ASI Members in Action
Following the Mandate of Christ…Using DVDs
Jesus left us with simple instructions: “Go; teach; baptize.” It was a message for all of His people.
Ellen White wrote in the September 11, 1913 Review & Herald that the work of sharing the gospel with the entire world will be finished by active lay people, lay people who can establish personal and lasting relationships that traveling evangelists cannot.
In 2005, General Conference and ASI leaders came together to find a means by which an army of lay workers could “Tell the World; Tell Them Now!” With much prayer for divine guidance, they determined that the New Beginnings gospel presentation DVDs – developed in 2000 by It Is Written and ASI – and battery/electric/solar powered DVD players would be the means. But the key would be lay people training other lay people. Trainers would answer invitations from world church leaders; Using DVDs Following the Mandate of Christ… Newly-trained evangelists in Guatemala with their DVD players. By Gail Bosarge they would teach and equip local pastors and lay people to do DVD evangelism. Those trained would then in turn train others.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, “Train Them Now” has grown to be one of the most highly coordinated, successful joint evangelistic ventures ever undertaken by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its laity. It has exceeded all expectations.
Action began when 18 ASI volunteers were trained to become trainers. Those volunteers committed to travel at their own expense anywhere in the world as needed. For more than a year small training teams have traveled across North America and through nine world divisions; more than 18,000 pastors and laypeople have been trained; over 17,000 have been equipped with DVD players, New Beginnings DVDs, and printed sermon outlines in their local language. Volunteers have answered calls to train at 56 sites in 22 countries.
Trainers teach team evangelism. A team consists of a presenter, an assistant, a host, and a technician. For cottage evangelism each person invites two people, which means a maximum of 12 people (including the team) at the small meeting place. The presenter speaks, and the assistant rehearses each sermon as well, in case the presenter cannot speak for any reason. The host provides light refreshments, and the technician ensures that all equipment is operational.
Friendships are formed as the weeks pass. The local church pastor becomes part of the group so that attendees who choose baptism may be thoroughly prepared.
Leasa Hodges is a businesswoman from Dodge Center, Minnesota, and ASI’s vice president for youth evangelism. She coordinates the Youth for Jesus ASI evangelism campaign that precedes each ASI Convention. Leasa witnessed her first Train Them Now meeting in the country of Moldova in January, 2007.Though temperatures were 30 degrees below zero, 1,200 people came to be trained, many walking long distances.
Since then she has organized ASI training teams for Bulgaria, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Rwanda, Philippines, Ukraine, Congo, Nicaragua and the United States. Sometimes it takes days for people to travel, often on foot, to training sites. “They want to learn how to share Jesus in their communities,” Leasa says.
In Bulgaria, a 15-year-old girl was among the 300 lay people trained and equipped one Sabbath. By the next Sabbath, she was holding a home meeting for six adults and also young people her own age.
ASI members Darry and Ginny Campbell live in Fall River, Wisconsin. He is plant manager for the Rhodes International frozen bread dough company at Wisconsin Academy, and she is a retired realtor. Almost 10 years ago they attended a Lake Union ASI Chapter meeting. “Prior to that I had never had a desire to do overseas mission work,” says Darry. “I did not feel qualified and had no desire to travel. But during that weekend I was impressed to get a passport. On the way home I told my wife, ‘We need to get our passports.’ Ginny was shocked. Two days later we received a call inviting us to form a team and hold evangelistic meetings in Thailand later that year.”
“As the time to go grew closer, I began to have serious doubts,” Darry explains. “I wasn’t qualified to plan an evangelistic series; I wasn’t a great speaker! I didn’t know how to prepare sermons, particularly for Buddhists! Several times I told Ginny that I was thinking about backing out, but each time she encouraged me.When I had just about decided not to go, I came across a passage from Ellen White that said when we are doing God’s work we should never consider the word ‘failure’ because God knows no failure. The only failure is if we refuse to go.”
It was God’s mission trip, Darry decided. “If God could make Balaam’s donkey talk, then surely He could help me say the right things. Since that first trip in 1999 we have made six trips to Thailand, held eight series, and baptized about 170.”
