21 May

A LIFE OF SECOND CHANCES

By Vanessa Alacron — When I was five years old, a dog bit me. That’s when my dislike of dogs began. But, when my fiancé begged for us to own a dog when we got married, I decided to grant him his wish as long as I was not involved in its care. I could see the disappointment in his eyes–so much that I had a change of heart and surprised him in my wedding vows saying that I would care for our puppy. Although reluctant to meet her, I was willing to give it a try. When I met our puppy, I discovered that I love dogs. Before, I detested being licked or sniffed. Somehow, dogs knew I didn’t like them so they would always come to me. Now, I welcome this little puppy who just wanted to get to know me.

My friends are shocked; they cannot believe I’m the same person because I was such a proclaimed dog hater and now, I’m a dog lover. What changed? A shift of perspective, perhaps? Allowing myself one additional experience, a second chance? While I have this perception that I’m an open-minded person, I am not always drawn to change and avoid risk as much as possible

Have you ever found yourself so certain about something, but then you learn one thing and now you think differently? We learn from our experiences, so one bad experience can lead us to avoid or dislike something for the rest of our lives. We are all bound to change, though. In the story of Saul in the book of Acts, could ever think that Saul, persecutor of Christians, would later on be an evangelist for Christ? The Bible is full of transformation stories.

And while my change was from disliking dogs to loving them, it has made me rethink my current dislikes and biases. How could I love something that I refused for my entire life?  Who are the people or groups of people that I am currently shutting out of my life because of one bad moment? Could it be that I’m missing out on others because of my own fears?

I’d encourage everyone to reflect on your bad experiences with others. How many of them are up for your review or are due for a second chance?

“Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless—that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9 MSG).

Vanessa Alacron is the faith engagement pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado.

21 May

WAKING UP WITH CHRIST DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC

By Evelyn Rivera — Denver, Colorado … “Waking up with Christ” is a series of inspirational live morning devotionals offered to Hispanic church members every weekday morning at 7:00 a.m. via Zoom as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of some fifty participants from Denver area Hispanic churches join the daily meetings consisting of a traditional song service, prayer requests, and a short message from a different pastor each day.

As churches remain closed, this ministry is helping to connect the Hispanic church members and to enrich their spiritual lives during the pandemic. The morning devotionals are an initiative of the Hispanic pastors of the Rocky Mountain Conference.

“Every morning is very special because God wakes me up before 7:00 a.m. to consecrate church members, my family, and myself,” explained Jose David Rodriguez, who is pastoring several churches in RMC.

Commenting on the initiative, Veronica Yanez from Bloomfield Seventh-day Adventist church said, “Seeing so many people connected to pray for each other daily with the same purpose has been a great blessing in my life. Listening to these devotionals gives me a lot of courage to make it through the day and it strengthens my faith to know there are others going through the same difficulties as I am.”

The initiative is a welcome engagement for Ninfa Krutsinger, a member of Denver Hispanic Adventist church. She shared that “since I started joining these virtual devotionals, I have not stopped listening to them in the mornings. The devotionals give me the spiritual daily bread I need and have been very helpful in my personal life.”

Evelyn Rivera, is a member of the Nueva Esperanza SDA Church Aurora, Colorado; photo supplied

21 May

LOCKDOWN BUT NOT SHUTDOWN ON NAVAJO LA VIDA MISSION

By Dorie Panganiban — Farmington, New Mexico … The La Vida Mission School building is closed, but school continues until May 22, reported Dorie Panganiban, office manager at the Mission. When the students went home on March 14 for their one-week Spring Break, they never came back for face-to-face school since all schools in New Mexico were ordered by the governor to close. At that time, La Vida Mission made the decision to close until the end of the school year and to use a distance learning program. Because good internet is an issue in this part of the country and many of our students don’t have internet access in their homes, online school was not a good option.

Educators opted to mail schoolwork to students weekly and have them mail back their finished work. Both elementary and high school teachers–Claire James, Vicky Pioche, and Catherine Hartley—use the distance-learning method.

