Micro-charities: Challenging the Paradigm of Adventist Mission

Speaker: Categories: Nov 09, 1996


This lecture has only 1 CD/MP3

[1hr, 15min, 17sec]


This writer recalls a camp meeting at which a native from a mission land was one of the featured attractions. He wore a white shirt and necktie along with a skirt-like wraparound and walked barefoot. He spoke a modified version of English. This trophy added excitement to the ten-day session, especially for those who were in the wide-eyed years of youth. But in later years questions have arisen. Was he, indeed, a trophy? What had the Adventist mission program brought to him?

As background for our November meeting, Karen Kotoske has asked: "Do you remember when every Adventist child's bedtime prayer included the request to 'please bless the missionaries'? When was the last time your church shared the pulpit with a missionary home on furlough? Does anyone still read the mission story at your Sabbath School?

Karen notes, "Awareness and notion of Adventist mission have changed in recent years. The noticeable loss of interest in international and local mission among American Adventists has come about for many reasons." Rather than seeking to investigate this phenomenon as an academic missiologist, she will share what is happening through Amistad Foundation and other small mission groups, whom she has dubbed micro-charities and interactive philanthropy. It is her conviction that such groups, "networking with the official institutional church, other micro-charities, and with other-than-Adventists will be critical factors in incarnating evangelism in the coming century."

Sound interesting? Who might become involved? She notes, "Individual Adventist Christians, particularly the young, must know they can be Christ's hands and feet. When they actualize this truth, then they can be empowered with the Holy Spirit to bring health, wholeness, freedom, and knowledge of God's saving grace to [persons] in need ... . And unless this does happen," she contends, "the American Adventist church, as we know it, may cease to exist!"

In her November presentation Karen, assisted by visual aids, will share some of what she has learned over the past sixteen years working as unofficial missioner to indigenous Indian tribes in Mexico. She will relate how, though never trained to be a missionary, she learned the how-to in situ by "living in their rock huts, sharing their tortillas, celebrating their festivals, working with their sick, traveling hours by mules, burros, trucks, and. light planes, and by working side by side with national pastors. . . ." She will describe sustainable agriculture methods, water and solar programs done by indigenous people -- not American volunteers -- and alcohol recovery programs for street drunks, not the high class types often treated by our Adventist health centers. And through these avenues, she will focus on how Amistad Foundation has been able to incarnate the gospel in at least one location of the world field.


Karen Kotoske is the founder and executive director of Amistad, a public charitable foundation based in Palo Alto, California. She observes that Amistad is one of several Adventist-friendly micro-charities that have been causing a quiet revolution in Adventist mission. Working in Mexico with campesino lay workers and church employees along with other sponsoring mission groups, Amistad has become a small, effective, efficient mission machine taking the gospel to Mexico's indigenous peoples in fresh new ways.

A Mexican Seventh-day Adventist Conference president recently said of Karen, "I don’t think [she] will want to go to heaven if there aren't any Indians there." She accepts that as a statement which more or less sums up her life.

A 1967 graduate of Loma Linda University School of Dental Hygiene, Karen practices dental hygiene in Palo Alto, California. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Palo Alto's Urban Ministry, an ecumenical outreach to Bay Area homeless and poor. In addition to serving on other mission boards, she is also a member of the newly formed advisory board of the Stahl Center for World Service.

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