30 Jul


RMCNews – Denver, Colorado … Meeting in a special executive session on July 28, the Rocky Mountain Conference Executive Committee extended an invitation to Mic Thurber to serve as president of the Rocky Mountain Conference, replacing Ed Barnett who will be retiring at the end of August.

No stranger to RMC, Thurber has served as the ministerial director for the Mid-America Union Conference since 2013. Mic is the brother of former RMC president Gary Thurber. He and his wife are prayerfully considering this invitation and are expected to respond to the nomination within days.

Hubert Morel Jr., Mid-America Union Conference executive secretary, who chaired the nominating committee on July 28, asked the church to present the nominee in their prayers, and ask for God’s guidance in Thurber’s decision.

Morel thanked the Executive Committee members for their hard work. “I was very impressed by the way the Executive Committee functioned in selecting or recommending the person they want as their leader, Mic Thurber.”

Wayne Morrison, pastor of Brighton church and RMC Executive Member commented on the nomination process. “It always impresses me how as a committee we seek God’s heart, ask for His will, and He always is faithful. As we looked at the candidates, many were very qualified individuals, I again was amazed at how God narrowed the search until we felt God had raised one name, ‘for such a time as this.’”

Mic Thurber was born in Collegedale, Tennessee, when his parents were students at Southern Missionary College.   Mic met his partner in ministry, Jana, 45 years ago and has worked closely together ever since. They have three children and three grandchildren.  Prior to coming Mid-America Union Conference, he served as pastor of the Keene, Texas church. He was also the ministerial director for the Southeastern California Conference, pastor at Pacific Union College church and Calimesa Adventist church in California.  Thurber also taught Bible and music at Sunnydale Academy in Missouri and Mount Pisgah Academy in North Carolina, his alma matter.

–RMCNews; photo by Rajmund Dabrowski

30 Jul


By Jon Roberts – Casper, Wyoming … While academies and multi-room schools often get acknowledged and are well known, the small one-room school, modeled by the founders of the Adventist church, is still active. It provides unique challenges, but can also create greater community missionary involvement. Adventist education is vital to growing healthy churches and engaging youth and young adults. The one-room school has a role to play.

Recently, at the Wyoming Camp Meeting, I sat down with Traci Pike, teacher at Mountain Road Christian Academy in Casper, Wyoming and chatted about the joys and the taxing situations of the one-room school experience.

According to Pike, the biggest difference and advantage of teaching where all students are together, is the comradery built between students. “Well, one of the things that I see as an advantage of having multiple grades in one room, whether it’s four grades in a room or eight, is that it starts to teach the older students to be caretakers of the younger. [One] example [would be that while] I’m busy with a third grader, a seventh grader should be able to help a second grader with their math or help a second grader with their English, so you get some of that cooperative learning.”

It also enhances education beyond their grade level, she explained.  “When you’re all in one room, while you’re not necessarily teaching the second graders fourth-grade math, they still hear it. Then sometimes, they’ve heard it a few times already so by the time they get there [to that level], it’s not necessarily a brand-new concept to them. They learn from the older ones that way too, and that’s definitely an advantage.”

Another edge multi-grade classrooms have is it teaches the students to have empathy. “I think it also helps teach the kids how to deal with different ages, different grades, when you’re all together. When you’re always with your age group, everybody acts in the same way. However, seventh graders act very differently from those in second grade. It is teaching them to be patient when sometimes they are not,” Pike said.

With so many advantages to teaching a multi-grade room, could there be any disadvantages? For Pike it is time. “Some of the disadvantages, at least for me as a teacher, is time because while I can group some things together–Bible, social studies history, and science– English and reading have to be at grade level. So, it just gets very difficult to get everything, to fit everything, into a day or a week.”

Other than time, curriculum can be challenging in a one-room school. “I love our new Bible curriculums and our new science curriculums. They’re beautiful. They’re so Bible-based and I love that, but they’re not easy to teach in a multi-grade classroom. What we need is curriculums that can be taught across the grades.”

Pike’s situation is unique, not only because she is a one-room school teacher, but because she grew up in Casper and returned to begin her second career as a teacher. “I went back to school in my mid-thirties and, I had no intention of teaching at the church school because it’s my home church. I feared the difficulties. I never got a job in the public school system. So, I substitute-taught for two years and then our teacher at the church school resigned towards the very end of the school year, which makes it more difficult to find a teacher,” Pike reflected.

