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In Puerto Rico, 103-Year-Old Gives His Life to Jesus and Is Baptized

Carlos Ortiz García made the commitment 24 days before his 104th birthday.

Festival Draws 30,000 Advocates to Celebrate Religious Liberty

In Rwanda, church members and friends called to uphold freedom of conscience.

Adventist Community Services Provides Help to Hurricane Florence Victims

Disaster Response unit is working with other relief agencies, local governments.

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Loma Linda University Health Summer Gateway Program Inspires Minority High School Students

Loma Linda University Health Summer Gateway Program Inspires Minority High School Students
LLUH summer gateway program high school students food outside

Summer Gateway program high school students help distribute foodstuffs at the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County headquarters. Photo provided by Loma Linda University Health

Local underrepresented minority high school students were inspired to achieve more and serve others after participating in an immersive two-week learning experience through Loma Linda University Health’s Summer Gateway program.

A variety of LLUH professionals and students volunteered their time to provide lectures and to assist with hands-on activities. This summer, nearly 70 students participated in the program; 21 were selected to shadow practicing medical professionals for an additional week.

Summer Gateway aims to create positive attitudes toward healthcare professions among high school students through presentations, activities, and service opportunities. Launched in 2012, Summer Gateway is sponsored by the office of Community-Academic Partners in Services (CAPS) and the Institute for Community Partnerships. It was created when pipeline program Sí Se Puede merged with Loma Linda University’s other programs for Native American and African-American students. Sí Se Puede, which started in 2005, translates from Spanish as “Yes you can!” 

The program also provides training on how to take the SAT exam, apply for financial aid and improve study skills. 

“We’re wanting to help make college education more attainable for these young people,” said Pablo Ariza, CAPS director. “We know our pipeline program is a success because it continues to come full circle.” Loma Linda University’s 2018 commencement season saw two previous Summer Gateway program participants graduate with degrees in physical therapy and dentistry.

Pablo Shul of Bloomington High School said he didn’t think he could ever succeed academically, but after attending Summer Gateway he now knows a medical education is within his reach. “I actually have hope for my future,” he said.

Career Visualization

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indians comprise approximately one-quarter of the total population of the United States but represent less than 10 percent of the workforce in the health professions of medicine, nursing, dentistry, and pharmacy. 

“The critical time for career intervention is before high school graduation,” said Juan Carlos Belliard, Ph.D., MPH, director of Loma Linda University Health’s Institute for Community Partnerships. “Summer Gateway Program encourages underserved students to achieve more for themselves, their families, and their community.”

Antoina Davis, a student from Nuview Bridge Early College High School in Nuevo, California, said she didn’t know what it meant to be a nurse or dentist prior to participating in Summer Gateway. “This program helped me visualize what it means to enter the medical field and find your passion.”

LLUH Summer Gateway program high school students

Students who are part of the Summer Gateway prepare food for the Way World Outreach center in San Bernadino, California. Photo provided by Loma Linda University Health

Community Service

In addition to academic and career guidance, students participate in activities that promote physical activity, nutrition, spiritual care, and community service. 

On the program’s service day, students were split up into groups to serve at three different community locations. “We chose service opportunities for the students that would demonstrate LLUH’s model of whole-person care,” said Oscar Bustillos, CAPS program coordinator.

One group of students volunteered at Huerta del Valle, the city of Ontario’s first urban community farm. Initiated in 2010, this grassroots agricultural effort has become a hub for sustainable organic production and distribution, community health and economic development and nutrition education. 

At the Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County headquarters, students worked at a foodbank center that disperses more than 10 million pounds of nutritious food each year in San Bernardino County.  

The Way World Outreach in San Bernardino was the last volunteer site. Opened in 2004, this church-turned-outreach-center provides aid and support services to abused women and children, individuals with special needs, and the homeless and unemployed. 

