For years, the idea of black leaders from the African continent and regional conferences in North America coming together to share stories and strategies for mission and ministry was explored, but it never materialized for various reasons. In April, the dream was finally realized.
Lake Region—History was made in April 2019 when a delegation of Regional Conference presidents traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, for a summit with Adventist church leaders of the East-Central Africa (ECD) and West Africa (WAD) divisions, and the vice-chancellor (president) of Adventist University of Africa (AUA). The delegation also included the executive secretary of the North American Division (NAD), the Regional Affairs director of the Pacific Union, and three regional conference treasurers.
Billed as a “Transatlantic Family Reunion Summit,” the venture was intended to build relationships and the Kingdom of God, convened on the sprawling, scenic compound that is home to the headquarters of the ECD, the AUA, and Maxwell Adventist Academy. For years, the idea of black leaders from the African continent and regional conferences in North America coming together to share stories and strategies for mission and ministry was explored, but it never materialized for an array of reasons.
Blasious M. Ruguri, president of the ECD, characterized the summit as the “realization of a dream” deferred. He welcomed the North American delegation with an electrifying charge which included a confession that misinformation and misconceptions had kept both groups apart, saying, “We must do the hard work of destroying the strongholds that still enslave so many millions of those that we serve.” Ruguri challenged the gathering to remain faithful to the vision and committed to the mission, as well as to serve “in a manner worthy of the sacrifice of our ancestors, and especially of our Savior.”
Elie Weick-Dido, president of the WAD, delivered an equally electrifying closing charge that called on the groups to embrace our common heritage and values, as well as to pursue common goals and ventures. Hosts of the next summit, the WAD includes 12 of the poorest countries in the world; Weick-Dido, who pastored in the Lake Region Conference before returning home to Africa, is uniquely qualified to bridge the two continents.
The summit included sessions in which missional growth was examined, and the concept of Total Member Involvement received much emphasis. African leaders were eager to share how God is blessing the work in Africa, where approximately nine million Seventh-day Adventists currently live. Delbert Baker, the vice-chancellor of AUA under whose leadership the institution has experienced exponential growth in infrastructure, course offerings and enrollment, lauded the summit as being historic, helpful and heuristic. He claimed it represented something bigger than the two groups combined.
The logistics of the Summit were planned and executed by Emmanuel Pelote, special assistant to the ECD president, and Dana Edmond, executive director of the Office for Regional Conference Ministry, headquartered in Huntsville, Ala.
Many in the North American delegation had never visited the African continent before, and the trip evoked a spectrum of emotions. Safaris to wildlife in their natural habitats evoked exclamations of awe and wonder; particularly moving was the Sabbath visit to a Maasai village that included worship and a baptismal service in a nearby river.
Known for their courage and strength, the Maasai live a remote, simple life that is still full of color and vibrancy.
In their book, The Power of Moments, best-selling authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath explore what makes moments meaningful and memorable. They claim that our most memorable positive moments are characterized by elevation, insight, pride and connection. On every hand and by every measure, the 2019 Transatlantic Family Summit was a constellation of powerful moments. There was broad consensus that the Family Summit should be a regular venture, and the follow-up is already being planned.
Additionally, each African division was aligned or matched with three regional conferences, whose administrators committed to inviting and hosting the African church leaders in the United States regularly. Lake Region Conference is happy to be aligned with the West Africa Division and looks forward to a mutually beneficial relationship in mission and ministry.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” —African Proverb
R. Clifford Jones, president of Lake Region Conference