31 Aug

BACK TO SCHOOL EXCITEMENT ADDED TO HEALTH PROTOCOLS IN WYOMING’S SONSHINE ACADEMY

By Samantha Nelson – Worland, Wyoming … Despite many schools across the country remaining closed and providing distance learning only, SonShine Academy was able to reopen for in-person classes on August 24 with nine students. Social distancing was in place along with mandatory guidelines to keep students and staff virus free. Head teacher, Annette Treat, and school treasurer, Debbie Curran, had created simple, fun, and effective dividers so students could still sit near one another and see each other.

Heidi Snider joined the school staff this year as a teacher’s aide to help with the health protocols that were implemented and to assist students in the classroom.

Another exciting addition was the new playground equipment that replaced the old, worn out play set provided by the Robinson family. Son, Robert, attends the school. The kids are greatly enjoying the new equipment and being able to play outdoors.

Despite feeling a bit overwhelmed when asked about how the first day of school went, Annette said, “I think the first day went very well. The kids were on their best behavior.” The students all seemed immensely happy to be back in class with one another after the long summer break.

“Truly, God has blessed SonShine Academy, its staff and students. Thank you very much for all your support and prayers,” added Samantha Nelson, School Board co-chair.

Samantha Nelson, is Sonshine Academy Board co-chair; photos by Annette Treat

31 Aug

OLATHE HISPANIC CHURCH REOPENS WITH BAPTISM

By Ruben Balaguer – Olathe, Colorado… The Olathe Hispanic Adventist Church welcomed two new family members to the congregation on the first Sabbath since re-opening the church building, August 15.

Even though the building has been closed for several months, ministry and outreach have continued.  Members have been gathering in the large backyard of a parishioner to worship and to hold Bible studies throughout the pandemic.

Carlos Carrasco, who has been studying the Bible with the church pastor, decided to publicly acknowledge Jesus Christ as his Savior and Friend through baptism.

Upon hearing of his plans, members began to make their own plans to reopen the church sanctuary to witness this important event.

Shortly before the baptismal date, Carlos’ wife Maria approached the pastor with a simple request–to be baptized beside her husband.

The congregation was surprised by this decision and expressed joy when they witnessed the couple declare their public testimony together accepting Jesus as their Savior.

–Ruben Balaguer is pastor of Grand Junction, Colorado Hispanic Church District; photo supplied

31 Aug

NEW BEACH VOLLEYBALL COURT PROVIDES CENTER OF CAMP EXPERIENCE

By Brent Learned – Casper, Wyoming … At youth summer camps across North America, kids gather to experience fun, friendship and adventure. At many camps, the day begins and ends at the center of camp. From line calls, and flag raising and lowering to intense games of capture the flag or just hanging out with friends, the center of camp provides the heartbeat of the summer camp experience.

At the Wyoming summer camp facility, Mills Spring Ranch (MSR), the center of camp has seen a number of updates over the last few years, intentionally aiming at improving the “center-of-camp experience.” The most recent improvement, the addition of a new beach volleyball court, improves the aesthetics of center camp and also adds an additional activity for the summer camp program!

A bonus to the MSR program, the volleyball court project was completed entirely with the help of volunteers. The project began on August 4 with Norm and Videll Ahrens, active members in the Dakota Adventist Conference, arriving at the Casper/Natrona County International Airport in their private Cesna 182 airplane to volunteer a week of their time, energy, and passion for youth ministry to Mills Spring Ranch. Their involvement with the project was aimed at creating a truly professional court.

Brent Learned, MSR camp director explained, that “Creation of the new court was to provide a space for kids and adults alike to enjoy playing volleyball together and build the bonds of friendship necessary for wholehearted living. A place to belong, build confidence, work together as a team, learn new skills, and have authentic spiritual conversations. A place to be vulnerable with each other not only knowing other’s strengths and weaknesses on the volleyball court, but also knowing how to celebrate when others succeed and receive a helping hand when face down in the sand of life.”

Brent added, “Although the project was long, tiresome, and at times quite frustrating, never once was a complaint heard. Even after the third eighteen-hour day, when it was almost midnight and everyone felt like they had ‘hit the wall’ having nothing left to give, there was a strong sense of meaning and purpose.”