The church is also closed, and live services are temporarily suspended, but worship happens in members’ homes. The Mission staff continues to hold outdoor Sabbath worship at Treehouse Park with everyone sitting six or more feet apart, except for husbands and wives. The church leaders are able to connect with church members and community family through Facebook, Messenger, cellphone texts, and phone calls, the Outreach team packs “love/care packages” of rice, beans, canned goods, wipes, fruit, bread, missionary books, and other essential items, and delivers them to local friends in the community. “They are truly grateful because the “stay-at-home” order prevents many of them, especially our elders and poor families, from going to town,” Panganiban commented.

During Spring Break, before the lockdown order by both the State and the Navajo Nation government, the Mission director, Steve Gillham, and his wife Carol, were in Texas, emailed a list of projects to “adopt,” which keeps the staff busy doing practical things to improve the campus.

At the end of April, board member Neal Kelley brought a load of food from the Montrose Adventist Church and several of the Montrose members. Sharing Ministries, an independent food bank involving several area congregations, donated the food. Such donations support and reinforce the Mission’s Community Food distribution.

While the office is mostly closed to the public, administrative and other regular office work and community mail service continues.

Lockdown? Yes! Shutdown? No! The Mission is still at work and continues to serve the Lord through its ongoing ministry to the students, church members, and community family. “We continue to keep in prayer our students, their parents, and mission supporters. May God keep us all safe,” Panganiban adds.

Dorie Panganiban, Office Manager & Community Outreach Director; photos supplied

21 May

PUBLIC HEALTH LESSONS FROM COLORADO

By Mark B. Johnson — Boulder, Colorado … I have frequently been asked why it is that an unelected “bureaucrat” like me has the power to promulgate public health orders during a pandemic in Colorado. It’s a long story, and to me, its hero is a “little old lady” who grew up in the mining town of Central City.

In the 1940s, the health of Colorado was abysmal. More than 40% of Colorado draftees for World War II were found to be “not physically fit for the Armed Services.” Colorado had high rates of diphtheria, typhoid, dysentery, and maternal and infant mortality. It was one of the six worst states in the country in regard to smallpox.

In 1944, as Colorado prepared for the return of its soldiers from World War II, Governor John Vivian appointed numerous planning committees, including a committee on public health. The Governor had no real interest in health and was convinced by an aide that the retired Dr. Florence Sabin, an “innocuous, white-haired, little old lady” should chair the committee. She was indeed a “little old lady”, but she was far from innocuous.

Florence had graduated from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she also became the school’s first female professor. Subsequently, she was the first female president of the American Association of Anatomists and the first woman elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

As chair of the Health Committee, Dr. Sabin didn’t “waste” time talking to the state’s legislators, but worked instead with the legislators’ spouses, teaching them about the abysmal state of public health in Colorado. Because of their influence, in 1948 the Legislature passed the “Sabin Health Laws”.

Her constant message had been that the health of the public was too important to leave to politics, and the public health system the Sabin Health Laws established required a professionally trained staff of physicians, nurses, health educators and scientists, hired on the basis of merit, not political bias. And so, because of that “innocuous little old lady,” public health decisions in Colorado were taken out of the hands of politicians and left to scientifically trained public health professionals.

We Adventists have a “white-haired, little old lady” of our own. She, too, was far from innocuous, and was comfortable speaking truth to the powerful. Based on her guidance, we have established the largest Protestant health care system in the world, with a strong focus on whole person care.

The guiding principle behind this focus was her belief that health care, with its intimate, personal, restorative touch, was a living manifestation of the gospel as revealed in the healing ministry of Christ. Because of this aspect of Adventism, there are thousands of professionally trained Adventist health care workers around the world on the frontlines of this pandemic response, putting their lives at risk to treat those in need, just as Christ did.

Mark B. Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., is executive director, Jefferson County Public Health, and a member of the Governor’s Expert Epidemic Emergency Response Committee for the state of Colorado. Updated, this article appeared first on Facebook and in the Boulder Adventist Church Bulletin, May 14, 2020. IMAGE CREDIT: Taft, P. W. [Florence Sabin as a young girl]. Photographic Print. Portrait. [ca. 1880s]. Public domain, via the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

20 May

MEMORABLE SCHOOL YEAR COMES TO A CLOSE AT MHA

By Karrie Meyers — Highlands Ranch, Colorado … As each school year ends, teachers and staff take time to reflect on the memories and events that made it special. It is easy to say that 2019-2020 will go down in the history books as one of the most memorable.

