May 21st, 2020
Greetings from Charlotte,
We held a worldwide livestream Ministerial Conference on Wednesday to discuss how we can safely open up our services. We took questions from our ministers on this subject and also regarding the Feast of Tabernacles this year. As I pointed out to them, we are still in the planning stage as we make adjustments to this very confusing time in our world, so please be patient as we work through this. I hope that message will be passed along to all of you, as there are many decisions that yet need to be made and some decisions we make now may need to be altered later as circumstances dictate. I also had a good conversation with Mr. Sheldon Monson about summer camps. He informed me that the European teen camp that was scheduled to be held in Belgium had to be canceled, based on his conversations with Messrs. Nathan and Ellis. All North American camps are still “GO,” but one or two of the preteen camps may be cancelled due to state regulations. We will be making decisions on those by June 3. Our numbers are down for most of the camps, which makes it easier to social distance regarding sleeping and dining hall arrangements. There are obviously going to be changes to the programs to accommodate this pandemic. Please be patient and understand that changes in plans can happen quickly, as not everything is within our control.—Gerald Weston
On God’s Holy Days we are commanded not to come before Him empty-handed (Deuteronomy 16:16). For the few small groups which are able to meet together, we will not collect a group offering at services on Pentecost, but ask that all brethren make their individual offerings online on the Holy Day by using a credit or debit card—or they can send a check in the mail using the pre-labeled green envelope, if available. Please do not send cash through the mail.
If you use the Online Donation System found at donations.lcg.org, click on “Type of Donation,” then choose “Holy Day Offering.” A Holy Day dropdown menu will appear, and there you can select “Pentecost.”
Thank you for your cooperation.
Report from Mr. Muthama on Conditions in East Africa
The countries in East Africa are suffering a “triple blow” of locusts, COVID-19, and flooding, Mr. Simon Muthama reports. There are nearly 300 million people being affected by these events in this region. The brethren in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania are safe, but floods have destroyed whatever of their crops the locusts didn’t eat. Famine threatens the whole region. Please remember them in your prayers.
Prolonged rainfall has caused the worst floods ever experienced in some areas. Lake Victoria has risen by more than two meters (more than six feet), according to the Lake Victoria Basin Commission, and rivers have become raging torrents. Many thousands of people are displaced, a number have drowned, some families have been buried alive by mudslides, and hundreds of sheep, goats, and cows have been swept away. Several bridges have also been taken out by the flood waters, paralyzing transportation. Meanwhile, the heavy rainfall and warm temperatures are ideal for locusts to breed, so even more damage is expected from them.
Because of curfews and lockdown, brethren are keeping the Sabbath in their homes, playing DVDs for the sermons and telecasts for sermonettes. Mr. Muthama concludes by saying, “So it is rain, rain, everywhere in the country. As I write this, it is raining cats and dogs.”
Almost 700 members are participating in our Pentecost Focus Unit, the online course that digs into the meaning of the Feast of Pentecost. Meanwhile, we continue to accept applicants for our nine-month intensive training program for young adults, beginning its third year in August. Living Education-Charlotte 2020–21 still has openings for young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30. At this point, we only have one, possibly two, openings for young ladies, but several openings for young men. Go to lcgeducation.org today to apply!
Record Responses to Television Program on COVID-19
Mr. Weston’s program titled “Why Does God Allow Pandemics?” has smashed a twelve-year high for responses in Australia, with responses still coming in. And that is without Regional QLD, which makes up about 10 percent of the subscriber base. After viewing the program, a coworker from Australia called to congratulate the Church on producing the excellent program. He said he was so impressed by the content and that he hasn’t seen another program present COVID-19 in such an in-depth way. He was also very surprised—and thankful—that this program was not censored. He is very impressed by what our Church is doing preaching this strong message and not being afraid to speak the truth through the media.
Our new station in the Philippines, TV5, also received a positive response, and the program has been approved for airing in New Zealand, so we are hopeful that it will be well received there, too.
Feast of Tabernacles
Limiting Numbers at Feast Sites (USA)
In his recent (May 11) member letter, Mr. Gerald Weston explained that we will be limiting numbers at this year’s Feast sites, lower than what we are normally used to. A number of questions have come up about this. Accordingly, here are several points to address these questions. (Note: This discussion pertains most specifically to sites in the United States. If you live outside of the United States, please consult your Regional Office for specific instructions about your congregation.)