Norm Ahrens said “I was glad I had the time to help with the volleyball court project. Groups that camp at MSR will enjoy the invigorating exercise of sand court volleyball for seasons. The game can promote teamwork and can be enjoyed by young and old alike.”

Building a volleyball court was not about providing another useful structure at a summer camp. Brent, Norm, and Videll had a strong sense that they were building something bigger. Whether engaging in the construction of a beach volleyball court or working at summer camp, MSR staff and volunteers are involved in building the kingdom of God! By constructing this volleyball court, “the construction team created a sacred space,” Brent said.

Brent Learned is RMC assistant youth director and Mills Spring Ranch manager; photos supplied

 

30 Aug

I’m an Adventist, Not a Conspiracy Theorist

By Adam Fenner —  Berrien Springs, Michigan …If you grew up Adventist, you may have been a victim of “Time of Trouble” warnings. If you were like me, you had nightmares as a 10-year-old of fleeing into the wilderness with a backpack filled with a Bible, The Great Controversy, and maybe a can of Fri-Chik to sustain you and your surviving family for the next two months, or until Jesus returned.

If you can even mildly relate to this, you may have been told Jesus would return “in your lifetime,” or “within a year.” Or maybe you sat in church and were told, like I was, that “Jesus might return right after church is over.”

In the past 10 years, however, I’ve noticed a decrease in Adventists discussing end time events. Throughout my upbringing in the 1980s and 90s, the “Time of Trouble” was a fairly mainstream Adventist idea in North America. It was not uncommon to discuss where people in my community might flee to during persecution, or for acquaintances to move to remote areas and live off the grid to escape impending government intrusion in their lives.

Perhaps my experience is different than yours, but these topics seem less and less in vogue within mainstream Adventism in our territory. Why might this be the case?

I think there’s a good chance we’re mildly embarrassed, and maybe even traumatized by some of our fellow church members’ failed premonitions and informal predictions about the Second Coming. Or maybe, we’re just tired of being wrong about the “End of the World.”

Reversing Discourse  

I’d like to put forth the idea that Adventism needs to revise its discourse surrounding end time theology. I’m not arguing our theology about the Apocalypse is wrong, or that it needs revising, but rather that we need to think and talk about the end times differently. I believe the Adventist interpretation of Scripture, and therefore end time prophecy, is remarkably pertinent to the twenty-first century. If we learn to contemplate the Apocalypse in more objective modern terms, we can offer the world the invaluable biblical explanation for why the world is unraveling, and why our faith in Jesus is so well-placed. In other words, we need to stop saying Jesus will come in the next two years based on some dubious math and who might be president, and instead start talking about how Jesus will save the world, and why current environmental realities are actually corroborating biblical prophecies.

Mainstream North American society is saturated with imagery and discourse regarding the “End of the World.” There’s a host of different films, television shows, books, articles, and news stories dealing with the end of civilization as we know it. Whether zombies, disease/plague, a meteor, alien invasion, climate change, Mayan prophecies, overpopulation, or nuclear war, we’re obsessed with the Apocalypse. There’s a palpable sense in our culture the end is of the world is just around the corner, and that we as individuals — and as a society — are fragile, at the mercy of forces outside of our control, and that we are in real need of saving. The idea of being saved from the world’s destruction is what drives Hollywood blockbuster franchises like Superman and the Avengers, leads us to idolize inventors and would-be redeemers like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, and place an illogical amount of faith in the aptitude of political leaders. Saving humanity almost always comes in the form a hero, a savior.

I believe the underlying forebodings present in our culture — signaling that our planet is doomed — and a general knowledge that we desperately need a savior point towards evidence that the world is hungry for hope in a Heavenly Savior. The time is right for Adventists to take courage in sharing Jesus as the hope for humanity and to place emphasis on end times prophecy, but we need to do so in a new, more relevant way.

Inserting the Good News

We Adventists tend to obsess over political events and concoct elaborate conspiracy theories, but this does us few favors in a contemporary, educated society. You’ve seen the posters, pamphlets, DVD cases, book covers, and church bulletins with a handful of political leaders, a nuclear explosion, the Bible, maybe a Quran, and a few scary beasts from Daniel 7-9. I firmly believe political events will be a major feature of the end times, but they are so subjective and unpredictable that investing too much time in trying to understand how they fit into prophecy offers little return on investment. We might be scaring more people away from our denomination with prophetic political fixations than attracting them.

In the place of conspiracy theories and fearmongering about the “End of the World,” I suggest we insert the good news of Jesus Christ in the context of objective facts about what’s happening to our planet. This will be more palatable to an informed and hyper-critical society as we have in North America and, in general, more appealing to people who consider scientific inquiry as a trustworthy measure of reality.

For example, Revelation 8 has some powerful imagery for what has already happened to the Earth and will continue to transpire and worsen in the last days. The trumpets mentioned there provide Adventists a powerful opportunity for talking about our end time theology. We’re told “A third of the earth” will be “burned up” including a “third of the trees…and all the green grass.”  “A third of the living creatures in the sea” die. “A third of the waters” become “bitter” and many people die because of it. “A third” of the “sun,” “moon,” and “stars” “turn dark” (Rev. 8:7-12).

These same symbols of judgment return again with greater fury in Revelation 16. In popular media we can find evidence for the actual manifestation of these symbolic events starting to take place, and science is leading the charge in corroborating the Bible and what has and is projected to happen to our planet. We can explore these prophecies using science, which is a much more effective way of framing the biblical account of the end times than saying on a hunch, “Jesus will be here within five years.”

In the Natural World

Let’s frame this conversation in the current context, bearing in mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 about an increasingly deteriorating planet full of catastrophic events.

“A third of the earth will be burned up”— our planet’s plant and animal species are becoming extinct at an incredible rate. So many insects are dying that some commentators are worried about the “collapse of nature.” Although we don’t often have a tremendous appreciation for insects, “40 percent of insect species are declining and a third are endangered.” This is a real problem when you consider their importance for plant pollination and how entire ecosystems depend on them for food.[1] In a recent study, it was found that 2.9 billion birds have disappeared from North American skies since 1970. If the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” metaphor has any wisdom in it, humanity is headed for disaster. The biodiversity of our planet is experiencing a holocaust, and currently, an estimated one million species “are at risk of extinction.”[2]

It is clear that “one-third of the earth” is dying. Desertification, the process by which agricultural land is degraded to infertility, is taking place at “30 to 35 times the historical rate.” Two billion people “depend on ecosystems in dry land areas,” and the United Nations estimates roughly 50 million people might be “displaced” within 10-years because of desertification.[3] If this isn’t scary enough, 18.7 million acres of forest are destroyed each year. This is the equivalent to losing “27 soccer fields of forest every minute.” This is comparable to losing a forest the size of Panama every year.[4]

“A third of the oceans will die”— the World Wildlife Fund released a report stating almost half of marine life found in the oceans in 1970 no longer existed in 2012.[5] Simply put, the oceans are dying. Studies from Australia indicate so many marine species are either declining or absent from their natural habit that the oceans “are on the brink of total collapse.”[6] Our world’s water systems are in such disarray the United Nations estimates that “by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.”[7]

The prophecy about “a third” of the sun, moon, and stars going dark could be interpreted in number of different ways, but it could easily point toward ecological problems with our planet.[8] This could be a prophecy about air pollution since light and air pollution prevent billions of people from seeing the night sky in a fashion our ancestors would recognize. Our air is so bad that worldwide 4.2 million people die each year from being exposed to outside air. Some 91 percent of the world’s population live where the air quality doesn’t meet World Health Organization standards.[9] When we look up, we no longer see the heavens in the way God intended, and many of us on this planet are harmed by the air we breathe.

North America is home to a fairly wealthy, educated, and increasingly secular society. Our minds are bombarded by 34 terabytes of data each day.[10] We simply don’t have the time or energy to entertain information that isn’t immediately relevant to our changing needs and whims of the moment. With so much data available, we are forced to make snap judgments, cull irrelevant ideas, concepts, and narratives that seem implausible or unsupported by logic or scientific evidence. Our society simply doesn’t have much patience or need for conspiracy theories and fearmongering. What does make sense to Westerners is that the world is dying, and we need a savior, a hero.

As Adventists, we have the luxury of having science actually support our “End Times” theology, and we can offer a perspective of Jesus that points to Him as the Savior the world needs. Let’s start talking about the “End of the World” again, but in such a way that is Christ-centered, and data driven.

Adam Fenner is director of Adventist Learning Community, North American Division; photo by iStock.

Posted courtesy of North American Division of of the Seventh-day Adventist website.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature
[2] https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2019/5/7/18531171/1-million-species-extinction-ipbes-un-biodiversity-crisis
[3] https://www.un.org/en/events/desertificationday/desertification.shtml
[4] https://www.livescience.com/27692-deforestation.html; and https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/queen-elizabeth-ii-forests-planet-earth/
[5] https://www.cnn.com/2015/09/17/world/oceans-report/index.html
[6] https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2018/august/1533045600/james-bradley/end-oceans
[7] https://www.unccd.int/issues/land-and-drought
[8] Some Adventists have interpreted the darkening of the sun, moon, and stars to specific astronomical events in the 19th century. My purpose is not to discount these interpretations, but rather offer the idea these prophecies may have double applications or interpretations.
[9] https://www.who.int/airpollution/en/
[10] https://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/09/the-american-diet-34-gigabytes-a-day/

27 Aug

THERE IS NOTHING SMALL FOR GOD

By Alise Weber — One of my favorite jobs when I was a young twenty something was working as a camp counselor and pool director at Camp Mohaven in Danville, Ohio. I loved the opportunities to be outside in nature. I was uplifted by the singular focus on Christ. I shared God’s word with many kids that were not from a Christian background. And I had so much fun hanging out with my co-workers who also became close friends.

Camp was an absolute blast!  With that being said, working at camp could also be exhausting. In conversations with young people today, I tell them that it is the closest you can get to having a parental experience without having kids. As a camp counselor, I was with the kids 24/7 and had one full 24-hour period off per week.

One particular day off comes to mind when I was completely wiped out physically and spiritually. There was nothing left to give and I had my heart set on finding a quiet place to relax with the goal of sleeping in the next morning. Usually, the camp would set aside one cabin for counselors to stay in during their day off. It was a nice gesture, but I would still be awakened in the early hours of the morning by all the camp activity. I needed to get away and I decided I was going to get a hotel room for the night.

There was only one problem. Camp meeting was taking place at the nearby Mt. Vernon Academy. I went to hotel after hotel seeking a place to rest, but all were full. I wanted to cry, and I needed a quiet moment. I almost didn’t pray because it sounded too silly.  “Lord, help me find a hotel room where I can rest,” seemed too insignificant. Nevertheless, I poured out my heart to God and asked that He help me find a place where I could be restored. There was one last hotel to go to and ask if they had a free room. Again, the answer was, “No.”

Just then, a familiar and tired face walked into the lobby of the hotel. My friend, Jennifer. We had gone to college together. She was attending the camp meeting and was coming out to the hotel lobby about a noise complaint. She saw me and I explained my predicament and then without thinking twice, she invited me to stay in her room.

Just like that. God heard and answered a prayer that was so small, I didn’t even think I should utter it. That experience was a good reminder that God cares for even the small requests we have for Him. Nothing is too quaint or insignificant for our heavenly Father to walk beside us with. Talk to Him. He delights in giving us sanctuary.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heaven burdens, and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28).

Alise Weber is pastor for children’s & family ministry at Littleton Adventist Church.

27 Aug

TOWN HALL MEETINGS UNDER COVID-19 CONDITIONS

By Eric Nelson – Denver, Colorado … The pandemic has changed many things in our lives from normal to new normal, or at least an adaptation of normal that accommodates our unusual circumstances.

RMC Bylaws direct Conference administration to conduct Town Hall Meetings once a year in each of the six regions of the conference. These meetings facilitate hearing from our members and allow leadership to share information and reports regarding the status of the conference Due to the restrictions in the three states in our territory, it is not possible or advisable to hold area meetings of this size.

As a result, the Executive Committee has authorized RMC administration to receive input from the membership in the form of questions. These questions can be sent to the special email address established for this purpose – [email protected] Please include your name and the name of the church where you are a member of. The deadline is September 1, 2020.

RMC leaders plan to record a presentation that will be placed on the Conference website that will share reports from administration. A portion of the Town Hall video will be spent in answering questions emailed to administration. This presentation may be viewed personally or as a group at your local church on or after October 9.

While this plan is not as enjoyable as sharing face to face, it will fulfill the intent and requirement of the Bylaws and is an alternative that we need to use during these challenging times.

–Eric Nelson is RMC VP for administration

27 Aug

Adventist Community Services and Arvada Adventist Churches Prepare for Hurricane Laura Aftermath Assistance

RMCNews – Denver, Colorado … What has been forecast and talked about for the last week materialized Thursday, August 27 around 1 a.m. in Louisiana as Hurricane Laura came ashore with 150 mph winds, the strongest to make landfall in the state since 1856.

With this as the backdrop, Adventist Community Services (ACS) for the Southwest Union Conference has been in preparation mode, beginning seven days ago to work with ACS conference directors in the areas that appeared to be within the path hurricane Laura.

Arkansas-Louisiana ACS director Lavida Whitson and Southwest Conference ACS director Durandale Ford started to mobilize their teams for operations.

Whitson began discussions with state officials about managing a warehouse for all the donations that were already starting to arrive. Similarly, Ford began communicating with local team members and currently have the Smyrna Seventh-day Adventist Church in partnership with the American Red Cross, ready to house evacuees for shelter.

Arvada Adventist Church, International Adventist Company, and Indonesian Adventist church are also preparing a hurricane response trip to Texas and Louisiana. 

Arvada church has been preparing and storing disaster response items and has a team of volunteers help with the recovery efforts. They will offer medical help, food, water, toiletries, hygiene items etc.

Jasmina Adamovic, Arvada church food bank director, is coordinating with the “2Serve,” a disaster response ministry from the Southern Union, and with the local Adventist churches, and Kim Dallum, Arvada church medical ministry director will be joining to coordinate medical services.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a generous donor has arranged for twelve pallets of dry foods, to be delivered to any location in the affected area.

If you have questions, or want to help, contact pastor Gordon at 303-888-6207 or email him at [email protected]

–RMCNews with North American Division Communication Department; photo by iStock

27 Aug

ASSISTANCE FROM COLORADO ADVENTIST HOSPITALS AIDS RECOVERY FROM COVID-19 IN PERU’S AMAZON JUNGLE

By Greg Hodgson – Denver, Colorado … Adventist hospitals in Colorado provided aid, including a shipment of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) sent from Denver via Miami, to the Clinica Adventista Ana Stahl in Iquitos, Peru, the largest city in the world with no road access. Also, $72,000 was given in donations to the hospital in the Amazon Jungle.

As reported in NewsNuggets on May 26 this Adventist mission hospital in Iquitos has, in recent months, endured significant suffering due to COVID-19. Their records show that about 75 percent of the staff were infected. Sadly, two doctors and one nurse died from the virus.

The hospital was closed for a month because of to the pandemic and a severe shortage of hospital staff as a result of the illness. Slowly, services have returned and today, the hospital is busier than ever, thanks to a dedicated local staff as well as support from the Adventist hospitals in Colorado.

Many signs of God’s compassion and care were demonstrated during this difficult time. One of the imaging technicians, Alex Maytahuari, severely ill with COVID-19, spent a month in the ICU.  His wife was also ill, but recovered quickly. Staff at the hospital, however, feared that Alex would not survive. Many prayers were offered on his behalf, and, thanks to God, Alex eventually regained his health and was discharged at the end of May. After further recuperation at home, Alex returned to work and is once again serving patients and extending the healing ministry of Christ to the people of Iquitos.

