Over 150 members and friends of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cyprus gathered end of October to celebrate the centenary of the arrival of Adventism on the eastern Mediterranean island.
The first Adventists, Moses Boursalian and his family, came to Cyprus as refugees from Antioch in 1912 as tentmaker-style missionaries. Moses was not the typical missionary, he sold homemade combs, travelling by donkey from village to village telling people about his beliefs along the way. Moses’ son, John, became the first Adventist literature evangelist on the island several years later. By 1930 a small group of 30 people worshipped together in Nicosia each Sabbath, the biblical day of rest. It was not until 1932 that the first official workers came to the island, a retired Canadian Pastor Robert Graves and his wife. They have spent many years working in Greece and Turkey, retired in Cyprus and worked as pioneer missionaries.
In 1964 J. Sherwood Jones was appointed president of the Adventist Church in Cyprus, after years of the church being administered from Beirut (Lebanon). Soon afterward Cypriot and grandson of Moses Boursalian, Moses Elmadjian, was appointed secretary-treasurer of the mission.
The current Church president, Branislav Mirolov, was joined by the current pastor, Bible worker, and two past pastors in sharing stories of God working in the more recent past. The future looks exciting with lots to thank God for. A plot of land has been bought in the center of Nicosia. The church is experiencing growth, with 14 baptisms between June and November 2013. A Pathfinder club has recently been established together with ministries for students and different national groups on the islands.
At the centenary celebration stories of God’s leading and guidance were shared by Moses Elmadjian the oldest member and grandson of the first Moses on the island. He enthralled the children, old and young, by showing one of the combs his grandfather made from camel bone. Some of his earliest memories were going to the Graves’ home as a small boy. He says, “It was like experiencing a bit of heaven. The atmosphere was something special.”
The Seventh-day Adventist Church still struggles to gain a foothold in Cyprus. The majority of Adventists in Cyprus are foreigners, whose jobs have brought them to the island. Almost all Greek Cypriots are members of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Cyprus, whereas most Turkish Cypriots are adherents of Sunni Islam.
According to the 2001 census carried out in the Republic of Cyprus area, 94.8% of the population are Christian Orthodox, 0.9% Armenians and Maronites, 1.5% Roman Catholics, 1.0% Anglicans, and 0.6% Muslims. The remaining 1.3% adhere to other religious denominations, including Adventists, or did not state their religion. After the Turkish invasion in 1974, Northern Cyprus is considered by the international community as occupied territory of the Republic of Cyprus. In 1983 North Cyprus proclaimed a self declared state, called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is until today only recognised by Turkey.