“Then He said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest’” (Luke 10:2, NKJV).1
The Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) encompasses 1.1 billion people, or 13.8 percent of the world population. With the current church membership around 1.6 million, the ratio is one Seventh-day Adventist to serve about 680 people. More than half of the people in the countries encompassed by the SSD are Muslims living in Bangladesh, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Pakistan. Another third are Buddhists residing in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The rest of the population lives in the Philippines and Timor Leste, two primarily Catholic countries, and Singapore, considered a secular country.2 Therefore, the SSD territory is a vast evangelization field with great harvest potential—but few laborers.
According to United Nations Population Division,3 the median age of the population in the SSD territory is under 30 years of age (which means half of the people are younger than this age, and half are older).4 Therefore, hundreds of millions of children and young people in this territory need quality education. This presents an excellent opportunity to establish church schools to reach young people. At the end of 2019, the Adventist educational system in SSD operated 728 primary schools, 213 secondary schools, and 18 colleges and universities, for a total of 959, or 11.2 percent of worldwide Adventist educational institutions.
Schools Are Evangelistic Fields
As of December 31, 2019, the total number of students studying in Adventist schools in the SSD was130,318. This is an increase of 26 percent over the previous quinquennium (2010-2015). However, the great challenge is that most of them (73,906 students or 56.7 percent) come from non-Adventist families. The strong emphasis on character development makes our church’s schools attractive to non-Adventist parents. The spiritual needs of these non-member students who come into our schools cannot be underestimated. As a result, they are the focus of special ministry on our school campuses at all levels.
Furthermore, several Adventist schools in SSD still employ non-Adventist teachers because it is challenging to find Adventist teachers for particular fields of study in some countries. Of the 8,477 teachers in Seventh-day Adventist institutions in 2019, 7,407 or 87.4 percent were Adventists, and 1,070 or 12.6 percent were from other religious backgrounds. Thus, on Adventist school campuses, there are many teachers and students who need to be led to Jesus. Properly addressing this great challenge provides a great opportunity.
SSD schools organize various programs and activities to nurture the spiritual needs of the students and teachers. Among them are morning worships, Bible reading, early-morning prayer programs, chapel convocations, weeks of prayer, Bible camp, Educare groups (peer-support groups), and many others.
These spiritual activities are well-designed and can function as long-term evangelistic strategies to reach both Adventist and non-Adventist students and teachers. As a result, educational institutions are among the most significant contributors to soul-winning in SSD. Church members converted through educational institutions usually have a better understanding of the basic doctrines of the church as well as church practices and values.5 The rich spiritual programs and activities in Adventist schools also benefit non-Adventist teachers. It is not unusual for teachers to be baptized due to these programs.
Schools Have Great Potential Laborers
Jesus commissioned His disciples to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15, KJV), a command that applies to disciples living in modern times, as well. “To all, great or small, learned or ignorant, old or young, the command is given.”6 “Every creature,” of course, includes teachers and students in Adventist schools.
Together, Adventist educators and all students in Adventist schools can form a mighty task force of laborers in God’s vineyard. In response to the worldwide church’s Total Member Involvement (TMI) program, the SSD Education Department aims to engage all students and teachers in reaching out to people through a variety of ways and methods.
In 2019, the SSD developed and launched Voice of Youth, a special program designed to encourage and empower students in Adventist schools to conduct various outreach activities. The program provides funding for lay-led evangelism. As a result, the SSD Education Department can provide US$5,000 to every college or university and US$2,000 to every secondary school with approved outreach proposals. Students are the primary creators and actors in these spiritual activities, planning and implementing various programs; teachers serve as coaches. Funding was also allocated for 2020, and the program continues to be a powerful outreach force in many countries in SSD.
Schools in Discipleship (SID)
Adventist schools are established to help support the mission of the church, which includes calling people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the everlasting gospel referred to in the three angels’ messages (Revelation 14:6-12) and preparing the world for Christ’s soon return. This also means offering excellent academics and preparing students to serve as witnesses for Christ in every area of life, whether in the public or private sector.
