02 Jun

SANDY HODGSON TO BROADEN TEACHER SUPPORT FOR RMC EDUCATION

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Denver, Colorado … Following 24 years as an educator in Rocky Mountain Conference, and 18 years as a teacher, and seven as a teaching principal at Vista Ridge Academy in Erie, Colorado, Sandy Hodgson is moving to a new position as RMC assistant director of education.

“As we look to the future of RMC education, we are blessed to bring Sandy Hodgson’s 24 years of experience to broaden our teacher support. As we increase our professional development opportunities and bring added resources to our small schools, I know that Sandy will be a blessing to our teachers, said Diane Harris, RMC superintendent of education.

Sandy appreciates the invitation to serve in a broader education field. Commenting for NewsNuggets, she explained that as educators, “we are compelled to see our students grow into their God-given ability to become thinking and responsible individuals, and we are challenged to help them to be who they already are.” She pointed out that creativity in education is an element that helps students remember what education brings to their young lives, and it helps them to be creative, too.

Years as a missionary abroad in Italy and Germany with her husband, Greg, have helped her illustrate her teaching, recognizing the diversity and richness of culture and history.

“We are educating kids in so many ways, but the kids are also educating us,” she said.

Among the lessons she acquired from her teaching career is resilience. She recognizes the many differences students represent in their home situations and cultures. Especially during the pandemic, the resilience of the children through difficult times was coming through. It was a learning experience for her to see that “there was an innocence lost, but there’s still a little bit of it and [what you see] is the resilience. There is still that spark of laughter, the sparkle in their eyes. You could see the smiles [even] when we wore masks all the time. You could see the smile in their eyes, and you knew there were things that had brought them joy.”

Hodgson recognizes that the pace of her work will change; she is grateful for the lessons gained in her years in the classrooms that will come with her to the new position within RMC education as she joins the department on July 1.

Harris added that “Sandy has exemplified a commitment to our CHERISH core values and has many years of experience as a teaching principal. Her creativity and experience will be an asset to all of our teachers.”

As she explained her philosophy of education, Sandy could not but refer to the core values which are enshrined in the acronym CHERISH, a foundation for education–– Christ-centered, honor, exploration, responsibility, integrity, service, and heroism all encapsulate her philosophy.

“Obviously, you want the outcomes to be the product of your mission. Don’t we want citizens that are going to take care of each other, that is going to respect and honor each other, that are going to save the planet [through] all those little things? What can they do to make this world a better place?

“Jesus is coming soon, but at the same time, we hold fast, and we keep working until then. We keep building; as RMC president Mic Thurber often emphasizes, “You keep working as though it could last lifetimes and lifetimes. We must be good stewards of the planet.”

“We must also be good stewards of our money. We must be good stewards of our mind and our body. I guess for me, even though I want Jesus to come soon, and I want us to all go to heaven if it lasts another generation and another generation, we need to be prepared to take care of this earth and the people that are on it,” she explained.

Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and the editor of NewsNuggets. Photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

19 Apr

GRAND JUNCTION COMMUNITY JOINS ELEVATE KIDS FUN RUN

By Sandi Adcox with Rajmund Dabrowski – Grand Junction, Colorado … Elevate Kids (EK), a non-profit organization whose motto is “Helping Kids One Step at a Time,” was created by a couple of members of the Grand Junction Seventh-day Adventist Church. Doug McCaw II, board chairman of Intermountain Adventist Academy (IAA), and his wife, Melinda, are dedicated to raising money to benefit children, specifically, IAA (which is expanding to grades 9 and 10 next school year) and Kids Aid. This backpack-for-kids program feeds hungry children.

On Sunday, April 10, the McCaws hosted the first annual Elevate Kids Fun Run for the community, with proceeds going to IAA and Kids Aid. The event, which included 2.5K, 5K, and 10K routes, was a huge success, with 255 registrants, dozens of volunteers from the church and community, and many sponsors. Registrants received Elevate Kids T-shirts, swag bags, professional timing, online photographs, awards for all finishers, and special awards for each category and overall winners. The EK team is already planning a Second Fun Run for April 2023.

