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Sabbath School Helps

for Sabbath 15 October, 2011

Here is a remarkable story that appeared in a Moscow newspaper. I have tried to edit it to make it shorter. It is a remarkable story of the influence of the Holy Spirit in a life. I would really recommend reading it.

A Stabilization Fund Built on Hard Work and Faith

13 October 2011

By Andrew McChesney

Alexei Kudrin's ouster as finance minister left a big hole in the leadership of the Finance M Ministry.
But Kudrin isn't the only senior official whom the ministry has lost in recent weeks. A 37year-old deputy finance minister viewed as one of Russia's top macroeconomists died of cancer less than a month before Kudrin l left. Oksana Sergiyenko, who played a key but little-noticed role in the 2004 creation of the federal stabilization fund, showed a rare talent for numbers and was motivated by a Protestant faith in God a rare combination that drew hostility in some circles and unsubstantiated allegations that she was on the payroll of U.S. intelligence. U Kudrin fired by President Dmitry Medvedev on Sept. 26 amid differences over government spending will perhaps be best remembered for his bulldog determination to put revenues from high oil prices in the 2000s into the stabilization fund.But the person responsible for drafting t the fund's paperwork was Sergiyenko. f "She was one of the main drivers of the stabilization fund," said Valentina Boitsova, a senior economist and department deputy head with the Finance Ministry, who worked closely with Sergiyenko. "She prepared all the paperwork." p Sergiyenko's brother, Alexei, said his sister believed passionately in the fund and worked night

and day for weeks on its creation.She prepared all the documents that I remember clearly," said i Alexei Sergiyenko, a financial markets analyst with Sberbank. "Around seven years ago she wrote a complete defense for the creation of the fund why the stabilization fund was needed and how it was going to be spent." b Remarkably, Oksana Sergiyenko found inspiration to help create the fund in the biblical story of Joseph, who as the interpreter of Pharaoh's dreams came up with the idea to store windfall grain for an unforeseen lean period, her brother said. a Sure enough, Russia's lean times arrived with the 2008 recession. Suddenly everyone in the government including populists who had ridiculed Kudrin for not spending the money as it flowed in rejoiced that more than $200 billion had been stashed away. Kudrin received praise from government officials around the world for his farsightedness. Scarcely a word was uttered about Sergiyenko's role and apparently she liked it that way. a "She never wanted praise. She only wanted to make things easier for Kudrin and the other leaders," said her mother, Larisa Sergiyenko, a retired economist. r B But Oksana Sergiyenko wasn't always like that. Born on March 19, 1974, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Sergiyenko grew up a proud and ambitious child who was always reading, her mother said. Her grade-school teachers in Tashkent, where she later moved with her mother and younger brother, Alexei, were so impressed with her grasp of her studies that they asked her to teach for them sometimes, she said. t "She didn't have a childhood," her mother said. "I had a childhood. Alexei had a childhood. But she only studied and studied and studied. I would ask her, 'Oksana, what's the point?'" p Sergiyenko, an avowed atheist, had one goal: to be first, as she acknowledged in subsequent i interviews.After graduating with a degree in economics from the Tashkent Institute of Architecture and Civil Engineering in 1996, she set her sights on Moscow. M Sergiyenko and her brother arrived with no money or place to stay. They first lived in a room of a friend's apartment and later moved into a dormitory while Sergiyenko completed graduate work in economics at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations with the Russian Academy of Sciences. S Times were tough. Alexei Sergiyenko recalled how they sometimes lived for a week on a single loaf of bread. Some days they ate nothing. It was during that year the most difficult and miserable in her life, her brother said that Oksana Sergiyenko desperately turned to God. G Oksana Sergiyenko explained in a January 2010 interview that she began reading the Bible that year and found exactly what she needed within its pages: "the secret to happiness." h "When I met God, He showed me a completely different way of life," Sergiyenko said in the interview with 3ABN Russia, a Seventh-day Adventist television channel. "He said it is better to give than to receive. When I began to give rather than to receive, I began to receive i incomparable blessings." One of those "blessings," her brother said, was in finding work. Determined to find a job that wasn't routine, Sergiyenko called the three government agencies where she felt that she could best put her skills to use: the Central Bank, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry and the Finance Ministry, he said. The Finance Ministry invited Sergiyenko to come in for an interview and offered