“When students arrived on campus for the first day of school, who could have imagined completing the fourth quarter remotely,” said Jamie Frain, Mile High Academy’s VP of school culture. “The Covid-19 pandemic showed how quickly life can change. We miss our students and their families. And our hearts ache for the graduating classes who can’t celebrate with the school family, community, and their relatives and friends.”

But in the midst of the changes, good memories prevail. Although empty now, weeks ago MHA classrooms were filled with laughter, learning and prayers for God to be a constant on campus. The cafeteria was filled with voices as hungry students rushed to eat so they could go outside for recess. And the gym was filled with cheers as the Boys’ Varsity team made MHA history by not only defending its District 8 Championship title but also continuing to State and a Final Four appearance in our division.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our teachers and staff,” said Frain. “Their dedication for learning, not only while on campus, but also during remote learning, is a testimony to what an exceptional team we have at Mile High Academy. Our students and their families should receive formal recognition for partnering with us to ensure the learning continued,” she finished.

And then there were the events and fundraisers. The first annual MHA Walk-A-Thon raised more than $25,000 for financial aid. Fall Festival once again brought our community together for a fun-filled evening while supporting the individual classrooms. The Lower School students read more than 55,000 hours during its Read-A-Thon, and Christmas programs highlighted the musical talent of MHA students.

This year also brought unimaginable sadness in the tragic loss of Senior Mya Pena. It’s not easy to say goodbye to a beloved student, classmate and friend.

“The loss of Mya Pena left a notable absence in our school community,” Frain said. “Her constant smile and outgoing personality is deeply missed by all of us. To suddenly lose someone is never easy, especially someone just beginning her life’s journey. However, the strength of getting through this loss formed a bond between our students, staff and community in a way that will continue to honor Mya. While Mya won’t be with us at graduation, her memory plays an important part in this milestone. The Senior class will wear blue cords in her honor, a reflection of her life will be shared by three of her classmates, the Senior Class gift is dedicated in her memory and an Honorary Diploma will be presented to her family during Commencement.”

Continuing with the traditions of Mile High Academy, four special graduation events will take place. The Blessing will take place at 7 pm, Thursday, May 21; Consecration follows at 7 pm, Friday, May 22; Baccalaureate will be at 11 am, Saturday, May 23; and Commencement will be live at 1:30 pm, Sunday, May 24. Since the campus is closed to all visitors, the events will be streamed on MHA’s website, https://www.milehighacademy.org/events/graduation-2020/.

As the 2019/2020 year reaches completion, planning is already taking place for next school year.  “2020-2021 is ramping up to be an exciting year for our school,” Frain commented. “We’re looking forward to welcoming several new faces to our team, including Michael Armstrong, VP of academics, and Brady Tull, athletic director. We’re excited to welcome our alumni back to campus this fall, and we can’t wait to have our families join us for events throughout the year.”

“While we face many uncertainties about the start of the school year, we hope, pray and plan to be together soon. One factor remains constant, God is present on our campus.  Please consider including us in your prayers as we continue the mission to provide a Christ-centered education at Mile High Academy,” she added.

Mile High Academy will continue to post videos, communication and memories via social media. If you haven’t already, visit the MHA Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MileHighAcademy), the MHA Alumni page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/51633721439), and sign-up for the school newsletter (https://milehigh.link/newsletter).

Karrie Meyers is MHA development and records assistant; photos supplied

20 May

SUMMER 2020 LITERATURE PROGRAM SUSPENDED FOR STUDENTS

By RMCNews/Matt Hasty – Denver, Colorado . . . In consultation with RMC administration, the decision to suspend the summer student literature program due to the COVID-19 pandemic was made on May 19. “This was one of the hardest decisions that we have had to make. This affects student ministry opportunities, financial income to return to college, and active involvement for their summer.  However, the health risk to the students, communities, churches and the families that host them is just too significant to risk at this time.” Eric Nelson, RMC VP for administration said.

