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In New York City, ACS Receives First Weekly Delivery of Pallets of Food from New Partner

In New York City, ACS Receives First Weekly Delivery of Pallets of Food from New Partner
City Harvest truck

On July 13, 2020, the City Harvest truck with 12 pallets of food delivers the goods to an Adventist Community Services warehouse in the Bronx, New York.

Early morning on Monday, July 12, 2020, I drove up to work with the Adventist Community Services (ACS) teams from Northeastern and Greater New York conferences. This day had been in the planning for about two months, when ACS (local, conference, union, and division leadership) began discussing our need for food with City Harvest, one of the region’s largest food banks.

ACS has approximately 100 pantries operating in New York’s five boroughs, and they currently distribute food two to three times each week. This work has led those suffering through COVID-19 to flock to the food pantries at a level we have never seen with thousands of people taking advantage of these services every day the ACS pantries are open. The use of these pantries had led to our ACS teams running out of food to give away, and some centers were not able to open because of a lack of food.

With this backdrop, we began speaking with City Harvest about working with us to meet the observed need. Initially, we’ hoped to get food for a couple of our most active food pantries, however, as we continued the discussion, it appeared there might be an opportunity for us to receive more. We shared the level of challenges we were facing and sent them a listing of all the pantries we had operating in New York City. When City Harvest saw the magnitude of our operation and the number of people we were assisting each week, the told us the topic would need to be presented to their board. This led to the current offer of 12 pallets of food delivered to one location each Monday between the hours of 9 a.m. 12 noon.

ACS city harvest truck unload

ACS workers unload produce from the City Harvest truck that delivered 12 pallets of food on July 13. 

At the Warehouse

So I arose that Monday at 4 a.m. to ensure that I’d arrive before City Harvest did at our ACS warehouse in the Bronx. I drove past our center at 8 a.m. to see the large bay door completely open and Walter Harris, warehouse manager, already on site moving pallets around to ensure enough space for the delivery.

I parked and walked inside, noticing all the packages that surrounded the warehouse. Products from American Red Cross, FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief), etc., that had been donated during previous events and now sat prepositioned, awaiting the next disaster. Harris and I talked about how things were going in the city, and he spoke of the reception our ACS centers were getting from both the private and governmental sector. The New York VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) president had reached out to ACS asking if we would assist with receiving goods from FEMA —that is some of what’s temporarily housed in our warehouse. Space is a premium in the city, and the New York VOAD president knew ACS could be counted upon to help others who were also working to serve the community. Harris additionally shared that our local conference leadership was asked to serve on one of the New York City mayor’s special committees dealing with COVID 19, thanks to him hearing about the “tremendous work” of our centers in the community.

We finished the conversation as several other people showed up wearing masks and yellow ACS shirts, excited and ready to work. Jobs were given to the team members and both Luis Biazotto and Mario Augustave, our conference ACS leaders, arrived. We planned how the delivery would take place and how the product delivered would be split between both conferences. The camaraderie and general pleasant attitude of Biazotto and Augustave was good to see and I began to be even more proud of the work we were involved in.

“This delivery means a lot,” said Augustave, ACS director for Northeastern Conference. “Not only to our conference, but to the Greater New York Conference as well. Several of the food distribution agencies at the churches have had to recently buy their own food because they have not been granted approval to receive deliveries by various food banks such as United Way. Our current memorandum of understanding with City Harvest enables us to receive food every Monday until December 31.”

ACS city harvest truck unload 2

Greater New York Health and ACS director Luis Biazotto helps unpack canned goods delivered to an ACS warehouse in the Bronx, New York.

As 9 a.m. passed, the small crowd of about 12-15 people waited in tense anticipation. I began to get a little nervous, wondering if I could have missed anything in the contract or discussion that would prevent the trailer showing up. I called one of the individuals I had been working with at City Harvest to confirm that everything was set. I hoped to get a more definitive time for delivery, however, all she could share was that the delivery trucks took off on time and they would try their best to get to us as we’d planned.  

Still at the warehouse, a little past 11 a.m., as I met Adnan Ansari, a man who works with the community in New York identifying innovative ways to begin conversations amongst divergent groups, one of our ACS volunteers rushed into the office and declared, “The truck is here!” I briefly gave a silent prayer of thanks to God and proceeded to the warehouse front.

The 18-wheeler parked on Givan Avenue. The rear door of the trailer opened. For about 45 minutes pallets of food were wheeled off the back of the truck where a forklift was then used to move the pallets into the warehouse. By noon we had concluded the effort and brought everyone together to offer our thanks and gratitude to each of the people in attendance.

Community Help

Due to the situation that we are living in now, many people have lost their jobs and have no resources at all. When we do something like this, providing the resources like this, the food, which is a primary need, we are making the difference in their lives,” said Biazotto ACS director for Greater New York Conference. “We always need to consider if we’re making a difference. That is the aspect that we always have to pay attention to. I believe this is the kind of relief that is needed.”

Glad to combine efforts with Northeastern Conference, Biazotto continued, “Some of the churches have been really struggling and this is a good opportunity to help the community in a greater way. By receiving this donation, it will help us help others and that is what makes the difference in our lives — when we become instruments of God, relieving the suffering of people around us. It is a great blessing, honor, and opportunity for us.”

I concluded with a special prayer of thanks. ACS team members then began breaking down the pallets while trucks from various churches took goods for their food pantries back to individual centers around the city that would now be ready to start work Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Our hope is each Monday will run this smoothly as we continue the relationship between ACS and City Harvest. We hope all will function in a manner that benefits the affected public in and around New York City.

kmaran Wed, 07/15/2020 - 13:10

After Looting Temporarily Closes Stores, a Chicago Church Serves Up a Lifeline

After Looting Temporarily Closes Stores, a Chicago Church Serves Up a Lifeline
Chicago Goshen church pastor Gordon Graser promotes the food giveaway June 2020 5305.jpg

Goshen Seventh-day Adventist Church Pastor Gordon Graser promotes the food giveaway during scheduled event in June 2020.

The looting that followed the George Floyd protests devastated some Chicago, Illinois, neighborhoods, leaving residents even more desperate for basic services during the pandemic.

In early June, on Chicago’s Southside where Goshen Seventh-day Adventist Church is located, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, and several retail stores were wiped clean of merchandise. In some instances the buildings sustained major damage.

The church is in one of the poorest areas in the city, which had already seen a surge in COVID-19 infections and an elevated rate of gun violence. When reports streamed in of residents pleading for help in the midst of the dueling crises, the church leadership knew they had to do something. But what could they do?  

Then word soon came from members that they had no place to purchase food. That’s when plans to organize a food drive kicked into gear.

“In light of everything that was happening around us,” said Pastor Gordon Fraser, “we wanted to be a part of the solution, to show the love of Christ by extending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in need.”

Goshen church elder, Lorian Willis, along with her daughter, Stacey True, have spear-headed the effort to collect and distribute food and other essentials. They are grateful for the support of North Shore, Northbrook, Hinsdale Fil-Am, Beverly Hills, and Bolingbrook churches, as well as generous financial support from the Illinois Conference and Lake Union. They also partnered with other Chicago organizations to provide more than 100 hot meals each week.

Tasha Major and Kristen Heaphy Goshen Chicago church june 2020

In Chicago, Illinois, volunteers Tasha Major and Kristen Heaphy help distribute food collected at Goshen Chicago through area church and community donations. Photo by Casey Adams

The area churches began collecting items such as fresh produce, diapers, wipes, baby formula, baby food, and canned goods. True said that she is excited to receive the donations and is now also planning to extend the services through an upcoming community baby shower for single parents and families in need.

The community’s response has been extraordinary. Two young women, Tasha Major and Kristen Heaphy, happened to find out about the church’s effort through social media and are now excited to help. Every week they collect donations from their friends and family and help with distribution. Another resident, Jessica, stopped by to receive a food basket and was “drawn in by the love and fellowship of the members who were serving that day.” She, too, has been volunteering every week since.

One community member sent a text after receiving the food basket with baby formula and diapers that said, “Because of YOU and what you are doing, my babies were able to eat. Thank you so much!” She had no idea how she was going to get food for her children that very day.