Naturally, the event had a special significance for Joel Reyes, principal of IAA, who volunteered at the run. For him, Elevate Kids Fun Run meant that “the community [was brought] together for an event like this, and the name of the school was associated with this.”

“It also meant support. I have a very supportive board chair this time, and this was very much his idea. The purpose of this is to start a junior academy in the Western Slope. That’s what we are fundraising and running and working for,” Joel added.

Representing Kids Aid was Tessa Kaiser, executive director. “The run shows the community support for Kids Aid. Doug and Melinda wanted to do something to challenge themselves and make it about more than just themselves. They put this together to support Kids Aid and their child’s school,” she commented.

“We are really grateful for that. And it really shows how much the community understands the need [to address] childhood hunger,” she added.

The Fun Run was not the first fundraiser the McCaws have organized. In July 2020, the McCaws ran the entire Colorado Trail (490 miles from Durango to Denver) in 18 days.  A documentary movie, “Chasing the Sky,” was created and seen by hundreds of people in local theaters. Proceeds from the film were split between IAA and Kids Aid.

In July 2022, the couple plans to rerun the Colorado Trail, attempting to break the fastest known time.  Another documentary of the run will be created, which will be shown in theaters, with proceeds going to IAA and Kids Aid.

“Helping the kids in our community is why we work so hard to raise funds and awareness for the kids in the Grand Valley. We want to give everyone in the community an opportunity to support the kids through our events,” Doug and Melinda said.

Dana Ñkaña is a member of the Grand Junction Adventist Church. For him, joining the run is supporting children’s education. “You know, we have two children, and I’m always looking for ways to where our children can be better than us,” he explained.

“I grew up in Africa [and] there was nothing like this to help us when I was a kid. And so, with the opportunities that I have being here in this country, I feel that I am basically able to help other people to get to where they want to be,” he shared.

After completing his 10K run, Dana put his award around the neck of David Klemm. A medical condition put David into a wheelchair. “I did this because David is a very good friend and I know his heart and his heart is with children. I know he currently volunteers to help children read. If he were able to be on two feet like I am, he would have been running,” Dana explained.

“And so, I run, and I gave him my award.”

If you are interested in supporting Elevate Kids and learning more about the organization or receiving updates on future events, sign up at elevatekids.org.

–Sandi Adcox is Grand Junction Adventist Church team member with Elevate Kids Run; Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of NewsNuggets. Photos by Rajmund Dabrowski and supplied

 

INTERVIEW WITH MELINDA AND DOUG McCAW,

ORGANIZERS OF ELEVATE KIDS FUN RUN

 

NewsNuggets: What does this event mean to you?

Doug McCaw: It means many different things and it is fun also.  First, [it gives us the opportunity] to help the school [Intermountain Adventist Academy] and Kids Aid. But also, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to help the community, and also help grow Adventist education.

NN: What motivated you to do this event?

DMC: My wife and I have done the Colorado trail several different times. Um, actually three times, four times now. She was in a networking meeting and the guy was talking about not letting your butt get in the way of achieving your goals. After he said it several times, she made a decision. She came and told me, “Hey, I’d like to try to run the entire trail. Do you want to run this? And I said, “Sure, let’s do it.” We went out and started training and getting ready. And one of the things in our hearts was helping Intermountain Adventist Academy expand and grow. We’d like to see it have a 9th and 10th-grade program. And so, we said, “Hey, let’s, raise some money around that.”

NN:  Did you expect this event to have such an impact and participation?

Melinda McCaw: I expected that for this event. Doug and I thought we wanted to go big and so we set the goal of 200 to 300 people [to participate]. It was hard, at the beginning, to trust God that that was going to happen, but He definitely came through. At first, when we started, it was just the goal that we set.

We wanted to run the Colorado Trail because we biked it and ran it. Then I had the idea that I’d like to support the school and help them. We’re already running it. Why not make it about something bigger than us?

NN: What does the success of this event give you?

MCC: It makes me excited for the future. This project has grown way bigger than I ever expected it to. When we started out doing the run, we’re like, “We’ll just send out a letter campaign to friends and family and we’ll raise some money, and then we’ll be done.”

