Stories from Italy, Massachusetts, Jamaica, Fiji, Kenya, Australia, the United Kingdom and North America

Adventists in Italy are opening homeless shelters in local churches, donating blood to help care for the wounded and have offered other relief aid in the aftermath of the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on Wednesday. The Associated Press has reported a total of 159 killed and hundreds wounded so far, including many places where people are being dug out of collapsed buildings by rescue teams. Pastor Daniele Benini, representing the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Italy reported that he has been contact with the authorities to find out what more can be done by Adventist volunteers. Pastor Giuseppe Cupertino, leader of the Adventist Church in Italy, and Dr. Mario Brito, president of the denomination’s Inter-European Division, which includes the country and is headquartered in Switzerland, joined in a statement quoting Jesus in John 14:1-3 and pointing to the coming kingdom of Christ when “there will be an end to our sorrow … no more death or any kind of suffering,” and urging those suffering loss to hold on to this hope.

The Chelmsford and Braintree Adventist congregations in Massachusetts hold a worship service outside in a public park each summer, and “this year we wanted to make it about the community,” Pastor John Melki told the Maldon Standard which sent a photographer to cover the event. Some 150 church members showed up and a larger number of local residents came to hear the church choir perform and other musicians share their gifts. The group had prepared more than 100 gifts to give away to non-members and ran out before they got to every family. “It is a way to do something different in the summer and a great outreach opportunity,” an evangelist at denominational headquarters told Adventist Today. “I have no idea how many churches do it.”

As the economy develops and more Adventists get higher education, there is growing concern about materialism, consumerist behavior and the prosperity gospel among Adventists in Jamaica, wrote the religion columnist in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper last week. He visited the Oracabessa Seventh-day Adventist Church in Saint Mary and found this theme among the comments he heard from members. “People are more interested in the material gain they can get from the church instead of the spiritual gain,” Somiah Jackson was quoted, Another member suggested the Church needed to focus more on community involvement and “things like health fairs.”

Dr. Mahendra Reddy, cabinet minister for education in the government of Fiji, spoke early this week at ceremonies where Navesau Adventist High School was returned to the denomination after devastation by Cyclone Winston last year and repair and reconstruction by Kartika Construction Company. It cost more than $100,000 with funding from international agencies and the Fiji government. Reddy challenged the parents from the congregation and the local community to support their children in dreams of getting an education, according to the Fiji Village online newspaper.

Pastor Stenio Gungadoo died at 71 years of age on Sabbath (August 20) at a camp meeting at the Migosi Adventist Church in Kenya where he had just begun a sermon series scheduled for the week. He complained of chest pains on Sabbath morning and then collapsed in his hotel room. He could not be revived and died of cardiac arrest, according to the Standard newspaper. He was well known in many parts of the world as a Bible student and preacher. He had retired recently after 47 years serving the denomination as a pastor, evangelist and church administrator. Born on the island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, Gungadoo served in Africa for many years, then was president of the Adventist mission in New Caledonia, union conference president in Fiji and a pastor in Australia. He is survived by his wife and his son. Burial will be in Melbourne.

Sanitarium Health and Wellness, the food company owned by the Adventist denomination in Australia and New Zealand, has pledged one million servings of hits popular Weet-Bix breakfast cereal this year to Foodbank, Australia’s largest charity focused on combating domestic hunger and malnutrition. Since 2010, the company has donated nearly 500 tons of its products to Foodbank which involves a network of 2,500 local charities, schools and breakfast clubs. All together they feed about 644,000 vulnerable people each month. (Bulletin from the Adventist News Network.)

During the Pathfinder Camporee for the Adventist denomination’s British Union Conference this summer, a new honor on Refugee Resettlement was taught for the first time. The initial team of instructors was from ADRA United Kingdom. They began the first class with simple discussions of (1) Why would people leave their homes and make a dangerous journey on foot? (2) What can we do to help refugees settle in our local communities? Britain has pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020 and ADRA is working with local Adventist churches to make this possible, so each Pathfinder will have opportunity to complete the practical projects that are part of the honor requirements. Adventists in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland are field testing the new honor and related materials. It will eventually be made available around the world.

A retreat for women serving as pastors and chaplains is being convened September 11-14 by the Adventist denomination’s North American Division. It begins with check-in and exhibits on Sunday afternoon and a general session on Sunday evening, continues all Monday and Tuesday, and ends with a general session on Wednesday morning. The keynote speaker is Dr. Elizabeth Talbot, director of the Jesus 101 radio ministry. Other speakers will include Pastor Chris Oberg, Pastor Rebecca Davis, Pastor Brenda Billingy and Chaplain Adrienne Townsend. The goal of the event is based on Isaiah 40:31, to renew your strength and to renew our faith, focus and friendships. It will be held in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida. If you are a woman employed by the denomination in pastoral ministry or by an institution as a chaplain or faculty member in religion, you can get more information from Chariolett Johnson at (301) 680-6429,