OCI Headquarters • December 23, 2014
By Steven Grabiner
Having worked in New England, cold weather and snow are always associated in my mind with the Christmas season. I remember our church members bundling up in warm clothes to go singing house to house. I realize that you might be in a part of the world where the remembrance of Christ’s birth is celebrated differently, if at all. In the villages along the rivers in Colombia, Peru, or Brazil, in the crowded cities of Indonesia, or in the bush of the African countries, this time to think of the incarnation has its own unique set of cultural markers.
One thing that transcends all cultures is the truth enfolded in the story of the baby wrapped in a manger. In giving His Son, God has given Himself to every one of us, to be our guide, companion, and source of comfort. He has demonstrated the true law of the universe, which is self-renouncing love. Many of you are far from family; all of you are endeavoring to demonstrate that same love to those you meet.
“To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature. This is the pledge that God will fulfill His word…It is the ‘Son of man’ who shares the throne of the universe…In Christ the family of earth and the family of heaven are bound together. Christ glorified is our brother. Heaven is enshrined in humanity, and humanity is enfolded in the bosom of Infinite Love” (Desire of Ages, p. 25).
May you sense that Infinite Love enveloping you today.
OCI Headquarters • December 16, 2014
By Steven Grabiner
I wonder how many of us really believe the old adage, “it is not the gift that counts, but the thought behind it.” Perhaps we’ll demonstrate our appreciation for a poorly constructed gift if the giver is a two-year old granddaughter. However, if a mature loved one only thinks about giving, or gives in a shoddy manner, I doubt that old saying would bring much comfort. It is true that the thought behind a gift and its motive are of supreme importance. Yet those motives need to translate into action.
At this time of year many are contemplating the greatest gift that was ever given, the person of Jesus Christ. Here thought and action combine into an immeasurable gift that continues to astonish the hearts and minds of those who meditate on its worth. In giving Christ to the world, God has demonstrated the supremacy of the principle of benevolence.
This gift opens up for us—the recipients—countless doors through which we can, in turn, share the offering with others. Part of what has been bestowed on us through Christ is the gift of missions. In receiving the gift of Christ, we also receive the opportunity to multiply it through acts of service, financial support, prayers, and the donation of time. OCI would like to encourage you to seek for guidance to know what gift of mission God has given to you and for wisdom to turn the thought of service into action.
OCI Headquarters • November 25, 2014
By Steven Grabiner
In an impressively skillful word picture, Solomon conveys the power of an appropriately spoken word. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word spoken in right circumstances” (Proverbs 25:11). Here the wise man conveys the truth that a word shared, fitting to the circumstances, has an exquisite beauty to it. This is a principle that many leaders need to learn. Solomon underscores its importance with another proverb—“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).
According to the book, The Leadership Challenge, the ability to use our words to encourage others is an essential trait of leadership. There is an incredible power in appreciating those we work with. Leaders need to help others grow into larger leadership positions. A step toward accomplishing this is to raise the question, “Can you tell me of a time when a rightly spoken word encouraged you?”
Listen carefully to the response. Did the answer point to a time in the distant past? What was the context and what resulted from the encouragement? Could a more recent example be found? If the answer to this is no, that is a cause for concern. Perhaps the person you want to help needs a present word of encouragement. Or, maybe they are actually receiving such words, but have a difficult time accepting them. If that is the case, it is advisable to ask why that might be. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
Sonnmatt Bergpension & Gesundheitszentrum • November 19, 2014
Ministry leaders and mission-minded friends of OCI from around Western Europe gathered at Sonnmatt Bergpension & Gesundheitszentrum in Switzerland for a retreat October 31 – November 2, 2014. With the theme “Give Us Europe, Lest We Die,” attendees were encouraged to consider their role in the grand scheme of seeing Western Europe reached for Jesus.
With approximately 40 people attending over the course of the weekend, the first meeting established the warm, family-like atmosphere that would carry through the weekend. Interactive workshops on topics such as entrepreneurial evangelism, the educational pipeline, and collaborating with the Seventh-day Adventist Church followed the introductions. The Sabbath presentations were a call to total commitment and dedication to God’s mission. Appropriately, Kim Busl, OCI field vice president for Western Europe, referenced stories of the Protestant Reformation during his Sabbath sermon, reminding the attendees of those who had lived and, at times, died for their faith.