It turned out way bigger than that. If you could raise $20,000 or $25,000 in donations, just from that run. And then we made the movie and made money off of the showings. Our accountant said this is getting big enough. You need to make it a non-profit. We filed for that and we just got non-profit status two weeks ago. That was amazing and it was a God thing, too, because it [was granted] in three months.

NN: And you linked it with Kid’s Aid?

MMC: Originally, we were going to just support the school and then, when we hired our videographer, he asked if we could find something bigger, and [perhaps] national that would draw more attention to the cause. We started looking around and we didn’t find anything that really touched our hearts nationally. And then we asked our coach that we were trying to find something else to support. He used to be a teacher in public schools, so he told us about the backpack program.

He told us a story about one child. It was a Wednesday or Thursday and the kids would get the bags on Friday. If you’re not at school, you don’t get a bag. And this kid got sick and was super distraught and upset because he knew if he wasn’t back at school on Friday, he wasn’t eating that weekend. That’s how we found Kids Aid program and the story really touched our hearts. That’s how we decided we wanted to raise money for them.

NN: How do you find the church supporting these causes?

Doug McCaw: The church does a wonderful job with the community service center. And there are a lot of different [service] organizations by churches. But I don’t know of a church organization that does exactly what Kids Aid does.

31 Mar

RMC CHURCH MEMBERS REACT TO UKRAINE CRISIS

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Boulder, Colorado … It was the first week of March and the war was well underway on the Eastern and Northern fronts of Ukraine. A car, which started its 365-kilometer (226 miles) drive from the outskirts of Zhytomyr to the border with Poland, carried seven refugees.

Two families with five children squeezed into a vehicle with three of the children in the trunk of Peugeot 508. The memory of flying missiles and the sound of explosions at the Zhytomyr military airport near their home were soon just a painfully etched memory. Hope drove them to safety.

Olga Charucka and her husband Waldemar Kutrzeba were awaiting them on the Polish side of the border, ready to welcome them to safety—the five kids, the mother, and a grandmother.

The night before, all seven of them slept in the basement of their house a short distance from the airport destroyed by cruise missiles and bombs dropped from Russian planes. A wall was cracked in their home from an explosion, and a portion of the ceiling had fallen.

After arriving in Poland, four-year-old Zlata, hearing the siren of an ambulance or police car, would run to Olga. Clinging to her, she cried, “We must hide.”

***

Olga and Waldemar live in the home of my parents near Warsaw. They were caregivers to my father and mother before they passed away. Their spacious home welcomed all seven of them. Kutrzebas are members of the nearby Adventist Theological College Church in Podkowa Leśna, which these days is serving as a shelter housing two-dozen refugees. Their church is one of many throughout Poland serving as shelters, among them Warsaw, Łódź, and Lublin. A congregation in Warsaw alone has accommodated and fed 400 refugees.

I welcomed the idea of having refugees in my parents’ home. Though far away, a plan of action was formulated during recent weeks to find support for several of our brothers and sisters in Poland engaged in helping thousands of refugees. Requests for help soon turned into questions from different parts of the Rocky Mountain Conference: How can we help? Members of Casper and Wheatland churches in Wyoming were engaged in fundraising for refugees in Romania (see https://www.rmcsda.org/a-simple-gift-inspires-others-to-give/).

From Bernie Hartnell of the Grand Junction church comes the comment, “God has blessed us in so many ways here in Colorado and the wider United States. However, Marti and I have been impressed by the Holy Spirit, to do something about the refugees flooding out of Ukraine into neighboring countries.”

He continues, “We felt time was critical to help support our Adventist brothers and sisters, who have opened their homes, churches, and schools in this crisis! So we, along with others in our Grand Junction church, have made it happen by giving either directly to our churches in Poland or through ADRA’s Ukrainian refugee fund.

“I would like to emphasize the inspiration to not sit on our hands in cozy America but listen to the Spirit’s bidding. From the ‘widow’s mite’ to the amounts that the Lord impresses, this effort, you can be assured, will go to its intended worthy purpose!” he added.

“How can one watch the news on the Ukraine crisis and not be moved to do something,” wondered Gordy Gates from Boulder. “And then to learn how the Polish people are opening their homes to the refugees led me to talk with you [Rajmund Dabrowski] to see how we might be able to get involved.”

