Bibles for Refugees

When someone mentions the word “outreach,” we usually think about things such as handing out tracts or giving Bible studies, but Sabbath School can participate in many specialized ministries.

The story below tells about a Sabbath School outreach project targeting refugees and immigrant groups. The history of both the United States and Canada is closely tied to waves of immigrants from various parts of the world. In fact, in the early days of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Uriah Smith, one of the editors of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, thought that sharing the gospel with the immigrants continually arriving in the U.S. in the latter part of the 1800s fulfilled Jesus’ gospel commission in Matthew 28:19, 20. He felt that the church did not need to send missionaries overseas. In his view “overseas” had already arrived on our shores.

Ellen G. White has some very pointed words about this type of ministry: “God would be pleased to see far more accomplished by His people in the presentation of the truth for this time to the foreigners in America than has been done in the past. . . . As I have testified for years, if we were quick in discerning the opening providences of God, we should be able to see in the multiplying opportunities to reach many foreigners in America a divinely appointed means of rapidly extending the third angel’s message into all the nations of earth. God in His providence has brought men to our very doors and thrust them, as it were, into our arms, that they might learn the truth, and be qualified to do a work we could not do in getting the light before men of other tongues” (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Oct. 29, 1914). Any Sabbath School can find ways and means of participating in a refugee/immigrant ministry.

The North American Division sponsors an office called Adventist Refugee & Immigrant Ministries. Terri Saelee is the coordinator. Her pastor husband is the Hmong coordinator for the Wisconsin Conference. The Hmong people are an ethnic group from Southeast Asia.

Here’s the story Terri relates. Alice Pierson, Sabbath School leader for the Sunnydale SDA Church in Centralia, Missouri, called me in October 2011 to find out the price of Bibles for refugees. Alice had the idea that if she told the members of the Sabbath School that the goal was to raise $1,000 for refugees, they would probably throw up their hands, thinking they could never afford to give that much. However, if she told them the price of one Bible, members might feel that they could each buy one or two Bibles for refugees. The Sabbath School would probably end up raising more funds that way than if a general goal was set.

So on a bulletin board Alice developed a goal device with the title “Love Gifts for Jesus—Bibles for Refugees” and a map of the North American Division. She put a picture of a Bible on the bulletin board for every $25 raised, since Bibles in Karen (a language group from Southeast Asia) cost approximately $25 including shipping from Asia.

Her plan worked. The Sabbath School was able to raise a total of $1,900 for Bibles for refugees! Alice says, “I told my family I didn’t personally need anything for Christmas but I would really appreciate it if they would give something to the Bibles for Refugees project.” Some family members gave her money for Christmas, and she donated it ($170) to the project, in addition to another $50 of her own.

Alice praises God for the total amount raised by the Sabbath School. “I could never have had enough money of my own to give that much,” she says. The 2011 offering was more than three times 2010’s Christmas offering of $600, when Alice had encouraged the members to give love gifts to Jesus and put Him at the top of their Christmas list.

Speaking of 2011’s offering for Bibles for Refugees, which far surpassed her goal, Alice says, “The Lord did it. All I did was present the idea and pray.” She added seven more words to her goal device: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”

Unique projects such as this one always appeal to Sabbath School members. The mission DVD that arrives at your church each quarter has many ideas for outreach projects. The personal ministries director of your church can cooperate with the Sabbath School in developing some unique outreach projects.

IN A NUTSHELL

  • Your Sabbath School can do something like this as an Investment project.
  • Unique projects appeal to Sabbath School members.
  • Goal charts and visual incentives are effective.

Terri Saelee
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists