19 Aug


By Sandy Hodgson – Erie, Colorado … We survived our first day of school. If truth be told, I survived the first day of school. I think my students did too. Since I’m teaching fifth and sixth grade this year, some of my students were in my room last year, so they knew what to expect. Others were new to my classroom but not to the school. Others were new altogether.

It always feels “new” to me, even though I have been doing this for 17 plus years. I work and plan during the summer and think I am ahead of the game, and then August 1 comes around and panic strikes. There aren’t enough hours in the day (or night) to get everything done. Ready or not, the first day arrives, and it’s GO time. My stress headache started around two in the morning and by 6:00 a.m. I was on my way to school for final preparations.

Students arrive and know the drill. Put your supplies away, wash your hands, and make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth. When you’ve spent most of the summer wild and free, our masks are confining and sweltering. Mask acne is returning. It’s the same song, second verse, from our experience last year. But we were glad to be back together again.

Throughout the day, I watched my students form new friendships and ask questions as they learned about each other. Students who began the day very timid and quiet started to warm up, laugh and smile. They didn’t do any math, science, or social studies, but they learned a lot. They learned it’s important to be quiet when another person is talking. They learned they were going to be big buddies with the preschoolers and pre-kindergartners. They learned it’s very hot outside in August, but they could take their masks off.

I learned a lot too. I learned I needed way fewer activities than my lesson plans outlined. I learned my students didn’t sleep well either, the night before the first day. I learned that figuring out a locker combination and practicing over and over can be so much fun. I learned that stress headaches go away when you see that everything is going to be okay (Excedrin helps too!).

Best of all, as more than 100 students, plus staff, and pastors gathered on the soccer field for an all-school prayer, I learned that God is with me. God is with us. As a student in first and second grade said, “I love this school! It’s way better than I expected. I can’t wait to come back tomorrow.”

I agree!

Editor’s Note: Recently, Vista Ridge Academy was featured in an article in the Raised in the Rockies: Back to School Issue, entitled The Difference that Faith (p.20). https://www.dailycamera.com/2021/07/26/raised-in-the-rockies-fall-2021/

–Sandy Hodgson is teaching principal at Vista Ridge Academy; photo supplied

19 Aug


By Gwyn Reeves – Loveland, Colorado … The Olympic-style class scramble that arrived at Campion Academy was met with fanfare, athletes (also known as students) decked out in painted faces ready for competition, and lots of glitter.

Campion’s annual class scramble included the traditional competition of racing to see what Don Reeder, principal, had for odd items to retrieve. Other events included the classic drills of dead cow, air raid, and man-overboard in pursuit of class bragging rights. Making a class-scramble game debut was mattress surfing and Hot Wheels shuffleboard that tested the ability and determination of each class to win.

“Coming from Texas and being new at Campion, class scramble will be a memory I never forget,” Geraldy Marvel, Campion junior, exclaimed.

After all the chaos, the evening ended with seniors claiming victory over the juniors. “Class scramble is always an exciting time of the year where everyone loses their voice and classes bond over competitiveness and class spirit,” Kylie Wehling, Campion senior, said, reflecting on her final time participating in the event.

The following day, the competition began with the student association (SA) picnic and more competitive events for classes. The day was filled with classic events like tug-of-war, mini-bike races, and the bus push. The seniors continued their dominance, building from their win the night before.

“Often, with such a big class, it can be difficult to work together and win the events, but this year the class of 2022 was able to pull through with a win,” Wehling reflected. “I’m extremely proud of us and can’t wait to see what this year has in store!”

After the competitions wound down, students relaxed while a kickball slip-and-slide was assembled. After more than a few “test runs” by SA officers, the rest of the student body joined in. It no longer mattered what class students were in, just who could get past the third basemen. By the end of the day, relationships had been renewed, and new ones formed.

To view a student-produced video recapping the events please click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7p19p1v4sI

–Gwyn Reeves is a senior at Campion Academy; photos by Jill Harlow

19 Aug


By MHANews – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … “It felt good to see everyone’s smiles as we started the new school year,” reflected Mindy Philpott, parent, and treasurer of Mile High Academy, on the first-day events at MHA.

