Adventist Global News
Adventists in Bangladesh Host First Autism Awareness Event
Special needs ministry focuses on awareness and support for families.
Adventist church leaders and members in Bangladesh organized a union-wide campaign to celebrate World Autism Day on April 2, 2018. Students and staff from Adventist schools across the country as well as leaders from the Bangladesh Adventist Union Mission (BAUM) in Dhaka hosted parades, organized community discussions and visited families of autistic children.
These approximately 300 individuals united in an effort to raise local awareness and offer much-needed support for special needs families in partnership with the Society for the Welfare of Autistic Children. In some communities, special needs children such as those with autism are stigmatized in spite of the country’s ongoing efforts to provided needed assistance.
Members visit autistic children in their homes. [Photo: Southern Asia-Pacific Division]
This year Adventists joined these efforts with a combination of large-scale awareness programs such as the multiple Adventist-hosted parades and community discussions held in various cities and towns across the country. The parades provide an opportunity to gain attention for awareness programs and bring autism education to those who might not attend awareness training. The discussion programs offer up-to-date information about autism and how communities can better meet the needs of autistic children and adults. They are also opportunities to encourage inclusion rather than shunning, particularly in communities that may not yet fully accept those with special needs.
To model how individuals can support special needs families, Adventist leaders visited autistic children and their families in their homes. They brought gifts and clothing. While these were welcomed, the parents seemed to most appreciate the time spent listening to their experiences and challenges as they seek acceptance and support in their communities.
For Mahuya Roy, BAUM Special Needs Ministry Coordinator, it strengthened her resolve to encourage Adventists to act on behalf of these families. “Bangladesh may be a developing country but the autism rate is increasing here,” she said. “As a church, we must each do what we can to raise awareness so we can encourage acceptance, understanding and love for these special children,” she added.
Church administrators such as BAUM president Myun Ju Lee agree. “We must do as much as possible for the autistic children of our church and our society,” he urged. This was his motivation for helping to lead BAUM’s autism awareness parade in Dhaka.
According to Larry Evans, assistant to the General Conference president for the Deaf and Special Needs Ministries, this first-ever autism awareness event in Bangladesh is significant not only for future special needs ministry, but for the focus of local churches and members. “Your church, your community, will never be able to create a culture that will be perfect for every child or every adult with every conceivable special need. But every church and community can do something to welcome more families impacted by a disability or special need—including autism,” he encouraged.
Bangladesh is home to almost 30,000 Seventh-day Adventist church members in over 120 churches, and one of the 14 countries in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division.
Additional reporting by Eshita Mondol.
Once Baptized by the Pope, Italian Banker Is Now a Seventh-day Adventist
Giorgio Chiesa and his family were baptized during evangelistic meetings in the US.
Giorgio Chiesa is the son of an influential family in Italy. He was baptized in St. Paul’s Cathedral in the Vatican, in an ecumenical ceremony presided by Pope Paulus VI and a Muslim imam. As a child, he remembers several times when Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) visited his mother at her house.
When Chiesa was 12, he began to attend a religious school. On his first day in religion class, he asked the priest, “How can you demonstrate that God exists?” He was immediately asked to leave the class, with the teacher saying, “You do not question! You have to believe by faith!”
Local pastor Joel Barrios welcomes Giorgio and Alejandra Chiesa to the Spanish-American Church in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States. [Photo: Joel Barrios, Southern Union Conference News]
When the principal told the older Chiesa about his son’s unbelief and questioning, Giorgio’s father answered, “If my son cannot ask questions in your religion class, then he will stop attending.”
Chiesa became an agnostic. He grew up going to the best schools and universities in Europe, studying law and international business, and thinking that religion was a human invention and God was not real.
He Meets Alejandra
In 1999, while on a round-the-world trip between jobs in London, Chiesa met his future wife in Spain. Alejandra was born into an Adventist family in Colombia but left the church in her late teens due to a family crisis. She had moved to Spain years before to live with her brother.
After dating for some time, Giorgio and Alejandra got married and moved to London where she started attending the local Adventist church. Chiesa used to take his wife to church but did not participate because, as he said, “Church was not for me.” After eight years and two children living in England, they moved to Switzerland. There Alejandra met an Adventist lady from Argentina, and they became very good friends.
Four years later they moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina. While there, Giorgio’s dearest sister passed away from an aggressive cancer. Giorgio and Alejandra were devastated. While in grief, Alejandra’s Argentinian friend recommended they watch the video of an Adventist pastor at the Spanish-American Church in Collegedale, Tennessee, United States. Religion started to make sense to Giorgio.
Three years later the family relocated for work reasons to the Bahamas. They began to watch the Collegedale Spanish-American worship service online almost every Sabbath for several years. One day they called Joel Barrios, pastor of the Spanish-American Church in Collegedale, and invited him to come to the Bahamas.
Barrios went and stayed at their home, giving them a few Bible studies that he had previously shared with agnostics and atheists. It was a miraculous experience. When Barrios left the Bahamas, the family was not only happy—they were spiritually united.
In December 2017, they Skyped with Barrios to continue studying the Bible. Then they went to Colombia for the holidays, with plans to go skiing in Canada in February 2018.
While their ski equipment was being sent from Colombia to the Bahamas via courier, it was stolen. Chiesa told the family that they would buy new equipment and go to Canada anyway. While returning from Colombia, however, Chiesa fell at the airport and broke his right arm, preventing them from going skiing. The family was saddened, as they loved skiing.