Cajon High School student Hector Trejo said that after community service day his eyes were opened. “Loma Linda University Health dramatically changed me as a person,” he said. “I am inspired be to be a better person and become a humanitarian.”

Middle College High School student Jocelyn Marquez said she learned that a medical career is not just about the money, it’s about the people you’re caring for. “I will carry that thought with me for the rest of my life,” she said.

This article originally appeared on the Loma Linda University Health website.

kmaran Wed, 09/19/2018 - 08:09

Adventist Community Services DR Provides Help to Hurricane Florence Victims

Adventist Community Services DR Provides Help to Hurricane Florence Victims
200 Red Cross cots delivered for use in ACS shelter after Hurricane Florence

The American Red Cross delivers 200 cots to an ACS shelter for victims of Hurricane Florence. Photo provided by Adventist Community Services

Adventist Community Services (ACS) is working with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and other disaster relief groups to help victims of Hurricane Florence. “We appreciate the help ADRA has offered,” W. Derrick Lea, ACS Disaster Response (DR) director for the North American Division, said today. “Financial support is there; we are working on solidifying the program so we can help most effectively.”

ACS DR in both South Atlantic and Carolina conferences were mobilized before Hurricane Florence hit the North Carolina coast on Friday, September 14. “Flood Buckets are in place throughout each [affected] state, personal care kits are available and ready for use, and warehousing agreements are in place,” said Lea in a preparedness report. “Our teams await the exact location for operations to begin.”

The aftermath of Florence, which included 32 storm-related deaths (25 in North Carolina, six in South Carolina, and one in Virginia), has caused thousands to be displaced from their homes due to flooding and loss of power.

Cots are set up at the ACS Florence shelter

South Atlantic Conference has provided temporary shelter at River Oaks Camp in Orangeburg, South Carolina. The American Red Cross is also partnering with ACS DR. They have provided 200 sleeping cots; needs assessment will continue in order to provide additional help as necessary.

As residents begin the process of returning to homes and businesses, Carolina Conference is providing flood buckets filled with supplies to residents to assist in the storm clean up. ACS DR is working to provide gift cards along with the buckets.

On Sept. 18, ACS was also asked by Hanover County to manage warehouse for Wilmington, North Carolina, one of the hardest hit areas. “They sustained a lot of damage and, right now, we’re looking for a warehouse facility,” said Lea.

Twelve families from North Carolina are sheltering at the University of Maryland in College Park after their homes were affected by Florence. Maryland DHS requested that ACS help with spiritual care, as well as supervised child care for the children. These families will remain at the university at least until this weekend, until the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) relocates them to hotels. Potomac Conference ACS has been asked to assist in efforts.

 

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kmaran Wed, 09/19/2018 - 04:52

When Calls Become Baptisms

When Calls Become Baptisms
Adventist Information Ministry prays with caller

An Adventist Information Ministry customer service representative prays with a caller. Photo provided by Adventist Information Ministry

The role of media ministries in the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is to create a flood of interest through their programming, station placement, and their weekly offers. The main role of Adventist Information Ministry (AIM), headquartered on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, is to collect those interests and “upgrade” as many as they can to pass on to the local church, often for personal connection and Bible study. As a 24/7 ministry, AIM assists the church’s evangelistic outreach by taking orders, processing requests for literature, upgrading interested persons for further studies and by referring these interests to local churches.

AIM sometimes learns what happens with those it connects to local churches. Here are a few of those stories, shared during ministry meetings in August.

Debbie

On May 5, 2018, “Debbie” called to request the Amazing Facts offer Mark of the Beast. She called again June 24 and requested Did God Create the Devil?and the Bible Correspondence Course, an Amazing Facts Bible study course. Customer service representative (CSR) “Nichelle” recognized a deeper spiritual interest and asked if Debbie would like to speak with one of the AIM chaplains for spiritual encouragement. When Phillip, the referral chaplain, contacted Debbie, she requested studies with a local pastor. He got in touch with Desmond Haye, pastor at the Wakefield Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York City and a former chaplain at AIM (2007-2009), who, in turn, connected with Debbie. Hayes. After Bible studies, Debbie was baptized on July 28.