A significant portion of time was set aside for brainstorming practical initiatives that the group could undertake to facilitate the spreading of the gospel throughout Western Europe. Participants enjoyed lively discussion, but the mission reports and united prayer time proved to be the highlight of the weekend. Retreat participants were blessed to hear how God works continually to sustain his servants around the world. It was also a prime opportunity to “bear one another’s burdens” and lift up each ministry in prayer (Galatians 6:2).
After an inspiring weekend filled with powerful messages, delicious food, and good company, the attendees returned to their homes inspired to give their all to God for Western Europe’s sake. Join in prayer that God’s Spirit will be poured out upon the laborers in the field.
LIGHT • November 14, 2014
by Antoinette Sierra
Doors are opening to share the health message in countries where such teachings have not been so readily received in the past. Particularly, health evangelism is growing rapidly in Latin America through the work of Lay Institute for Global Health Training (LIGHT) and its affiliates. All it takes is one person to witness health evangelism put into practice for them to catch the vision.
Last year, an Ecuadorian pastor, Lennin Guaman, visited LIGHT and Wildwood Lifestyle Center & Hospital, two OCI member ministries in Georgia. After receiving a campus tour and hearing about these ministries’ combined efforts overseas, Lennin felt impressed that his country would benefit from a closer relationship with both LIGHT and Wildwood.
On July 30, 2014, after months of communication, husband-and-wife team Jacob Moreno and Antoinette Sierra headed to the tropical country of Ecuador as representatives of Wildwood and LIGHT. Chevene Simmons and Amanda Tornel, graduates of the Wildwood College of Health Evangelism, soon joined them. Together they facilitated the country’s first LIGHT one-month training program at Ecuador Adventist College (ITSAE), located in Santo Domingo. This venture was especially unique as ITSAE incorporated the training into its continuing education program for its Health Promotions major. Eighty-one students diligently learned about natural remedies, healthy lifestyle, prophecy, and how to do effective evangelism. The future health promoters experienced a paradigm shift as they realized their higher calling was leading others to Christ.
The blessings from Lennin’s visit months ago are beginning to overflow. LIGHT and ITSAE signed a contract offering LIGHT’s one-month Essentials of Health Evangelism training course both online and onsite as part of their continued education program. LIGHT hopes that Ecuador will soon be aglow with the love of Christ through health evangelism.
Antoinette Sierra is the Inter-America Divisional Director for LIGHT.
OCI Headquarters • November 12, 2014
by Steven Grabiner
Strolling through those small airport bookstores, I am regularly impressed by the variety of leadership books that are continually being published. It seems that there is an insatiable thirst for help in learning what makes a good leader.
The aspiring leader will find value in many of these books. However, I discovered in teaching these principles that the writings of Ellen G. White speak to important issues that are frequently overlooked in modern leadership books. For this reason, I was happy to read Cindy Tutsch’s Ellen White on Leadership.
For many readers, the heart of the book lies in chapters 3-6. There Tutsch explores and selects representative statements reflecting White’s views on the heart of leadership, the leader’s relation to authority, the leader’s response to human relations (including race, gender, and age), and finally the leader’s reaction to key issues that confront administrator’s today.
In addition to being a valued organized resource on White’s view of leadership, Tutsch creates an interaction between White and contemporary authors. For example, it is commonplace in current leadership literature to emphasize the importance of vision for leaders and their organizations. Tutsch highlights that some Christian authors question this, emphasizing that Jesus’ vision was to seek God’s will. She then points out the balance that White held, by encouraging vision casting, but also having willingness for these plans to be surrendered or fulfilled as God’s providence directs.
Despite the fact that the book reflects some of the academic surroundings in which it was birthed, I found it extremely helpful both in highlighting White’s statements on leadership, and placing them in a context that relates to current issues. For those interested in complementing their study of leadership with the insights of Ellen G. White, this book is an invaluable resource.
The Heartgood Foundation • November 10, 2014
The Heartgood Foundation has been influential in spreading the hope of the gospel throughout Scandinavia and beyond since 1978. The team has witnessed some changes over the years, but the desire to share God’s love through the ministry of healing remains unaffected. Afer the tragic loss of longtime leader Erik Somme, OCI is pleased to welcome to the Heartgood Foundation and Fredheim Lifestyle Center two new leaders who share that desire.
Fredrik Lillback of Sweden has practiced physical therapy for four years and looks forward to serving as president of the foundation. He has a burden for health evangelism, which led to his involvement in establishing a lifestyle club in Norway as well as a mobile health ministry. Joining him as vice president is Per Erik Dekkerhus, a pastor and nurse from Norway. Per Erik is also passionate about seeing the work of health evangelism grow in Scandinavia. Fredrik and Per Erik will assume their responsibilities in January and June 2015 respectively.