Although the church has not yet reopened since the governor ordered mandatory lockdowns in March, this hasn’t stopped ministry from going forward. People who are receiving the essential items are asking about the church’s reopening plans so they can visit. “We have had a couple of people ask for Bible studies, even while our church doors are still closed,” said Fraser. “We know that we are the church and not the building. We are seeing God move in the lives of the people in the community by drawing them in, and just [by us] showing them the love of Jesus.”

— Kristine Fraser is a Berrien Springs-based (Michigan) freelance writer and member of Goshen Seventh-Day Adventist Church. This article originally appeared on the Lake Union Herald website. 


kmaran Wed, 07/15/2020 - 11:18

#TinyTowns4Jesus: Outreach Initiative of Rocky Mountain Conference

#TinyTowns4Jesus: Outreach Initiative of Rocky Mountain Conference
Matt Hasty and team on a zoom call for #TinyTowns4Jesus

A zoom call with Matt Hasty and some of the team preparing for #TinyTowns4Jesus

As we all know, every area of society and the Church have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The question is, “How are we responding to it?” One way that the Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC) is adapting their summer outreach is to refocus their student canvassers on fundraising to sponsor literature mail-outs to small towns in their territory. The initiative is called #TinyTowns4Jesus.

The mission was conceived by the RMC literature ministries director, Matt Hasty, in collaboration with the conference administrative team. The goal is to raise enough funds to send packs of GLOW tracts and copies of The Great Controversy to people living in small towns in Colorado. Why small towns? As Matt Hasty explains, “It's easy to stay stuck in the city, but I like to try to squeeze in the small towns. When we get there, people probably have never had their doors knocked on. There's probably no solicitation from any other groups. So when somebody opens up their door, they usually give you more time to talk. The people are really receptive and the kids love it!”

It’s easy for canvassing teams to “stay stuck” in larger cities for a couple of reasons. The first is housing. Student canvassing campaigns rely on churches to sponsor a place for them to stay—often at a church or church school. It’s usually the large churches in mid- to large-sized cities that are able to provide these accommodations. The second reason is that a campaign of 14 or more students needs a sizable field to work, or they will rapidly run out of people to meet. One time they finished canvassing a whole town in 30 minutes. Although, before the pandemic, Matt Hasty’s team had planned to canvass three small towns in one day, reaching these sparsely populated areas typically would have required more drive time and yielded less canvassing time.

Out of an abundance of caution for the safety of the students as well as the public, RMC literature ministries isn’t running a traditional canvassing campaign this summer. That’s the lemon. However, they’re making lemonade by focusing on using their phones and social media to raise funds to send the gospel to thousands of people they wouldn’t normally meet. Instead of their ministry staying stuck in the city, they’re staying safe while reaching homes in towns with populations of 1,000 or less.

To be specific, Matt Hasty’s team has identified 163 small towns in Colorado with a combined population of about 84,000 people. Many of these towns don’t have Adventist churches or members living in them, but should we overlook them because of this? No. A lack of Adventist presence in these towns makes our mission even more important. Jesus himself was from a small town, so let’s not be like a certain disciple who initially wrote off the significance of Nazareth.

These young people can’t do outreach by themselves, though. They need our help. Check out their website and prayerfully consider how you can participate.

georgiadamsteegt Wed, 07/15/2020 - 08:15

G. Alexander Bryant Named North American Division President

G. Alexander Bryant Named North American Division President
G Alexander Bryant

G. Alexander Bryant, North American Division president; photo by Dan Weber/NAD

UPDATED July 9, 2020, 2:07 p.m.

On July 9, 2020, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s General Conference Executive Committee met virtually to receive the name of G. Alexander Bryant, the recommendation for division president, from both the North American Division’s nominating committee and executive committee. Bryant was confirmed in a vote of 153 to 5.

Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president and, as policy indicates for the vote of division president, chair of the NAD nominating and executive committees held on July 6 and July 7, said, “I'm looking forward to a renewed focus on the three angels' messages and I believe that Elder Bryant can help lead in that great adventure, because that is what is entrusted to each of us. [He] is a mission-focused individual. He is someone who is a careful listener to people. He will take [these cares] to the Lord and ask for guidance. … I believe that God can use him in a very, very special way.”