Eugene

On May 22, 2016, CSR “Mack” received a request from “Eugene” for personal Bible studies. The call was an upgrade that originated with a call from It Is Written. After confirming Eugene’s interest, Brian, an AIM chaplain, began looking for someone to study with Eugene. He reached Steve Hanson, a laypastor from the Cypress Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas, who connected with Eugene.

Eugene was amazed with what he was learning, and invited his sister to come and listen to what Hanson was saying. Both siblings were impressed how clearly the Bible spoke. Every time a Bible study guide was finished the two would send it to their older brother in California. He too was amazed and started reaching out to his local Adventist church. During this time “Ruby,” a friend of Eugene, came to Eugene’s study group.

Multiple church members would visit the gathering, which became much like a small support group. After faithfully studying the Bible and making relationships with church members, Eugene eventually decided on baptism.

On April 29, 2017, Eugene celebrated his new “birthday,” and his sister, older brother, and friend Ruby were also baptized around the same time.

Debra

On Dec. 17, 2016, “Debra” called Amazing Facts. The CSR noticed that Debra was seriously interested in Bible studies and renewing her faith. The CSR upgraded the call for visitation an on Jan. 22, 2017, “Joel,” an AIM chaplain, connected Debra with “Pastor Snyder.” After the pastor began meeting with Debra and her husband, the Bible studies started to occur on a regular basis.

While participating in Bible studies, Debra discovered that she had a lump in her breast. The stress of the situation caused Debra to pause in her diligent studies. But once the studies started up again, Pastor Snyder saw that Debra and her husband were ready for baptism.

About one year later, Debra and “Marvin” were baptized on June 2, 2018, at the Altoona Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pennsylvania. Through the power of the Word of God, the couple experienced transformation, renewal, and a fresh start in life.

Adventist Information Ministry (AIM) customer service representatives answer calls at the ministry's headquarters in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Adventist Information Ministry (AIM) customer service representatives answer calls at the ministry's headquarters in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

 

kmaran Thu, 09/13/2018 - 12:58

NAD Women Clergy Retreat Creates Atmosphere of Affirmation and Healing

NAD Women Clergy Retreat Creates Atmosphere of Affirmation and Healing
Two women clergy pray for each other during a general session of the 2018 NAD Women Clergy Retreat in Indian Hills, California.

Two women clergy pray for each other during a general session of the 2018 NAD Women Clergy Retreat in Indian Hills, California. Photo: Mylon Medley

While scanning the “low desert” of California’s southern region, one cannot help but look up to the surrounding mountains and hills that lay contrast to the spanning sky. It was the landscape of this region, more specifically Indian Wells, that inspired the theme for the 2018 North American Division Women Clergy Retreat.

"We visited four sites,” said Brenda Billingy, associate director of NAD Ministerial for women clergy, when speaking about potential locations for the retreat. “And the minute I got to this one, and I looked up at those mountains, the Lord said to me, ‘Now lift up your eyes, know that I am here. You need to direct those women to ‘Look up.’”

Nearly 200 female pastors and chaplains heard daily devotional thoughts that sought to inspire attendees to remain faithful to the call to ministry. Photo: Mylon Medley

Nearly 200 female pastors and chaplains listen to a keynote message by Chanda Nunes, associate pastor of Capitol City Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California, about self-care and ministry.  Photo: Mylon Medley

Approximately 200 pastors and chaplains participated in the “Look Up” event, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort and Spa, September 2-5. The retreat was designed to provide ample time for rejuvenation with inspirational messages, breakout sessions, community service, free sessions with a licensed counselor, a 24-hour prayer room, and even hand massages.