Though the Heartgood Foundation anticipates many bright years of service ahead, OCI and the Somme family will look back on the memory of Erik with deep appreciation for his dedication to mission work. Despite the fact that his job was demanding, he still found time to be a family man during the 30 years spent at Fredheim. He did not shirk from cleaning floors, ironing, or preparing a meal. But when he could steal away from his labors, he especially enjoyed hiking in the Norwegian mountains. He enjoyed these excursions right up until unexpectedly, complication from scoliosis claimed his life on August 7, shortly before his 55th birthday. Though filled with grief, his family is grateful they were able to be with him in his final days.
Together,—OCI, the Heartgood Foundation, and the Somme family—we look forward to that blessed hope when we will see not only Erik but also Jesus face to face. The Prince of Peace has promised, “‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Until then, let us keep working to acquaint people with the One who “will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4).
Uchee Pines Institute • April 1, 2014
Heritage Academy students received a unique opportunity last fall. Harvard University invited the academy to participate and train in a drill held at an emergency medicine conference with participants from around the globe. Heritage students instructed Harvard medical students and professors in moulage (the art of applying false injuries for training purposes). The purpose of this drill was to teach doctors to respond to emergency situations in countries hit with mass casualties as a result of disasters or terrorism. One hundred “victims” participated and were placed within the drill site on the Camp Edwards military base. Emergency personnel as well as doctors and professors responded using the tools on hand and the crude facilities provided.
It was an amazing experience for Heritage students to work with some of the best minds in the world. “Being able to go to Boston for a huge disaster drill was a real privilege,” says Heritage sophomore Sierra Manestar. “It was so much fun working with a great team of experts. Everyone looked great and the observers and responders were very impressed. At the last minute we were asked to be “victims” ourselves and that was my favorite part. Although I was so incredibly tired on the way back, it was the chance of a lifetime.”
Uchee Pines Institute • April 1, 2014
The campus of Uchee Pines Institute was filled to overflowing with more than 200 attendees for the annual OCI Leadership Retreat. Held from March 10 – 15, ministry leaders, workers, students, and supporters of OCI gathered together for united prayer, meaningful sermons and seminars, and the all-time favorite mission reports. With approximately 30 OCI ministries in attendance, the spirit of Christian fellowship thrived.
The retreat’s theme, “One Thing,” based on Philippians 3:13, encouraged attendees to focus on Jesus and the work He has called them to do. Guest speakers included Mike Ryan, general vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; Lael Caesar, associate editor of the Adventist Review; Cheryl Doss, director of the Institute of World Mission; and Alistair Huong, executive director of AudioVerse; as well as ministry leaders and business people from the Adventist community.
As the weekend approached and another wave of guests arrived, Elder Ryan gave the attendees a sneak peak at how the Adventist church plans to reach the world. He invited the active lay people to continue working hand in hand with the church, emphasizing that each church member needs a job. It was only appropriate then for OCI’s field vice presidents to share how the Lord has been at work in the supporting ministries they have visited around the world. OCI also hosted a Q&A session, giving attendees a more intimate look into the work of OCI.
As another OCI Leadership Retreat comes to an end, the tendency might be to settle back into the way things were. But pray that the candles that were ignited by the Holy Spirit will shine brightly, illuminating the path for God’s people to finish His work.
You can also be blessed by the messages shared during the retreat. Click here for the list of audio recordings available to download.
Heritage Academy • April 1, 2014
OCI hosted its first Educator Retreat from March 16 – 18 at Uchee Pines Institute. With more than 50 attendees, the Educator Retreat provided an opportunity for staff and students of elementary, secondary, and medical missionary training schools to collaborate regarding the future of education. Guest speakers included Wanda Sarr, director of education for the E. A. Sutherland Education Association; Jesse Zwiker, director of education for Wildwood College of Health Evangelism; Barry Scott, a business consultant; as well as various ministry leaders.
Throughout the seminars, attendees contemplated how to most effectively fill the world with trained missionaries. Discussion time gave them the forum to come up with practical solutions.
“We had the chance to be creative and work together to define priorities that need to be taken care of,” said Ernst Zwiker, teacher at Matteson Mission School in Norway.
Those priorities are designed to help OCI fulfill its vision of having a thriving network of supporting ministries in every country. Please pray for those involved in further developing and implementing the plans established during the retreat.
If you are interested in listening to thought-provoking messages on education, please click here to see audio recordings available to download.