Learning that my family’s home was part of this refugee relief, Gordy commented that he “knew he had found the way to get involved where every dollar given made it to the Ukrainian people, and [he is thankful] for being given the opportunity to help.”

Shawn Nowlan, a member of the Contemporary Issues Sabbath School Class at the Boulder church where I attend, asked how to get involved.

“Our Sabbath School wondered [how we could help] Ukraine [since] the problem is so big and beyond our control. What can we do (as suggested in the Epistle of James) to help those Ukrainians in need to go in peace, keep warm and eat their fill?  Organizations like ADRA have wonderful, specialized skills. What do we have?”

He continued, “This is when we heard about Adventist congregations in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania who were turning their buildings into refugee centers to house the refugees streaming out of Ukraine. Maybe we could support those congregations directly so that ADRA’s resources would be free to use in the war zone itself?” Nowlan wondered.

“We could help those Eastern European congregations directly by feeding them, clothing them, and keeping them safe. We have the contacts. We can use them. And that is what we are intending to do,” he added.

***

Last week, I asked the kids if they would draw their experiences. Wiktoria is 15 years old and the oldest child of the Zhytomyr family. She sent her drawing full of war images and symbols of her country. When asked about the memories of the day she left her home, she said, “I remember fear. The biggest difficulty was choosing if my mother should join us or stay with dad as his support as he had to stay in Ukraine. The children decided that she would stay and be of help to my father.” The fathers are a part of the Territorial Defense Army in their region.

Zlata’s drawing was poignant, illustrating the distressing emotions of her experience in and what was being shown on TV. For her, memories were symbols of falling rain. She remembers the falling bullets and missiles.

Reports from the frontiers of the neighboring countries with Ukraine–Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland–describe the Adventist Church being present by setting up welcoming centers with ADRA* representatives and volunteers offering food, clothing, and medical assistance. Local church volunteers provide transportation, accommodation, and meals. More than three million refugees have left Ukraine, the majority of them finding refuge in Poland.

In Poland, and elsewhere, human solidarity is at work.

–Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of NewsNuggets; photos supplied *For donations contact www.adra.pl

 

28 Mar

ALWAYS A MAVERICK

By Rajmund Dabrowski … As I watched David Bowie in a commercial advertising Audi in the Spring of 2004, what struck me as important was its simple tagline. The ad issued a call to Never Follow.

Honestly, what it communicated to me was the opposite of what I learned from Jesus’ call to His followers: Follow me.

The marketing campaign tried to position the European car-maker as a product that many were to follow. Some did, more so in Europe than in America. Three years later, the company ditched the slogan. “You have to be bold to be noticed in America—certainly bolder and more aggressive than we’ve been,” they said. Well …

On the surface, this slogan does not connect with Matthew, Zacchaeus, and many others from Jesus’ entourage, if I may be so irreverent, except that all of them had to fail first, forsake their ego, and fly into the hands of … wonder.

David Bowie’s involvement in the Audi ad made sense to me. Never follow the crowd! His words, spoken in a video he shot: “There is no progress without failure. And each failure is a lesson learned. Unnecessary failures are the ones where an artist tries to second guess an audience’s taste, and little comes out of that situation except a kind of inward humiliation.”

That’s a lesson from our contemporary culture. For me, there was another lesson, one all of us had to learn and many continue to learn throughout their lives.

In the mid-1980s, a straw vote was requested by the General Conference on allowing the ordination of women. An upcoming world church session was potentially including it on its agenda. I recall voting at the Polish Union Executive Committee. I know how I voted.

We know the history of the ordination of women drama experienced by the church. Years later, I visited my dad, then a church leader in Poland, and I asked him if he remembered the outcome of this straw vote. He remembered the vote and that there was one Yes vote. After a short silence on my part, he looked at me and said, “You have always been a maverick.”

What an affirmation. I responded with a smile!

Nonconformity and free expression were and continue to be a part of my daily breakfast, so to speak. Apart from my own thought processes, as an Adventist Christian, I learned from the best: the pioneers of the Advent movement.

