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Adventist Health Appoints New Leaders to Advance Transformative Vision Through Culture, Mission, and Consumer Health

Adventist Health Appoints New Leaders to Advance Transformative Vision Through Culture, Mission, and Consumer Health

As Adventist Health continues to advance its 2030 vision to bring health and well-being into reach for everyone, the faith-inspired health system has appointed three experienced executives to its system cabinet to focus on culture, mission, and consumer health, Adventist Health CEO Scott Reiner announced this month.

Adventist Health, the nonprofit integrated healthcare system that serves more than 80 rural and urban communities on the West Coast and in Hawaii, is transforming from a hospital-centered company to one primarily focused on health.

Joyce Newmyer

Joyce Newmyer

Joyce Newmyer, the president of Adventist Health services in Oregon, has been named chief culture officer. In her new position, Newmyer leads and supports associate and provider engagement, communications, leadership development and residencies as well as diversity, equity and inclusion. She also will continue to serve as the primary relationship leader for Adventist Health’s partnership with Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland and will continue to chair the community boards for Adventist Health services in Portland and Tillamook, Oregon, and on Oahu in Hawaii.

“Joyce’s varied experiences have prepared her to help us build an intentional and unified culture that will define what it means to be Adventist Health,” Reiner said. Newmyer brings more than 20 years of healthcare executive experience to her role, serving at organizations in California, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, and Tennessee.

Alex Bryan

Alex Bryan

Alex Bryan, who has more than 20 years of experience in pastoral ministry and higher education, has been appointed chief mission officer. Bryan leads and supports a systemwide mission team in promoting and integrating the organization’s mission of “living God’s love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope.”

“Our mission has always been important,” Reiner said. “It’s what inspires us to transform the future of healthcare and the lives of those we touch. Now, as we intentionally expand over the next decade with bold moves, it is essential to have an even wider perspective of mission.”

Jason Wells

Jason Wells

Jason Wells, the president of Adventist Health’s three hospitals and services in Mendocino County, California, has been named chief consumer and innovation officer to help realign the organization around the consumer by transforming the patient and consumer experience through improved access to care and easier processes as well as services and solutions that better address overall health and well-being. Wells will be responsible for consumer services, experience design, marketing and brand, public affairs, and strategy activation.

“Jason has demonstrated effective leadership and exceptional engagement along with an ability to mobilize stakeholders toward a common vision with bold, creative thinking,” Reiner said. “These skills will be critical in transforming Adventist Health into the innovative and consumer-focused organization we aspire to be.”

Before joining Adventist Health in 2017, Wells, who is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, served in healthcare executive and leadership roles in North Carolina and Florida.

Wells will remain in Mendocino County until a new president is identified. He will also continue to serve as chair of the community boards for Adventist Health Howard Memorial in Willits, Mendocino Coast in Fort Bragg, and Ukiah Valley.

About Adventist Health 

Adventist Health is a faith-based, nonprofit integrated health system serving more than 80 communities on the West Coast and Hawaii. Founded on Seventh-day Adventist heritage and values, Adventist Health provides care in hospitals, clinics, home care agencies, hospice agencies and joint-venture retirement centers in both rural and urban communities. Our compassionate and talented team of 37,000 includes associates, medical staff physicians, allied health professionals and volunteers driven in pursuit of one mission: living God's love by inspiring health, wholeness and hope. Together, we are transforming the American healthcare experience with an innovative, yet timeless, whole-person focus on physical, mental, spiritual and social healing.

— Christine Pickering is communication director for Adventist Health.

kmaran Wed, 09/16/2020 - 15:29

Transforming Hearts with the Arts

Transforming Hearts with the Arts
Chicago center of influence arts

Head art instructor and Epic Church member, William Jamieson (pictured right), shows a young student how to do an art project using tissue paper. Photo provided by the Lake Union Herald 

Looking to win souls for Christ through art and community service, Epic Church opened an Urban Center of Influence (UCI) on Monday, July 27, 2020, in the Wicker Park suburb of Chicago. At the core of the new center, is the Epic Art House, which is an art and cultural center that offers art classes, as well as exhibition space for local artists.

"We want to bridge the gap between the church, as we know it, and the community," said Epic Church Pastor Andres Flores. "We're in a terrible time of crisis and we want to offer a place for people to experience healing, creativity and community."

Although the art experiences may be what will bring people in, Flores says that art is merely the vehicle they are using to build a connection with camp goers and Wicker Park/Bucktown residents. Aside from the art, the center plans to be intentionally active in the community through programs such as a food distribution for the less fortunate, health clinics and educational and wellness classes.

Since opening, the center has hosted the first two of four week-long summer camp sessions and is currently finishing its third week. During these initial weeks, the Art House staff has focused on getting to know the newcomers and establishing relationships with them. According to head art instructor and Epic Church member, William Jamieson, students ranging from ages 8-12 have participated in various types of arts such as painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking, and fiber arts. Eventually, classes will be available to all ages.

“We wish to reach out to our community, to build relationships, create trust and good standing within our community, provide a variety of healthy, safe alternatives to the harm and distrust that many have experienced in the neighborhood,” Jamieson said. “Our mission ultimately is to win souls for Christ.”

Like Jamieson, Flores emphasized the idea of building relationships. He says that the idea for this type of outreach comes from the New Testament concept of emphasizing relationships that Paul was known to practice.“We want to build a relationship first with the people before we have spiritual conversations and then finally we can start the process of discipleship,” Flores said.

The Art House intends to reach additional community members by handing out ‘‘art boxes” to pedestrians walking by. Inside of each art box, pedestrians can find the instructions, tools and materials to create their own art project at home. Jamieson says that they will reconnect with those who took a box by displaying their art on both their online art gallery and the physical walls at the Epic Art House. These art boxes are just one of the many ways that Epic Church plans on connecting with the community and bringing their purpose to life.

Worldwide Church Initiative

The main purpose of a UCI is to reach those who may be reluctant to walk into a church on their own. According to the Seventh-day Adventist Church Urban Center application website, the purpose of Urban Centers of Influence is to encourage using “Christ’s method”—building relationships by recognizing a newcomer's emotional needs, in hopes of later meeting their spiritual needs. The world church allocates about one million dollars annually to help start dozens of UCI’s around the world. Based on the application information, UCI’s are meant to service urban areas where there is less than one Adventist for every 500 people.

Without a single Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wicker Park or the two surrounding neighborhoods of Logan Square and Bucktown, Wicker Park easily met the requirements to host a UCI. Wicker Park, an upbeat hipster town, is known for its food and nightlife scenes as well as vibrant art murals scattered around town. However, Jamieson and Epic Church Pastor Andres Flores both consider it one of the more secular areas in the Chicagoland area. Jamieson gave some insight into one of the challenges they will face serving the Wicker Park Area.

“Most (Millennials) that I have met are quite cynical of organized religion in their world view,” said Jamieson. “This can be quite difficult to minister and share the gospel with young people with these attitudes.”

According to Statistical Atlas, Millennials alone represent around half of the Wicker Park population. Although ministering to this population may sound difficult, Flores is embracing the challenge.

“These are the people that God is calling us to reach. I think these are the people that, like anyone, need God, but the church is not talking to them,” Flores said. “The church is not establishing a relationship with them.”

Art as Ministry

Although they are currently only hosting classes for kids, as they head into the fall, the center envisions expanding to offer classes and workshops for adults, specifically Millennials.

Jamieson, who has been teaching art for over 12 years, says that art is a type of ministry that allows people to quickly create a bond as they work together towards the common goal of creating ‘something beautiful and meaningful together” while self-expressing through their creative journey.

“It immediately sends a message to others that we are here to help. We can discuss fears, trials, suffering, history, joys and future goals while making art,” Jamieson said.

He believes that the creative process of making art is crucial for instructors and participants to build a relationship where they engage in emotional renewal and discuss and understand compassionate values that help truly understand a person.

The Art House opening comes two years after the opening of Epic Church’s suburb campus, The Art Space. Located as a storefront inside Yorktown Mall in Lombard, IL, The Art Space also uses relationships and art ministry as their way to engage community members. In contrast to the Art House, the Art Space is open only on Saturdays and offers free art experiences to kids and families at the mall. Those who come in are also invited to join the church’s afternoon Sabbath worship.

Ethan Artiga, a praise leader at Epic’s Art Space, says that he and other art space volunteers have had several inspiring experiences such as the one with a young blind boy named Ahmad.