With the pandemic affecting the fellowship and community aspect during the last academic year at MHA, the administration and staff made it part of its mission to get the school community together several times during the summer months. Foregoing the traditional in-person registration gave way to an evening community event. Families met the new staff, enjoyed a sweet treat, and divided into elementary, middle, and high school groups for events with the teachers.

“We appreciate the teamwork and organization from the teachers, staff, and parents hosting the summer events,” said Andrew Carpenter, MHA principal. “Not only did these events allow for our families to spend time together, but they also opened the opportunity to welcome the more than 50 new students who joined our school family, easing nerves when they arrived on campus for the first day of school. God is here at Mile High Academy, and we’re excited to see His plans for the school year.”

With classrooms still being closed to visitors and parents, MHA shifted first-day events to the soccer field to allow parents and visitors to participate. The gathering included a prayer service and obligatory first-day pictures.

Addressing the audience before leading out in the prayer over the school, Diane Harris, RMC director of education, expressed, “How happy it makes me to see every one of you.”

The day continued with elementary school students enjoying a day of getting acquainted with their new classroom while getting to know their teacher and making new friends. Middle schoolers escaped campus to form new relationships at Chatfield Lake while high school students held team-building exercises.

Reflecting on the first day, students were excited for the opportunities in the year ahead. “The first day was good because I got to meet new people, and my teacher is very funny,” Charlee, MHA fourth grader, expressed. “The first day of school was amazing,” said Taryn Clark, fifth-grade teacher. “It was so good to see all the students and hear about their summers. I missed the energy of the classroom.”

MHA is beginning the academic year with 205 students enrolled.

–MHANews; photos supplied

18 Aug


By Denise and Richard Pfannenstiel – Fort Collins, Colorado … It was a red-carpet event at the Fort Collins Christian school on the first day of the academic year.

Fort Collins Adventist church members lined both sides of the roped-off red carpet, where students strolled toward the school entrance to applause, cheers, hugs, high-fives, and pats on the back on their way to the new adventures awaiting them during the new school year.

School board chair Devon Osbourne, Jr. was grateful for the extra effort by church members who showed their support. “The members of our church have always been supportive of our school,” Osbourne shared.  “It was, nevertheless, surprising to see so many show up so early in the morning to cheer on our students.”

Upper grades teacher Jessica Reeder initially wondered whether they would pull off the red-carpet welcome as a small school.  When Monday morning rolled around, “I was amazed by the number of cars in our parking lot at 7:30 a.m.,” Reeder says. “It brought me to tears. It was a beautiful way to start the school year united as a school and church, welcoming and praying for our kids.”

As a parent of a new student, Adam Joseph described it as a taste of heaven’s joy. “If we, the children of God, could do that to make our kids feel so special, I do not doubt that God is going to have the most awesome welcome for us when we get to heaven. That was certainly a heavenly gesture.”

The memorable event concluded with a prayer huddle in the school lobby. Godfrey Miranda, pastor at Fort Collins church, led a prayer of blessing and protection for the students, their families, and their teachers as they begin the new school year.

To view a video of the red-carpet event, click here: https://www.facebook.com/fccschool/videos/173443621521939

–Denise and Richard Pfannenstiel are members of Fort Collins Seventh-day Adventist Church; photos supplied

18 Aug


By Jon Roberts – Arvada, Colorado … “It’s simply amazing,” Gordon Anic, lead pastor of Arvada English church, expressed enthusiastically of the public acknowledgment and ministry of his co-worker and friend Jani Pungus, pastor of the Arvada Indonesian Adventist church, who was being ordained to the Gospel Ministry.

Attendees at the special service for the Indonesian congregation included 150 in-person, with many watching online. The gathering featured recognition from two conferences and two unions.  Addressing the crowd via video from the Minahasa Conference in Indonesia, Ronald Rantung, president, congratulated Pungus and thanked the Rocky Mountain Conference for recognizing his dedication to the ministry.  Rantung’s sentiments were echoed by the East Indonesian Union Conference administration for Pungus’ work in their territory before emigrating to the United States.

