Contrasting Equalities – Revival for Mission

According to the census bureau,
New York state has a population
of nearly twenty million, two thirds of which reside in
the metropolitan New York city
area, making New York the most
populated city in the United
States. Shungnak, Alaska is a village
with two-hundred fifty-six,
spread through fifty-six households and fifty-one
families. The state of New York people
covers fifty-four thousand, five
hundred fifty-five square miles, making it the 27th largest state
in the United States. The village of Shungnak has a
total area of 9.6 square miles,
8.4 square miles are land and 1.3 square miles are made up of
water. Some say New York City is known
as the world’s most economically
powerful city in the world. It is a cultural capital as well
as an important hub for
international diplomacy. Shungnak’s name is associated
with the Eskimo term issing-yak,
meaning Jade, a stone abundantly found in the
area. Two places contrasting in every
detail, two locations that are
totally different. What if I told you these places
are very similar – how can such
dis-similar locations be the same. We’re here in incredible Alaska,
it’s one of the last frontiers,
it’s the largest state in the United States and yet it has
the smallest percentage of population per square mile. Shungnak is part of the Northwest artic region, a
very remote area completely disconnected from any roads to
neighboring villages. Meet Anthony Sherman, his wife
Irene and their son Hezekiah –
Tony moved to Shungnak to take a mission position that the
Alaskan conference had been
looking to fill. My wife and I came to Shungnak
because this is where God was calling us to, we had been doing vacation bible school here for some time and we believe that it was time for someone to move here and it was
on our hearts to do so. When the Sherman family moved to
Shungnak, they did not have any
running water and only a wood stove to heat their home. For the first three weeks they
lived in the small church and
then moved into the parsonage right next to the church. Well the challenge is being out
in the middle of nowhere. When you don’t know anybody, I
mean you know the people out
here but when you don’t have friends and when you just can’t
get out whenever you want to, or
when I want to see my family in the Philippines I can’t really
do that because it costs so much
money to travel. Some of the challenges that we
deal with are the logistics, the
climate, the different struggles that are
present in the village. But, I have my husband, my son
and I have God with me, so. It has been a positive
experience for us as well
because we are in the center of God’s will and to be in the
center of God’s will is a no other place to be. Tony works at the local clinic
as a healthcare provider, along
with his colleagues he is the first to address all the health
problems and concerns of the
locals in the village. Tony and his team respond to
emergencies that range from
suicides to snowmobile accidents. If any emergency is beyond what
the local clinic can manage, he
uses a medivac plane to transport patients 160 miles to
Kotzebue, through his position,
Tony is able to gain the communities trust and respect
and he does not waste any
opportunities to connect with people. Well besides our work at the
clinic, besides what I do for my
profession here, we spend a fair amount of time
with kids as well as – mostly
elders. During the week on Mondays, we
have a youth group that we do
for kids that are 8 years and older and they come to our
house. On Tuesday’s and Wednesday
evenings, we try to get out to
people’s houses, Wednesday night we have bible
studies with the family,
Thursday nights, usually on that particular night
we’ll take our musical
instruments and we’ll go and do some singing, usually elderly
people that are in our village. What are other things that we
do? Sabbath we’ll have Saturday
school, Sabbath school for kids,
we will try to hold adult services. Saturday night we’ll make a trip
out to another elders house, you
know. We try to be in people’s homes
as much as possible. The church and parsonage were
built in the 1970s but have not
had an active mission post since the late 1980s. For a few years, the building
has been used for vacation bible
school, by the Delta Junction Adventist
Church. Tony and Irene have been holding
bible studies in their house
since the church is not suitable for any fellowship during the
winter months. Our dream for this church is
that someday there will be
people in it. Right now it’s not really fit
for services in the winter,
really or the summer. It needs a lot of work and right
now we have no membership, we
have no attendance. But our dream and hope and
confidence is that God will
provide us with a fellowship here. This is a major concern for the
couple since they have become
well received by the community, the need to congregate somewhere
has grown. Villagers have told them that if
the church was up and running
people would come. We’re refurbishing the church
and fixing it up and putting
lots of time and effort and money into it because we believe
that God will supply the souls –
that God will bring people and He will open up doors and the
time will come that we will have
a fellowship here; we will have a church family. The work needs to be done
patiently and prayers for
opportunities are made every day. Although God is guiding the
Sherman’s mission work, the cold
weather, difficult circumstances and
distance from loved one’s are
discouraging. Sometimes my wife and I are
discouraged when we are here
alone. You know, we sometimes feel that
we’re just kind of out here by
ourselves and we are tempted to feel like we are not making the
impact and no one is really with
us, and no one is really supporting
us; and there’s been times that
we felt like it would be nice to maybe move and join a different
type of mission field where
there’s people who are working together more as a team. I’m kind of like seeing like
what are my weaknesses, you
know, and it kind of helps me to know