Ahmad came into the Art Space for the first time about a year ago and immediately fell in love with the clay and paint projects but what Artiga says caught Ahmad’s attention is the live music that he overheard being played behind the storefront.

“We were having a band rehearsal. He heard all the music that was going on inside and he got really excited by that, so he came into the church, and was just there listening to us play,” Artiga said.

According to Artiga, Ahmad appreciated the connection they built and began faithfully attending every weekend with his family. Soon enough, Ahmad’s family began asking more questions about the church and their beliefs.

“That's when we started, you know, discipling them through that. But it all started with that first connection we built as they walked into the space for the first time,” Artiga said.

While Epic Church has been ministering for around eight years, this new location is their most permanent one yet. Epic Art House Business Manager Christopher Hux believes that a regular location that is open during the week will help the center consistently bring community members through the door, build relationships and be a place of healing.

“We believe that there has to be change in the Adventist Church to connect with these new generations,” said Hux. “With this different approach, I think it’s just going to be a lot more inviting. It’s going to be easier for them to take a step in and see what’s going on.”

Additionally, the services provided by the non-profit center will not be free, which Flores says will help them achieve their three-year goal of becoming completely self-sustainable.  According to Flores, the Urban Center of Influence will not open the Epic Art House on Sabbaths but will hold Sabbath worship services as well as participate in other activities such as outreach, free art events, exhibitions, and other community-oriented events.

The Art Space marks the second Center for Urban Influence in the Chicago area. The first was established with the Vanguard Church and Dr. Manuel Alva in 2017. Illinois Conference President Ron Aguilera said he’s pleased with these initiatives because "I believe it is imperative for the Church to create relational environments where families gather and relationships are established. I am convinced these environments will lead to the opportunities for those of us who pursue life with God to interface with people from the community and develop relationships that will lead to conversations and invitations to know the Jesus we know."

— Joel Guerra, a young adult from Chicago, is a PR and Business Administration major at Southern Adventist University; this article originally appeared on the Lake Union Herald website.

kmaran Wed, 09/16/2020 - 07:12

The 2020 Enditnow Virtual Summit on Abuse Aims to Equip Leaders with Tools to Help Spot and End Domestic Violence

The 2020 Enditnow Virtual Summit on Abuse Aims to Equip Leaders with Tools to Help Spot and End Domestic Violence
2020 enditnow Virtual Summit on Abuse

The enditnow Virtual Summit on Abuse will take place November 13 in English, and November 14 in Spanish. Photo: NAD Women's Ministries

The North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists is preparing to host an event on November 13-14, 2020, that aims to raise awareness of violence against women and minors taking place in churches, homes, and schools. This year, the enditnow Virtual Summit on Abuse will place a greater emphasis on providing church leaders, pastors, seminary students, and schools administrators and teachers with practical tools to help victims of domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, receive the help they need in a safe, effective, and non-judgmental manner.

“We’ve built an awareness and engagement campaign over the years that has worked well. More and more people have expressed interest in our summit and resources, but now it’s time to put more tools in people’s hands,” said Erica Jones, assistant director of NAD women’s ministries. “Many ministry leaders are grasping that this is not just a women’s ministries issue – it’s a human rights’ issue.”

The keynote presenter of the summit will be Mary DeMuth, the author of “We Too: How the Church Can Respond Redemptively to the Sexual Abuse Crisis. Additional topics covered by thought leaders in this field will include protecting children and youth, and digging out of the pit of spiritual abuse – a topic presented at a previous summit that past attendees have requested to hear again.

The enditnow Summit on Abuse has been an annual event since 2017, and, as in years past, presentations will be given both in English (Nov. 13) and Spanish (Nov. 14).

The “Perfect Storm”

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, continued quarantined conditions, deliberations about uniquely uncertain futures, and soaring unemployment rates have led to ubiquitous feelings of isolation, high stress, and financial strain. Unfortunately for women and children on the receiving end of abuse, their abusers are often triggered by those factors when inflicting pain physically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially. Thus, the quarantine conditions that have been imposed to help keep the public safe — limiting social interactions outside of the home, closing or limiting occupancy of shelters for victims of domestic violence — has been called a “perfect storm” against the vulnerable.

“It’s a whole different level of isolation,” said Jones.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline received a nine percent increase in calls during late spring and early summer in comparison to the same timeframe in 2019. More than 6,000 calls referenced COVID-19 as a contributing factor to the harm they received.