Pungus recalled the journey hasn’t been easy. “My main goal when I left my country was to obtain my master’s degree in theology at Andrews University. However, reaching my goal has never been an easy journey; the reality is far beyond my expectations. But God has been good to my family and me, and being a self-supporting student has surely helped me and my wife deepen our trust and faith in God alone.”

He added, “During my time in Michigan, I was actively involved with the Indonesian community in the Berrien Springs area. From Michigan, we moved to Colorado, where since 2015, I have been serving the Indonesian group. As an ethnic group, we have been growing. We have been doing community service and outreach around the Denver metro area and holding some public crusades on different islands in Indonesia.”

Addressing Pungus and the crowd, in his final act as president of RMC, Ed Barnett challenged Pungus to listen and follow the words that Paul gave a young pastor called Timothy in 2 Timothy.  Barnett challenged Pungus to seek and find faithful leaders who will teach about the hope and good news found in Jesus and focus on the core message of Scripture—love.

“Jani is a fantastic young pastor that will go places in the church. He has great people skills, an amazing family that supports him, and a wonderful church that loves him and supports him in his ministry to not only them but the community,” Barnett expressed.

“Over the last 22 years, it has been a pleasure seeing the Indonesian community grow in RMC. I am so proud of the great work they have accomplished, and I look forward to hearing more about them in the future. I also want to give special thanks to Yoram Tumbarante, pastor of the First Denver Indonesian Adventist church; he has dedicated the last two decades of his ministry to growing the church in RMC and being a beacon of hope for the Indonesian people.”

Reflecting on the service and what it means for the Indonesian community, one attendee remarked that “It was great. The ceremony and music program were nice. This is special to the community to see Jani recognized and appreciated by the Rocky Mountain Conference.”

Accepting the ordination, Pungus stated that His mission was to listen to God and follow His leading in outreach to the community.  He ended by saying Here I am, Lord, use me! Drawing from the words of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:8, he said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Working closely with Pungus over the past few years, Miloš Tomic, assistant pastor of the Arvada English church, commented on the event. “It’s beautiful. It was wonderful seeing the aspirations of somebody who is called by God to be acknowledged by the body of Christ.”

Pungus plans to continue to advance God’s Kingdom in RMC, working closely with his wife Kendy, a partner in ministry for the last 16 years, and his three children: Sky Adrian, 15, Kyla Candy, 10, and KyLynn Cinta, 3.

–Jon Roberts is RMC communication/media assistant; photos by Jon Roberts

Jani Pungus and his wife, Kendy
Jani Pungus speaking.
16 Aug


By Allen Steele – Farmington, New Mexico … Like most of the United States, the Navajo Nation in the southwest has suffered greatly, perhaps disproportionately, from the COVID pandemic.  The Navajo reservation, the largest in North America, occupies portions of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah in the Four Corners region.  It is approximately the size of West Virginia.  In May 2020, the Navajo Nation’s infection rates surpassed New York’s, which had been, until then, the highest in the country.  In early August, the latest Navajo COVID statistics, as reported by local newspapers, lists 31,635 cases, about 17% of the people, and 1,377 known deaths from the virus.

The COVID devastation, experts say, was due, in part, to underlying health factors.  Navajo government statistics reveal the largest cause of death on the reservation is unintentional injuries such as traffic fatalities.  However, a close second cause of death is cancer, followed by heart disease, diabetes, and cirrhosis.  University of Arizona researchers say Type 2 diabetes in children is “rampant.” Startlingly, the second-highest factor for death among young people is suicide.

Adding to health factors, living conditions among the 300,000 tribal members on and off the reservation is often difficult.  A University of California study found that more than a third of the people live without electricity, paved roads, cell phone service, landlines, safe housing, or other essentials of modern life.  Up to a third of the people lack heating, plumbing, or fully equipped kitchens.  Indoor toilets are a luxury.