“I am first indebted to God for His call to ministry and secondly to those who have poured into my life over the years," said Bryant in response to the vote. “I am deeply humbled by the confidence Elder Wilson, our chair, and the NAD and GC executive committees have placed in me with this assignment. This task is too big for one individual or office. It is abundantly clear to me that it takes all of us working together to advance God's kingdom and I just deeply covet your prayers.”

He added, “I ask for my wife and for myself — that you would continue to lift us up daily as we will you. … Hopefully, by our efforts together, we can hasten the coming of the Lord through our mission work throughout our territory and beyond; and Jesus will come and we can go home.”

Wilson affirmed the decision for NAD president, saying, “Alex, we will place you in prayer — that God will be with you and Desiree and your family as you take up these new responsibilities in a powerful way. … I know he will have a tremendous evangelistic imprint on North America for the future and it'll be a privilege to collaborate with him on that.”

All world division executive officers serve as elected officers of the GC and their nomination and election by the region they represent must be approved by the General Conference Executive Committee. The division's nominating committee is termed a standing committee. It was appointed by the NAD Executive Committee in 2015. During the past five years the nominating committee has recommended the names of individuals to the executive committee for vote in order to fill division vacancies.

Following an outlined process disclosed earlier, the division’s nominating committee met on July 6 and selected the name of Bryant, which was presented and voted on by the NAD Executive Committee on July 7. Bryant’s name was sent as a recommendation to the GC Executive Committee. All meetings were held virtually via Zoom with a previously-used electronic voting process.

Bryant replaces Daniel R. Jackson, who served at the NAD headquarters since his election in June 2010 at the GC Session in Atlanta, Georgia, and reelection in 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, until his retirement on July 1, 2020. The search process for a new executive secretary has begun.  

On July 9, 2020 G. Alexander Bryant was elected the fifth president of the North American Division (NAD) of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. NAD Communication director Daniel Weber sat down with Bryant and discussed his new role and what events in his life impacted his ministry. They also discussed mission and future of the NAD.

Glenward Alexander (“Alex”) Bryant most recently served as executive secretary of the NAD and associate secretary of the GC, positions he’s held since October 2008 when elected at the GC Annual Council in Manila, Philippines. Bryant was reelected at the 2010 GC Session. While serving as the division’s secretary, Bryant conducted leadership seminars, training and orientation of conference executive officers; organized a division-wide diversity summit; coordinated the digitalization of the NAD Secretariat; and conducted annual evangelistic series.

Before coming to the division, Bryant served as the president of the Central States Conference in Kansas City, Kansas.

Bryant graduated with a double major in Theology and Business Administration from Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in 1982.

He began his ministry that same year in Springfield, Missouri, and Coffeyville and Independence, Kansas. In 1986, Bryant was ordained, and he continued his education by earning a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University in 1988. The Central States Conference voted Bryant to serve as Youth/Pathfinders/National Service Organization director, Temperance director, and superintendent of Education in 1990. He became president in 1997.

In addition to pastoring several churches early in his career, Bryant also served as a student missionary to Japan for one year. During his college years, Bryant’s administrative abilities helped him serve as the Adventist Youth director at Oakwood College and the Black Students Association of the Seminary (BSAS) president at Andrews University.

Bryant is the second African American elected to serve as NAD president. Charles E. Bradford, the division’s first president, was also African American. Previous division presidents include Alfred C. McClure, Don C. Schneider, and Daniel R. Jackson.

He is married to the former Desiree Wimbish, who served as associate superintendent of Education for the Potomac Conference, superintendent of Education for Central States Conference, as well as former principal of the V. Lindsay Seventh-day Adventist School in Kansas City, Kansas. Desiree currently serves as assistant director and projects coordinator for Adventist Education in the NAD. The Bryants have three adult children and three grandchildren.