Since local orders throughout the country have restricted gatherings for religious services, and home visitations are risky due to the potential of spreading the coronavirus — leaving many interactions and opportunities for fellowship restricted to computer screens via video conferences — it may be difficult to assess a cry for help from a member. However, if a leader is made aware of abuse taking place within the scope of his or her influence, Jones recommends consulting the ministry’s “Decision Tree” as a guide to properly intercede on behalf of the victim.

“It’s one of the best resources we’ve made for this issue,” said Jones.

Tips on how to access additional practical, free resources from women’s ministries will be shared during the enditnow Virtual Summit on Abuse. Click here to register for the summit in English, and here to register for the summit in Spanish.

mylonmedley Tue, 09/15/2020 - 13:06

Adventist Youth and Young Adult Leaders Join PlayBook 2020

Adventist Youth and Young Adult Leaders Join PlayBook 2020
NAD Youth OneTeam members

NAD OneTeam PlayBook 2020 hosts (left to right) Vandeon Griffin, associate director, Tracy Wood, director, and Armando Miranda, associate director, social distance while being on camera. Photo by Dan Weber

More than 2,200 Adventist youth and young adult ministry leaders from across North America spent much of their Labor Day weekend attending the three-day North American Division (NAD) Youth and Young Adult Ministries OneTeam Playbook 2020 Leaders Convention. OneTeam Playbook was created for union and conference youth and young adult ministries directors, coordinators, pastors, and local church leaders. Young adults who are leaders or aspiring leaders in their church or school/university were also encouraged to attend.

Billed as a “virtual gathering for youth and young adult ministry networking and leader training,” the event also provided certification training and general youth and young adult workshops through 17 different tracks, eight sessions each, focused around four emphases: club ministries, youth ministries, young adult ministries, and continuing education. More than 100 leaders presented workshops during two full afternoons/evenings on September 3-4. The event culminated on September 5, with #OneTeam worship, special “Legacy of Leadership” program, and a closing session with main speaker G. Alexander Bryant, NAD president.

G. Alexander Bryant speaks during the final presentation of the NAD OneTeam Playbook convention

On Sept. 5, 2020, G. Alexander Bryant, North American Division president, speaks during the closing session of the NAD OneTeam Playbook convention. Photo by Dan Weber

The event featured a combination of live presentations and pre-recorded workshops with presenter(s), host, and moderator. Several workshops functioned as panel lectures with some questions incorporated from Zoom viewers. Only those registered for the event were able to log in and participate.

We had scheduled the NAD OneTeam Playbook 2020 Leaders Convention to be an in-person event at the Albuquerque, New Mexico, convention center,” said Tracy Wood, NAD Youth and Young Adult Ministries director. Planning for this multi-tiered training event started several years ago, but those plans were curtailed when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“In April it was appearing that an in-person event was not going to happen. That’s when our youth department staff team decided that we would need to shift to a virtual event,” Wood said. But they weren’t sure what that might look like, and reached out to AdventSource. “Brad Forbes, AdventSource president, told us about a free training event online and invited us to join him in attending in May. We did and that is where we caught the vision of how we could take four platforms and put them together as one.”

Wood shared that reports of those who attended have been positive. “We’ve heard that many are excited and proud to be part of the NAD Youth and Young Adult Ministries network. We are all ‘one team,’ so I’m glad that we could help and inspire our leaders through the NAD OneTeam Playbook convention.”

Vandeon Griffin

Vandeon Griffin, an NAD Youth and Young Adult Ministries associate director, presents a segment during the OneTeam PlayBook 2020 convention. Photo by Dan Weber

Claudia Allen, online content manager for Message magazine, concurred. Allen, who participated in “Principles of specialized youth ministry, cultural and social trends,” a panel with three other leaders, said, “ This is huge. Something like 120 presenters and more than 2,000 attendees — I feel like the NAD was so well represented. You had people from every state. The [NAD Youth Ministry department] was able to really diversify the voices and move so many more people because it was on a virtual platform.”

Attendee Lori Knutson shared appreciation for the Zoom-based convention in a chat, saying, “Thank you to all who had a part in this conference! I have worked with Sabbath School, Pathfinders and have been working with Adventurers now for the past 10 years. At times, I have felt tired and wondering if I still have what it takes. I am so glad that I decided to attend. The presentations and the meetings were inspiring and helped me to realize that I want to do whatever the Lord has for me to do in his ministry until He calls me off the field.”