at the same time that God is
kind of helping me to work with it. I’m very impatient, I want
things to happen, if I want it
to happen – I want it to happen but living out here, I’ve
learned that things doesn’t
happen when you want it to happen. One thing that has always given
us hope is knowing that we’re
doing what God has asked us to do and we’ve had comfort in
that. To be a missionary is like
leaving what you have behind and
go somewhere different and getting out of your comfort
zone. You know the coldness of the
water, the coldness of the
icebergs, kind of reminds me of the
coldness that can come in the
heart when you feel lonely, separated from God and yet the
warmth of God’s love and of His
people can bring into your life a wonderful connection that will
help you not to feel alone. The things that inspire Irene
and I are, there’s a few
different things, but God will often times provide
opportunities, He will open
doors, He will actually cause things to
happen that give us glimpses of
what He’s doing, you know. We’ll start a new study or
someone will say something to us
that will give us encouragement, we’ll see some fruit of the
relationships we’re building
with kids as well as with people in the community. You know, God will do something
to help us see that His work is
being accomplished through us and that our faithfulness is
pleasing to Him. The courage and faithfulness
Tony and Irene have is
contagious. Their determination to fulfil
the mission is inspiring. God and His angels comfort them,
and motivate them to move ahead
despite challenges, the faces, the sounds, the
people, the landscapes. Besides being so small and
completely isolated, Shungnak is
still a huge priority for Christ. The Sherman’s example is a
beautiful testimony of
selflessness to revive the mission. They might be alone but they are
never by themselves. Jesus is everything. I mean, Jesus is the reason why
I’m here. If I don’t, I mean, if not for
Him I won’t be able to make it. I won’t be able to live here for
4 years. Jesus, for me, He is Everything. He’s my friend, He is my
encouragement, He is my
strength, He is the one I go to when I’m
hurt, when I maybe can’t talk to
my own family, He is the one I can speak to
about every single problem I
have and He is the One who is changing me from the inside out. Just look at this grandeur, the
glacier, the icebergs, the
water, the mountains. You could feel very much alone
here, maybe kind of like New
York but very different. We’re here in Times Square, what
a contrast between Alaska and
New York. So many colors, sparkling
lights, millions of people, the
glamor, the fame, the buzz. New York is a city drastically
different from Shungnak. At first glance, it seems that
everybody has something to do,
places to go, everyone is ready to enjoy life. It doesn’t matter how busy
people seem to be, how
entertained people think they are, the bottom line is that if
we don’t experience Jesus in our
lives we have an empty void inside. We feel lonely, even in a crowd,
that emptiness can only be
filled by Christ. In that matter, New York is
exactly the same Shungnak, the
outside may be busier but on the inside we are all the same –
humans in desperate need of a
Savior. That was the challenge the North
American Division faced, how do
we reach people so dear to Christ’s heart in a place as
isolated as Shungnak and how do
we reach people in a place as busy and overflowing with action
as New York City. The whole issue of reaching the
cities is an issue that now has
become preeminent in the world church, and New York City is a
symbol of not only huge cities
but it’s also, when you read the writings of
Ellen White, it was a focus and
she basically was saying that New York should be worked and
how it should be worked. And so New York was chosen
jointly by the General
Conference and the North American Division as kind of a
place where the urban center
evangelism around the world would be initiated. To realize the dream and address
the challenges, NY13 was
created, a comprehensive urban
evangelistic initiative designed
to involve each church administrator, department
director, pastor and church
member in the greater metropolitan New York City area. It produced more than 400
evangelistic campaigns in one
year. To achieve such synergy, the
church leadership planned every
detail, discussed ideas, formed radical
prayer groups, focused on
intercessory prayer, conducted training programs and
also a first of it’s kind, world
field school of evangelism. We are seeing pastor’s excited,
the lay people are excited,
churches are excited and for what is happening this is just a
phenomenon situation here and I
believe that God is here working with us and working with the
people. I had the chance to participate
in a number of events and saw
how members filled the autorium at Hunter College for the NY13
evangelism rally, hosted by
speaker Mark Finley. There are multiple ways you can
be involved, one of the ways, of
course is go with your local pastor and say, “Pastor, we want
to be sure that our church is
involved in NY13.” Ernestine Finley conducted a lay
training seminar called, “Light
Your World for God,” with nearly 600 lay people in attendance who are
excited to learn effective
principles of soul winning. We are already on the verge of
the kingdom waiting to be
gathered in and we’re looking for them, we’re trying to find
them. Who are they? Lay people were deeply committed
to Christ and their passion to
witness made the difference in New York City. I want to see thousands of new
disciples serving the Lord here
in the city. I want to see the Church
regenerated, revived. I want to see a new life in the
Adventist community of New York. For the first time ever, an
international field school of
evangelism was organized with specialized teachers from
different Adventist universities
and institutions. The initiative was held at the
Luso Brazilian church in Queens
and consisted of practical classes and seminars exploring
the biblical principles of