Click here for the video interview with Bryant about his education, early years in ministry, and his hopes for his current role as NAD president.

kmaran Wed, 07/08/2020 - 16:09

Paradise Church Serves Its Community with Fresh Produce

Paradise Church Serves Its Community with Fresh Produce
Pastor Garrison Chaffee prays with a grateful recipient of fresh food with Kyla and Rachel Moore. The food pick up was at the Paradise church parking lot. The church burned but serving others is still their priority.

Pastor Garrison Chaffee prays with a grateful recipient of fresh food with Kyla and Rachel Moore. The food pick up was at the Paradise church parking lot. The church burned, but serving others is still their priority.   

The Paradise, California, community understands the long-lasting recovery of a catastrophic disaster. The Nov. 8, 2018, Camp Fire burned 95 percent of the town. Now, in Paradise and across the nation, the impact of COVID-19 shelter in place is burning through check books and savings.

Millions are unemployed, and many businesses struggle to survive. This crisis is unprecedented, and it will be a long-lasting recovery effort. Without money, bills aren’t paid. Food insecurity is a harsh reality.

But for those in the Paradise area, there is some good news. “The church burned down, but our members are still standing, and meeting the needs of others,” explained Steve Hamilton, senior of the Paradise Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“We were looking for a way to help our community,” said Joelle Chinnock, church member and director of development and disaster recovery for the Paradise church. She connected with North Valley Community Foundation in Chico, California, and asked for a few ideas. The greatest need in the community was immediate grocery assistance.

Chinnock called several supermarkets. She found Holiday Market. “They were willing to act as a personal shopper, but had no way to deliver,” she said. “We could deliver! And the Love, Delivers program* was born.” Church members delivered food to the door with masks and a six-foot distance — 40 boxes in three weeks.

The stories are heartbreaking. “My refrigerator is empty. I really need milk for my kids and meats for dinners, etc. My savings has run out and we are in desperate need. Calfresh said they can only give me $14 a month for food,” shared one family.

Another said, “Due to shelter in place, my husband isn’t working. We are struggling financially and it’s difficult to provide food and other basic needs.”

“We are living on one salary,” added another family. “There are six of us and we are constantly in need of supplies. Mostly need eggs, oatmeal, bread, and butter. We also help feed other families several days a week. Fresh produce would be good, too.”

There must be a way to help more people, thought members of the Paradise church.

On Tuesdays, families work together filling and delivering boxes of food. Grateful to get out of the house and a safe outreach, they serve others during shelter in place.

On Tuesdays, families work together filling and delivering boxes of food. Grateful to get out of the house at a safe outreach, they serve others each week during the COVID-19 shelter in place.  

It Takes a Community

Food pantries stock shelf-stable products and donations of the day from grocery stores and other sources. Perishable foods require cool storage, which is in short supply in food pantries.

Shortly after shelter in place began, Glenna Eady, a case manager for Adventist Health, approached Chinnock to join forces to address food insecurity in the Paradise community. The goal was a fresh produce pantry. The project started with an education.

The Paradise church group contacted the four food pantries in Paradise to learn how they worked. Each opened one day a week and was operated by a community church. There were five essential resources to start a food pantry: money, reliable sources for food, a permanent location, a communication network, and committed volunteers. Adding fresh produce would require refrigeration.    

Chinnock started at step one — money. Chinnock received $15,000 from three grants and a $30,000 donation from Adventist Health. Eady explored refrigeration from Adventist Health. Communication on Facebook, email, and texts was already in place. With shelter in place, a permanent location, sources of food and committed volunteers, a fresh food pantry seemed impossible.

Now, their work was to wait on God.  

A delivery team gets their instructions as cars line up to receive boxes of fresh produce by Joelle Chinnock. In one day, 5,760 lbs. were distributed one 20 lb. box at a time for each family.

A delivery team gets their instructions as cars line up to receive boxes of fresh produce, coordinated by Paradise church member Joelle Chinnock. In one day, 5,760 lbs. were distributed, one 20-pound box at a time for each family.   

Feeding God’s Community

The phone call came on Thursday morning, May 28. When Garrison Chaffee, associate pastor, answered, a familiar voice said, “I have 1,400 pounds of fresh produce in 20-lbs. boxes available for pick-up next Tuesday. It’s free and I will deliver it. Could your church give some of these out to your community?” asked Keith Jacobson, senior pastor of the Sacramento Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist Church.