Armando Miranda and Tracy Wood

NAD Youth and Young Adult Ministries OneTeam members Armando Miranda, associate director, and Tracy Wood, director, host the OneTeam Playbook 2020 Leaders Convention held on September 3-5. Photo by Dan Weber

Being Current and Connected

While the workshop tracks focused on training in club ministries (Adventurers, Pathfinders, Master Guide, and coordinator ministry); Youth IGNITE, Youth Engage, and youth and young adult leadership development and certification; and presenter and teaching skills training, these sessions were also opportunities for deeper dives on current topics and issues facing the church — and society — in North America.

Allen was happy to help give an overview of her panel’s topics of specialized youth ministry, cultural and social trends. “Each of those topics is at least a workshop in itself, if not more, but it was good to share some of the basics,” she said. “Our panel discussion centered around how can we support young women in leadership. A lot of time the youth positions are run by women in the church. We also talked about how we can encourage interested female teens to get engaged in leadership in our church. … So many times we think of ministry from the standpoint of pastoral ministry and pastoral leadership. We [talked about] how we can get people to be OK with the fact that even if you are not a pastor you are serving the church in some way that that is ministry.”

She continued, “Out of that we then proceeded to talk about mental health within our youth and teens right now. How has COVID impacted their mental health? And then out of that we began talking about the social racial unrest and how there’s been lot of the racial tension and the protests and things that have been happening, such as police brutality, how that has impacted our teens. How do you cover all three of those things in an hour? We’re bringing these topics up initially for the participants to leave this conversation saying, Man, this is really something we need to focus on, encouraging our young girls, making sure that we’re dealing with our youth’s mental health as well as making sure we’re educating ourselves and engaging in racial reconciliation and in our communities and social issues of our times.

Daniel Ortega, Youth Ministry/Communication director for the Oklahoma Conference, hosted a total of four workshops on coordinator ministry for the OneTeam Playbook convention. In that role, he facilitated the presenters. And even though he is a trained youth ministry leader, he said he learned too — information he plans to take back with him when his conference hosts a similar but smaller version of the event. “We are going to do child protection as one of our trainings, especially for those who weren’t able to sign up and go to this one,” he shared. “I picked up on some resources that I didn’t know about and will be able to share these in my conference.”

Ortega said that while he missed the face-to-face networking of an in-person convention, he appreciated the efforts made to have virtual group “hallways” where participants could chat and meet new people. Although online, the event allowed youth leaders the opportunity to connect. “This event, and others like it, help keep our people in the loop in terms of training and guidance and leadership,” he said, “It’s what we’ve all been praying about and trying to figure out. Lord willing, we’ll press forward and learn, grow, and adapt in ministry — and get done whatever way we can.”

behind the scenes at NAD OneTeam PlayBook 2020

In the control room, behind the scenes at NAD OneTeam PlayBook 2020; photo by Dan Weber

Going Virtual

Tracks that did not finish with the four workshop sessions of the convention will continue in virtual post-convention cohorts on September 13 and 27, and October 11 and 25. Those who registered for OneTeam Playbook will be able to attend these sessions. And plans are underway to make all workshops available online.

“This has been an incredible experience. And for us, also a learning experience,” Wood said as he shared a look behind the scenesWe needed a secure website where we could plug in Zoom links to the backside of the website. This provides direct access to Zoom rooms for our breakout sessions. The general sessions were pre-recorded presentations by our guest speakers with us department directors as moderators.”

Wood said that they were able to integrate the AdventSource registration process, which provided the emails for all registrants and made it possible to create a passcode for each email, offering a secure log-in process. The event website was designed it to be a virtual convention center with features that could develop a community experience. Workshop materials were available to all logged in registrants.

“This virtual convention center will definitely change the way we provide ministry training to our field,” added Wood. “Many were able to attend who could never have made the travel to a physical in-person training event. Now we can reach people in remote areas who, prior to this virtual option, could never have attended. We are so excited about the future possibilities and the potential for serving and supporting our leaders.”