- Why the number 200? If groups are restricted to 250 by government regulations, then our cap of 200 will be well within that range. If groups are restricted to 100, our benchmark of 200 will give us the flexibility to still continue with a Feast site by cutting the group in half and having morning and afternoon services of 100 each.
- Why not set different maximum numbers for different states? There are wide swings of predictions by experts about the next four to five months, so it is impossible to predict where individual states will be at that time. Some that are now “open” may not be then, and some that are currently “closed” may likewise not be closed then. Thus, 200 is a reasonable, conservative, workable number that gives us flexibility for most places.
- Why limit numbers when restrictions are being lifted? The possibility of a second wave is real, bringing new restrictions, and we can’t assume states will stay opened in October even if they are in July.
- Having more sites of smaller groups means more people will be attending fairly close to home, which is much better for both the patient and the family if someone comes down with the virus.
- Having smaller groups reduces the number of people who may be infected if someone does come down with the virus at the Feast. Because symptoms sometimes don’t show up for days with COVID-19, we must assume that if someone comes down with it at the Feast, they will have already exposed others to the virus even before they knew it. Thus, a smaller group limits that exposure.
- With many elderly brethren in the Church, we want them to feel safe and comfortable enough to attend the Feast. Smaller groups will help make that happen.
The Church is not alone in coming up with this type of guideline. Professional meeting planners around the country are expecting many conferences to be “small and local” over the next six to nine months, as everyone waits to see how the COVID-19 crisis levels out. One way or another, we know we’ll have the Feast! And the Festival Office is planning for as many brethren as possible to be able to join together and worship God. At the same time, the Church is trying to exercise due diligence to be prudent and prepare for potential problems, even as we hope and pray for a best-case scenario. Thank you for your patience, and for your prayers that God would guide and bless this year’s Feast planning.—Festival Office
Living Youth Program
Summer Camps in Belgium and the United States—Must Read Where Applicable
Camp Registration for all camps is now closed. No further applications will be accepted. For those who have been accepted, please note the following IMPORTANT considerations:
- Upon arrival, all campers and staff will undergo a screening supervised by the camp health staff, including having their temperatures taken. Anyone arriving sick will be asked to leave the camp immediately.
- During the camp session, all in attendance will be screened daily for any signs or symptoms of possible COVID-19.
- Any camper or staff member exhibiting symptoms of possible COVID-19 will receive a nucleic acid-based COVID-19 test.
- Any camper or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 will be isolated immediately (quarantined).
- If anyone tests positive for COVID-19, parents or guardians of campers will be contacted immediately and will be required to pick up their child from camp. Staff members who test positive will also be required to return home immediately. This could be a major consideration for all camp applicants, especially if they live a considerable distance from the camp. It is important to realize that no one who tests positive will be allowed on a plane to fly home. Because of these policies, those teens who live closer to Wisconsin may choose to switch their camp application in order to attend that camp instead of the Teen Camp in Texas. If so, please contact Jenny Penman at [email protected].
We plan to be in compliance with all state and county standard health protocols at all camps conducted this summer. Those guidelines are too numerous to list in this announcement, but will be posted on the youth website well in advance of camp.
Question: What is the status of summer camps in the United States in 2020?
Answer: Mr. Weston has approved the Teen Camp in Texas and all three Preteen Camps providing the following criteria can be met in each case:
- Texas Teen Camp and Texas Preteen Camp – Texas posted Protocols and Guidelines for the reopening of youth camps beginning on May 31. We are awaiting final approval from the Southwestern Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists regarding whether or not Lone Star Camp will be open for us to meet. This decision will be finalized before the end of the month and is not expected to be an issue.
- Preteen Camps in Missouri and West Virginia – These camps are awaiting both state and facility approval in order to be held. If we do not have approval for both by the first week of June (Wednesday, June 3), these camps will be cancelled. If we receive state and facility approval, these camps can be conducted.
- Adventure Camp (Canoe Trip, Wisconsin) – We are still awaiting approval from the state park system for overnight camping in Wisconsin’s state parks. Once the state allows for this, we can proceed with this camp.
Question: What is the status of the Summer Camp Program in Europe for 2020?