After being asked and interviewed by the church, Pike accepted the position; however, as she explains, she was afraid of the first year because of being well-known. “In my classroom, I had my own son, two of my cousin’s children, and other kids, who had known me their whole lives.”

“I was concerned because how can I be objective when I’m already this close with everybody? I was afraid of my friendships being hurt. What I found out instead was that everyone was super supportive and eager to step in to help and tell me I’m doing a good job or help me figure things out when I didn’t know what to do. First-year teachers still have first-year problems, even if you’re in your forties. It doesn’t matter.”

Pike explains that the highlight of her teaching ministry happened this past year when two students, whose only connection to the Adventist church was a friend they played junior hockey with, decided to give their lives to Jesus and be baptized.

Pike also recalled a student who had never heard a Bible story or prayed before. “I have had at least three students in my school, one this year, and I’ve had two little boys previously, maybe some more, who didn’t know any Bible stories. I got one little girl, who during her first day of school with us while Ms. Lynette [teacher aide] was doing the Bible story, asked, “Who is that? Who is Jesus?”

“That’s the moment. That’s why we’re here. That’s what’s different. We can learn English, math, history, or science anywhere, but at public school, where she had been, they weren’t going to stop and tell her who Jesus is and why Jesus is so wonderful. And then to hear this little pumpkin, who at the beginning hadn’t ever even heard His name, who didn’t even know Him at all, to hear her praying the sweetest prayers by the end of the school year, that is what makes it worthwhile”

A one-room schoolhouse also has the opportunity of offering practical, hands-on learning, whether it is how to cook lunch as a group, to knit, or to take care of the other “children” in the classroom that happens to have four legs, one thing is evident–every day brings opportunities to learn lessons that can’t be learned in a book.

Mrs. Pike was happy to share that “the one animal that has started coming to school is a puppy. We got a COVID puppy. She comes to school with me and she does really, really well with the kids. She’s very protective of them. When somebody comes into the school building that she doesn’t know, she is on it. I’m not quite the animal person that my sister-in-law Jodie is. She is a zookeeper for sure.”

NEXT WEEK the story continues with Jodie Gage, teacher at Delta Adventist School, a one room school, and the goat that joined PE class.

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

29 Jul


RMCNews – Denver, Colorado … Working together to win kids for Christ is the theme for the upcoming Rocky Mountain Conference pastor and teacher convention.

The gathering is important at this time as RMC continues to push forward, regardless of the challenges that our churches and schools have dealt with over the past year.

For RMC leadership, building healthy churches and schools in RMC is what makes this an important meeting. President Ed Barnett commented, “We have always felt that pastors and teachers are the key to our conference. So, every few years, we try to have them meet together so we can build the team and the camaraderie among our workers. I believe that it is a blessing for our mission in the Rocky Mountain Conference.”

Commenting on the importance of this event, Mickey Mallory, RMC ministerial director, explained it is about reaching all, especially the youth, with the Good News and the hope Jesus provides. “Since we have traditionally called our schools “church schools”, it is important that both pastors and teachers have the opportunity to dialogue on how they can work together to reach kids for Christ.”

Mallory added that this gathering is especially important in RMC territory, “because Jesus, in Matthew 28:19, calls for us to “make disciples of ALL nations” including children.

Diane Harris, RMC director of education, is hoping that this annual gathering of teachers will be enhanced by holding the event jointly with the pastors.  For Paul Negrete, assistant director of education for RMC, this will be his first chance to interact with the teachers since joining RMC on July 1.

The meeting will be held August 1 through August 3 with NAD family ministries directors Pam and Claudio Consuegra as the keynote presenters. It is expected of all pastors to attend.  Mallory foresees that nearly all pastors will join in person, with 55 expected to attend. It is anticipated that teachers of the nearly 20 RMC schools will attend the event.

Barnett is asking for RMC church members to keep these meetings in prayer and ask for the Holy Spirit to lead the gathering.

–RMCNews; photo supplied

29 Jul


By Mikey Archibeque – Denver, Colorado … It was a day of kicking, running, throwing, shouting, and gnashing of teeth–just not in the way you might think.