One of them stands out for me—Michael Belina Czechowski, a compatriot and pioneer missionary leader in Adventism. Before embracing Adventism in 1857, this Franciscan reformer-father was heavily engaged in social and political activities which swept Europe in the 1840s. He wanted his then church to change but became disenchanted with Catholicism.

After arriving in America in 1851, he engaged in sharing what he learned about the Second Coming of Jesus among the immigrants mainly in New England. At first, he was supported by other Adventist pioneers, as well as by the sales of his fascinating autobiography, Thrilling and Instructive Developments: An Experience of fifteen years as Roman Catholic Clergyman and Priest but there was an itch to return to Europe and preach there.

His church was not ready to support a foreign mission, but funding was offered to him by the first-day Evangelical Adventists from Boston. He was an example of climbing through the window if a door was closed. In several countries of Europe, Czechowski preached the message of the Sabbath and the Second Coming of Jesus and established numerous congregations in Switzerland, Italy, France, Hungary, and Romania.

In 1871 the church confirmed the missionary accomplishments of Maverick Czechowski. “We deem it duty to acknowledge the hand of God in planting the truth in Switzerland,” the record states.

It often takes a maverick to foster change and ignite progress. Mavericks of Adventism. What a privilege to join them. We have a job to do!

–Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views and RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]

10 Jan

THERE WAS A KNOCK ON THE DOOR

By Rajmund Dabrowski — My vivid memory about my grandmother Janina is her frequently repeated story about “accepting the truth” using a variation of expressions, including “learning the truth,” “knowing the truth,” “believing the truth,” “living the truth,” or “joining the true church.” She meant to express her discovery that seriously embracing Christianity (and the Adventist faith) made a difference in her life. It was more than knowing it. It was living out the truth she discovered and embraced. I recall her telling a conversion story and how she joined a new church.

One day, she came back from her church full of tears. There was no news from the hospital. She would have to check the next day to see if her husband, Jan, had survived surgery. Would her prayers bring healing to their home? But what was the meaning of the voice she heard? After all, she was praying to St. Anthony. He was a patron saint who was often invoked in prayers for restoring health, requesting help for those in distress or sorrow.

The voice she heard had asked, “Why are you praying to a clay figurine? Pray to Jesus. He lives and heals.”

She was stunned and returned home in tears. What was the meaning of the message? “I wanted my husband to be well. I wanted him home and at work as I could not imagine being left alone with four young children,” she explained. There was a knock on her door. The gentleman outside introduced himself and invited her to join a Bible study at a local Adventist church. But there was more.

Why are you crying, he asked?

Her story unfolded about her husband being in the hospital. Would he survive a generally incurable disease? If only he had listened to his doctors. Her faith prompted her to plead for a miracle from St. Anthony who was to intervene. The visitor assured her that Jesus changes all. They prayed together.

My grandfather lived not only through the WWII years but several years past his hospital surgery. And he left me with a memory of him as he carried me in his arms. This was my grandmother’s first encounter with truth as presented in the Word, but also her first encounter with Jesus.

Grandma Janina was a staunch believer. She often described her faith as a walking-with-Jesus experience. It was an experience of sharing him with others. As I listened to her prayers, I noted that she has things to say to Jesus. She told Him to return as He promised in her lifetime. And as she was in her final days, she told me that she learned that it wasn’t what she wanted Him to do, but that He has a better plan to fulfill. Knowing the truth means learning to hang out in the places daily where our Lord has promised to meet us. We will then gain clarity of what He meant when He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!” (John 8:32). In the words of Prince Tripp, “Without clarity [about] what Jesus means by ‘the truth,’ we will never know true freedom. Through a daily connection with his Word, we will not only gain knowledge but will encounter the living Truth to which it faithfully points.”

Such was my grandmother’s experience with our church. And she was ready for the return of her Lord

–Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of Mountain Views and RMC communication director. Email him at: [email protected]

14 Dec

CHURCH PLANT INAUGURATED IN DOWNTOWN DENVER

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Denver, Colorado … When you drive or walk through the Five Points, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Denver, you might wonder if a church could be established there. Laced with bars, warehouses, small business establishments, and with graffiti everywhere, it gives you the impression of a dangerous place to start a church.