her an entry-level job with a salary of $100 a month in 1999. 1 But Sergiyenko didn't care about the money an outlook, her brother said, that kept her from taking bribes and engaging in other forms of corruption. In fact, if money was a factor, she could have easily secured a well-paid job as an economist at a private bank, he said. Sergiyenko quickly rose through the ranks. It seemed to her mother that she slept only two or three hours a night. n The awards began to flow in as Sergiyenko, who never married, sought to modernize the country's financial strategies. Her mother speaking in an interview in the Moscow apartment where she recently moved after being asked to vacate the government dacha that her daughter had shared with her showed a reporter a collection of framed letters of appreciation from Vladimir Putin and Kudrin and a letter signed by Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev recognizing Sergiyenko's contribution to national security. In 2007, then-President Putin decorated Sergiyenko with the Medal of the Order for Service to the Fatherland, second rank. t Putin promoted her on Sept. 25, 2008, to the post of deputy finance minister, responsible for drafting the state's long-term fiscal policy and comprehensive macroeconomic models. c Sergiyenko also practiced her faith at her workplace an overlap that stirred animosity in a country where the Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant religion and Protestants are often denounced as members of a sect. Sergiyenko chose the Adventists over Orthodoxy based on her reading of the Bible, deciding that their observance of a Friday-to-Saturday Sabbath was more faithful to the 10 commandments, and they put a higher priority on biblical teachings than church traditions, her brother said. b Last year, the Vek newspaper published an article titled "A Preacher for Kudrin" that, citing unidentified ministry sources, accused Sergiyenko of spending more time promoting God than engaging in government work. "According to sources in the Finance Ministry, prayers, religious g seminars and Bible studies are held weekly in Sergiyenko's office," said the report, published on Jan. 19, 2010. J "In the breaks between these activities, if there is time, the ministry officials work on budget p planning," it said. Sergiyenko did gather a group once a week in her office an activity that she publicized within the ministry and elsewhere. But she denied the other Vek allegations and insisted that she had not violated the law. l Indeed, the Vek report conceded that the Constitution and other laws guarantee the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion. The report instead questioned Sergiyenko's priorities at work and whether she was an influence for good in the country. t There is no law in Russia that forbids discussing religious beliefs at the workplace, although State Duma deputies this year reviewed legislation at the committee level that would restrict proselytizing in and out of the workplace. Media outlets, meanwhile, republished the damaging Vek article, and several Duma deputies asked the Prosecutor General's Office to open an inquiry.Prosecutors ultimately cleared i Sergiyenko of wrongdoing. w

Sergiyenko passed away on Aug. 30. A The Finance Ministry praised Sergiyenko as "one of the top macroeconomists in the country" in a b brief statement announcing her death. "It's hard to believe that she's gone," the statement said. "There was no kinder, more charming and more talented leader than her."

Wouldnt this be a great problem for us to face: having to reorganise because of growth in membership.
New administrative region in Brazil recognizes growth, financial independence
Region home to almost 340,000 Adventists
12 Oct 2011, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN

Top Seventh-day Adventist world church leadership today voted to split the Northeast Brazil Union Mission into two administrative bodies -- the Northeast Brazil Union Mission and East Brazil Union Mission.

A PowerPoint graphic shows the Southeast Brazil Union Conference. Church leaders renamed the union today when they split another union in two, creating a similarly named church region. The new union demonstrates church growth and financial stability in Brazil, church leaders said. [photo: Ansel Oliver]

The move recognizes burgeoning membership and impeccable handling of finances in the region, church leaders said. It comes on the heels of a similar realignment of the church's administrative structure in Brazil last year. The former Northeast Brazil Union Mission is home to almost 340,000 Adventists and a growing network of churches and church-run schools. Membership there has more than doubled since the union was established in 1996. As of July this year, the church in the region welcomed more than 20,000 new believers, or about 3,000 accessions per month. "This region for us has a strong potential for growth," said South American Division President Erton Kohler. "The people there are very receptive. We believe that a new union there can give strong

support to our church in the region and help fulfill the mission."

The newly formed Northeast and East Brazil union missions will each begin in 2013 with more than 100 percent of ideal working capital, said world church Undertreasurer Juan Prestol. Neither region is saddled with debt, he added, and both are in "exceptional" financial condition. The Adventist Church in Brazil has undergone numerous administrative realignments since it was organized in the country in 1895. Church leadership regularly reorganize church administrative structure to accommodate membership growth. Most recently, delegates at last year's General Conference Session voted to recognize the split of the former North Brazil Union Mission into two entities, creating the Northwest Brazil Union Mission. "We praise the Lord for the dynamic growth in South America and especially in this region of Brazil," world church President Ted N. C. Wilson told Annual Council delegates. Also today, church leaders voted to rename the current East Brazil Union Conference. To avoid confusion with the newly formed East Brazil Union Mission, the region is now called the Southeast Brazil Union Conference.