His mission is for Adventist churches to help feed their communities. Jacobson has partnered with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a source of fresh produce.  

His call was perfect timing. God works that way.

On Tuesday, June 2, volunteers unloaded much more — 5,760 lbs. of fresh produce arrived. The produce was distributed in 20-lbs. boxes to each family as cars filled the empty church parking lot and spilled into the street. In four hours, 290 boxes were given away. The surplus was sent to their neighbors — when there is surplus, the produce is also shared with the four church pantries.

“Oh, I am so happy! The world needs more nice people like you. Acts of random kindness rarely happen. [I] thank the Seventh-day Church!” said recipient Tracy Periman.

“In order to rebuild our community, we must work together. This is just another opportunity that God has given us to reach out, serve our community, and build strong ties within the body of Christ,” Chinnock said.  

“Our experience is that when we help the hurting, get involved and give back, our pain begins to heal. We survive together,” Hamilton added.

* Love, Delivers is part of Love, Paradise, a community ministry sponsored by the Paradise Seventh-day Adventist Church. You can find more information at

Did You Know?

Data gathered by Caron Oswald

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

Food insecurity occurs when a household has difficulty providing enough food due to lack of resources for a healthy and active lifestyle. Almost every community in the country is home to families who struggle with food insecurity, including rural and suburban communities.

In 2018, 14.3 million American households, about 37 million people, were food insecure with limited or uncertain access to enough food including more than 11 million children. In April 2020, food insecurity ranged from 22-38 percent, including more than 18 million children. Mothers with children 12 and under have the highest percentage level since 2001. More than one in five households in the U.S., and two in five households with mothers with children 12 years and under, are experiencing food insecurity.

Many families do not qualify for federal nutrition programs. It’s a perfect storm — food demands are soaring, supplies plunging and volunteers plummeting.

What Can You Do?

Be informed about your community.

Call or email your local food bank and pantries for facts and needs.

Call your conference to learn what Adventist Community Services programs are near you.

Get involved: donate, do a food drive, volunteer.

51 percent of food programs rely on volunteers for sorting and packing and, with shelter-in-place restrictions, about 70 percent new volunteers are needed — a great family outreach.

Remember, those who struggle with enough food may be the family in the church pew, a neighbor, a work colleague, and everyday strangers.   

— Caron Oswald writes from McDonald, Tennessee.

kmaran Wed, 07/08/2020 - 12:04

Southern California Adventists Organize Demonstration for Peace and Justice

Southern California Adventists Organize Demonstration for Peace and Justice
For Their Future Prayer and Protest

These youth are part of a group of 300 that gathered this past June to pray, march, and connect at a rally organized by Adventist churches in the Los Angeles, California, area. All photos by Pono Lopez

Unity. Justice. Community. Peace.

That’s what the demonstration on June 3, 2020, in Los Angeles, California, was all about as about 300 people gathered to pray, march, and connect. It was the first time Southern California Conference (SCC) churches organized such an event with a diverse group in every sense of the word: age, gender, ethnicity, and more. One member of the group, Wilma, a member of the Antelope Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church, had even marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. when she was 17. “The conviction of people to be as involved as possible really ran deep throughout the whole crowd,” shared Donavan Childs, associate pastor at Los Angeles University Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Morris Barnes, senior pastor of the Antelope Valley church, and Lawrence Dorsey, senior pastor of the University church, teamed up to bring this idea to life. The midweek event came together in the span of just two days, although from Childs’s perspective, “It was literally overnight. When God’s moving, He makes it happen.”

LAPD and Pastor Morris Barnes walk together during a June 3, 2020, march for justice and peace in Los Angeles.

Billy Brockway, police captain III, LAPD Southwest Division (left), and Morris Barnes (right), senior pastor of the Antelope Valley church, lead the march side by side​ on June 3, 2020.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County helped to get the word out around the city. University of Southern California provided lunch, California Highway Patrol provided security, a local Honda dealer gave participants water and loaned vehicles for shuttles, the Los Angeles Police Department Southwest Division marched with the group and helped block traffic, and many others contributed. “The Lord was in this thing; that’s the only way it could come about the way it did with unity, enthusiasm, and support,” said Dorsey.