Matt Hasty, director of the LE program stated “For the first time in sixteen summers, I will not be going door-to-door.  I’ve been working on putting together a team of thirty dedicated, courageous, and talented young people who were willing to serve as literature evangelists this summer.”

Even through the students will not be able to go door-to-door this summer, literature evangelism can still happen. We all can share the good news of Jesus by building relationships within our neighborhoods.

“Due to the pandemic, the door closed for these young people to serve in the Rocky Mountain Conference.  As disappointing as it is, we know that God has a plan. The ‘night’ is not yet upon us. God still has a ‘work’ for us to do (John 9:4). While large gatherings are not possible, literature has a special role to play. Personal and individual labor cannot be underestimated,” Matt added.

“We look forward to the summer of 2021 when we can again have students go door-to-door again spreading the hope and love of Jesus,” Matt finished..

–RMCNews with Matt Hasty, RMC director of literature ministry

19 May

The Pandemic Needs to go, but these need to stay

By Jose Cortes, Jr. – Columbia, Maryland . . . Her name is Liz, she is a retired science teacher who lives about six houses from ours on our street, and just last night she welcomes our family to the neighborhood, as we walked our dog. Nothing wrong with that, unless you know that we have been in this neighborhood for over five years. I know, totally embarrassing that our family, followers of Jesus, Christians, Seventh-day Adventists who love God and love people had not gotten to meet our neighbor, who lives six houses away from ours.

The thing is that prior to the Pandemic, I spent a significant amount of my time traveling, Joanne, my wife, super busy at the office, and most recently pastoring, and our boys with their school and other activities. Well, I know you probably know the feeling, we are all super busy with very little time, so you may be able to relate.

So what changed? What made it possible for us to slowly walk our street and meet our neighbor Liz for the first time in five years. The Pandemic happened, and that has kind of changed everything! All of a sudden, our family gets to walk in our neighborhood, as we didn’t have the time to do before. Having said that, you would never hear me say anything positive about the Pandemic because it is cruel and evil. It has taken away the health of millions, killed hundreds of thousands, including many friends and loved ones, and brought new levels of fear and anxiety to humanity. You will never hear me say that this is our best time, it is not, hospitals are running out of beds and funeral homes are not able to keep up. Neither will you ever hear me say, what I have heard some Christians say and imply, that God sent the Pandemic to punish the world because of our sin. The ultimate way for God to deal with sin was by sending Jesus, not the Pandemic. God wants to save sinners, not kill sinners. God did not send the Pandemic, but He did send you and me to respond to the Pandemic.

I have been encouraged in my conversations with hundreds of Pastors across North America during this time of crisis. Their response to the present situation is impressive. These conversations have brought to the surface certain principles, which perhaps, we should have always followed, but that for sure we need to keep in mind, not only now but for the future.

I have been encouraged by the response that we, as individuals and as a church, have had during this time of crisis. The Pandemic will end, but some principles need to stay after the Pandemic is gone.

  1. People are most important: for years we revered our buildings and invested large quantities of funds in purchasing and in maintaining our facilities. Not a bad thing, as long as buildings are not valued more than mission and ministry, which bless people, thus making our buildings the center of worship. After two months, I still see people refer to a church being closed, simply because the building is shut down. Although thousands of our church buildings have now been closed down and sit pretty useless for over eight weeks, the church is still open, because the church is the people, not the building.
  2. Compassion: People caring for others and checking on our elderly. Food banks that feed thousands in collaboration with city/state government. Online tutoring. Churches collecting medical equipment to be donated to medical responders in the front lines. Drive-by birthday celebrations. Churches are helping families who lost their jobs. All of these should also stay after the Pandemic is gone. Compassion works during the Pandemic, but even after the Pandemic. Don’t let compassion die after the Pandemic is gone.
  3. Small Groups / Virtual Small Groups – I have attended small groups in English and Spanish during the Pandemic. I have experienced community, happy faces, sad faces, smiles, tears, sharing, testimonies, and animated discussions about relevant topics and Scripture during the last few weeks. People will need all of those components after the Pandemic goes away. Small groups are a great setting for community building, relationships, and relevant mission. Virtual small groups even make it easier for people to participate during a hectic week since no extra time is needed to get ready, dress up, and commute.
  4. “Everyday church” rather than just “once a week church”: We own buildings that cost millions of dollars that open for 5 or 6 hours a week during regular times (church service and prayer meeting). During the Pandemic, I have seen churches that meet early in the morning for prayer, in the afternoon for Midday Worship, and in the evening for small groups. I go to my social media, and there are always several preachers on, regardless of the time of the day or night. This is an awesome thing! We’ve become the church of the seven days, rather than the church of the seventh-day only, or would you say “the church of the 3 hours on the seventh-day.
  5. Use of technology and social media: the Pandemic has helped many, even some who used to knock technology as negative, worldly, and evil, to understand that without technology, it is difficult to stay in touch and operate as a church during this time. Those who were using technology before the Pandemic are way ahead. Still, I have seen a pastor go from no media presence to having services with 100 devices connected online, plus the people connected on Zoom. I am grateful for Pastors and churches who are willing to learn, stretch, and sacrifice to continue to reach their congregations and community.
  6. Empowerment and embracement of younger generations and creatives: These are people who should have been embraced and empowered all alone, but now the church needs them more than ever. The other day, I saw a pastor who preached his entire sermon upside down on Facebook Live. I felt bad for him. I was worried his blood would go to his head ;)! The next day I noticed he preached upside – up. I asked, “what happened?” The reply was, “some of the younger people helped me to get it right.” Younger generations and creatives are our children and grandchildren. Most are digital natives; they have gifts many of us have not been given. After the Pandemic goes, we better keep them, embrace them, and empower them. Technology is not evil; it depends on what you use it for. Younger generations and creatives can help pastors and the church to use technology and social media to spread the gospel.
  7. Collaboration: the collaboration I have seen among pastors, elders, churches, institutions, and several ministries during the Pandemic, is at an all-time high. This spirit of cooperation will always trump the spirit of competition. “We are in this together” needs to stay a reality way beyond the Pandemic.

The Pandemic will end, but the importance of people, compassion, small groups, the church of the seven days, the use of technology and social media, the empowerment of younger generations and creatives, and the collaboration among all have to remain!

The Pandemic needs to go, but these need to stay! …including our family walks in the neighborhood.

–Pastor Jose Cortes Jr., is an Associate Director of the Ministerial Association and leads Evangelism, Church Planting, and Adventist/Global Mission for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Photo supplied.

This article is courtesy of the North American Division Ministerial Department and was originally published on the NAD Ministerial website.

 

18 May

SPRINGS ADVENTIST ACADEMY CELEBRATES THE CLASS OF 2020

By Michelle Velbis – Colorado Springs, Colorado . . . On Thursday, May 14, Springs Adventist Academy held graduation. However, due to social distancing guidelines, SAA had to get creative in recognizing the 5 students graduating.

To honor the two 8th grade graduates, SAA decided to invite each student and their immediate families to the school at different times.  The students wore their cap and gown, and they recorded a short video to be posted to Facebook and SAA’s website to celebrated their achievements.

“Elena and Morgan have been my star students this year. They set up a wonderful example in the classroom of diligence, hard work, and creativity. They both graduated with honors this year and I am confident they will be successful in their high school years and beyond,” said Michelle Velbis, 8th grade teacher and principal at Springs Adventist Academy.

“They both demonstrated the CHERISH qualities that we value in the Rocky Mountain Conference and were awarded certificates during the school year for their examples. I have been honored to be their teacher this year.” Velbis added.

Elana, who has attended SAA for 5 years will be attending Odyssey Early College in Colorado Springs, and Morgan, who has attended SAA for 4 years will be attending Spring Valley Academy in Centerville, Ohio.

The other graduating class at SAA included 3 Kindergarteners. Jessica Eubanks, Kindergarten teacher, delivered gifts to the students and gave them a chance to record a video in their cap and gown.

Eubanks commented, “It has been my pleasure this year to teach Maximus, Noah, and Bryelle.  All three of these kindergarteners excelled in class academically and socially.  They are all very happy, funny and inquisitive students and are a great joy to have in class.  They are all well prepared for first grade and have bright futures ahead of them.  I am thrilled that I will be able to teach all three of them in first grade next year.”