Naturally, under such conditions, there is widespread hopelessness.  Many people feel abandoned, isolated, and forgotten.  The idea to bring hope to the tribe has become a major objective of Adventist Churches in the area.  Four Adventist congregations on the reservation meet regularly, and nearly a dozen other Adventist churches can be found around the edges of the huge reservation.

In addition to the Rocky Mountain Conference, three other church conferences have territory in the vast reservation: Arizona, Nevada-Utah, and Texico.  Even though obstacles are many, Adventist members believe they have found a way to reach across this, the largest mission field in North America: radio.  But it will require help from beyond the reservation and a good deal of cooperation among church entities if their dream is to be realized.

Loris Ann Taylor, executive director of Native Public Media, a nonprofit organization that is spearheading a surge in tribal radio stations nationwide, says “radio is one of the only ways for American Indians to get information.” She says less than ten percent of families on native reservations have broadband connections, and one-third still don’t have telephones.  At a time when most of America is inundated with new forms of communication technology, she says there is one segment of the country where radio is still the most essential medium: Native American reservations.

While our churches in the Navajo region hope that one day, they will have their own station to broadcast programs of health and hope to the people in their language, last year, they launched a pilot project that shows what radio can do. They embarked on a weekly half-hour program on the largest radio station on the reservation, KTNN, “The Voice of the Navajo Nation.”

After only 25 hours on air, responses to offers of the Native New Day Bible course neared 200.  Pastor Dale Wolcott, Arizona Conference Native Ministries director, has been monitoring the correspondence students’ progress and shares this story about one of the students, Janice.  “Like many of our students, Janice lives in a remote rural area of the Navajo Nation.  She mailed us the quiz sheet for lesson 20 a couple of weeks ago, and we notice that she had answered all the questions about the Sabbath correctly.”

Janice was happy to receive a phone call and said, “…she has often wondered about the Sabbath day, and now she understands.  She loves the Lord. She loves the Bible lessons, but she doesn’t have a church to attend…but she would like to fellowship with Sabbath-keepers. Janice requested to be put on our church list and wants to join our services by teleconferencing.  Please pray for Janice and many more like her.  We continue to receive Bible study requests after almost every broadcast.”

The weekly programming is supervised by Pastor Jonathan Chitwood, and programs are produced in small production studios funded by three of the conferences, Arizona, Rocky Mountain, and Texico, in strategic locations where Navajo members can most conveniently record their inspirational, health, and educational messages.  The Rocky Mountain Conference funded a studio at La Vida Mission south of Farmington.  Adventist World Radio also sponsored the fourth studio at Holbrook Indian School and has pledged to match local fundraising if a church-owned station becomes a reality.  In the meantime, the weekly half-hour program serves as a small piece of the master plan.

–Allen Steele is the Adventist World Radio representative to the Texico Conference; photo supplied.

12 Aug


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

12 Aug


By RMCNews with Sue Nelson – Ward, Colorado … Glacier View Ranch came alive, August 5 through 8, with the sounds of laughter and joy as 170 Pathfinders and one bear flocked to the camp for the annual RMC camporee.

The yearly event, which was canceled last year, began with honors and activities. The group also did the typical Pathfinder activities, including flag raising and lowering each day, with the clubs providing the color guards. Inspections were held for the best-themed campsite, with the winning club receiving a gift certificate to Cabela’s.

Sabbath was the highlight of the event, according to Sue Nelson, RMC Pathfinder co-coordinator. “We were blessed to have Pastor Michael Taylor [from Campion church] speak to us about learning to study God’s Word using the acronym, S.O.A.P. Ask a Pathfinder what that is.”

Dan Hansen, Glacier View Ranch manager, spoke to the Pathfinders about Moses during Sabbath School, which included a peanut butter sandwich and another one-of-a-kind sandwich.

The afternoon was packed with adventure as the Pathfinders set off for an activity that combined orienteering and geocaching.

