North American Division News
More than 1,200 youth and young adults in the United States’ fourth largest city rallied together to give testimonies of how their Pathfinder clubs and youth groups spread the love of Christ on Global Youth Day. The annual initiative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Youth Ministries encourages youth and young adults around the world to “Be the Sermon” in their communities by being the hands and feet of Jesus.
The youth rally took place on the afternoon of March 16 at the World Harvest Outreach Seventh-day Adventist Church in Houston, Texas. Youth from congregations belonging to the Texas Conference and Southwest Regional Conference shared stories from their outings earlier that the day.
“It was great to bring together youth from Spanish-speaking churches and English-speaking churches for this effort. It captured the whole essence of the Church,” said Tyrone Douglas, youth director for the Southwest Regional Conference, who was a co-organizer of the event.
“Sometimes we operate as silos with our different conferences, but our unity that day allowed us to be focused on mission in a special way.”
The youth shared their reports from visiting fire stations, police stations, and hospitals to pray for the first responders, policer officers, nurses, and doctors.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to visit patients in hospitals, so we told them to focus on praying for the nurses and doctors. The goal was to let them know that we appreciate their work,” said Miguel Ramos, coordinator for “Houston Adventist Youth” for the Texas Conference, who was another co-organizer of the Youth Rally. “Other groups did the same at fire and police stations. The groups also sang to spread happiness. Some firefighters said it’s not every day that people come to say, ‘Thank you.’”
Other groups visited nursing homes, cleaned up public parks, fed the homeless, distributed free water, and volunteered at the Houston Food Bank.
“This inspired them to become more involved on a more consistent basis. They were moved by the impact they were able to make and were surprised by how much people were appreciative,” said Douglas.
Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division, was the featured speaker for the rally.
“I want to congratulate you and praise God for what you’ve done today,” said Jackson. “Praise God for Houston youth.”
Jackson’s message centered on the story of Debra, which is found in Judges 4 and 5 in the Bible. Debra was one of Israel’s judges. Under her leadership, Israelites were liberated from a 20-year oppression.
“What did Debra do that made her place in history so wonderful,” asked Jackson. “She took the oppression of her people personally; she prayed about it; and then she did something about it. You can make a difference in your world. All you have to do is be willing.”
“The Bible does not include these stories just so we can read them, what God says to you and me in these stories is, ‘I can do the same for you.’”
Keith Goodman, pastor of World Harvest Outreach, said while he was not able to witness the youth in action before the rally, he was impressed by the energy that was sustained after the projects were complete.
“People often use the term ‘disinterested benevolence’ to describe the actions of youth, but we saw the opposite on that day. It was wonderful to see young people who were thinking about others,” said Goodman. “It was a great event that highlighted them extending themselves to other people without looking for something in return.”
The theme for 2019 Global Youth Day was “Adopt.” The message behind the theme was since we’ve been adopted by God we should extend his love to others. Members worldwide used the hashtag #GYD19 on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to share their outreach projects in real time. In addition, a broadcast was streamed for more than 24 hours from the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s headquarters that delivered reports from the Church’s divisions around the world.
The director and associate director of NAD Youth Ministries Tracy Wood and Vandeon Griffin hosted an hour of the live broadcast that focused on the projects that were undergoing in the division’s territory. They were also joined by youth groups within the Columbia Union who had just completed ministering in nursing homes and to the homeless.
“What makes this so special is the potential to do this on a regular basis,” said Wood. “We now have the potential to reach our friends who might not come with us to church on Sabbath morning, but they might join us in a park on a Sabbath afternoon as we [serve] together. We have a lot of friends who would rather 'Be the Sermon' than hear a sermon any day.”
Griffin echoed the sentiment by challenging the viewers to continue the spirit of service every month and beyond.
“We have committed that this is not just an event, this is a lifestyle,” said Griffin. “’Be the Sermon’ is a reminder that we are the church. The church is not just brick and mortar, it’s us. Christ has called us to be in a blessing to those who stand in need.”mylonmedley Fri, 03/22/2019 - 15:11
The first-ever Rise Up Against Abuse Rally was held on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, from March 7-10, 2019. Sponsored by the Offices of University Health & Wellness and Diversity & Inclusion, this rally was the official launch of the new Rise Up Against Abuse initiative, designed to help people use awareness, education, intervention, and prevention to take decisive actions against all forms of abuse.
