What a difference a day away makes. When the buses arrived on the UNASP campus close to 9:00 a.m. for Day 3 of the GAiN (Global Adventist Internet Network) conference, the changes were evident immediately. More flowers had been planted and some new grass laid. Walking through the doors of Igreja Adventista do Setimo Dia (the campus church), lobby lighting was going up, and in the amphitheater all the chairs were in place and brand new carpet lined the aisles.
The morning worship, which was entitled “A Theology of Communication,” was presented by Steve Currow, communication director of the South Pacific Division. He talked about the three Greek words for communication: ethos, logos, and pathos.
Nancy Lamoreaux, the chief information officer for the General Conference was the first presenter. She shared a video from the Geoscience Research Institute based in Loma Linda, California. The short video featured footage from the Institute’s European Alps Field Conference for GC officials, as well as brief interviews from GRI Director James Gibson and GC President Ted Wilson, among others. Lamoreaux encouraged the audience to utilize the information on the GRI’s website to learn more about the world around us.
Lamoreaux then brought her department staff on stage, and introduced each of them along with their IT roles at the GC. Lastly, she revealed a brand new tool (launched this week) for Adventist data centers across the world: the Adventist Cloud. She also reminded the audience about another tool called netAdventist that makes it easy for local churches to create and manage their websites.
Mabio Coelho, the chief information security officer for the GC, took the stage next to speak on the topic of “security and mission.” Coelho said it used to be that our missionaries were welcomed with open arms across the world, but now they are going to places where they are not welcome. So, we have the responsibility to keep them safe as they do the Lord’s work. “Adventism is a movement,” he stated, and we should be dedicated to keeping the people at the forefront of that movement safe.
Next, Williams Costa announced the creation of Adventist Communication Training (ACT), an online Adventist educational tool to help facilitate marketing skills. Costa’s mother joined him on stage. She’s an attendee at the GAiN Conference, and as Costa explained, even at 84 years old she is dedicated to learning, as we all should be.
Rafael Rossi, the communication director for the South American Division presented a new platform for Adventist videos called “Feliz 7 Play” that premiered on July 7, 2017. Rossi asked, “Are we creating content for the new generations? Are we connecting with this generation of millennials?” The Feliz 7 Play platform aims to do just that. Rossi said people often ask if it’s just an Adventist Netflix, but though there are similarities, there’s so much more to it than that. The content offered is specifically designed to give millennials (and others) movies and series that are Sabbath-appropriate. It’s available both as an app and online, in Portuguese and Spanish.
Next up was lunch, and so we made our way to the UNASP cafeteria. We found out on Tuesday that the majority of the food served in the cafeteria is grown right here on campus.
At the afternoon session, it was announced that the 2018 GAiN Conference will be held in Guyong, South Korea. Next year’s GAiN meeting will coincide with the North Asia Pacific Division’s International Mission Congress, and attendees were invited to attend both: GAiN during the day and worship services at the International Mission Congress in the evenings.
Greg and Amy Whitsett, who also presented on Tuesday, took to the stage again for the first presentation of the afternoon. They discussed how to measure success in Adventist mission using illustrations and stories from their experience with the Global Mission Center for East Asian Religions. “Our task in ministry is to sponsor God’s ministry and allow Him to step into their lives…our goal in ministry is to host a meeting between God and people,” said Amy.
Greg reminded, “We have to communicate the gospel at the appropriate level for the people we are trying to reach.” Amy continued, “When you’re sharing the gospel for people from a different worldview, you don’t share everything; you share what’s appropriate for their level. After they’ve shown an interest in the gospel, then teach them the doctrines.”
The next presentation was by Ricardo Viana, a Seventh-day Adventist Brazilian who works in software development for American Airlines. He discussed using the Agile Methodology for developing web applications. When developing software, individuals need to have both technical excellence and high communication skills, stated Viana. “The software design of today needs to put people first. Programmers should be specialists in interacting with people,” he explained while leading the audience through a brief overview of Agile.
Just as on Tuesday, project slams occurred during the morning and afternoon sessions. Each project slammer gets seven minutes to get the word out about their video, app, event, or conference. A large monitor set next to the stage displays a countdown timer for the presenter and changes to red when there’s less than a minute left. Today we learned about AFM Brazil and short online videos being developed by the West-Central Africa Division. There was also a short video and presentation from ADRA Brasil. Unfortunately, the Adventist Translator app crashed so I can’t tell you what was said. It looked like a lovely, appropriately somber video though.
