Please read the Missionary Report from Sierra Leone (below)

Sabbath, December 27, 2014

“In faith the woman of Phoenicia flung herself against the barriers that had been piled up between Jew and Gentile. Against discouragement, regardless of appearances that might have led her to doubt, she trusted the Saviour’s love. It is thus that Christ desires us to trust in Him. The blessings of salvation are for every soul. Nothing but his own choice can prevent any man from becoming a partaker of the promise in Christ by the gospel.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 403.

A Canaanite woman’s plea

1. Who implored the Redeemer for help in the heathen area that today is Lebanon?

Matthew 15:21, 22 Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. 

Mark 7:24, 25 And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid. 25 For a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet. 

“The people of this district were of the old Canaanite race…. To this class belonged the woman who now came to Jesus. She was a heathen, and was therefore excluded from the advantages which the Jews daily enjoyed. There were many Jews living among the Phoenicians, and the tidings of Christ’s work had penetrated to this region. Some of the people had listened to His words and had witnessed His wonderful works. This woman had heard of the prophet, who, it was reported, healed all manner of diseases. As she heard of His power, hope sprang up in her heart. Inspired by a mother’s love, she determined to present her daughter’s case to Him. It was her resolute purpose to bring her affliction to Jesus…. She had sought help from the heathen gods, but had obtained no relief…. But the word had come, He heals all manner of diseases, whether those who come to Him for help are rich or poor. She determined not to lose her only hope.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 399, 400.

Heathen, but a believer

2. How is it possible to explain such belief in Jesus by someone in a foreign country with a heathen upbringing? What is known about knowledge concerning the divine Master from the beginning of His ministry?

Matthew 4:23, 24 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. 24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. 

Mark 7:26 The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she besought him that he would cast forth the devil out of her daughter.

“Christ’s life was one of constant self-sacrifice. His work was not confined to any time or place. It was bounded only by His love and sympathy for the souls for whom He was soon to give His life. His compassion knew no limit. On so large a scale did He conduct His work of healing and teaching, that there was no building in Palestine large enough to hold the multitudes that thronged to Him. In every town and village through which He passed was to be found His hospital. On the hillsides of Galilee, in the great thoroughfares of travel, on the seashore, in the synagogues, in every place where there were hearts ready to hear His message, Jesus healed the people and pointed them to their heavenly Father. In the evening, after the hours of toil were over, He talked with those who through the day must work to earn a pittance for the support of their families.” –The Upward Look, p. 330.

“These words give an illustration of the way in which Jesus cultivated the soil of the heart. They point out clearly the work that we are to do, not in one place merely, but in every place.” –Review and Herald, March 30, 1905.

No immediate answer

3. Did the Lord answer this mother’s request for her daughter immediately? Thinking that Jesus had no interest in her case, what did the disciples ask Jesus to do?

Matthew 15:23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. 

“Christ knew this woman’s situation. He knew that she was longing to see Him, and He placed Himself in her path. By ministering to her sorrow, He could give a living representation of the lesson He designed to teach. For this He had brought His disciples into this region. He desired them to see the ignorance existing in cities and villages close to the land of Israel. The people who had been given every opportunity to understand the truth were without a knowledge of the needs of those around them….

“Christ did not immediately reply to the woman’s request. He received this representative of a despised race as the Jews would have done. In this He designed that His disciples should be impressed with the cold and heartless manner in which the Jews would treat such a case, as evinced by His reception of the woman, and the compassionate manner in which He would have them deal with such distress, as manifested by His subsequent granting of her petition.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 400.

4. What did He first say to the woman? On what occasion had He said something similar?

Matthew 15:24; 10:5, 6 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel…. 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 

“But although Jesus did not reply, the woman did not lose faith. As He passed on, as if not hearing her, she followed Him, continuing her supplications. Annoyed by her importunities, the disciples asked Jesus to send her away. They saw that their Master treated her with indifference, and they therefore supposed that the prejudice of the Jews against the Canaanites was pleasing to Him. But it was a pitying Saviour to whom the woman made her plea, and in answer to the request of the disciples, Jesus said, ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Matthew 15:24. Although this answer appeared to be in accordance with the prejudice of the Jews, it was an implied rebuke to the disciples, which they afterward understood as reminding them of what He had often told them–that He came to the world to save all who would accept Him.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 400, 401.

Increased earnestness and pleading

5. Did the mother give up when she heard this? With what heartfelt devotion did she repeat her request?

Matthew 15:25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. 

“The woman urged her case with increased earnestness, bowing at Christ’s feet, and crying, ‘Lord, help me.’ Matthew 15:25.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 401.

“When you get discouraged, do not depend upon human beings for aid. Christ declares, The Comforter shall be with you. Go right to God in prayer. Bow before Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me; for I am in difficulty, and I do not know what to do. You have promised to give Your children what they ask in Your name. We ask for strength to resist the temptations of the enemy.’ ” –The Gospel Herald, March 1, 1901.

Testing the petitioner’s faith

6. In connection with other messages, how are we to understand Jesus’ second statement to this woman?

Matthew 15:26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and cast it to dogs. 

Mark 7:27 But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.

Luke 18:1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.

Romans 12:12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer.

“Jesus, still apparently rejecting her entreaties, according to the unfeeling prejudice of the Jews, answered, ‘It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.’ Matthew 15:26. This was virtually asserting that it was not just to lavish the blessings brought to the favored people of God upon strangers and aliens from Israel. This answer would have utterly discouraged a less earnest seeker. But the woman saw that her opportunity had come.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 401. 

A great faith

7. What was behind her respectful argument and courteous perseverance?

Matthew 15:27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. 