More than 225 people registered for the three-day rally, which featured numerous abuse survivors, advocates, and inspirational presenters, including two-time Grammy nominee Sarah Kelly and Emmy-winning writer and filmmaker Chris Silber.
The rally began Thursday, March 7, at University Forum in the Howard Performing Arts Center with Sarah Kelly. Kelly sang “Take Me Away” and shared part of her story as an abuse survivor, detailing how she had poured herself into her music as a way of trying to stay safe and away from her abusive pastor husband. “Just like Paul and Silas I was in my prison, and I was choosing to worship God. I stood in the center of all the abuse and I chose to worship God,” she explained.
Following Kelly’s presentation and mini-concert, attendees were invited to visit the Solidarity Wall, a temporary wall erected outside of the campus center for people to write messages of empowerment and support. Those who walked past the wall were each given a letter and a chance to take a marker and add their own message of encouragement.
On Thursday evening, a photo exhibition premiere and reception were held for “Unredacted,” a violence against women photo exhibition created by Clarissa Carbungco, senior photography major at Andrews University. The exhibition remained open throughout the rally.
The rally continued Friday, March 8, International Women’s Day, with a number of presentations. Jennifer J. Schwirzer, a private counselor, writer, TV program host, and presenter from Orlando, Florida, began with “Why Should We Rise Up?” Her topic mirrored the goals of the overall rally — to educate, listen, prevent, and confront. Toward the end of her presentation she spoke about the power of multiplication, which is the power of both ministering to victims and equipping them to rise up.
Sarah McDugal, Andrews alumna, author, speaker, and co-founder of Bucket Brigade Against Abuse and WILD (Women in Leadership Development), stressed the importance of being equipped with knowledge and truth in her presentation “Truths About Abusers.” She emphasized that abuse is not a set of isolated mistakes but rather a systemic pattern of beliefs and actions. “You can believe some of what they say and everything they do,” she stated.
The Psalm 82 Initiative, a ministry team helping churches identify and deal with abuse for more than 15 years, shared about patterns of abuse. The goal was to equip people to recognize abuse patterns and offer help. Judith Fisher, director of the Counseling & Testing Center at Andrews University, and Nicole Parker, bestselling children’s author and biblical counselor, talked about recognizing abuse, focusing specifically on emotional and sexual abuse. Following their presentation, Tanya Asim-Cooper, director of the Restoration and Justice Clinic and assistant clinical professor of law at the Pepperdine School of Law, used true stories and statistics to address interpretations of the Christian Bible as it applies to intimate partner violence (IPV). The Psalm 82 Initiative closed with a final segment about identifying and addressing abuse in religious contexts.
On Friday evening, at Proximity Vespers in Pioneer Memorial Church, Kelly performed and also shared more of her story. She invited the audience to understand the power of worship and how it can help someone going through the pain of abuse. “Worship is an awesome place to find the rest of your life,” she said.
After a moving song service, Latoya Wright, an M.Div. student at the seminary, read the story of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 and discussed how the ugliness of that story still happens today. She told her story of being a victim of sexual abuse and how that impacted her life for years. In her poignant testimony, Wright explained what she calls “the power of the ugly,” stating, “When God’s power overrides the ugly, that’s when it becomes the power of the ugly.” She implored the audience to let God take the ugly out of their lives and to let Him write their stories.
On Saturday morning, McDugal spoke at One Place in Newbold Auditorium while Ty Gibson spoke at Pioneer Memorial Church. On Saturday afternoon, Ty Gibson and Tacyana Nixon, assistant to the vice president for Campus & Student Life at Andrews University, hosted a discussion panel in the PMC Youth Chapel. Part 1 of the panel dealt with questions and concerns related to the church’s involvement with abuse. Part 2 addressed the effects of abuse. Some of the questions raised included how to talk to children about abuse and how to minimize their chances of being abused.
When the discussion panels concluded, Chris Silber and Mekayla Eppers, Mrs. America 2018, spoke of their experiences as survivors of childhood sexual abuse by family friends. They stressed how important it is for children to recognize what abuse is and how adults need to believe children if they say they’ve been abused.
