Regional Leaders of the Adventist World Church Visit ATCU

By Henry R. Moncur III | ACTU Communication

A delegation of top leaders of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, accompanied by top leaders of the Inter-American Division (IAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, completed a two-day visit with the leaders and members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Atlantic Caribbean region during April 12-13, 2024.  During the visit in the Atlantic Caribbean Union (ATCU) territory, leaders had the opportunity to learn about the history and church growth initiatives of the union, meet with local leaders, and visit with church members.

Dr. Ellie Henry, IAD president, and his wife, Ketlie Henry; and Dr. Leonard Johnson, IAD executive secretary, and his wife, Denise Johnson, made up the delegation from the IAD.  Harrington Akombwa, SID president, and Gideon Reyneke, SID executive secretary, comprised the delegation from the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division.

According to Dr. Ellie Henry, the visit accommodated a request of the SID to see how the mission of the Adventist world church is accomplished in Inter-America.  “We wanted to go to a place where we can spend the Sabbath and see the church in action; this was our main reason for coming here,” Henry noted at the welcoming ceremony.

Akombwa indicated that to be able to visit to see what was done in the territory was history-in-the-making for the leaders of SID.  “The linkage of these two divisions is historic.  The biggest division in the world church is in Africa. The second largest is our division, well above 4 million. Your division is the third in membership.  So, when we come together, we are not competing with one another but networking. This brings glory to God in heaven.”  Akombwa further opined that the visit was an opportunity to learn from each other and then to work together to finish the mission.

The leaders arrived in New Providence, The Bahamas, home to ATCU’s headquarters as well as home to the headquarters of the South Bahamas Conference (SBC), on Friday, April 12.  After arrival, they first visited the conference’s school, Bahamas Academy, where they were welcomed by the school’s band, taken on a tour of the campus facilities, given produce grown in the school’s garden, and updated on the school’s plans for further development. 

After touring the school, Dr. Henry noted that the Lord was blessing the church in this part of the division. “We can see it in the experience we had in viewing the project at the school.  You are teaching the students how to care for nature and to be close to it.  It is good to know that the school is able to grow products and make a difference for the community,” he said.

A welcoming ceremony at the union’s headquarters allowed the leaders to address a group comprised of church administrators, workers, and pastors.

Pastor Harrington Akombwa in his remarks at the ceremony highlighted the importance of the visit.  “We heard how organized you are as a division, and we said we want to learn. Your reports are among the best in the entire world. You are doing very well,” Akombwa noted.  He challenged the leaders in ACTU to press on in doing even moe. “Let’s continue to soldier on. We want as many of our people in the kingdom. But, it will not happen by accident. If we do the little that we can, God will do the rest,” Akombwa said.

From a national perspective, Dr. Leonard Johnson tied the visit to a significant historical moment. He noted how the first prime minister of The Bahamas and a Seventh-day Adventist member, the late Sir Lynden O. Pindling, played an instrumental role in the release of Nelson Mandela from prison.  “It is historic that at this moment, we have leaders from South Africa now here in The Bahamas to meet with and learn from others in advancing mission,” Johnson said.

On Sabbath, April 13, 2024, leaders had the opportunity to see the church in action when they attended a joint evangelistic outreach campaign underway involving all the English-speaking churches on the island of New Providence. 

Dr. Henry expressed excitement about the passion and fervor demonstrated by the membership during the evangelistic meeting and the way the gospel was being preached in the territory.  “Coming here to one of the newest and youngest unions in IAD, we are delighted to see that you are doing marvelous things for God. The way you are taking the work forward and growing is inspiring,” Henry said.  He called on the members to accept the challenge to go and seek those who have not yet accepted Christ as this is the reason God has them here.

The leaders also attended a joint service of the Adventist Haitian Creole churches on the island at the Grants Town SDA Church where Bishop Delton Fernander, president of the Bahamas Christian Council, welcomed the leaders of IAD and SID to The Bahamas on behalf of the Christian diaspora in The Bahamas.

In his message to the members on Saturday, Akombwa noted the great work being done in ATCU.  “I am grateful that we have found you at your best, doing evangelism. This is the reason why we exist as a church.”  He challenged the members to not give up on evangelism.  “We have a message that we need to get out to the people.  People are dying and we cannot sit still here waiting until they die.  You have a good tradition here that you don’t want to throw away into the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t throw away what has worked. Try something else, but keep on doing the work of evangelism, until the people come and say what God had wrought with these Adventists,” he said.

The visit provided an opportunity for the leaders to see how organizational restructuring has benefited the work in the region, the significance of which was emphasized by ATCU president, Peter Kerr.  “We feel blessed beyond measure to have been considered by the leadership of the Inter-American Division as the union out of the 24 unions of the division that would be honored with the visit of our leaders from the Inter-American Division and the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division.  This is very significant as these brethren represent 71 countries with a population of over half a billion, representing close to 8 million Seventh-day Adventists.  We are delighted to have been allowed the opportunity to expose these leaders to the passion for souls and exploits for God being done by the members in the Atlantic Caribbean region and the benefits that have been attained through restructuring.”

In reflecting on the visit, Dr. Henry shared that while the events of the visit were not planned by the division administration, they were grateful for what had occurred.   “The leaders saw the first motivation we have here: we are on mission, we are on evangelism, and all here in ATCU are saying they are on evangelism.  In Inter-America, we move and eat and drink evangelism.  We find those who are lost and give them hope in Jesus Christ.  This visit shows ATCU at its finest, doing mission; and I want to encourage the members to continue with that fire for the Lord.”

Gordon Reyneke, in summing up their two-day experience declared, “Mission is the heart throb of our division. Everything needs to be focused on mission. Ours is to have every member an active disciple doing something for God. We are blessed to have been here. We have learned and will go back not the same way we came.”

With a membership of 27,694, ATCU, which is headquartered in Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas, comprises four fields, namely, the Cayman Islands Conference, the North Bahamas Conference, the South Bahamas Conference, and the Turks and Caicos Islands Conference.  In addition, Northern Caribbean University, which is in Mandeville, Jamaica, is jointly owned and operated by ATCU and the Jamaica Union.