comprehensive urban evangelism in the context of the world’s
major cities, as well at the
needed tools to launch a comprehensive urban evangelistic
approach in their respective
territories. The classes happened in the
morning for several days, in the
evenings most of the participants held evangelistic
series in the metropolitan, New
York and New Jersey area churches. I had the honor of going back to
where I started my ministry at
the historic Manhattan Seventh-day Adventist church to
conduct a three-week
evangelistic series called, “Revelation of Hope” as part of
mission to the cities NY13
series. Mark Finley was the host of the
meetings and Robert Costa
translated the messages into Spanish. Seventy people were baptized as
a result of the series and 7
churches were involved. Youth from the “One Year in
Mission” initiative developed a
creative method of evangelism, extending its community outreach
to teach English as a second
language. The whole team put the project
together because we saw the
community is mostly Dominican and they don’t speak English at
all. So we came up with the idea to
help them with something that
they really need, so that’s why we designed ESL
classes to reach the community. The class is very good to me. I’m so happy, [to] have class in
my community – helping me a lot
to speak correct English. Most of the people are
immigrants and you can actually
understand the reason why most of them are here and the
challenges that they have in
terms of communicating in English with the people around
them, it’s a drawback. So having to help them out with
that, it’s actually a blessing. The class actually over today,
it’s the last one and tomorrow
is starting the evangelistic crusade downtown in 11th street. So we actually invited all of
them, officially to the
evangelistic crusade saying, basically putting it as
practical English classes since
the crusade will be in English and Spanish – translated. So we invited all of them to
come to have special reserved
seats, and to basically practice
English. The North American Division
Health Ministries department
also held a health summit, which provide the opportunity
for church leaders to be trained
on principles of health and how to conduct various health
outreach programs within the
church’s and communities around New York City. Praise God for the tremendous
resources that this summit has
brought to our people. They have come from all over,
they are here from as far away
as California, they are here from different
states of the United States and
of course our own brothers and sisters, men and women,
visitors, guests here in New
York City. The NY13 leadership decided to
meet the communities needs and
provide hope for common health problems. “Let’s Move Day” was an event
where churches, schools and
health care institutions were encourage to host runs, walks or
other active events for kids,
youth and families. The whole point of Let’s Move
Day in the NY13 context was to
mingle with people, extend kindness, make friends
and share a message of health,
hope and wholeness. The world is full of
inconsistencies and that’s not a
way a person should – I don’t want to live my life with
inconsistencies so I found by
building a relationship with God that I will find consistency by
the way I should live my life. The joint camp meeting at the
Nassau Veteran’s Memorial
Coliseum was one for the record books – close to 13,000 attended
the Sabbath services. About 135 people were baptized
following the worship services. I look into my life and there is
an empty, empty space that
cannot be filled with anything and I’ve tried and I’ve tried
and I cannot find that peace
that keeps you – just God. Even with nothing to eat, but
you have that peace and you are
happy. And only with my God I feel that
I can restore my life and become
a better person, a better mom and do a little bit
more in this world and I feel
happy. According to reports from the
NY13 steering committee, there
have been at least 5,200 baptisms as a result of NY13. God loves people, it doesn’t
matter where they are, it
doesn’t matter what their situation is, they can be
isolated in a far-away land,
they can be isolated in a crowd. God is interested in filling the
void, bringing fulfillment and
purpose to a lonely soul.>From the heat of a big city to
the cold of a seemingly
forgotten village, God is willing to provide hope
and especially companionship –
it doesn’t matter the need. Our task is to open our hearts
to Him and surrender our lives
to His service. It can be the job of an
individual or it can involve
thousands of people. God will fill in the blanks and
make his message known. We just have to be willing. Here at the mouth of a glacier
you feel the incredible power of
God’s presence, it’s an amazing place where
nature takes it’s turn in
showing the fingerprints of God. It’s an amazing setting and a
feeling that helps you to know
that God is real, His marvelous works are
incredible. I think of Psalm 105, the first
four verses, “O give thanks unto
the Lord; call upon his name: make known
his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto
him: talk ye of all his wondrous
works. Glory ye in His holy name: let
the heart of them rejoice that
seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and His strength:
seek His face evermore.” In a
quiet, solitary place like this, God’s
presence is felt but it doesn’t
matter if you’re in the middle of a big city, out in the
country side or wherever you
are, you can seek God’s presence and
He is there. Subtitles by the community

3 thoughts on “Contrasting Equalities – Revival for Mission

  1. Before we think about the people in Alaska or the people in New York lets think about the people who made this video. Who made this video it is very well made. You can tell that there are some creative geniuses behind the production of this video and I applaud them. Give credit where credit is due. A touch of recognition goes a long way! @Adventist #Adventist #Creative

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