The rally continued Sunday morning with an “Emancipating Survivors” workshop designed only for survivors of abuse and their supporters. Afterward, there was an “Equipping Defenders” workshop for any attendee interested in learning more about how to identify perpetrators, handle criminal abuse, and serve as a defender and healer for abuse victims.
Later, Scott Ward, assistant professor of discipleship and religious education at the Seminary, shared how he survived abuse by diving deeper into a relationship with Jesus. His seminar focused on how to apply Scripture narratives to the negative experiences and how journaling and worship can draw people closer to God.
The rally officially ended with a workshop titled “Preventing LGBT+ Abuse: From Them vs. Us to Us with Them.” Presenters led an interactive discussion about how to have relational conversations that are helpful to families, churches, and schools.
One attendee noted how she came to attend the rally. “I heard about the event from Sarah McDugal. The day I called the national domestic abuse hotline and asked about my personal situation, a friend of mine connected me to Sarah. She started talking to me about how to build a safety plan, and I left the very next day."
The attendee continued, "I heard some things that were really surprising to me about healthy relationships and how mine was so very different than what apparently is normal. ... It’s really easy to feel confused about what happened and to doubt your own reality and so to get delineation on what is abusive was really helpful to me.”
Another attendee and Andrews alumna, Margaret Michel, works in hospital chaplaincy and with those on hospice. At her job she has been exposed to numerous abuse victims. In fact, she recalls having to learn the statistics of what percentage of women who came to the emergency room were abused. “Much of what they are saying are things that I have seen as I’ve interacted with people, and I’m glad that at this point, the church is saying these things here on campus,” she explained. For her, events like this are crucial for raising more awareness about the prevalence of abuse, and she hopes that the university continues to hold more events like this in the future.
Dominique Gummelt, director for University Health & Wellness and creator and co-founder of the initiative (along with Michael Nixon, vice president for Diversity & Inclusion), was thrilled with the success of the rally. She said, “People were empowered through knowledge and education, and they were comforted by hugs, prayers and words of encouragement.”
— Hannah Gallant is University Communication student writer; with contributions from Nehemiah Sitler and Laura Fierce.kmaran Wed, 03/20/2019 - 17:29
Jerry D. Thomas, writer of nearly 60 books for children and adults, passed away on Friday, March 15, 2019, from complications from a blood clot. His works include the best sellers Messiah, Blessings, and A Thoughtful Hour. Thomas also wrote and created popular series such as Detective Zack, Great Stories for Kids, and Shoebox Kids. He was 59.
“His ability to convey spiritual topics in precise, easy-to-understand language touched many lives,” said Miguel Valdivia, vice president of Product Development for Pacific Press Publishing Association in Idaho.
Before coming to Pacific Press, Thomas served as a Bible teacher at Highland View Academy in Hagerstown, Maryland. Colleagues, friends, and former students have expressed sadness at his passing on social media. Many have also shared their appreciation for “PT” (Pastor Thomas) and his compassion, humor, and insightfulness during his years at HVA.
“I will always remember PT as an important part of my adolescence. He was a great teacher and a truly wonderful human being,” said HVA alumnus David Fales.
Sandra Skeggs Ringer, also a former student, said, “He was my high school class sponsor before becoming famous. I babysat his children on numerous occasions. As a parent, my children read his books and met PT at Oshkosh [Wisconsin]. As an adult, I have been blessed by his book Messiah.”
Thomas started working at Pacific Press on April 4, 1991, as an associate book editor; later on he became the editor in charge of the trade books team. During those years, Thomas developed what perhaps remains his best-known work, the Detective Zack set, an adventure mystery series for young readers that revealed Bible truth in a captivating narrative.
Thomas went on to write or develop close to 60 books, including Messiah, a paraphrase of Ellen G. White’s The Desire of Ages. Messiah was published in 2002 with the approval of the Ellen G. White Estate; it became a best-seller in various formats. More than 500,000 copies of Messiah have been sold. In total, Thomas’ books have sold more than 1.5 million copies through the years.