 

kmaran Wed, 09/09/2020 - 17:26

Times of the Sign

Times of the Sign
Stephen hall and church elder at Reedsburg church sign

Reedsburg Seventh-day Adventist Church Pastor Stephen Hall (right) with church elder Rodney Hahn. Photo by Juanita Edge

What can we do? That thought occupied my mind as I watched the nation again turn its attention to another senseless killing of a Black individual in America at the hands of the police. What could our churches do, in this moment, to address the continued injustice and oppression faced by the Black community?

I knew that some might try to make the case that addressing these issues might seem political, but it was clear that this wasn’t a right or left issue; this was a right and wrong issue. This wasn’t about politics; this was about the Gospel. Remaining silent wasn’t an option in my mind, but what should we do to address these issues in a sincere and relevant way? How do we start having that conversation? Again and again these questions reverberated through my mind as I drove to one of my churches for a mid-week Bible study.

As I arrived at church, my attention was drawn to the sign that sits beside the road running past the church. This sign is usually adorned with short, often humorous, messages that hopefully will make you think as you pass by our church. Pulling into the parking lot, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit gently respond with the answer to my question: “Start with the sign.”

After the Bible study, I reached out to the head elder of the church to ask if we could talk. I went over to his house and expressed my conviction and asked if our church would consider changing the message on the sign to simply read, “Black Lives Matter.” After a thoughtful moment, he asked, “But don’t all lives matter?” and asked why we should single out any one specific group. We had an earnest and genuine discussion on his front porch, lasting from 8 p.m. until midnight that night as we explored Christ’s example of intentionally acknowledging His children in their moments of need.

Discussion on the Front Porch

The elder and I discussed that, in this present moment, intentionally acknowledging that Black lives matter would be following Jesus’ example, and to respond otherwise would be to disregard everything our Black brothers and sisters are telling us about their experience. We then talked about how intentionally responding “all lives matter” in this situation comes across as dismissive to the Black community and ignores and minimizes what they have gone through and are going through in this struggle. We then discussed how we, as a church, should acknowledge that the experiences of those in the Black community are valid, and we should want to intentionally affirm that their lives matter. We agreed that, as a church, we have no desire to undermine their message, and that our desire is to stand with them in that fight and amplify that message.

As we explored biblical examples that show why saying “Black lives matter” is Christlike, I shared with my elder what I would be preaching on for the coming few Sabbaths across the district: the story found in Luke 8 of the woman healed when she touched the hem of Christ’s garment. When she reached out to Him and all eyes were on her as she was in her moment of need, Jesus stopped and intentionally acknowledged her, showing her and the crowd gathered that she mattered. He noticed her in the crowd before anyone else and stopped everything for her, to the point of even being late for a different miracle He was headed to perform. 

We discussed how the Gospel reveals the truth, upon every examination, that all lives matter to Jesus. All the lives in that crowd pressing around Him when that woman touched Him didn’t matter less than her life to the Savior. The daughter of the official that lay dying and would pass away as the Master stopped to address this woman: her life didn’t matter less to Jesus. All lives do indeed matter to the Creator. It’s why He came and lived a life of love and died an undeserved death so that we wouldn’t have to die a deserved one. It's why Jesus rose again and, in so doing, it is why He is able to offer every life the hope that we have of forgiveness and salvation because He paid the price of sin in our place. We went over how all of that is true and still Jesus chose in this moment to intentionally acknowledge this woman in her greatest moment of need. We talked about how, if we as a church are to follow Jesus’ example, we are compelled to do as He did for that woman.

We talked about how, in this moment, as the world's eyes are focused specifically on the systemic racism and abuse that Black people have suffered at the hands of police, the government — even sometimes the church — we want them to know what Jesus knew as He knit them together in their mother's womb; we want them to hear from the church what they hear as Christ calls their name; and we want to say what we, as a church and people, should have been saying this whole time, but we never consistently did: Black lives matter. 

I left that night with no answer to my request, and I returned home wondering if our little church would be willing to share with our community, in even such a simple action as changing a sign, the truth we professed to believe with our words.

A Loving Confirmation

I woke up the next morning to a text from that elder that read, "This morning I was thinking about our conversation last night on the porch. I appreciate the new perspective on the ‘Black lives matter’ message for our church sign. I think it would be very appropriate for us to put it up. Because it may have some perceived political connections, I will talk to the other elders and let them know what we will be doing with the sign.”

