While Christianity seems to struggle for survival and respect in the influential western society, it is steadily growing in Asia, Africa, South and Central America and Oceania. David Livingstone a well-known pioneer missionary to Africa had his heart buried in African soil. One writer said “he kindled light on the dark continent that would burn” brighter till our times. Many more would follow his example. Today Africa has the fastest growing rate of Christianity worldwide. But with fast growth come challenges local people are unable to meet.
Many places in Africa and elsewhere are being ravaged by wars, droughts, famine, disease, poverty and unscrupulous regimes. While some western Christian groups build expensive and fancy edifices and places of worship to attract worshippers, our brothers and sisters in Christ are meeting under trees, in mud hats or poor house structures. Many grow without education or medical care. Yet these humble believers are not complaining, often living their faith in most humble surroundings. There are two great needs that exist – education of their children as a way out to break the circle of poverty, and decent places for worship that can also function as centers of health instruction, training in varied skills and practical learning.
7th Day Adventist Church is attempting to address this huge area of need through an organization called Maranatha International. Unlike ADRA, which serves general public, Maranatha Int. focuses predominantly on the needs of a fast growing church in those areas of the world where local resources are limited or non-existent. Through sponsorships by church members, churches, Christian business people and volunteers it receives funds to produce easily assembled structures for church and school classrooms. These are transported to various countries, locations and specific sites where they are assembled right on the premises with the help of local people. As simple as these structures are they serve well fulfilling their purpose and answering needs and dreams of local Christians.
Last year Maranatha Int. constructed over 2,400 One-Day churches and One-Day schools mostly in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, India, Haiti, Honduras and Ecuador. Especially the One-Day School buildings are excitedly welcome by local and governmental authorities as they supply what local governmental budgets cannot. These simple schools provide work for local teachers, are producing well educated young people who quickly find their place as leaders in society, local politics, in church, in education, health, agriculture or business.
7th Day Adventist Church runs the largest Protestant educational school system and second largest Christian school system worldwide. Ashcroft and Merritt Adventist congregations and its members sponsored four One-Day churches in 2010 – 2011. It has been a great joy for us to contribute where the needs are the greatest. The year end report from Maranatha Int. pointed out that presently there is a request from East-Central Africa alone for 3,000 One-Day churches and 25,000 One-Day school classrooms. World-wide requests now tip 150,000 such structures. These needs seem overwhelming and they only reflect work of one Christian church. Governments too often spend resources on arms and wars that destroy countries, lives and societies. By priority, Christians are engaged in a different kind of war – rebuilding the broken lives to those Jesus in one of His parables called “these least of My brethren”. As Christians we may ignore the cries of suffering and underprivileged – and these needs are great – or can do our small part that added up together will make a big difference in the lives of many.
Karel Samek is pastor of Ashcroft 7th Day Adventist Church