Technology issues have sporadically plagued the conference. After the project slams, we learned that for those of us relying on the provided transportation to get back to the airport next week, we will have to re-enter our information via a Google form. Apparently, pickup information was lost for 40% of attendees when we entered it upon registering weeks ago. We’re informed that we must enter our information before the afternoon presentations end, or we won’t have a ride to the airport. Frantic typing ensued, and the Google form crashed for some of us from so many people visiting the link at once, not wanting to find themselves stuck in a foreign country when the conference ends.
After this startling reminder that technology is a temperamental beast, we got to hear from James Poulter, a senior manager in the social media team for The Lego Group (as in the company that makes the little building blocks, Legos). His topic was “The Future of Connecting.” He began with a fun anecdote about his toddler daughter who enjoys hacking his electronic devices.
The premise of his discussion is that as technology continues to advance, we need to be more concerned with “artificial empathy” rather than “artificial intelligence.” “We have an empathy problem,” Poulter said, discussing how we often act without empathy when interacting with others online. We say things to someone over the internet that we most likely would never say face-to-face and this needs to change so we can have a more positive future.
Poulter believes the key to increasing empathy is playing in our real lives more. This seems a particularly important belief for someone who works with Legos for a living. Play creates social interactions that lead to happier, more satisfied lives. This is vital when the key killer of American men in their 20s and 30s is suicide, Poulter explained. The road map to the future, as Poulter sees it, is more play which increases our social experiences, and as a result, unlocks greater empathy for our fellow human beings. The presentation wouldn’t be complete without a plug for Lego Life, which is a new social network for kids where they can share their Lego creations.
After a break, the afternoon program resumed with a presentation from Martin Kuhn from UNASP about the new long distance education program. Beginning in February 2018, UNASP will offer six undergraduate distance learning majors. 121 branches will be set up throughout Brazil to serve a two-fold purpose: as a physical site for distance learning students to take exams and as a meeting hub for once-a-month, face-to-face group projects.
Deborah Bonazzi presented next on the “Conscious Use of Technology.” Bonazzi is head of industry – Media and Entertainment for Google Brazil. She discussed the “Fear of Missing Out,” which is becoming a problem in our society. We’re so connected to technology that we fear missing the latest Instagram photo, news article, or instant message. Additionally, we live in an age where we expect more from technology than we do from our fellow human beings.
“We’ve gotten to the place where being bored is unacceptable to us,” said Bonazzi. She told the audience about a movement that’s been happening over recent years among Christians and non-Christians alike called a “Digital Sabbath” – taking a break from technology for an entire day or even lengthier periods of time. Bonazzi asked the audience to think about this idea in relation to our actual Sabbath. As Adventists, we’re more likely than others to already have a “Digital Sabbath” where we turn off the TV and other electronic devices on Friday evening. But is having our digital Sabbath on our actual Sabbath actually helpful to our children who value their technology over the Sabbath? Bonazzi asked us to think seriously about that. Perhaps technology is actually an effective tool for reaching children on Sabbath.
Bonazzi ended with three ideas for attendees: 1. be 100% present when communicating with other people. 2. Have a digital Sabbath for yourself. It may not look the same for everyone. It may not be on the Sabbath Day. Your family might take a digital Sabbath on holidays or on weekends or when on vacation. Just remember it’s important to set aside time to reflect without technology. 3. Remember that you have control over your use of technology. Don’t use it if you don’t need it.
The last presentation before supper was by Dan Weber, the communication director for the North American Division, and my new friend from our four-hour bus ride on Tuesday. His presentation was about the Sonscreen Film Festival. Weber related a story of a reporter who once asked him, “Why do you do Sonscreen?” He replied, “Because it’s important to the young people in our church, and the young people in our church are important to us.”
The festival provides young Adventists with a blank canvas to express their artistic talent, Weber added. There are four categories in Sonscreen: Animation, Documentary, Drama, and Comedy. GAiN attendees then got to watch some of the winning films from 2016 and 2017:
Nameless by Jason Dull from Southern Adventist University (Animation Winner, 2016)
Capture by Jonathan Butler and Brady Griffin from Southern Adventist University (Comedy Winner, 2017)
Foreign Native by Danae Keisz, Madi Villa, Kiana Gurley, and Heidi Ramirez from Andrews University (Audience Choice Winner, 2017)
The next Sonscreen Film Festival will be April 5-8, 2018, at the new NAD headquarters in Maryland.
After supper, attendees welcomed the Sabbath with vespers. Erton Kohler, president of the South American Division, gave the worship thought. The church amphitheater was packed to standing room only between the GAiN attendees and students present.
I will be reporting on each day’s events for Spectrum. You can also follow live updates on our Twitter feed at @spectrummag. The official hashtag for the conference is #GAiN17
Alisa Williams is managing editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.
Image Credit: gain.adventist.org
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