A small world


Another week has passed. I cannot complain about lack of variation. Besides my set pattern of Loma Linda activities, there continue to be unexpected encounters with people I have met somewhere in the world, or people whose names I knew or whom I have corresponded with. This happened a number of times during this past week. When visiting La Sierra University, dr. Keith Howsen approached me. Many years ago we sat together on the Newbold College executive board. I also had an interesting talk with dr. John Webster, one of the LSU theology professors. Some twenty years or so ago I had diner in the home of his parents in Capetown. His father, a New Testament scholar, is now in his upper eighties, but he still participates in marathons, and easily finishes a half marathon. Later this week, when visiting with a group of pastors in Orange County I met a young woman who told me that as a five-year old girl she had visited in our home with her parents (Gaspar and May-Ellen Colon) when we lived in Berrien Springs (MI). I also immediately recognized one of the people as Tom Nesslund, whom I had met a number of times in Latvia. And thus the big Adventist world can be surprisingly small.

On Tuesday evening I had been invited by the theology department of La Sierra University. A number of theology professors had brought their students together for a lecture that I was to give. Most members of the theology staff also appeared. I had prepared a presentation about the differences between American and European Adventism.  A day later this was also my topic for a meeting with the pastors in the Orange County district (one of the politically most conservative regions of the US).

I continue to think that there are some significant differences between American Adventists and European Adventists. Yet, I have adjusted my ideas somewhat in the past few years. The diversity among American Adventists is staggering. This makes it impossible to speak of ‘the’ American Adventist. European Adventism also exhibits a large degree (and an ever increasing measure) of diversity. The more ‘liberal’ part of American Adventism perhaps tends to think that the European Adventist are more liberal than their American brothers and sisters, but often they are only vaguely (if at all) aware of the large numbers of conservative and ultraconservative fellow-believers at the European side of the big pond. A significant factor, certainly, is  the fact that currently the American influence on European Adventism is greater than vice versa. A tsunami of dvd’s and publications by independent organizations at the fringe of the church, a collection of ‘right-wing’ speakers who are anxious to be invited for speaking tours in Europe (even if they have to pay their own ticket), and such clubs as 3ABN, GYC and ATS, are doing their utmost to strengthen or bring back an orthodox version of European Adventism. Anyway, a presentation about this topic always brings a lively discussion.

Next week I must interrupt my stay at Loma Linda for five days, in order to attend a symposium at Friedensau University in Germany. Long ago I had promised to speak during that convention and it was agreed with LLU that I would keep this appointment and that my Loma Linda program would be adapted to make this possible.

Friedensau University organizes a symposium about ‘The Impact of World War I on Adventism’. I have been assigned the last lecture and am supposed to bring the various strands of the discussion together. Fortunately, I could do most of the preparatory work before I left for Loma Linda. I look forward to the convention of next week, but I must admit I wished I could skip the long flight from LA to Berlin, and, a few days later, in the opposite direction. However, with so many bonus miles, I will soon again have enough miles in my UA account for a free round trip to the USA and that will suit me fine later this year! It is like the great soccer champion and philosopher Johan Cruyff declared many years ago:  Every disadvantage has its advantage!