Significant events in the Philippines, Australia, Uganda, Zambia, Maryland, California and the Bahamas

On Monday (January 11) the Holy Land Experience theme park opened on the island of Andros in the Bahamas. The founder is Adventist Pastor Jeremiah Duncombe and he was joined for the ceremony by the Honorable Philip Davis, deputy prime ministers of the Caribbean nation; the Honorable Pricewell Forbes, Bahamas ambassador to the Caribbean region; Gregory Knowles, chief executive of Andros Island; and Pastor Paul Scavella, president of the denomination’s South Bahamas Conference. The 20-acre park will include 49 Bible scenes when it is completed. The crowd saw the Jordan River, the Sea of Galilee, the Upper Room, the Wall of Samaria, the Tomb of Jesus and a Prayer Grotto like that used by early Christians to escape persecution by the Roman Empire. It also includes nature trails and family picnic and recreation areas. A full display of photos was published in The Bahamas Weekly on Tuesday.

Pastor Leonardo R. Asoy, president of the Adventist denomination in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division, died Tuesday night (January 12) in the Adventist Medical Center in Manila, Philippines from complications due to myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a rare bone marrow disease. He was 56, raised on the island of Mindanao in Southern Philippines, graduated from Mountain View College and earned an MA at the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies in Cavite. He served as a pastor in the Western Mindanao Conference and then youth director. In 1991 he became youth director for South Philippine Union Conference and later added Sabbath School and Personal Ministries. He was first called to an administrative role in 2003 as president of the Davao Mission and was elected division president last summer at the General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas. He is survived by is wife Elma Vasques Asoy and their adult children, Elnardz and Shawnette.

The 50th recipient of a Ministerial Training Scholarship at Avondale College, the Adventist institution of higher education in Australia, is a woman; Sarah-Jane Riley. The scholarship is given to ministerial students in the upper half of their education who demonstrate their call to ministry by service in a local church and outreach in a local community, stated the announcement from the college. The scholarship began in 2001 with a donation from Graham Allen, an Adventist who owned and operated the Plum Group of construction-related companies, the largest privately-owned commercial building operation on the Central Coast of the state of New South Wales.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Uganda recently completed the first phase of a community development project in six districts and posted an announcement in the New Vision newspaper seeking a qualified consultant to conduct an evaluation. The project seeks to improve the employment, health and literacy of local residents as well as build the capacity of community-based organizations and start schools in Agago, Kmwenge, Luwero, Nakaseke, Pader and Wakiso. For more information, send Email to jmuhindo@adrauganda.org.

A total of 7,527 of the refugees resettled in the United States since 2003 were Adventists, according to a report in the current issue of Christianity Today, the top religious magazine in the country. Adventist refugee resettlement peaked in 2014 when 1,828 people came to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of Congo where civil war has raged, and 1,583 of these identified themselves as Adventists. Over the decade, the U.S. resettled 762,000 refugees from all parts of the world of which 44 percent were Christians from one denomination or another. “World Relief explained that it takes many years before people displaced by conflict appear among America’s refugee intake,” the magazine stated. World Relief is a major Evangelical charity.

The recent decision by the State of Maryland to allow Washington Adventist Hospital to relocate to White Oak, about five miles from the historic campus that it shares with Washington Adventist University, was welcomed by the County Executive, Ike Leggett. “This decision will not only strengthen access to health care for residents in northeast Montgomery County,” Leggett said. “It will add a synergy to the [new] area that will boost important research, good jobs and investment.” The Takoma Park campus was started in 1903 soon after the Adventist denomination moved its headquarters from Battle Creek, Michigan, to the U.S. capital region. The hospital will continue to provide health services on the campus when the primary operations are moved. The move became necessary when the largely residential neighborhood became too crowded to easily accommodate the traffic and expansion related to the hospital.

The Adventist Church in Lakeport, California, is hosting a homeless shelter this winter operated by a coalition of Protestant churches, reports the Record-Bee local newspaper. There is room for 24 people each night and they are provided with a hot meal and a take-away breakfast, as well as restrooms and showers, and a security guard. Volunteers from the churches provide the meals and welcome those who show up each evening. The other churches include St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lake County Bible Fellowship, United Christian Parish, Galilee Lutheran Church and New Hope Community Church. Surveys have shown that as many as 500 Adventist churches across North America operate a homeless shelter at least during part of the year almost always with the help of funding and volunteers from other religious groups in the local community.

The Adventist colleges and universities in North America are down 4.3 percent in first-time enrollments, 3.3 percent in undergraduate students and 5.2 percent in graduate students for the current school year, according to a report in the Adventist Review. As a result, at least one institution is reducing faculty and staff from 345 to 299 in order to reduce the budget by $2.8 million this year. This decline is part of a general trend in the United States and Canada. A total of 144 small, private and public colleges missed their enrollment and revenue goals for this academic year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education (October 30, 2015).

Adventists are defeating the system by which the nation of Zambia provides agriculture funding to farmers, according to Maxas Ngonga, the deputy agriculture minister. He told the Lusaka Times that Adventist believers in Chibombo and Chisamba told farmers not to use the credit cards that allow them to access agricultural loans to fund seeds and other planting supplies because the cards are satanic, a fulfillment of the “mark of the beast or 666” prophecy in the Book of Revelation. The country has one of the largest percentage of Adventists in the world; more than six percent of the total population. The official membership of the denomination is over one million in a country with a population of 16 million and it grew by 11.5 percent in the most recent year on record (2014).

Dr. Benjamin Akyiano, president of the Adventist University of Lukanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is looking for volunteers to travel to his country and help with projects there. He contacted Adventist Today for help. He is at Andrews University on a visit through next Tuesday (January 19) and can be reached at by phone at (269) 471-5130.