“I wanted the ladies to be able to rest,” said Billingy. “Ministry is brutal, so I wanted them to have a chance to [physically] regroup, feel energized again. Some are going right back to tough situations.

A Song of Praise and Ascents

Every morning, the women sang songs of praise inspired by Psalm 121, which reminded them to “Look Up.”

A woman sings a song of praise inspired by Psalm 121, which reminded attendees to “Look Up.” Photo: Mylon Medley

The retreat was structured around Psalm 121, a song of ascents, which starts with the familiar passage, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord the Maker of heaven and earth.”(NIV).

“This is a song that would've been sung by Hebrew pilgrims as they were going back to Jerusalem, to that mountain top experience. They would've sung this [as they traveled],” said Raewyn Orlich,” senior pastor of Victorville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Victorville, California, during the final devotional thought of the retreat.

“This has been like Jerusalem. We've been singing this song, we’ve been feasting together in God's presence, and now we want to continue singing this song as we go back down the mountain,” said Orlich. “How do we keep looking up when we're heading back down to those tasks, to those places of service, to those places that can sometimes feel like a desert?”

The question was deeply felt throughout the room with audible sighs and murmurs. Orlich answered with one of God’s promises of unwavering support for individuals, not just ministries, programs, and services.

“God is a life-giver,” said Orlich. “I believe God is telling us [to remember] that, ‘I came that you may have life,’ and not just your church members, patients, or family members. ‘I came that you may have life.’

A Call to Obedience

Ann Roda, a keynote speaker at the retreat, is vice president of Adventist HealthCare for Mission Integration and Spiritual Care. Roda never saw herself in a ministerial role outside of the church’s walls. With more than two decades of experience as a congregational pastor, she knew she was where God wanted her to be. But then God called her out of the traditional pastoral setting into health care administration.

Ann Roda, vice president of Adventist HealthCare for Mission Integration and Spiritual Care, told the women clergy,

Ann Roda, vice president of Adventist HealthCare for Mission Integration and Spiritual Care, tells attendees, "A call is not always a call to a place or to a position, rather it is a call to obedience.” Photo: Mylon Medley

“It does no good to lift our eyes up to the mountains for help when you are not willing to see,” said Roda, as she reflected on the time she initially resisted leaving a pastoral role to her current position. “A call is not always a call to a place or to a position, rather, it is a call to obedience. And sometimes obedience means to just stand there and see the great things that God is going to do.”

Danielle Pilgrim, associate pastor of Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, said Roda’s message was one of the highlights during her time at the retreat.

“Her words really touched my heart and open my eyes,” said Pilgrim. “We think of ministry as just pastoral ministry or maybe chaplaincy, but ministry is way beyond that. Our impact is not just for the local church or just to be in that building; it's wide.”

Urgent Need for Mentoring

During a lunch session, the president and executive secretary of the North American Division, Dan Jackson and Alex Bryant, affirmed and acknowledged the steadily increasing demographic of women clergy in the church.

“I can’t help but say, ‘Praise God’ for the expansion, growth for this part of the ministerial team,” said Jackson. “I really dream for the day we'll have 1,000 female pastors in the NAD.” Currently, there are approximately 150 female pastors employed within the division.

The leaders also took questions from the attendees. This provided an opportunity for the women clergy to inquiry about a policy compliance document that will be discussed during next month’s Annual Council session in Battle Creek, Michigan. Annual Council is a yearly meeting of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s second highest governing body that is made up of leaders from the Church’s global territory. The document outlines ways the denomination’s leadership could address unions believed to be operating outside of Church policy. While not explicitly stated, one of the areas of which some NAD unions may be viewed out of compliance is with their ordination of female pastors.

At the end of the Q&A with the president and executive secretary of NAD, Dan Jackson and Alex Bryant, the director of NAD Ministerial, Ivan Williams said a prayer over the two men. One-by-one the women clergy moved to the front of the room during the prayer to surround the leaders.