–Michelle Velbis is principal and head teacher of Springs Adventist Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado; photos supplied.

18 May

2020 GRADUATES CHEERED ONLINE AT WYOMING’S SONSHINE ACADEMY

By Samantha Nelson — Worland, Wyoming … Schools around the world were forced into changing their usual practices when COVID-19 struck, and SonShine Academy in Worland, Wyoming was no different. One day, it was class as usual with the students interacting, playing and supporting one another in their school classrooms. The next day, they were met by an extended Spring Break. Then followed mandatory school closures and online/distance learning via Zoom.

Annette Treat, head teacher at SonShine Academy and a wonderful and accommodating teacher, dove right in, making sure the students received their assignments, had the technology they needed to attend classes via Zoom, and keeping the parents and school board informed of every step along the way.

“It wasn’t easy,” Annette said, “but we managed and now I know how to make things work more smoothly in the future if this ever happens again.” Indeed, it remains to be seen whether classes will resume in the classroom this coming August, or whether they will continue on Zoom.

On May 14, 2020, SonShine Academy held its graduation ceremony via Zoom. Although very unusual, many parents and family members joined the online ceremony where Sam Fink, Grace Ahanonu and Frankie Hognason graduated from Kindergarten to 1st grade, and Kort Lewis graduated from 8th grade to 9th grade.

Treat explained that she “gave all the students their awards and their caps and gowns and diplomas ahead of time but asked the parents to please not open them until the Zoom ceremony.” As students received their awards and diplomas, the online group cheered and applauded.

Pastor Steve Nelson gave the commencement address which was based on David’s courage, bravery and commitment to God as he fought Goliath, and encouraged the students to be like David and to hold fast to the principles embodied in the acronym CHERISH—Christ-centered, Honor, Exploration, Responsibility, Integrity, Service and Heroism.

What followed was a speech by 8th student Kort. He expressed how much he enjoyed being at SonShine Academy and how much he will miss everyone as he heads into 9th grade in the local public school. As the oldest student this school year, Kort is looked up to and admired by the younger students. He will be missed.

The ceremony was heartwarming and encouraging, in spite of its unusual circumstances.

–Samantha Nelson is Board chair of SonShine Academy; photos supplied.

18 May

GVR WOULD-BE CAMP COUNSELOR SERVE TENNESSEE TORNADO AFTERMATH

By Jessyka Dooley – Collegedale, Tennessee . . . Glacier View Ranch hired the most incredible staff for summer 2020. Although we are not able to see our staff in action at GVR, we’re excited to watch them serve their local communities.

John Kent, a student at Southern Adventist University was hired to be Senior Boys Counselor at GVR; however, he is now cleaning and rebuilding his local community, after an EF-3 tornado destroyed portions of East Brainerd, Ooltewah, and Collegedale, Tennessee on April 12.

John joined the Volunteer Reception Center, a local relief group formed by the City of Chattanooga, along with fellow church members to help the community, which is in desperate need.

The members helped by the group have been grateful for assistance in cleaning up their properties, but there was unseen damage still needing repair.   “Looking around at the physical destruction of homes and property, I realize that the greater damage has been emotionally. One day, during an assessment, I asked a homeowner if their neighbor was home before heading over. They told me he wasn’t, that he just couldn’t bear seeing his destroyed home, so he left. He had become so stressed and depressed from the tornado, he had a stroke.” Kent commented.

“Yet, despite these hardships, witnessing people sacrifice their time to support victims has reminded me that the strength of community surpasses the strength of disaster. While volunteers endeavor to help physically, the biggest impact they have is really an invisible touch to the victim’s heart.” Kent added.

Please keep this community and John in your prayers as they continue to rebuild.

To help financially, please visit the Collegedale Church tornado relief website https://www.collegedalechurch.com/tornadorelief

We’re so happy to see the spirit of summer camp living in each of our staff across the country!

–Jessyka Dooley is RMC associate youth director for ministry and GVR Summer Camp director; photos supplied.

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