“The philosophy behind it was to have an Adventist Christian demonstration that promoted peace and justice,” Childs explained. The march began at the steps of the University church and ended at the California African American museum, where various Adventist leaders and other clergy, plus leaders from around the city and the community, addressed those gathered.

Elder Salazar Speaking for Black Lives 400 x 600.jpg

Velino Salazar, Southern California Conference president, speaks at the end of the march/rally held on June 3. During his time speaking, Salazar said that "categorically, black lives matter."

The moment he became aware of the event, SCC president Velino Salazar committed himself to participate. “As conference president, I think that we need to walk the talk,” he said. “What would Jesus do in this 21st century? Always He was focused on the needs of the people and justice. As conference president, I need to follow the model of Jesus Christ when we encounter oppression, discrimination, and injustice.”

Participants wore custom shirts with “seek justice” printed on the front, based on Isaiah 1:17, and “Adventists for Black Lives Matter” on the back. The shirts represented another miracle; they were meant for a prayer walk two days later, but production was accelerated just in time for the Los Angeles demonstration. Many carried signs: “God’s voice matters.”

Reflecting on the event, many participants spoke about this as an important first step. “I consider that we as a church need to have more interest in social issues without losing the essence of the gospel within the context and frame of the three angels’ messages,” Salazar said.

“It was tremendous; it was something to experience,” Royal Harrison, SCC Greater Los Angeles region director, said of the event. “We’ve got to be more community involved if we’re going to make an impact for the kingdom.” The theme of community involvement was consistent among comments from the participants and leaders.

As Barnes put it, “If the church is not the voice of the community, no one else will be.”

Adventists from several churches in the Los Angeles area march together on June 3, 2020.

Adventists from several churches in the Los Angeles area march together on June 3, 2020.

This event was just a start. At the rally, Donavan and Dorsey promised attendees that open forums would be presented in the future by the church, encouraging conversation with the community. “I think it’s important for us as Christians to understand that this is part of representing the gospel,” Donavan noted. “It’s part of having a missional existence. I hope the long-term impact is that we actualize that term: to be in the world but not of the world.”

Speaking about how our commitment to the truth relates to injustice, Greg Hoenes, SCC West Region director, said, “Humility has to always be the lens through which we see the truth.”

Virgil Childs, Pacific Union Conference regional ministries director, closed the event with prayer. Of our collective response to injustice, he said, “It is an ecumenical response to what’s wrong and to protest — not just against what’s wrong, but to protest for what’s right.”

— Lauren Lacson is communication director of the Southern California Conference.

kmaran Wed, 07/08/2020 - 09:50

La Sierra University Honors Graduates with A "Drive-Through Celebration"

La Sierra University Honors Graduates with A "Drive-Through Celebration"
Faculty and staff of the School of Education cheer on La Sierra’s graduates.

Faculty and staff of the school of education cheer on La Sierra’s graduates. Photo courtesy of La Sierra University.

After 14 weeks of online classes, isolation, and cancellation of their traditional commencement weekend due to COVID-19, La Sierra University’s graduates were eager for a way to safely gather and celebrate before the rescheduled ceremony, which will take place on Sept. 13, a week before the start of fall classes.

On June 21, they had just such an opportunity with the “Drive-Through Celebration” organized by the university to take place on the day the seniors would have graduated during a formal commencement service.

For more than two hours beginning at 8:30 a.m., nearly 200 grads with their families and friends paraded in their vehicles on a guided route throughout the school’s campus. They had the opportunity to pause for a portrait photograph in front of the university’s central fountain with surrounding congratulations banners before exiting the campus. Faculty, staff and students, all with face masks in place, lined the roadside and grassy median, waved congratulatory signs, and cheered them on.

The parade began at the front entrance kiosk where university president Joy Fehr, assisted by interim provost Cindy Parkhurst, provided each graduate with a bag holding a mortarboard and tassel, which they could don for their photo. Other gifts at kiosks scattered along the route included a face mask with a La Sierra logo, a sticker of university mascot “Eko,” an alumni license plate holder, and a 2019-2020 yearbook.

