More than 130 years ago, something happened that changed mission for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. At this time, the Church was recognizing its wider calling to carry the Adventist message to the world. In 1885, a group of Adventists, led by S. N. Haskell sailed from San Francisco to establish Adventist work in Australia. That same year, the Sabbath school in Oakland, California, changed the landscape of mission when they decided to give their Sabbath school offerings to help start the Australian Mission.
Since then, it seems mission and Sabbath schools have been inextricably linked. In 1920, Sabbath schools in North America had a goal of 25 cents a week per church member. The goal was raised in 1923 to 30 cents, then to 40 cents (1951), and 50 cents (1953)1 . Although that may not seem like much, the regular commitment would make a tremendous difference in taking our message to the world.
In 2012, a small Adventist church in Arkansas started focusing on mission. According to Jim Morris, head elder and former treasurer of the Mountain Home Seventh-day Adventist Church, church leaders made an effort to promote mission and the Thirteenth Sabbath offerings with regular, almost weekly, mission reports and appeals.
Myrta Beem, one of the Sabbath school superintendents at the time, says, “I remember starting out once a month promoting mission. I used the Mission Spotlight videos—they are excellent. They are so well done and help you to visualize what is going on around the world and the needs in the different areas.” But it wasn’t long before Myrta saw another opportunity to share what was happening in mission.
“Later, I started promoting mission between Sabbath school and second service. I ended up doing it almost every Sabbath. I enjoyed doing it at that time because I had a larger audience— much larger then when we started Sabbath school. I promoted anything that dealt with mission: Thirteenth Sabbath, ADRA, It Is Written with the Eyes for India program, $10 Church, AWR…”
She also used information from the Mission quarterly to make a PowerPoint slideshow, and handed out bags or boxes so members could collect their offerings throughout the quarter and bring them in on Thirteenth Sabbath.
“Many times I used the children to collect the bags/boxes. The adults love to see the children involved,” says Myrta. By the next quarter, mission giving increased seven times what it had been. Over the next several years, mission giving increased dramatically, ranging from four to ten times higher.
Although Myrta and her husband have moved to another state, they still actively support various mission projects and programs. This year the couple plans to go on a Maranatha trip despite being older.
As for the Mountain Home church? “We are still promoting missions at least three times per month,” says Morris, “using either the Mission Spotlight videos or Mission stories and some Sabbaths, both!”
The Atholton Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia, Maryland, is another church where focusing on mission dramatically changed mission offering giving. When she began as Sabbath school Superintendent, Linda Elliott began showing Mission Spotlight videos once a quarter, put a Thirteenth Sabbath offering insert in the bulletin, and created a PowerPoint presentation. She encouraged Sabbath school classes to adopt a group project either in the local community or overseas. She featured student missionaries from Atholton, shared where they were serving and what they were doing, and asked them for a project Sabbath school classes could support.
Again, the focus on mission was dramatic. Within six months, mission offerings had doubled and Thirteenth Sabbath offerings increased 60 percent, and this was in addition to the special projects.
"I have never had the desire to ‘go’ be a missionary,” Linda says. “But ever since I was in Kindergarten Sabbath school and sang the song “Five little missionaries standing in a row...” I wondered why someone who stayed home and promoted and supported missions was not considered a missionary. I guess that is why I had missions as one of my main Sabbath school goals for seven years.”
“Why did mission matter to me? Because of the Great Commission,” says Myrta. “I couldn’t go to Africa, India, China to spread the gospel, but my offerings could help someone fulfill this. I have talked to the Lord and said, ‘Lord, when we are on the New Earth, I want You to introduce me to those who got to know You and accepted You as Lord and Savior because of the little bit I was able to give.’ I know He will do it. That will be a fun experience. I can’t wait for His Coming!”
1 The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (1996), Review and Herald Publishing Association.
Rick Kajiura is the communication director for Adventist Mission at the General Conference.