Thoughts on the Lesson

In Galatians, we have Pauls answer to accusations and trouble being put about by certain unnamed troublemakers. From what Paul says we can develop an idea of what they were saying but we must remember that such an approach is not foolproof. The same answer can be a response to many different questions. In maths, 8 is the answer to 5+3, 6+2, 11-3, etc. As we study Gal 2:1-14 we see a continuation of Pauls defence of his ministry from chapter 1. Paul identifies the Gospel he preached as coming from Jesus rather than being something he acquired from other men: Gal 1:11&12 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. He further develops the idea that he was not dependant on those in Jerusalem for what he taught. Gal 1:15-17 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. He continues to emphasize this for the rest of the chapter. In chapter 2, he opens by continuing this theme. Gal 2:1&2 Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain.

For fourteen years he had been preaching his message, then he went to Jerusalem and presented it privately to the leaders there. The last part of this text is interesting: for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. This suggests that he was placing it before them to make sure he was on the right track and not leading others or himself astray. In the next few verses, he indicates that some people had been making rather unkind accusations on this very point. And what was the response of the brethren? Did they pull him into line for false teachings? Gal 2:7&8 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. This line of argument does not make his agreement with the leaders in Jerusalem the main point. While it does make that point, it tends to stress that Paul arrived at what he was teaching quite independently of them. If Paul was trying to emphasise that he was in agreement with the Jerusalem leaders it was a strange way to go about it. It seems to me to be emphasising his lack of dependence of them in developing the message he preached even though they were in agreement. If this was after the decision in Jerusalem, these people may have been upset with that decision. Acts 15:19-21 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." Pauls preaching was in accordance with this decision, even if it predated it. For those who would oppose the decision, it would seem that James and the others had apostatised and they would portray Paul as the mouthpiece of a corrupted Jerusalem. In answer to an accusation like this, Paul would establish the legitimacy of that message by showing that he originally received the Gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ and it was in agreement with the decision of a council of leaders in Jerusalem. Why am I suggesting this possibility? Because I have seen the same thing myself. When a person holds an extreme position, those who dont hold such an extreme position are often seen as compromisers and apostates who have sold-out the truth to court popularity. Most writers believe that the events described in Galatians were before the council of Acts 15. If that is the case, the hearty endorsement by James, Peter, etc would show that they held the views expressed in Acts 15 before that event and were already likely to be branded as compromisers by the ultra-conservatives. This would suggest that Pauls critics were either not from Jerusalem or, if from there, were aggrieved by what happened there. Because their message contained Hellenistic elements (see where Paul answers them in Gal 4:9), the former would be more likely. I looked up commentary on the net that statement in Acts: For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." Of course, many say that it is saying that the Law in Moses does not need to be observed any more but that does not make sense. The points James makes all have points of reference in the pagan religions such Gentiles would be coming from and so would lead to a clean break with paganism. However to limit their Christianity to that would be rather strange. I suspect that those commentators have in mind the Sabbath, diet, and things like that when they want to see them doing away with the Law in Moses. However, that same argument was used to oppose practicing hygiene until a century or two ago. They seem to ignore that in Moses we find such laws as:

Exodus 20:2&3 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,

out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before Me. To-day we would say that is obvious without being stated, but to pagans coming from a polytheistic background where adding another god was a common practice, I would say it was not all that obvious and needed to be included. Looking at it in that context, I cant see James making their point at all. It would seem that the opposite is more likely the case.

The issue mentioned by Paul, circumcision, seems to have become a major issue though this may be symbolic of the whole greater issue. The issue is not whether it is right or wrong in itself, for example, the WHO to-day recommends it for health reasons in countries and regions with heterosexual epidemics, and high HIV. The issue was whether it and other aspects of the Law were necessary to ensure salvation. One could always ask what additional matters we see to-day touted as necessary additions for salvation. I can name a couple that I have heard but naturally am not game to identify them. Mention is made of the problem of division in the Church that this caused. Consider in your class just what the problem was with this. 1Peter 5:8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Mark 16:15 And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Its all a matter of priority. These two verses begin to define the nature of the task before the early Church. There is a saying in politics that disunity is death and in the face of the Enemy and the task set before them, it was true of the early Church. There was a world to win and a Devil to be fought. Diverting energy to fight among themselves was something they could not afford but to ignore the situation Paul described was something they could also not afford. Gal 2:4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. The statement of Jesus about a house divided does not just apply to the Devil. MarK 3:24&25 "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. "If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. The need for unity is not just because we dont like dissension. Nehemiahs excuse to Sanballat and Geshem really puts the abruptness of Pauls response into context. He breaks with the approved format of letters to launch straight into the heart of the contentious matter in verse 6 of chapter 1. Nehemiah said: Neh 6:3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" Shabbat shalom for the 15st. Rob Randall