The pandemic has hit Peru hard, with one of the highest percentages of COVID-19 infections in the world. The city of Iquitos is now in recovery, but other parts of the country are experiencing huge challenges. A sister mission hospital in the south of the country, Clinica Americana, is currently suffering from the virus and some staff have recently died.

Millions of people around the world have suffered from COVID-19, including the reported largest number of victims in the United States. As Christians, we sympathize with those who suffer and those who have lost friends and family.  But we also rejoice with those who have been healed.

Greg Hodgson is director of Global Health Initiatives at Centura Health

 

27 Aug

International students overcome obstacles while returning to campus

By Bentlee Barry – Loveland, Colorado … Campion Academy’s international enrollees have faced a variety of challenges with returning to campus, mainly due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Students from Brazil were able to return home during the month of March, but are now faced with closed borders and are having difficulties returning to Campion.

Students from China were not able to return home at all due to the travel restrictions that began in February.

Giovanna Balgamon, international student from Brazil, has started the school year online.

“Starting school online was discouraging. I think all of us hoped that things would be back to normal by now,” Balgamon said.

Eager to return to Campion, the Brazilian students have had to get creative in finding a way to travel to the United States.

Carol Silva, senior, along with Duda De Oliviera, junior, were able to get to Campion Academy in early August. They had to take a flight from Brazil to Mexico, and quarantine for 15 days. Then they were able to fly to Colorado.

“Although it was tedious and frankly very tiring, I am beyond grateful to be able to spend this year growing with God and being around all my friends. I am appreciative to all the staff and the students for following the rules to keep our campus safe,” Silva said.

Seven more students, from Brazil, are currently going through the same process in an attempt to attend Campion.

They arrived in Mexico on August 24th, and plan to be at Campion by the 9th of September.

Gregory Lang and his brother Jarrod, Chinese students, started at Campion last year.

“I first heard about COVID-19 in February when the outbreak began in China. My family was then already prepared for us to stay here and sent over 400 masks immediately. In March, the outbreak hit the U.S., my brother and I immediately began donating and handing out masks to Campions staff,” Jarrod Lang said.

During the summer the brothers stayed with Campion’s alumni president Codi Jahn and her family for the summer.

“They are very good people and have strong relationships with God. I was never sad or depressed during this time. My brother and I both love the U.S. and are very grateful to be here. We were able to get more in touch with God, and learn about his grace. Codi and Caleb Jahn took very good care of us and my family is extremely thankful,” Jarrod said.

Even through, new international students were not able to enroll due to visa restrictions, Campion Academy has 17 international students enrolled for the academic year.

–Bentlee Barry is a senior at Campion Academy; photos by Jill Harlow

27 Aug

Intramural sports give students an outlet during COVID-19

By Jayce Treat – Loveland, Colorado …While varsity sports have been suspended throughout Colorado due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Campion Academy got creative to find a way for students to enjoy sports.

Students formed several intramural teams to allow for friendly competition.

Individuals have a chance to choose from different sports including flag football, volleyball, and disc golf.

“It’s more accessible than regular sports, so everyone has an opportunity to have fun,” explained Randolph Ottschofski, Campion athletic director. “We also get to play some cool sports that we don’t normally get to.”

COVID-19 has caused several events to be cancelled, so intramural sports are a welcome addition.

“I think it’s a great way to replace what would’ve been our soccer season,” explained Andy Obregon, Campion, senior. “Although some of us don’t usually play the sports that the intramurals offer, it’s still a great way to keep ourselves busy.”

With the new social distancing regulations, it has been harder for students to spend time together.

“Probably the thing that has stuck out to me the most about intramurals so far is how it’s bringing people together and creating stronger bonds, especially with the newer students this year.” said Collin Velbis, Campion, junior. “The intramurals give students more opportunities to socialize and bond with one another.”

A lot of students don’t have much free time, but they enjoy playing sports to relax.

“It’s a nice breather to distract from all of our hard classes,” Isaac Avila, Campion, junior said.

Groups may form their own teams that will compete against each other for a championship.

Ottschofski plans to add more intramural sports later on.

Jayce Treat is a senior at Campion; photos by Jill Harlow

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