“Beneath the apparent refusal of Jesus, she saw a compassion that He could not hide…. While the children of the household eat at the father’s table, even the dogs are not left unfed. They have a right to the crumbs that fall from the table abundantly supplied. So while there were many blessings given to Israel, was there not also a blessing for her? She was looked upon as a dog, and had she not then a dog’s claim to a crumb from His bounty?…

“Here Christ meets one of an unfortunate and despised race, that has not been favored with the light of God’s word; yet she yields at once to the divine influence of Christ, and has implicit faith in His ability to grant the favor she asks. She begs for the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table. If she may have the privilege of a dog, she is willing to be regarded as a dog. She has no national or religious prejudice or pride to influence her course, and she immediately acknowledges Jesus as the Redeemer, and as being able to do all that she asks of Him.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 401.

8. What did Jesus see in this woman’s petition? How was her strong, consistent faith rewarded by grace?

Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour. 

Mark 7:29, 30 And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. 30 And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

“The Saviour is satisfied. He has tested her faith in Him. By His dealings with her, He has shown that she who has been regarded as an outcast from Israel is no longer an alien, but a child in God’s household. As a child it is her privilege to share in the Father’s gifts. Christ now grants her request, and finishes the lesson to the disciples. Turning to her with a look of pity and love, He says, ‘O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.’ From that hour her daughter became whole. The demon troubled her no more. The woman departed, acknowledging her Saviour, and happy in the granting of her prayer.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 401, 402.

For reflection

  • Would you have felt rejected and ignored if you were in this woman’s place?
  • How would you have acted under similar circumstances?
  • Does the Lord also test our faith?
  • Would you expect the same commendation for your faith as the heathen woman received?

For further study

Prophets and Kings, p. 486; My Life Today, p. 119.

“There are many who, though striving to obey God’s commandments, have little peace or joy. This lack in their experience is the result of a failure to exercise faith. They walk as it were in a salt land, a parched wilderness. They claim little, when they might claim much; for there is no limit to the promises of God. Such ones do not correctly represent the sanctification that comes through obedience to the truth. The Lord would have all His sons and daughters happy, peaceful, and obedient. Through the exercise of faith the believer comes into possession of these blessings. Through faith, every deficiency of character may be supplied, every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 563, 564.

“The steadfast soul, firm in the faith, can do much good; he can impart blessings of the highest order to those with whom he associates, for the law of the Lord is in his heart. But we cannot willingly associate with those who are trampling upon the law of God, and preserve our faith pure and untarnished. We shall catch the spirit, and unless we separate from them, we shall be bound up with them at last, to share their doom.” –The Adventist Home, pp. 459, 460.

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Missionary Report from Sierra Leone

To be read on Sabbath, December 27, 2014

The Special Sabbath School Offering? will be gathered on Sabbath, January 3, 2015

Greetings from Sierra Leone with Hebrews 13:1: “Let brotherly love continue.” 

Sierra Leone is a small country in West Africa that covers an area of 27,653 square miles and has a population of 5.4 million, 1.2 million of whom live in the capital city of Freetown. The country had its beginnings as a colony of freed American slaves in March 1792 and obtained independence from Britain in 1961. Within its three provinces are 16 different ethnic languages and cultures. The official language is English, and 90 percent of the population speaks Krio (derived from English and several indigenous African languages).

It shares a border with Guinea on the north and east and with Liberia on the south; the Atlantic Ocean is on the west. Economically the country is extremely poor with great inequality in income distribution. Mining, agriculture, and fishing are the main industries.

While the country is an Islamic state, it is interesting to note that Muslim and Christians freely intermarry and live together peacefully. The population is comprised of 71 percent Muslims, 27 percent Christians, and 2 percent African indigenous religions. Following a Macedonian call from a sabbatarian group, the International Missionary Society entered the country in December 2010 with the help of Pastor Vangarral Chengbe, who was the first missionary to be sent by the General Conference to Sierra Leone. At that time, 31 souls were baptized, and Sierra Leone was organized as a mission field. 

In 2012, we received another call to come and perform baptisms. On this trip, I was accompanied by Sisters Leila McTavish and Edda Tedford, from Canada. We baptized about 85 souls and held organizational meetings for the field. The work was gaining momentum, and excitement was everywhere when suddenly a rebellion became apparent. Some leaders from the Sabbatarian group saw that their hidden agendas had no room in the church, so they decided to leave. Many members followed them, leaving the church almost empty.

By May 2013, out of 116 members, 23 remained. Yet God continued to sustain His work. The brethren took up the work like the people in Nehemiah’s time who said, “Let us rise up and build.” Nehemiah 2:18. From May to December, we conducted baptisms on three occasions with a total of 28 souls being baptized, raising the membership from 23 to 51 members. Fifteen people attended the baptismal class, and more than 22 were interested. There is even more light ahead, since we are receiving additional calls from different places. We do not yet have the resources to fill these requests.

In the capital city, we have worship services in two places. One of them is the pastor’s rented house, which also serves as the office and church. Unfortunately people in this country don’t appreciate home churches; they think that using such a place for worship indicates that we are not serious or do not have any direction. The second group is renting a public school classroom for Sabbath services. Outside Freetown, the capital city, a group in the Eastern province rents a school classroom as well.

We are few in numbers and have no equipment for public evangelism. In fact, our existence is like a drop in the bucket, with one full-time worker and two part-time workers. We need to hold more seminars to continually educate and train our old and new members, who do not have an Adventist background. The harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few. Therefore, it is our hope and conviction that your generous offerings will assist this humble work with means for a central office, for publication of literature, and for missionary training. It is our prayer that our efforts will bear much fruit for the heavenly kingdom and hasten the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. “Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, that send forth thither the feet of the ox and the ass.” Isaiah 32:20.

May the Lord continue to bless you so that in turn you become a blessing to His cause.

–David Gwina, Sierra Leone Mission Field President