Miloš Tomić, an associate pastor of the Arvada Adventist Church will take you back to 2019 when he threw out an idea during a pastoral evaluation meeting at the Rocky Mountain Conference. Ed Barnett, former RMC president, challenged him quite directly: “Like, hey, you know what? You guys from Arvada, you guys can do this. You guys should just get a place and start a church downtown.”

We took the challenge with a group of young Adventists from our local church, Miloš explained. But then COVID came and messed up the whole idea until pretty much the middle of this year. The idea did not go away. “Let’s do something that is not going to be [getting] in the way of people connecting with this ministry because this neighborhood is very dangerous. People who live in the neighborhood, “they’re a part of the space [we] rent. They’re a part of the neighborhood we are in, and a lot of them are very anti-church,” he reflected.

On Sabbath, December 11, Pastor Tomić and a group of Arvada young people met for what could be seen as a seeker worship. Thus started the Five Points Life Adventist Church.

You quickly discover that you are participating in a meeting of a group of young people who are trying to get themselves sorted out with the presence of God in their lives, a group of young people committed to “helping this neighborhood experience something better, something bigger and something that will improve the neighborhood and just get the people over here, [to help them] understand that the spiritual aspect of life is as important as boozing and bar hopping as they have it around here,” Miloš explained.

Five Points Life has two objectives – to create an environment, a community for everyone; and to promote the values of the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus, sticking to the things that really matter to people, allowing them to find their path with God and to find solutions in their lives with God.

This is a church, Miloš said, “but this is not like your typical, average, or usual church you’re going to have. This is a group of people who are here not to listen to me. People come here to share, to hear what others have to share. This will never be that typical [approach] with let’s line up, let’s stand up, let’s sit down, let’s do this, let’s do that. The New Testament church was kind of a complete freedom of expression.”

“We are going to the basics,” he added.

Joining the group was Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director. He commented, “it thrills my soul to know that we now have a safe place in the Five Points neighborhood of Denver where young adults can come and connect to God and with other young adults. Miloš’s biblical insights are very inspiring and relevant. You leave church feeling grateful for your blessings and excited about the ones to come.”

The group began with their involvement in the neighborhood by getting to know their neighbors and promoting their presence in the area.

Observing the small group at the opening worship and discussion meeting in the Posner Center, where they are renting space, one could develop an appreciation for their dedication to make the initiative work. The growth will depend on unwavering dependence on God’s guidance. As their invitation for other Seventh-day Adventists states: “In the spirit of acceptance and compassion, and with a goal for everyone to feel welcome, we will preach the Gospel message and maintain seeker worship.”

–Rajmund Dabrowski is editor of NewsNuggets. Photos by Rajmund Dabrowski.

27 Oct

FROM MY BOOKSHELF: HE COMES BRINGS REMINDERS THAT JESUS IS COMING AGAIN

By Rajmund Dabrowski … “Christ will come. It will happen,” writes Reinder Bruinsma, expressing a conviction in his latest and well-presented book, He comes.

Among the topics dear to all Seventh-day Adventists, the Second Coming of Christ stands out above others. When a few days ago, I received Bruinsma’s latest book, He comes (Autumn House Publications (Europe) Ltd., 2021), the very fact took my memory to a 1976 book I wrote, At the world’s end.

It was a delight to receive such a fresh reminder as the topic is of vital daily importance, and even more so these days, as something worrisome is developing on Planet Earth. The book is well researched and inviting in its balanced presentation, as the author plainly states that “history is moving toward its end” (p. 88).

Though we do not question the essence of Christ’s promise to return, many Adventists are asking when He will return. The disciples asked that question and the question remains an occupation for many believers today. Many are experiencing sleepless nights. Defining the time of the end, though, “the Bible does not define ‘the time of the end’ … as the last few years, decades, or even a century or two before the Second Coming. In actual fact, biblically speaking, the time of the end covers a period between the first and the second advents of Christ,” writes Bruinsma (p. 57).

He comes offers clarity of understanding that the Second Coming offers the solution to all the problems of this world. There is no question, however, that being ready and living prepared to meet our Lord, is undergirded by the “blessed hope.”