A La Sierra University graduate holds balloons out of a car's sunroof during the

A La Sierra University graduate holds balloons out of a car's sunroof during the "Drive-Through Celebration." Photo courtesy of La Sierra University.

The Graduates

Many graduatess decorated their cars with bright lettering, balloons, signs, and other graduation trimmings, and brought along family members or friends to join in the fun.

“I think with everything that's been going on, this is the best way I can imagine celebrating with the people who helped me get here, from friends to family to people I've met at the school,” said Kyrsti Photias, a psychology major and exercise science minor from La Quinta, California. “It's so cool seeing other graduates celebrate with the people who matter to them too. It’s so different from sitting in a stadium or underneath tarps … but it’s no less special at all.”

Vinh Nguyen, pastor of the El Monte Vietnamese Seventh-day Adventist Church and also the father of graduate Timothy Nguyen, drove his family through the parade route as his son waved from the front passenger seat. “I am so proud my son graduated from here. I’m excited to see it,” said Nguyen. “It’s an awesome experience,” added Timothy, a biomedical sciences major aiming for a career in nursing. “I’m glad they did this. I’m glad for the school’s support.”

Pastor Vinh Nguyen, Cynthia Nguyen and their son and La Sierra graduate Timothy Nguyen stop near the central fountain at the top of Yaeger Drive for their portrait during La Sierra University’s Drive Through Celebration.

Pastor Vinh Nguyen, Cynthia Nguyen and their son and La Sierra graduate Timothy Nguyen stop near the central fountain at the top of Yaeger Drive for their portrait during La Sierra University’s Drive Through Celebration. Photo courtesy of La Sierra University.

Many graduates described the Drive Through Celebration as an “amazing” experience and a meaningful event as they move on to other chapters in their lives.

“The drive-through graduation was so much fun. It was a blast seeing my professors and the athletic department cheering me on,” said sociology graduate Kiana Krumm. Last month, the California Pacific Conference, of which La Sierra’s Golden Eagles volleyball teams are members, voted Krumm as the recipient of the Dr. Jim Davies Award as the 2019-2020 "Female Scholar Athlete of the Year." Going forward, she plans to play volleyball abroad while contemplating master’s programs.

“I drove through with my parents and my best friend since I was five years old. She was the DJ and blew bubbles while we danced together in the back. The overall experience was so exciting, and I am so happy to have been a part of it,” said Krumm.

Celebration and Pride

Cars parade along the entrance road into La Sierra University’s campus as part of the Drive-Through Celebration.

Cars parade along the entrance road into La Sierra University’s campus as part of the Drive-Through Celebration. Photo courtesy of La Sierra University. 

For La Sierra faculty and staff, the morning’s event created an opportunity for them to feel a special sense of pride, connection, and community.

“We’ve overcome all these obstacles and we’re living in this [unique] moment in time. This helped bring out the spirit of celebration,” said Ken Crane, associate professor and chair of the history, politics and sociology department.

“Seeing them in person, even though I was wearing a mask and they were in vehicles, reminded me of why we do what we do at La Sierra,” said Fehr. “[We] provide the foundation upon which our graduates can positively change their and our worlds. The excitement on their faces and the pride in their families’ faces made all the challenges of these past three-and-a-half months responding to COVID-19 worth it. I am so proud of each graduate. Each one is truly extraordinary.”


About La Sierra University

La Sierra University, a Christian Seventh-day Adventist institution nationally acclaimed for its diverse campus and its service to others, offers a transformational experience that lasts a lifetime. “To Seek, To Know, and To Serve” is the key to the mission that drives La Sierra University, with all areas of campus encouraging students to develop a deeper relationship with God.

The Seventh-day Adventist denomination established La Sierra University in 1922 on acreage formerly part of the Rancho La Sierra Mexican land grant. Today the 150-acre campus provides more than 120 bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees for 2,200 students. Programs are offered in the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, the School of Education, the H.M.S. Richards Divinity School, the College of Arts and Sciences and in the Evening Adult Degree Program.

mylonmedley Tue, 07/07/2020 - 18:12