“Jerry touched our lives through his words and actions,” said Laura Sámano, Guide magazine managing editor, on Facebook. “He believed in the people he hired, and he supported us. He was a friend to us in his own quiet way. More than just a creative author, Jerry was a good person. He was authentic. His passing is a loss to Adventism, to the world of writing, and to the Pacific Press editorial family. I’m grateful to have worked alongside such a talented author and kindhearted servant of the Lord. I will miss him dearly.”
Thomas left Pacific Press in 2003 to work as the Communication director for the Southwestern Union Conference in Keene, Texas, where he remained until October 2008, when he was invited to come back to Pacific Press as vice president of the editorial department.
“He will be missed by his coworkers for his kindness, his unwavering support, his great talent, and his exceptional wit,” said Valdivia.
Thomas is survived by his wife, Kitty; children Jonathan, Jennifer, and Jeremy and their spouses; and four grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled for today, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. MT, at the Kuna Seventh-day Adventist Church in Idaho. Click here for a livestream of the service.
— Pacific Press Publishing Association, with the NAD Office of Communicationkmaran Wed, 03/20/2019 - 15:35
Randy Robinson Shares How He’ll Use His “Grandma and Grandpa Jones” Philosophy as NAD’s Newest TreasurerRandy Robinson Shares How He’ll Use His “Grandma and Grandpa Jones” Philosophy as NAD’s Newest Treasurer
This is the second of a six-part series that will introduce the officers and directors of the North American Division who have begun settling in to their newly elected positions.
Randy Robinson was officially voted to serve as treasurer for the North American Division on November 2 during the division’s 2018 Year-End Meeting. Robinson had previously worked as treasurer for the Southern Union for nearly 11 years.
Mylon Medley, assistant director of the NAD Office of Communication, sat down with Robinson to learn about his vision for the ministry.
What went into your consideration for this role?
I don't think it's good for me to be in a place overly long. I think it's better for myself and the organization I’m working for to make a change.
Three out of my four last moves were 10-year stints, but I hadn’t planned it that way. The one anomaly was four years. Around a decade is where things seem to want to shift. … Coincidentally, this opportunity happened around the time where it normally feels right to transition. It's worked out that way most of my career.
Did you ever think you’d end up working at the division level?
Short answer is no; but in the more recent years I thought it was more of a possibility only because union treasurers are often in the pool of people who are considered to be division treasurers.
How long have you worked for the Church?
My start at church work was bumpy at best.
Right out of college at Pacific Union College in 1983, I was hired as a business intern for the Nevada-Utah Conference. I was an Adventist and I was brought up as an Adventist. I have third and fourth generations of Adventists on both sides of my family. I'm an Adventist through and through, but I was never looking to work for the Church and I fought it for a decade. I progressed from business intern all the way to associate treasurer, but I fought it the whole way. I asked the Lord in my own private moments, "What am I doing here? Why me? Why am I in this position?”
When I was invited from that location to go to the Illinois Conference – where I served as treasurer – God finally got through and said, “This is what I want you to do for your career.”
I've been happy and fulfilled. I love what I do. But prior to that moment, it was not a comfortable process.
Why do you love what you do?
People look at treasury and say, "That's really not ministry." That's OK. I respect that perspective, but I feel very fulfilled in the fact that the decisions I make as an officer in treasury really facilitates ministry. There are decisions that I'm called to make that can financially create success or failure where ministry happens, so I have to prayerfully do that. Obviously, it's a huge responsibility for me to be making those kinds of decisions, but I feel so fulfilled when I can see where money is flowing to meet ministry need. That's just a huge thing to me. I love doing that. And I love managing the resources in as efficient of a way as I can to maximize the benefit.
How do you see your role contributing to the mission of the division?
It's a stewardship issue to me. My philosophy of ministry can be described as "Grandma and Grandpa Jones." I've tried to live by it my entire career. We have several people in the church who have a lot of resources and give millions, but that's not the bread and butter of the church. The bread and butter of the church is "Grandma and Grandpa Jones" who get their pension check of $2,500 a month and they sit down at the kitchen table and write their $250 tithe check to give to the Church. You can lose sight of that at this level of Church when you're dealing with tens and hundreds of millions of dollars if you're not intentional about it.
