3,000. A youth ‘camporee’ in Togo also attracted 3,000, and a convention of literature evangelists at the church’s Babcock University in Nigeria attracted 800.
The Central-West Africa region of the Adventist church comprises the countries of: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. There are 2,840 churches and current total church membership now stands at 707,276.