That is why Darry and Ginny are DVD trainers. “Most lay people want to work for the Lord, but like us, they don’t feel qualified. They’re afraid they don’t know enough or that they’ll say the wrong thing. The bottom line is that this is God’s work. If they accept the call, God will bless, and they won’t need a lot of training. If they know how to smile, invite someone to their home, and can insert a disc into a player, they’ve got it made!”
Darry also offered to train members of his little Wisconsin church, where attendance is only 15-20 each Sabbath. 15 people came for training and four teams committed to begin cottage evangelism.
In the meantime, they realized, “If we were going to instruct and encourage others to start small groups, we’d better start one ourselves so we’d really know what it was about.” They found that committing to start a group and actually starting one were two different things. “We didn’t know where to start, but our partner, God, already had a plan,” says Darry.
The next day they lunched with two women from work. Each indicated a desire to know more about the Bible. “A week later we had our first study,” says Darry. When the New Beginnings studies ended, Ginny followed up with Amazing Facts lessons. Today she studies with five new people while Darry teaches a New Beginnings class at church on Wednesday evenings. From a regular attendance of 5-8 non-members, four have committed to baptism.
For 26 years one church member had prayed for her husband and family that wanted nothing to do with her “strange” religion. After DVD training she decided to play a New Beginnings DVD on her home TV. Her “couch potato” husband, who had refused studies, watched Bible lessons on his own TV! Less than a month later he attended church with her for the first time. Though he doesn’t attend regularly, his attitude toward her church has softened; and, for the first time, she has hope.
Darry and Ginny continue their yearly evangelism trips to Thailand, and at home Darry is doing DVD training for the Wisconsin Conference in preparation for its large evangelistic series. Since last June he has trained 19 cottage evangelism teams in three cities.
The Alvas are ASI members from Clarendon Hills, Illinois who share a medical practice. Dr. Manuel is a gastroenterologist; Dr. Esther specializes in infectious diseases. For the past three years they have served as visiting teachers at their alma mater in Mexico, Montemorelos University. And DVD training has broadened their sphere of influence. “By divine appointment,” says Manuel, “a call for training came from the Northeastern Mexican Union, the territory in which we had lived while studying at Montemorelos.”
The Alvas now visit Montemorelos on a monthly basis to monitor the progress of their medical and evangelistic work. Their commitment has brought the Alvas heartwarming results. “Our older son has decided to share in our work and enter medical training at Montemorelos. We are closer as a family since getting involved. Our children are thinking more about preparing to be missionaries—a definite change of perspective.”
The Alvas have teamed with ASI members/trainers Gail and Norman Reitz of Hayward, California and Steve and Brenda Dickman of Savannah, Tennessee. Norm is a lawyer; Steve is president of Harbert Hills Academy. The Alvas look forward to future assignments in Southern Mexico and Venezuela.
Elder Mike Ryan, General Conference vice-president for Adventist Mission and Strategic Planning, explains that DVD training was designed to provide lay people with a simple, easy-to-use tool for active, productive evangelism. One person or hundreds can be trained simultaneously. DVD evangelism has been taken to areas where there was no previous Adventist presence. DVDs can be shown in homes, on street corners or in big city evangelism.
The largest baptism in Jakarta, Indonesia was the result of DVD-based evangelism. In a Southeast Asian city, 80 churches were established through DVD evangelism. “It’s a method that gets people involved,” says Elder Ryan. “It gives people time to develop relationships with the Lord and with other believers.” Elder Ryan also shares an amazing story. In a Southeast Asian country, the house where a lay worker was staying burned down. Everything was gone except, alone in the ashes, his DVD player and truth-filled discs. When villagers heard the story, they flocked to his meetings. They wanted to see what was so holy that it could not be destroyed!
DVD training at 140 sites is scheduled through 2009, but invitations exceed the number of trainers and teams available. Willing volunteers are needed to go, teach and baptize.
“Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices, all over the earth, the warning will be given” Great Controversy, p 612.