The weekend concluded with a program honoring Papa Don and Mema (Don and Chris Hill) for their 15 years of service to the Pathfinder and Adventurer ministries in RMC as they have moved to Arkansas to retire.

To learn about upcoming Pathfinder and Adventure events, please visit www.rmcap.org

–RMCNews with Sue Nelson is RMC Pathfinder co-coordinator; photo supplied

12 Aug


By Autumn Dunzweiler – Montrose, Colorado … With the ever-changing uncertainty in our world, the Montrose church began a new outreach group called Montrose Christian Media. The mission is simple to involve church and community members, especially the youth, by encouraging individuals to use their God-given creativity to bring hope, truth, and information about Jesus and His soon return.

Commenting on the new venture, Nathan Cranson, pastor of the Montrose district, said, “It’s amazing how much time people spend consuming media content these days. I am excited to work with the young people in our church and hopefully our community to create Christ-centered content. I would love to see us go from content consumers to content creators. It is a powerful way to impart [to] our modern world.”

Montrose Christian Media began with producing The Truth Series, which includes three five-minute videos.

The first video was filmed a few years ago in the Iowa-Missouri Conference, where Cranson was pastoring. After moving to the Rocky Mountain Conference, he had a desire to continue the series.

The first in the series, “A World Without Truth?” explores a world without meaning, purpose, or order. The video explores what the world would look like without truth. It is a world without meaning, purpose, or order. It continues by pointing out that we have order and purpose in our lives and therefore must have the truth. “So, where did it come from? Was it invented, or has it always existed?”

The second, “Shifting Sand,” shows what the world would be if the truth were invented. It shows society handling truth as though it was helpful fiction.

To conclude, the video series “Solid Rock” demonstrates how beautiful the world would be if it were built on unchanging truths showing that there would be lasting order, purpose, and meaning in our lives.

As the ministry grows, there are discussions of creating a cooking show, mission stories, and a parenting show.

To follow Montrose Christian Media, visit their YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8zMX8jRG7cqEtvZUn-4LMQ

–Autumn Dunzweiller is Montrose church media assistant; photo supplied

12 Aug


By Campion Academy News – Loveland, Colorado … Campion Academy welcomed 155 students to campus on August 8, starting a school year highlighted by a return to nearly-normal activities, marking a stark difference from pandemic restrictions during the last academic year. Campion will offer a complete music program, varsity sports, field trips, and other pre-pandemic programming.

Students expressed their excitement with the easing of the policies. “When I heard about the lifting of some of the restrictions, my mood for the year drastically changed positively,” commented Noah Sturges; “I’m looking forward to this year!”

After being canceled last year, try-outs for volleyball and soccer began. Love Pickle exclaimed, “I am overjoyed that sports are back for my last year.”

The music program will include a large choir, select choir, bells, and orchestra, with more performances on the schedule than last year. “I am looking forward to seeing music events around and outside the campus,” said Jackie Kobagaya; “Being able to experience a more normal school year is a true blessing.”

The staff officially welcomed students back at the annual handshake event on Sunday evening, which involved shaking hands with students and staff and included a few hands sanitizer stations in-between. The handshake was part of a fun-filled evening planned by the student association officers that had worship and class competitions to ease the back-to-school jitters.

Kylie Wehling, student association spiritual vice-president, announced the theme for this year: radiate. “As Christians, we are called to not only represent Christ and reflect Him, but to radiate the message of His living water, hope, and salvation,” Wehling explained. “To radiate as a student body this year means to not only glorify God on this campus, but to let His light shine beyond the walls of this school, into our communities, our homes, and in the lives of those we meet.”

The Campion church pastors concluded the evening by leading a time of prayer and dedication of our campus. The circle of students and staff was notably larger than it has been in recent years. Principal Donavan Reeder commented, “We are excited that God has given us 155 students, which is more than we’ve had in the last few years and even more than we had anticipated. We look forward to seeing how God will touch the lives of each of these students this school year.”

–Campion Academy News; photos supplied