A few days later, Barrios called Chiesa to invite the family to an evangelistic meeting in Tennessee. By a miracle of God, relates Chiesa, the dates for the meeting coincided with those of the skiing trip, and the family agreed to travel to Tennessee.
The family, and Chiesa in particular, were impressed with the practical topics shared by Roger Hernandez, speaker for the evangelistic meetings and Southern Union ministerial director. “My 12-year-old son, who is always complaining about attending church with his mom, was excited with his new church friends,” he said. During the week, Chiesa made the decision to get baptized, and on that Friday, Alejandra decided to be rebaptized.
A Newfound Faith
Giorgio and Alejandra Chiesa will be the first online members of the Spanish-American Church, requesting to be members in Tennessee. The Chiesas praise God for giving them faith and a new family in Christ. “We are excited about our newfound faith in God, and our new online church family,” they said.
An original version of this story was first published in Southern Tidings.
Seventh-day Adventist-ownedAndrews Memorial Hospital (AMH) in Kingston, Jamaica, was the Center of Excellence site where a patient was the first ever to benefit from a 4-level viscoelastic cervical disc replacement procedure.
The surgery, which will usher in a revolutionary new treatment approach in spinal surgery globally, was performed by a team of doctors led by Harvard-trained and world-renown orthopedic spinal surgeon, Kingsley R. Chin on Jan. 30, 2017, using an advanced technology known as theFreedom® Cervical Disc.
Owned by AxioMed, LLC., the technology took sixteen years and over US$85 million to achieve the level of perfection, safety and efficacy in both the lumbar and cervical versions to implant the discs in the United States, Europe and Australia. The lumbar version completed its clinical trials in more than 400 patients in the United States and will likely be available in 2018. The cervical version completed the preclinical trials in Europe.
Kingsley R. Chin is Jamaican and a leading surgeon-entrepreneur who saw the benefits of the technology and invested in buying it from the original group of founders so he could now offer it in the country. Chin worked in business in New York City before becoming a surgeon and follows a lineage of physicians who have pioneered advances in medicine. He founded companies to commercialize technologies that have benefitted patients worldwide.
This particular technology is ideal for treating the painful degenerative spine as it most closely mimics the normal disc using a proprietary viscoelastic polymer technology, explained Chin. The purpose of the disc is to relieve neck and back pain while maintaining more normal motion and alignment than is allowed with other competing disc replacements and spinal fusion devices, which immobilize the spine.
A year ago, Chin, who has been operating out of the University of the West Indies (UWI) as a visiting professor, was encouraged by Fabio Pencle, a Seventh-day Adventist physician, to open his US-based Orthopedic and Spine Surgery, LESS Institute Inc. Center of Excellence at Andrews Memorial Hospital. TheLESS Institute Inc.is considered the world leader in LESS Exposure Surgery (LES), a philosophy of less invasive surgery, which allows patients to be discharged the same day after surgery with quick recovery.
Chin grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist in his hometown of Buff Bay, Portland, Jamaica and left the country for the United States on a football-academic scholarship to attend Columbia University in New York City, where he earned two diplomas, was president of his senior class and soccer ivy-league player of the year. He went on to graduate studies at Harvard University where he earned four diplomas and became an orthopedic surgeon. Chin spent four years teaching at the University of Pennsylvania as the chief spine surgeon before he moved to Florida to open the LESS Institute.
“I am blessed to have the desire, ability, commitment, means and access to resources to allow me to give back to Jamaica in very meaningful and powerful ways like this surgery,” said Chin. “Coming from the humblest of circumstances, I can now look back and see the reasons for my journey. I especially see how much I needed the strength and lessons I received from my Seventh-day Adventist faith as a young boy and why it is fitting for Andrews Memorial Hospital to be the site of this historic surgery.”
Chin said he still has to try his best every day at every level for each patient. “I pray for humility to keep learning to be better as I dedicate myself to excellence, never forgetting that I am blessed for a reason.”
“We are delighted that the hospital partnered with Dr. Chin to execute this historic surgery in Jamaica,” said Pastor Everett Brown, chairman of the board of governors of Andrews Memorial Hospital, and president of the church in Jamaica. “We are pleased to know that our hospital is strategically placed and has the capacity not only to provide basic health care to people from all social, religious and economic backgrounds, but also to address the healthcare needs of individuals, utilizing modern technology.”
Brown said the hospital remains committed to making the facility available to enhance the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of all people.
AMH currently boasts 65 beds, five wards, four operating theaters, one which specializes in large specialty cases such as open heart surgery, a multi-dimensional CT Scan machine and a major medical complex. Over the years, the hospital has developed a reputation for being one of the most outstanding maternity centers in Jamaica and many of the island’s foremost obstetricians/gynecologists make it their hospital of choice for their patients.
The patient operated on by Chin was happy to have been introduced to LESS Institute by a relative of hers. She was also grateful for the fact that the surgery took place in Jamaica, with a team of doctors that she was familiar with.
“I felt very relaxed going into surgery, and felt the team had my best interest at heart,” said the patient, who is at home recuperating and looking forward to become more active soon.
“The vision for Andrews Memorial Hospital is to be the hospital of choice for the Caribbean,” said Marvin Rouhotas, Chief Executive Officer of the hospital. “No doubt, this historic surgery has positioned the hospital with the advantage of the expertise of neuro-spinal surgery not performed anywhere else in the world.”
In October 2010, the Gleaner Company, Jamaica’s oldest print newspaper, described Andrews Memorial Hospital as a gift from the Adventist Church to Jamaica, as it presented the hospital with the Gleaner Honor Award for its commitment to providing first-class health care to Jamaicans.