Authentic spirituality is at the core of the Seventh-day Adventist message, church President Ted N. C. Wilson said during an official visit with the leader of French Polynesia last week.
The Adventist world church leader met with President Oscar Temaru and other French Polynesian government officials at the president’s office in Papeete, Tahiti, while on a tour of the South Pacific island groups.
President Temaru said he was grateful for the positive impact the Adventist Church has on French Polynesia, adding that Adventists are “good citizens.” Wilson, speaking in French, expressed appreciation for the religious liberty granted by the government of French Polynesia. As an overseas country of France, the island groups are given considerable autonomy, allowing for greater religious freedom than granted by laws in France.
Later in their conversation, Wilson illustrated the Adventist Church’s belief in holistic living. Gesturing toward a table in the president’s office, he said, “When one leg is missing, the table can’t stand. Similarly, people need their spiritual, physical, mental and social needs met. We believe God wants us to develop all of these attributes in harmony.”
Before praying with Temaru and his senior staff, Wilson read Micah 6:8, a Bible verse he has previously called a blueprint for leadership. The Old Testament passage encourages justice, mercy and humility. “That is the wish God has for you, your colleagues and your staff,” he said.
Earlier in the week, Wilson met with Gaston Tong Sang, the mayor of Bora Bora and former president of French Polynesia. Sang later made the 45-minute flight to Tahiti to attend an Adventist worship and evangelism rally that ran February 7 to 9.
During his Sabbath sermon, Wilson urged an audience of close to 4,000 to prioritize spiritual development, citing the Old Testament story of Elijah, who advocated a return to godliness. “God is calling us to be Elijahs in our modern world,” Wilson said.
Local Adventist Church leaders credited the strong turnout to members who brought their friends and neighbors to the rally. There are about 4,600 Adventists in French Polynesia, spread over some 130 islands.
“When we regularly meet in small groups, it can be hard to imagine the large worldwide community of which we are a part,” said Jerry Matthews, president of the New Zealand Pacific Union.
The day before, thousands more Adventists learned the history of the church in French Polynesia. Adventist missionaries first sailed to the island groups on a boat called the Pitcairn. The British colony of Pitcairn Island was historically an outpost of Adventism in the South Pacific.
Marcel Millaud, Communication director for the church’s French Polynesia Mission, reflected on reading the letters of early Adventist missionaries in the archives at Adventist-run Avondale College in Australia.
“You can feel their human emotions as they struggle, as they dream, as their faith is challenged. I only wish those early pioneers could be here with us today. They could see that all those hardships were not in vain. We haven’t forgotten their sacrifice.”
The Adventist Church operates 37 churches in French Polynesia, as well as a college and media center.
“This rally has been a profound blessing for us,” said Roger Tetuanui, president of the French Polynesia Mission. “It has brought our church family together … But most important has been the spiritual impact of the messages. We feel unified and spiritually energized.”