I immediately lifted a prayer of praise to God! Everything that the churches in my district had shown me in my time here, that the love of Jesus was the foundation for all that they did, was evidenced in that one text message. 

Later that afternoon, my elder sent me a picture of the sign. It had been changed to read “Black Lives Matter” with Jeremiah 22:3 underneath, which was the perfect expression of God’s love confirming that statement. I was so excited; I quickly posted a picture of the sign’s updated message online.

During the next several hours and days, we received quite a lot of feedback and I have had several people contact me online and via phone expressing concern or disagreement with our decision to acknowledge this simple biblical truth. Thankfully, God has given me the chance to open a dialogue and pray with those folks, using each interaction to glorify His Holy name.

Our church also has had almost 900 people respond to us. We have been contacted by people from all around the U.S., Canada, the U.K., South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, and many more locations, expressing joy and love. So many people responded with messages that they finally felt acknowledged and seen by the Church, many for the first time. We have had people express how our little church’s willingness to speak in this moment is an encouragement to them in the midst of challenging times. Some have even written to let our congregation know that if they ever visit the U.S., or pass through from other states, they would like to come worship together with us. 

It’s the Gospel

I don’t share all of this with you to put a spotlight on our church. Make no mistake, I am thankful that the congregations here and, at each church in my district, are willing to do everything they can to show others the love of Jesus. I am thankful for the willingness they have shown to be genuine and authentic and real in addressing the pain and suffering that sin has unleashed in our communities.

But I want to be clear: this isn’t a church getting political or taking a side with one group or another. Instead, this is about right and wrong. It’s not politics, it’s the Gospel. We are not speaking up because we want people to focus on us; we are lifting our voices because we have a responsibility to speak out about the issues affecting our community and live the example of what it means to love your neighbor.

Just as Jesus did, we as Christians must condemn the hypocrisy and cruelty of anyone who attempts to misrepresent the character of God. We need to lift up the name of Jesus in authentic worship, as described in Isaiah 1:16‒17. We need to use the voices of all of our churches and all of our people to speak out in boldness against sin, especially the sin of racism and prejudice against our Black brothers and sisters. This is a sin that many have experienced, not only in this country, but in the Seventh-day Adventist Church as well. Unfortunately, this is a sin that many in our church families face every single day. 

You may be asking yourself, “What can I do? Where do I start?”

To that I would say: “What better place than here and what better time than now?” We can start by listening. Listen to the Holy Spirit as we seek God’s wisdom and mercy in prayer. Listen to the Black community, and what they are telling us about their experiences. Listen to each other as we come together in meaningful dialogue and action that gives evidence for the love of God lives in our hearts. As we listen, there will come moments when it will be appropriate to share what we have heard. When those moments come, we must be willing to have the hard, but vital conversations to address racism and prejudice in our hearts. We have to confess our sin and ask for a forgiveness and a healing only possible through the blood of Christ Jesus. Only with confession will we have forgiveness. Only through repentance and reconciliation will we find healing. To do anything less is selfish, sinful, and not of the Spirit of God.

We have a holy responsibility as a church to lift up our voices and speak this truth: we are the handiwork of the Creator God, made in His image, and we are loved by Him beyond our wildest imagination, no matter who we are.

— Stephen Hall is a pastor in the Lake Union Conference; this article originally appeared on the Lake Union Herald website.

kmaran Wed, 09/09/2020 - 11:39

Churches Around the Country Join ACTS 20:21

Churches Around the Country Join ACTS 20:21

Acts 20:21 logo

Churches around the country are signing up to take part in ACTS 20:21—a 16-month evangelism cycle initiative for NAD churches. Presented by It Is Written, ACTS 20:21 begins October 9, 2020 and includes six evangelistic events, effective training, a brand new, comprehensive database and outreach management app, soul-winning resources and direct social media advertising. Pastor John Bradshaw will present the first five series online, with two of the series being co-presented by local pastors. A sixth series will be presented by church pastors, which will strengthen the connection between series attendees and the local church. More information is available at ACTS2021.church.

“The evangelism cycle is important in reaching souls for Christ,” said Yves Monnier, It Is Written evangelism director. “One evangelistic series isn’t enough. It’s a process and it all centers around meeting people’s needs and making personal connections. That hasn’t changed in the world of social distancing; in fact, it may have become more important. So It Is Written has designed a 16-month process that will meet those needs.”

