A Vision and a Journey: 25 years of Dialogue

This journal’s story begins with an ambitious launch, an international perspective, and an expanding roster of authors and readers, with encouraging surprises along the way.

The 25th birthday of a journal offers the perfect occasion to celebrate and reminisce. In 1988, College and University Dialogue was born in response to a need: thousands of bright Adventist students around the world attending public institutions of higher learning risked losing their belief in God and abandoning biblical-Christian principles. There was little to help shore up their faith.

Having been such a student myself in Argentina and the U.S., and meeting with many more during my international travels, I knew those challenges well. Nurturing and challenging their minds was essential, I felt, to keep them engaged in Adventist mission, both as students, and later as professionals. Experience as vice president for editorial development at the Pacific Press Publishing Association gave me the expertise needed to plan the launch of a new journal, but the path was not smooth, and I was already committed to a significant workload.

However, with the support of the General Conference Education Department and the encouragement of two other departments, we decided to forge ahead, producing a sample issue with a survey for potential readers. The projected journal was to be the first publication from Adventist Church world headquarters to appear simultaneously in four parallel language editions: English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish. The editorial page outlined the journal’s essential goals: to help university students (1) know their faith better, (2) live their faith more consistently, and (3) share their faith more effectively. The content page outlined its structure: Essays, Profiles, Logos, Campus Life, Action Report, and For Your Information.

Next, what to name the new journal? After compiling a list, we asked for input from the recently-created Committee on Ministry to College and University Students, its regional representatives, and university students. Dr. Gordon Madgwick, executive secretary of the North American Division Board of Higher Education, recommended the name finally adopted. “If you wish to engage this special group of international readers – he observed – Dialogue should be part of the journal’s name.” Pages and cover were designed in pre-computer paste-up fashion. The 36-page College and University Dialogue 1 went to the printer in 1989 with an optimistic print order of 33,500 copies – 18,500 in English, 8,500 in Spanish, 4,000 in Portuguese, and 2,500 in French.

The survey forms soon came pouring in. We were convinced that the new journal fed an intellectual and spiritual hunger among tens of thousands of Adventist college and university students. After them came a stream of letters from engaged readers. Postmarks read Botswana, Canada, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, the U.S., and more. Our readers asked follow-up questions, took issue with authors, and added relevant observations and information.

Neidi Axford, at Clark Community College in Vancouver, Washington, U.S., thanked us for Dialogue, adding, “There’s so little published for us! We’re being forgotten and, in turn, we are forgetting the church. In future issues, please include articles written by students on how to get involved in the life of the church, how to bring Christ to our college, and how to keep Christ first in our lives when tempted by other lifestyles.” In response, during the second year of publication we added a letters section.

Another section, called “Inter-change,” became very popular. It listed the name, address, and a short biography of readers interested in corresponding with other Adventist students and professionals around the world. The growing exchange of postcards, letters, and souvenirs resulted in friendships and, in a few cases, even wedding bells. We received appreciative notes and also photos of Chilean-Norwegian, Cuban-Mexican, and Northern Brazilian-Southern Brazilian couples and some of their children! Later Dialogue issues included first-person stories, book reviews, and open forum features, rounding out a rich menu for an expanding readership.

The journal fostered the establishment of Adventist student associations in many countries, by providing guidelines and suggestions for activities as well as promoting chaplain appointments. These associations held prayer circles, hosted Bible Days, donated Adventist books to libraries, and launched service and outreach programs. In several cases, the associations were formally registered and granted privileges by public campus administrators. In Kenya, for example, Adventist students have been meeting for lively worship services on several public university campuses. In two other public universities on the African continent, authorities have donated campus land for construction of a church and service center that provides free nutrition and smoking cessation courses and tutoring. The deciding factor: a number of students and faculty members stopped smoking and were eating improved diets thanks to the student association’s outreach.

In other countries, however, the challenge of required classes and labs on Sabbath have persisted. Dialogue reported that in one Asian country, public universities required students completing dental and medical programs to attend graduation ceremonies on Sabbath to receive their diplomas. Faithful Adventist students waited six or seven years until, by God’s answer to prayer, an exception was made so they were able to receive their diplomas and begin their careers.

In a Western African nation, the regional Adventist chaplain met with the highest national education authority to intervene on behalf of students falling behind in their studies due to the requirement to attend classes and take exams on Sabbath. The chaplain brought copies of Dialogue in English and French to show that the local Adventist student associations were part of an organized international fellowship. The education minister was so impressed with the journal that he issued an official letter granting students permission to take examinations on days other than Sabbath. At the end of the interview, the minister also requested a subscription to Dialogue.

In the meantime, the international roster of Adventist professionals surviving the challenges of a secular university education has grown, as evidenced by the journal’s profile interviews and author list. With satisfaction, we have also seen Dialogue essays quoted in academic and scholarly publications.

Four persons were instrumental in helping the journal reach its cruising altitude. Gerard Latchman skillfully transitioned Dialogue editions from manual paste-up to computer design. Beverly Rumble checked the English text for accuracy and clarity of expression. Julieta Rasi finessed the four-language translation process, aided by a gifted team of contributors, and she consolidated its international printing and distribution. John Fowler brought the English editing up to a professional level.

Now that Dialogue has reached its 25th anniversary – precisely the average age of our readers – we thank God for His guidance through the years. Dialogue’s 72 issues, hundreds of articles, and nearly two million copies in four languages continue to reach out to readers around the world, helping them to know, live, and share their biblical-Christian faith ever better under God’s blessing. Those of you who would like to read some of the articles published in previous issues can enjoy them at http//:dialogue.adventist.org. May God keep a lively dialog going with a Christ-connected readership until He returns in glory!

Humberto M. Rasi (Ph.D., Stanford University) is founder and chief editor (1989-2007) of Dialogue, and former director of education, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. His e-mail: hmrasi@gmail.com.

During its 25 years of life, Dialogue's face has changed several times.