In September 2021 a new feature was added to the Ministerial and Member Services e-News titled “Pray for the Gospel to Have Free Course.” Since then, numerous reports have been published highlighting challenges and opportunities in spreading the gospel encountered by the home office, the international offices and senior pastors. Having been also published in the United News, these reports are made available so you can not only be aware of what is taking place, but can add the needs described to your daily prayers. Below are summations of the most recent messages published in the MMS eNews.
Derrek Lewis, office manager for the United Church of God-Australia, wrote about the work of God on Vanuatu, a nation of small islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Overseen by the Australian office, Mr. Lewis stated that most of the country’s 50 brethren live on the main island of Efate. A webcast of the Brisbane, Australia, Sabbath services is made available for the congregation each Sabbath as well as on the Holy Days and during the Feast of Tabernacles. While Church literature is provided for visitors at Sabbath services, congregational growth has occurred mostly by word of mouth. It is hopeful that an elder can be located in the country for much of the year. This would be valuable for the brethren and interested individuals since there is great potential to reach many people on the islands. Please pray for our brethren and for the growth of God’s work in Vanuatu.
David Dobson, senior pastor for the Philippines, announced that the Beyond Today television program began airing nationwide in the Philippines over GMA-7 TV. The contract involved one season of thirteen episodes to be aired on Sunday mornings at 5:30 a.m. He explained that, “The Philippines is still largely a religious nation but secularism and religious skepticism are creeping in, especially among the younger, progressive generations. Your prayers are requested for God’s blessing on this effort in sharing the gospel.”
3. Paper Shortages
Scott Ashley, managing editor of Beyond Today magazine, described ongoing impediments in obtaining paper for Beyond Today magazine and study aids (booklets) due to economic and supply chain difficulties in the paper market. He wrote, “We were barely able to obtain enough paper to print the March-April and May-June 2022 issues of Beyond Today even though they had been scheduled for a year. Furthermore, a different paper stock had to be used for the recent reprinting of our ‘Heaven and Hell’ booklet because our usual paper wasn’t available. Plus, we had to delay reprinting ‘The Book of Revelation Unveiled’ booklet because the printer could not acquire insert card stock until the first week of May. The bottom line is that I have never seen anything like this in nearly 50 years in the printing industry. We have been informed that paper shortages may continue well into 2023.” Your prayers are requested that God would provide the paper needed to carry on the work of God.
Carmelo Anastasi, senior pastor for Italy, wrote about an experimental “proclamation workshop” that began several months ago. It was designed to give baptized members practical instructions on how to effectively proclaim the gospel. He wrote, “Through this effort, we provide careful pastoral and editorial instruction and guidance on how to advertise our Church’s magazines, brochures and video-sermons along with their personal comments on Facebook and other social networks. The result? Many new people have contacted us for the first time and have asked to participate in our midweek Bible studies and our church services every Sabbath. The number of participants today has risen to over 100. Your prayers for God’s blessing on our new proclamation effort would be greatly appreciated!”
4. New Zealand
Michael Fike, senior pastor for New Zealand, wrote that, “The nation’s border is now open to foreign visitors and the Feast of Tabernacles will be held and visitors are welcome. This is good news after the local brethren had experienced a difficult time for two years of the COVID-19 pandemic when many total lockdowns occurred and the economy came to a virtual standstill. Regarding the work of God in New Zealand, the Church supports a weekly Beyond Today telecast in Zealand but the members have not had a full-time minister for the past two years. Please pray for our brethren in terms of their encouragement and unity and that the gospel can be preached in greater power.”
6. Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Lewis VanAusdle, pastor for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, wrote about the challenges the brethren in these nations face. Among the difficulties are rough roads, increasing transportation costs in coming to Sabbath services and the rising cost of reliable Internet connectivity which makes communicating difficult. Despite these issues some pastors and deacons have used social media to spread the word of God in local languages—sometimes accompanied by live radio broadcasts on local stations. In Malawi and Eastern Zambia, some translations of church literature have taken place but it is time-consuming and expensive. The brethren in Zimbabwe have also researched the possibility of translating material into local languages. For example, short audio recordings of BT Daily episodes were translated into the Shona language. Several of these recordings were sent to a national radio station as samples and were played nationally at no charge during a prime time slot. Please pray that God will continue providing for the needs of our brethren in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe who, despite many challenges, continue doing God’s will while helping to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
7. Latin America
Mario Seiglie, Senior Pastor for the United Church of God in Latin America wrote that within this huge Spanish-speaking region, 600 brethren mainly live in ten countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panama, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Throughout the region there is a total circulation of 16,618 subscribers to Beyond Today magazine—called Las Buenas Noticias. God’s work has an active Internet presence with 627 Spanish-language sermons posted, 361 blogs, 33 booklets, 669 articles and 4,500 Bible study resources. Moreover, 249 Beyond Today video programs and 106 BT Dailies have been dubbed in Spanish. In 2021 alone, the church’s Spanish-language website reached an average of 128,000 monthly unique visitors. There were also 1,868 YouTube subscribers and 1,627 Facebook followers. Mr. Seiglie wrote: “While we are doing all we can with the resources available, please pray that God will continue to bless the efforts to spread the Gospel message and to care for God’s people throughout Latin America.”
United Church of God-Australia Office Manager, Derek Lewis writes: “The Church in Australia has been blessed with strong finances in recent times. With all the turmoil these past two years perhaps it’s not surprising that God’s people have a renewed focus on supporting the work of the Church. Beyond Today television and digital marketing have been fruitful. Short video ads on Facebook have brought great results and we’ve just filmed six new ads that we hope will be even more successful. Even with all this as good news, we must be mindful that the Gospel message could easily be thwarted here in Australia without God’s protection. There are growing obstacles to preaching the gospel. State and Federal legislation is increasingly an issue as is public opinion which is more and more anti-God. We often wonder how much longer we can air Beyond Today where enough complaints about a program could see television station management take us off the air. Please pray for the work here in Australia, as well as in New Zealand and our neighbors in the South Pacific. Most especially pray that our increased media efforts bear fruit.”