Bruinsma’s well-researched and readable presentation reminds us of Ellen G. White’s comment that “We have many lessons to learn, and many to unlearn,” (Counsels to Writers and Editors, p. 37).

Note: It is hoped that like many other Bruinsma books, He comes will soon be available in the Adventist Book Centers.

– Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director

30 Sep

COMMENTARY – A PIECE OF BARBED WIRE

By Rajmund Dabrowski … It was in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp in southern Poland, where I met astonishment and anger, all at once. There, I learned the meaning of being available–to God–and he would help me to be available to others.

Auschwitz is a place where one’s own spiritual wonder would meet Maksymilian Kolbe, a priest who gave his life in place of a fellow prisoner. At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp. Ten men mere picked to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

For nearly two decades I refused to go to Auschwitz. But a time came in the mid-70s that I was asked to assist the Adventist world church leader and translate for him as he laid a wreath at the wall of death. It was a solitary walk just within the perimeter of the camp where I spotted a piece of barbed wire, a leftover piece lying on the path. I kept it as a reminder of those tragic days when hatred for those who were different had a winning run.

It was at this sacred place, consecrated by the blood of the innocents where my uncle Anszel’s first wife and two small children perished. My personal wonder was fortified out of that context through a conversation I had with him, sitting in his hospitable home, having the best of home-cooked Jewish cuisine, and trying to unlock his thoughts. He said: I have forgiven the Nazis. One cannot forget the past completely, but its not me who should judge them. I dont want to talk about it.

In that moment, for me, the concept of forgiveness became a child of what it means to love. It was God forgiving me that put me on the road of following Him, no questions asked. And my Christian attitude is to be wherever my fellow sojourners in this world are. Many of them are strangers to you and me. They look different, yet are still seeking and wondering, “Who is this Jesus?”

 Will they see you and me as a people who are always ready to give all we have to save them?

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

29 Sep

GOD GAVE YOU BRAINS. USE THEM

By Rajmund Dabrowski — Imagine Mona Lisa. Have you looked at her half-smile and imagined what she was thinking and what it was all about? Perhaps no extravagant imagination is needed when hearing John Lennon’s “Imagine.” And what were Joan Osborne’s One Of Us lyrics saying to you?

I will tell you that her song turned my imagination into an endless spin. If God was one of us, as she sang, and visited church on Sabbath, would He be surprised to discover how different we are on Sunday–Friday, or even just a day later? Yes, the Sabbath is the Sabbath. Christianity is not a one-day affair, He would remind us.

But there is more.

Imagine what your neighbors know about you. There was and there continues to be an issue with seeing God as someone who looks at us in a limiting way. And we think He thinks like we do. Right? Wrong.

Oh, how often I think like Nicodemus did. He could not grasp what it means to be born again. Many of us are grappling with a limited approach to what it means to be a child of God, trusting Him in . . . everything.

I was chatting with a fellow believer about letting Jesus lead us as if we were blindfolded. I said, “Pray that He takes you where He wants, even if that messes up your plans.” He responded, “What if He takes you where you do not want to be, or if your religious practice would make you uncomfortable?” I said, “So be it. He either leads or I lead. He told His disciples, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am’” (Matt. 16:24 MSG).

Imagine the consequences. There was a moment in my past when I needed a push, but then, I could not imagine where I would land after being pushed. After a midterm test, our theology professor called each of the students to review the results. Mine offered me a simple but poignant comment: “Ray, try harder,” he said. I did know what I needed to improve at that moment to stay on course. But I did not know that this simple admonition would lead me to life-changing results.

Many things have happened over the decades of going beyond many frontiers. One such moment arrived soon after I “tried harder.” It was a concert in London where I would not be squeezed on the floor with hundreds of fans. Being in a crowd made me feel insecure. I went to one of the boxes overlooking the stage and asked if I could hang out in a corner. I ended up being among the concert organizers “backstage” but without a VIP pass and . . . looking from above. I met a dozen people with “names.” This led me to practicing the art of communication beyond textbooks. A realm of imagination is required to express what one discovers, learns, and practices when the new and worthwhile lessons come from such an encounter.

I tried harder. I used my brains.