Answer: Due to ongoing government restrictions resulting from COVID-19, the summer camp in Belgium has been cancelled.
Where Is Your Focus? The cares and worries of this life tend to keep our focus on the here and now and what is happening to us as individuals. This is especially true in the midst of a global pandemic with all of its uncertainties. However, Jesus admonished His disciples to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthews 6:33). Jesus also warned that “the cares of this world” can choke the truth and cause us to become unfruitful (Matthew 13:22). Are your thoughts and efforts really focused on the Big Picture—of doing God’s Work and building the character necessary to function as kings and priests (leaders and teachers) in the soon-coming Kingdom of God? The Apostle Paul urged Christians to “walk circumspectly” (live purposefully) and make the most of our time “because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15–16). Paul also instructed Christians to treat each other with love and respect and to avoid bickering and divisive arguments over doctrinal and political issues that can shift our focus away from the Big Picture (Romans 12:9–12; 14:20; 1 Corinthians 1:10). In good times and in times of turmoil, we need to periodically evaluate what dominates our lives and our thinking, how we use our time, and what we are really trying to accomplish. Are we following the biblical admonition to focus our minds and efforts on what is true, noble, just, and pure (Philippians 4:8) so we rise above the concerns of this world and become productive members of God’s family? Let’s all strive to stay focused on the Big Picture.
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
News and Prophecy—May 21, 2020
Unprecedented WHO Meeting: This week the World Health Organization (WHO) held the 73rd annual World Health Assembly by teleconference instead of in Geneva, Switzerland. What made this meeting unique is the fact that it was held in the midst of “the worst pandemic in modern history,” which has most of the world locked down in quarantine (NPR, May 17, 2020).
Until now, public health agencies have made major strides in dealing with infectious diseases. In the last 120 years, global life expectancies have nearly doubled in many nations, thanks to public health measures such as treated water and proper human waste disposal. However, here in the year 2020, a microscopic virus has brought world economies to a halt and stupefied public health agencies like the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control. While the ultimate origins of COVID-19 are generally known (most likely bats), why are we seeing a new viral disease spreading around the globe in an unprecedented manner?
Students of Bible prophecy know that Jesus Christ listed specific signs that would precede His return to this earth. When His disciples asked Jesus to tell them the signs of His coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:3), He responded that they should take care not to be deceived (v. 4). He then highlighted several world conditions, including “great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences” (Luke 21:11). Jesus also stated, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). There have been pandemics before, and some have brought about far more deaths than COVID-19 is likely to cause. But none have inflicted the global paralysis that has followed this new virus, and prophecy indicates that worse is coming. Jesus’s admonition rings out across the years, “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37). To learn more about the second coming of Jesus Christ, read or listen to Fourteen Signs Announcing Christ’s Return.
Where Is Germany Headed? The coronavirus pandemic has magnified cracks in the foundation of the European Union, causing many member nations to go it alone in their attempts to handle the crisis. For years, Germany has been a primary advocate of a strong and centralized EU, yet in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Germany has felt compelled to make unilateral decisions.
In a recent German Constitutional Court ruling, two German judges decided to “effectively overrule the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on the question of the European Central Bank’s bond buying program” (Politico, May 13, 2020). One judge observed that, while there is no “European state,” national laws trump EU laws. This action highlights Germany’s disapproval of the European system that Germany itself helped to create and support, and puts greater strain on the future of the EU (CNBC, May 12, 2020). Germany is also being criticized by its neighbors for closing its borders and making it hard for workers from France and Luxembourg to work jobs in Germany. One French senator remarked, “French commuters are increasingly being treated as ‘second-class EU citizens’” (German Foreign Policy, May 11, 2020). Former EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that Germany risks causing “permanent damage” to the EU. Others warn that if the European Union continues to ignore national laws, it could push Germany to leave the union of nations, as Britain did (Telegraph, May 17, 2020).
While Germany has strongly supported the idea of a federal Europe, it is now seeing its own sovereignty challenged by the institutions it helped create. Will Germany go rogue and depart from the union, taking several nations with it? Or will it remain in the EU and work to reshape Europe in its own image? Bible prophecy provides important insights into the future of Germany and the impact that nation will have on the rest of the world. For more details, be sure to read “Resurgent Germany: A Fourth Reich?”—Scott Winnail, Chris Sookdeo, and Francine Prater