I try to keep "Grandma and Grandpa Jones" writing their $250 tithe check to support the church at the front of my mind as I do business and make decisions every day – decisions as little as "Do I rent a car on this trip or do I rent a car on another trip?” If I get the car, I consider getting gas at the gas station that’s five cents cheaper across the street than the station right in front of me. I think about those things because I’m thinking about "Grandma and Grandpa Jones.”
I don't apologize for promoting efficiency. It's easy to lose sight of it because we're dealing with so many dollars.
What does your family think of this move?
My wife, Denise, has always been amazingly supportive of my ministry. She doesn't work for the church, she has a professional career in health care (quality assurance), but she has always been supportive of my moving, even when she may have to quit a job where she’s worked for 10 years. I've got my infrastructure here at the division waiting for me, but she has to start over. I'm grateful for her support.
We have two adult sons. They're both grown and married, no children on either side yet. This was a lot easier because they were on their own.
You’ve been to the division’s building a few times before during your capacity as a union treasurer. What's it like to be in the building now as an employee?
I like the facility and I love the people; they're awesome, great committed people. I feel right at home.
I think it's awesome that the division now has its own space. That was a long, long time coming. Years and years ago in Oregon, I worked with a gentleman, Elder Bob Dale, who really had a lot to do with working on the process to create a separate division for North America. Now, as I reflect on the conversations I had with him 20 years ago, it is gratifying to see it come to fruition and to serve in the building as the division’s treasurer. It's really nice to see that they've made this big step.
You’re quite tall – closer to 7-feet than 6-feet – I imagine you’re often the tallest in the room, and I want to say you’re the tallest employee in the building. What’s that like?
You can deal with that one of two ways, you can either be annoyed at it, which there's plenty of opportunities for that because everyone comments, they can't help themselves; or you just go with it. It comes with the territory. I stand out, I'm different. It's OK.
What are you looking forward to in your role?
It's a new challenge. I'm learning everything, learning the people and their roles, what’s my lane versus someone else's lane. For now, my approach is “the status quo is my best friend.” This is because sometimes people think, “OK, there's a new treasurer, I can get whatever I need now because he's the new guy.” I shut that down, but not because I don't want to help. I need to lean on what has been until I get my head around it, and then I can begin to make some observations about what we need to tweak or change.
Obviously, there are decisions that need to be made immediately, I can't avoid that. But as far as reasonably possible, I’ll let it run for a bit, then I’ll really enjoy the process of fitting my philosophy into the organization.
I'm filling huge shoes in the person of Tom Evans, [my predecessor]. I have high, high respect for him. He did amazing things. He moved this organization out of the General Conference building into its own. That's him, his legacy, and those are huge shoes to fill.
My intent is not to change what Tom did. Inevitably, my personality, approach, and philosophy will come out in my leadership and that may shift the direction of the organization a little bit financially — and I hope for the better. I do that prayerfully and carefully, but I enjoy the journey of doing that.
What’s your favorite Bible verse or which passage of Scripture are you drawing from as you carry out this transition?
My wife and I, in our own devotions, are going through the gospels. We're in the latter chapters of John. In my own private devotion, I’ve decided to revisit some of the most well-known verses of Scripture, the ones you've memorized and don’t have to look up because you learned them when you were a child, like John 3:16, and Psalm 23. I revisit them to see what the Holy Spirit brings to my head as I focus on dissecting them and not just repeating from memory. That has been a huge blessing.
I actually wrote a sermon on Psalm 23 as I evaluated it again. I've recharacterized it as the psalm that describes how God surrounds us. It starts with God's leading – “The Lord is my shepherd,” “He leads me besides still waters” — then it transitions to God is with me, and beside me — “He prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies,” “He's anoints me with oil” — then it closes with He follows me — “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me.” So, He's got me surrounded. It doesn't necessarily relate to this job particularly, however, it's been a huge blessing in the last few months.
I enjoy what I do. It's fun for me. Working for the church is fun, and I never dreamed it would be. But I do it carefully and with God's input for sure. I have to, I can't do it without Him.
The first article of this series profiled Bonita J. Shields, the division’s newest director of Stewardship Ministries.mylonmedley Wed, 03/20/2019 - 13:03