The same goes for spiritual life, a changed life, when you don’t take everything for granted, when you stop taking shortcuts or cutting the corners, when there are no excuses masquerading as forgiveness, when you are not telling the Lord to follow you rather than trusting his leadership in your life. All you are and how you are starts with changes and is fulfilled by Jesus.

The same goes for my faith community. God told us what to do and promised that He would equip us with skills and talents. He gave us brains. My professor was right. He did not make me guilty for not using my gift of learning (or studying diligently). He just told me to make use of it.

When our religious life becomes a routine of “doing” things, He patiently waits for us to make a change. That’s my dream for my church. As He says: “I am after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God, not go to more prayer meetings” (Hosea 6:6 MSG).

–Rajmund Dabrowski is RMC communication director and editor of “Mountain Views.”. Email him at: [email protected]

12 Aug

WESTERN SLOPE CAMP MEETING FOCUSES ON SPIRITUAL CULTURE

By Rajmund Dabrowski – Montrose, Colorado … Under the theme “Love of God,” the Western Slope camp meeting, August 4 through 8, brought more than 200 church members many representing congregations from the region.

The seventh annual gathering convened at Mountaintop Retreat in Montrose, Colorado.  “It’s so great to be back experiencing the joys of visiting [with] the old and making new friends,” said Ron Johnson from Grand Junction, whose connection with the event goes back to their inception.

Choosing the special guest speaker required “a lot of prayer. We were looking for God’s leading,” said Nate Skaife, pastor of Grand Junction church, who helped organize the camp meeting.

The 2021 invitation went to Dr. Joseph Kidder, professor of Pastoral Theology and Discipleship at Andrews University. Skaife explained that the organizers were looking for someone relevant, who’s able to challenge us, to take us deeper in terms of our understanding, but also in terms of how we implement our beliefs, how they impact our lives, how we’re able to minister to our communities.

Dr. Kidder’s evening presentations primarily dealt with relationships with God, which ultimately leads to worshipping God. During the afternoon seminars, he dealt with practical aspects of church members engaging within their own communities, drawing closer to Jesus, and help others to know Him and love Him. “Spiritual amnesia is one of the challenges today,” Kidder said. He added that “the most effective evangelist is … you.”

His message challenges the church. “Be contagious, and others will follow,” he stated.

Also speaking in the afternoon was Gary Force, pastor of the Durango district. He dealt with the relevancy of the messages of the three angels of Revelation 14:6-12. He explained how the messages are just as relevant today as they were throughout the course of history.

“The fellowship was golden,” said was Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director, who represented the Rocky Mountain Conference at the event. He commented that “after taking a year off due to the pandemic, it was great being back together again.”

“On top of that, Pastor Joe Kidder, our guest speaker, enriched the participants with his presentations. He shared a personal story about becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian while being persecuted by his family. He demonstrated that Jesus is just as much with His followers today as He was with the three Hebrew worthies in their fiery furnace trial in the book of Daniel,” Mallory explained.

Several attendees expressed their appreciation for meeting at Mountaintop Christian Retreat. According to Ron Johnson, the camp facilities are being continually upgraded, the results of which will be seen in the future.

“We had your group up here for about the past six years or so. And every year is the same as this year. You guys are excellent, probably the cleanest group I ever have up here. They produce almost no trash, and they’re just respectful and kind and generous people,” commented Kenny Easton, Mountaintop Christian Retreat director.

“I love having them up here, and that’s in addition to the music being wonderful and things being scripturally based. Just in general, you guys are a joy to have up here, so I appreciate you being here,” he added.

On the final two days of the event, musical appetites were filled with performances by the King’s Heralds. “I would listen to their songs at every gathering,” said one attendee.

The organizers recognize that the gatherings of the future will need to attract more young people. Camp meeting in the Adventist church has a long tradition and needs to be attractive to young people.

Dr. Kidder expressed this sentiment. “Churches have to be very intentional about attracting young people. They have to change the way they do things. A lot of young people are not finding fulfillment in the church in the way it is done. I think sometimes church has to be done in a different way,” he said.

–Rajmund Dabrowski, RMC communication director; photos by Rajmund Dabrowski

1 2 3