In collaboration with the Children’s Ministries and Family Ministries departments, the Education Department successfully organized Schools in Discipleship (SID) training programs in Indonesia in 2017 and 2018, and in the Philippines in 2019. Priority was given to these two countries, considering that 661 of the 954 (69 percent) of the educational institutions in SSD are located in the Philippines and Indonesia. The objectives of the SID training program are: (1) to strengthen the spiritual programs and activities of the schools; (2) to help school administrators, teachers, parents, students, chaplains, and pastors in deepening their own spiritual journey; (3) to equip teachers to disciple students; (4) to strengthen the partnership among the three educational agencies—home, school, and church; and (5) to prepare the hearts of all participants for the Integrated Evangelism Lifestyle (IEL) program designed by SSD. The primary purpose of this program is to encourage every student studying in Adventist school to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. A similar training program took place in Myanmar and Bangladesh in 2020.
The quality of any educational institution is largely determined by the excellence of its teaching faculty. SSD assists schools in developing their teachers in many ways, such as organizing seminars and workshops and providing scholarships for undergraduate and graduate programs.
Various division-wide and regional seminars were conducted during this past quinquennium. Considering that most science textbooks produced by non-Christian publishers present concepts about evolution as fact, it was determined that the most urgent need was to help Adventist teachers handle this subject matter. In coordination with the Geoscience Research Institute (GRI), SSD organized the “Celebration of Creation” seminar in Bali, Indonesia, in 2017. Several senior scientists and researchers from GRI were invited to share their understanding of nature and its relationship with the biblical revelation of the Creator God. Moreover, in May 2019, SSD organized the Faith and Science Conference in Naga View Adventist College, North Philippines.
In collaboration with various unions, teacher conventions were organized to remind and instruct all teachers about the unique philosophy of Adventist education and give them an opportunity to learn innovative pedagogical theories and practices. Teachers participate in this program as part of their professional development, an essential contributor to enhancing student learning.
There are many ways Adventist schools can contribute to the church’s success in reaching out to the world. Although there are restrictions on conducting direct evangelistic campaigns in many countries dominated by Islam and Buddhist ideologies, people in neighboring communities can be reached through Adventist education. Currently, some countries in SSD have only a few Adventist schools or none at all. The SSD Education Department continues to strive toward growing the number of schools in the full implementation of Acts 1:8, “‘and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’”7 Effective strategies must be developed to reach students and teachers, after which they can reach out together to people in neighboring communities. Some students may even choose to become missionaries and serve in different parts of the world. SSD is committed to this mission, and Adventist schools in this territory will continue to collaborate with the church in preparing the world for the soon coming of Jesus.
Publishing Note: Due to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic and the twice-postponed General Conference session, this quinquennial issue was delayed. Reports in this issue cover the 2015-2020 quinquennium.
Lawrence L. Domingo and Canadian Z. Panjaitan, “Plenteous Harvest, Few Laborers: Involving Adventist Schools to Bridge the Gap,” The Journal of Adventist Education 83:4 (2021): 56-60. https://doi.org/10.55668/mrwz6478
NOTES AND REFERENCES
- Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible verses in this report are quoted from the New King James Version of the Bible. New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, “Southern Asia-Pacific Division” (2020): http://www.adventistdirectory.org/ViewAdmField.aspx?AdmFieldID=SSD; Official Website for the Southern Asia Pacific Division of Seventh-day Adventists (2020): http://adventist.asia/.
- United Nations Population Division: https://www.un.org/en/sections/where-we-work/asia-and-pacific/index.html.
- Worldometer (2020): https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/south-eastern-asia-population/.
- In a presentation to the General Conference Executive Committee at the 2021 Spring Council, John Wesley Taylor V, associate director of education for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, stated, “Adventist education is the longest, largest evangelistic event in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” He proceeded to note that a student in an Adventist primary school receives at least 800 hours of evangelistic instruction, which can add up to 37,400 hours if that student continues through secondary and tertiary education. For a link to the presentation and the supporting article, see Marcos Paseggi, “Adventist Education Helps Students Join and Remain in the Church, Studies Show,” Adventist Review (April 21, 2021): https://adventistreview.org/news/adventist-education-helps-students-join-and-remain-in-the-church,-studies-show/; see also John Wesley Taylor V, “Joining and Remaining: A Look at the Data on the Role of Adventist Education,” The Journal of Adventist Education 79:3 (April-June 2017): 39-46: https://www.journalofadventisteducation.org/2017.3.8.
- Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1903), 264.
- Acts 1:8. New International Version (NIV). Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.