It Is Written is capitalizing on knowledge gained from two large virtual events the ministry held this past April and June, according to John Bradshaw, It Is Written president. “We had the opportunity to learn a lot about what is truly effective in the realm of virtual evangelism.” The 2020 and 2021 meetings will reach several audience needs. Meetings will discuss prophecy, personal faith, health, prayer, and doctrine. “We've carefully listened to feedback from pastors and church leaders who joined us in our virtual series this spring and summer,” Bradshaw continued. “As a result, the outcome is a more comprehensive online evangelism initiative that will yield even greater results than we saw in Hope Awakens and Take Charge of Your Health.”

The six meeting series, all under the umbrella of ACTS 20:21, is a turnkey approach for churches or districts to plan for their evangelism in 2021. “In addition to providing the online advertising, database, and meetings with Pastor John Bradshaw,” said Yves Monnier, “your church will also receive over a year of evangelism coaching and training by It Is Written evangelists and mentorship for your local church members. You won’t be able to find this anywhere else. We have kept the costs low so that as many churches and church districts as possible could participate.”  

The evangelism cycle builds relationships. Guests who attend a meeting on prayer or health early in the year will make connections that will encourage them to attend a full-message evangelism series later on. 

The schedule for ACTS 20:21 is as follows:

  1. October 2020: Prophecy series (Answers in Prophecy)
  2. January 2021: Revival series for church members
  3. April/May 2021: Health series
  4. August 2021: Prayer series
  5. October 2021: Full message evangelistic series
  6. Following evangelistic series 2021: Follow-up series by local church pastor

“There has never been a better time to be involved in evangelism” shared Pastor John Bradshaw. “People are asking questions like no other time in recent memory. It is time to reach directly to those in our communities with the gospel message for this time. Churches that partner with It Is Written will receive tools, training, and resources. Our experienced team will provide coaching and assistance, and together we’ll see the Holy Spirit do an incredible work.”

To get involved in ACTS 20:21, visit ACTS2021.church or contact Yves Monnier with questions at 661-319-9529 or evangelism@iiw.org.

—Ellen Hostetler is the director of development for It Is Written.

georgiadamsteegt Tue, 09/08/2020 - 10:20

Personalizing God's Promises

Personalizing God's Promises
India Medley

India Medley

This is a brief profile of an Adventist who works in an essential role during this time of uncertainty and crisis — a glimpse into India Medley’s life and faith. We thank her and many others for their service, and encourage our readers to pray for them.—Editors.

Name: Dr. India Medley, Ph.D., MSN, RN, CPNP

Location: Bowie, Maryland

Profession: Vice President & Chief Nursing Officer, Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., managed by Adventist HealthCare

Are you considered an essential worker, or are you a volunteer, helping during this crisis?

I am considered an essential worker, however, I believe all people are essential — therefore their
work is also essential.

What has been the toughest part of the past few months?

Covid-19 is like a widespread thunderstorm taking with it far too many innocent and unsuspecting lives. The realization of patients' pain, suffering, and the severity of this disease along with its' invisible spread is frightening and absolutely devastating.

The pace and the intensity of the nursing care is exhausting and at times overwhelming. Additionally, caring for the health care providers as they find innovative ways to bridge the gap between the patients and their family members who cannot visit the hospital, and observing as these brave and compassionate professionals grieve the eventual loss of their patients, is more difficult than you can imagine.

Recently, it is frustrating and worrisome for me to see people out and about without wearing a mask and not socially distanced from one another. It seems people are in denial that this deadly virus is still amongst us. It will be a tragedy for us to experience another and possibly more potent surge of this virus, especially when we know we can prevent further spread if we would just comply with what health scientists recommend.

Where do you get your strength?

My strength comes from my time in reading and personalizing God's promises; prayer; and meaningful music. The support and care that I receive from my husband each and every day carries me through even the most difficult days. And I feel stronger every morning as I sense the prayers of my family and friends.

How does your faith play a part in helping you cope?

My faith is everything to me. My faith is embodied in each beautiful sunrise, a patient's smile when the fever breaks, a nurse's resilience in the face of uncertainty, a patient's discharge from the hospital, and especially when I observe the sea of healthcare providers and hospital staff arrive at work every day to give their best for our patients — one day at a time.

kmaran Wed, 09/02/2020 - 20:00