Ivan Williams, director of NAD Ministerial, leads out a prayer at the end of the Q&A session with the president and executive secretary of the North American Division, as the women clergy surround Dan Jackson and Alex Bryant. Photo: Mylon Medley

The Q&A also gave participants the chance to ask Jackson and Bryant about opportunities for women in more pastoral and leadership roles throughout the division’s structure. Bryant highlighted a stunning statistic that half of the division’s approximately 4,000 pastors are eligible for retirement.

“We do not even have enough in the pipeline to replace that number of people. Maybe God is preparing a team, an army, to be prepared to step in the gap. We don't know what the Lord is up to, but we know He's up to something.”

Billingy echoed this in a later setting, “I feel for the women. We need to be even more intentional about mentoring, … And it's not that women are supposed to take over the church. We just need to be able to enlarge this conversation and this territory.”

“So, we're making room for growth, development, for other women to come in and experience the joy of being called by God and seeing the fulfillment of that calling. That's a joy that's unspeakable,” said Billingy.

Healing Through Community

The retreat also served as a family reunion of sorts. Former seminary classmates, and chaplains from various military branches and hospitals, shared aspirations and challenges, and prayed over each other throughout the four-day retreat.

"I didn’t realize how much I needed to be in the community of other female pastors, said Pilgrim. “It's been really refreshing to be in fellowship with them and to encourage one another. It's very needed.”

The clergy seized every opportunity to encourage each other through prayer, and expressions of support and love.

Two clergy express encouragement through a hug at the retreat's final session. Photo: Mylon Medley

Julian Jones-Campbell, a pastor of the Greater New York Conference, attended the first NAD Women Clergy Retreat in 2016, which took place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She said she’s inspired by what her colleagues have been able to do within the two years.

“Being here with my sisters, hearing their stories, seeing progress that has been made … to see them today and how they've grown and how things have gotten better, it's amazing to see that they're blooming where they’ve been planted,” said Jones-Campbell.

Lindsay Syeh, who pastors two small churches in the Miami area of Florida, is her conference’s only female pastor in the city. She says while she can always text her colleagues in different conferences, it’s not the same as meeting in person for a listening ear.

“I felt the presence of God here,” said Syeh. “The networking is beyond what you could imagine or think. It's just good to know that I'm not the only one with struggles.” Syeh mentioned one struggle, which resonated with colleagues, of people walking out of church in response to seeing a woman in the pulpit during the worship hour.

She said aside from General Conference Session, which brings together leaders, ministers, and tens of thousands of members from the Church’s 13 international territories every five years, there aren’t many opportunities for women clergy from the entire division to see each other.

“Hopefully we can get more of this, we need more days,” said Syeh.

The Value of Listening

One of the featured speakers for the “Look Up” retreat was Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University. She used the concept of the desert as a simile for various life experiences, some where she felt safe, and at peace, and others where she felt loneliness and devastation. But she said in both the highs and the lows, it’s imperative that one learns how to listen for the voice of God.

Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University, told attendees during her keynote address, when we “embrace the strength in the stories and experiences of others, we really get the fullness of the church and the body of Christ.”

During her keynote address, Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University, tells attendees, “When we embrace the strength in the stories and experiences of others, we really get the fullness of the church and the body of Christ.” Photo: Mylon Medley

“The busier we get, the multitude of challenges that are pressing on us, both personal and professional, the harder it is to still keep listening,” said Luxton.

“So, what [I wish for you] is the constantly deepening and growing conviction and awareness of God's leading in our lives and our ministry,” continued Luxton. “The capacity to find ways to be still and hear God's voice, even with all the stuff going on around us. The ability to hear God speaking may be through others, maybe in our darkest moments, and maybe in our silence. So, ‘look up’ and listen.

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Visit NAD’s Flickr page to see photo coverage of the “Look Up” 2018 Women Clergy Retreat in Indian Wells, California.

mylonmedley Wed, 09/12/2018 - 14:06