The year-end meeting of the Inter-European Region of the Seventh-day Adventists (EUD) took place from October 30 to November 2, 2020, via the Zoom platform on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pastor Mario Brito, EUD president, began his intervention with a spiritual reflection based on chapters 6-8 of the book of Judges, which present Gideon's story. He was one of Israel's judges, who God called to free Israel from the Midianites' oppression.
It is interesting to note that the heroes of the Bible were common men and women who recognized that they were unfit to accomplish the mission that God entrusted to them. Like Gideon, they ended up trusting and being empowered by God: "I will be with you!"
Gideon's first move, on God's instruction, was to destroy an altar to Baal. Immediately after this action, a confederate army, made up of 135,000 men, came to attack Israel. Upon his best effort, he was able to gather 32,000 men.
Yet, under God's instruction, he eventually dismissed all of them and kept but 300. With these 300 “valiant” men, he launched the hostilities against that vast confederate army and won a decisive victory over a Midianite army, despite the enormous numerical disadvantage. There was peace in Israel for 40 years during the life of Gideon.
"We cannot be leaders of the church if we do not have a strong relationship with God – if we do not trust in God. God invites us to cooperate with Him in the work of saving people. That is what he likes most," explained Pastor Brito. "God is with us; we should not be afraid. He controls the situation. God is calling us to go. He will go with us, and we'll see His victory."
Continuing his comments on the story, President Brito affirmed: "Gideon tried to find soldiers who trust God. We must work in a team made up of people who trust in the Lord. Faith connects us. We cannot do anything by ourselves. We have no power. We cannot accomplish anything great without Jesus. 'Without me, you cannot do anything!' (John 15:5)”
After the inspiring devotional, the meeting continued with the President's Report. Pastor Mario Brito began his report, saying: "2020 will be remembered in history as the year in which a pandemic [that] originated in China, during the second half of 2019, rapidly spread to the entire globe. Despite all the diligent efforts of the scientific community, until now, no vaccine or antidote has been able to stop this plague."
Consequences worldwide and in the EUD territory
Health structures and professionals were not prepared to handle this unknown illness. More than 1 million people have already died. As for the number of those who have mild or not very severe symptoms, no one knows precisely how many they are. Some estimations indicate that one third and half of the world population has been or will be infected by COVID-19.
The number of people that have lost their jobs and remain unemployed has skyrocketed. Many of them will be plunged into poverty. Many companies went bankrupt, and many more will disappear if the crisis persists.
In the EUD territory, many church members lost their jobs. Others are working on a part-time basis. In all countries of our territory, churches were entirely or partially closed, depending on the pandemic's severity, and each country and region's regulations.
The crisis is not over! There is a second wave of infections in all countries of our territory and no one knows how long it will last.
The crisis is not over, and it's complex!
"Prudence should be the keyword in setting our budgets for next year!" advised Pastor Brito.
The economic crisis was already set and slowing down the world economy. Some of the world regions of the Adventist Church that are vigorous supporters of the Church’s General Conference (GC) already had a reduced income, and their currency devalued.
"Beyond the economic crisis, we have not been growing in these last two decades and have been struggling just to keep the same number of members," affirmed the president. "We [have lost] many of our young people."
Statistics show that our Church is becoming older and slowly fading away. "We have been able to keep the same numbers, thanks to members coming from outside Europe," said the president.
"We don't need to be specialists in church growth to understand that if we do not reverse the situation in which we find ourselves, we will slowly die and eventually disappear," confessed Pastor Brito.
Solid and Sustainable Change
Concluding his report, the president launched an appeal to all the representatives of the Inter-European church. "As we put all the points, mentioned above, together, it becomes clear that the time has come for us to take some important steps for a change. Either we change, or we die!"
"The way out of the situation in which we find ourselves currently is not something completely new. The strategy to strengthen the church has already been part of discussions with the team, working with the EUD offices and Unions leaders.”
"We need to continue, together, finding and refining the best approaches and practices that will lead us to fulfil the mission that God has entrusted to us in an increasingly efficient way!" concluded the president.