11 Dec 2009, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States…Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN
Christians should be “agents of healing and reconciliation,” Seventh-day Adventist world church President Jan Paulsen said during his annual holiday address. The gift of forgiveness and second chances is the hallmark of the Christmas season, he added.
During Paulsen and wife Kari's hour-long message, scheduled for broadcast this month on the Hope Channel, the church's official television network, he shared the stories of people whose lives illustrate how second chances can not only impact the future, but also help alleviate the “suffering, separation and scars” of life in a world marred by sin.
Sibu Sebaca, an AIDS orphan and activist from South Africa, told Paulsen what she needed most from her church shortly after her parents' death was compassion and a chance to build a future despite the challenges of her early life. “What I needed was people to stop looking at me as a problem,” she said.
“When you give someone the gift of a second chance, you're giving them an opportunity to rewind and press 'play,'” Sebaca told Paulsen.
Paulsen also spoke with Carl and Teresa Wilkens, who headed up operations for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency — the humanitarian arm of the world church — during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Carl Wilkens was reportedly the only American not to flee the country during the genocide.
“I think sometimes we try to be 'human doings' instead of 'human beings.' We forget that just being there is an incredible gift,” Wilkens told Paulsen.
“And by being there, giving hope,” Paulsen added.
Paulsen urged church members not to wait until Christ's return, but to begin practicing renewal here on Earth.
“We must ask ourselves, 'Are we offering forgiveness and second chances? Are we voices for those who cannot speak for themselves? Are we communicating Christ's promise to make all things new?'”
Paulsen's holiday address is scheduled for broadcast on Hope Channel International on December 18 and Hope Channel in North America on December 19. For a full broadcast schedule, visit www.hopetv.org.