More than 60 individuals came together on July 25 at the old Mile High Academy ball fields to bring summer to a close as the new school year approaches. Members from five Adventist Front Range churches: Newday, Boulder, Littleton, LifeSource, and Denver South could be found playing spikeball, ladder golf, and corn hole. Those who were not competing enjoyed an afternoon lounging in the shade, or relaxing with a nice cool Arctic Freeze Gatorade.

The common denominator of joy and laughter permeated the gathering as friends reconnected and new friendships formed. And what better way to test bonds, old and new, than a game of competitive kickball?

As the teams marched to their respective canopied dugouts, any sense of feigned competitiveness quickly washed after the first pitch. After five innings of a back-and-forth match for the ages, stomachs demanded something other than dirt, dust, and sweat. Soon the aroma of grilled food was in the atmosphere and summer salads along with ice-cold drinks caused a mass exodus from the field.

As the sun lowered, there was a collective feeling that this gathering of churches was long overdue. Going forward, there is a desire among the churches to move ahead as one–sharing resources, time, and energy to help engage youth and young adults in the Front Range.

If you would like to assist with engaging youth and young adults on the Front Range, please email Mikey Archibeque at [email protected] or J Murdock at [email protected]

–Mikey Archibeque is the associate pastor at Denver South; photos supplied

29 Jul


By Paulette Yaple – Cheyenne, Wyoming … Did you know the first text message was sent in 1844? This was one of many interesting facts attendees of “Media on the Brain” seminar, held recently at the Cheyenne Adventist church, discovered.

The gathering, attended by some 34 visitors and 79 members, featured guest presenter Scott Ritsema, director of Belt of Truth ministries.

The three-part seminar included presentations titled: How to Escape the Pleasure Trap; Transformed by the Renewing of Our Minds; Conformed to the Counterfeit Reality.  The presentations focused on being careful with the media we consume.

“The Media on the Brain [seminar] was powerful because it was filled with facts and truth, especially for this day and age. There is media surrounding us constantly, and it is targeting children at younger and younger ages all the time. This is a very important topic for all ages. It shows that everyone is affected by media, unlike some who claim otherwise. And it is so helpful to have a godly world perspective on this popular topic,” Danielle Suckut, Cheyenne member and deaconess explained.

Bill Nixon, pastor of Cheyenne district echoed Suckut’s comments, “Scott Ritsema’s messages were both thought-provoking and eye-opening. Because our spiritual health is determined, in large part, by the media we consume, we would be a much stronger church if we heeded his recommendations.”

Cheyenne members have implemented a visitation program to follow up with the visitors who attended the seminar.

Who sent that first text message in 1844? Samuel Morse sent the message “What Hath God Wrought” via telegraph.

–Paulette Yaple is communication secretary for the Cheyenne church; photo supplied

29 Jul

Is Day School Better Than Boarding School?

By Juliet Bromme — The Seventh-day Adventist educational system is extensive. After the Roman Catholic system, it is the second largest in the world; and in the United States, there are more than 900 institutions between preschools, elementary and middle schools, academies, and universities. Though there are always inevitable challenges to any institution, even if you look at just the numbers, it seems Adventist education is doing pretty well.

I grew up going to Adventist schools—I don’t know anything different. I’m thankful for a lot of the experiences I had at the schools I attended. Some of my favorite memories are from the three years I attended Georgia-Cumberland Academy (GCA) as a boarding student.

I remember being in high school and going to get my hair cut or talking to friends from different denominations or religious backgrounds who were shocked when they found out I’d voluntarily decided to live in a dorm. “So, you didn’t get shipped off or get in trouble?” they’d ask, thinking that was the reason I was “sent from home.” Even in the Adventist community, where going to a boarding school isn’t abnormal, I had friends who attended local schools, and they would always shake their heads in disbelief, confident they could never enjoy that.

I agree that boarding school isn’t for everyone—maybe I just got lucky with a good school and good friends. But as someone who went to both a Seventh-day Adventist boarding academy and a predominately day academy, I feel like I’m equipped to compare the two.

Academy Days

After I graduated from eighth grade, I first decided to attend the academy that was 15 minutes from our house. My older brother was a junior when I was in my freshman year, and I remember how he’d take me back and forth to school every day and sometimes out to lunch too. I loved how my family was close and could come to concerts or varsity games whenever they wanted.

Most of my classmates had graduated from the same school as I had the year before, so it made the transition from middle school to academy much easier. But by the end of that first year, I was considering transferring to GCA, which was seven hours away from my home, in northern Georgia.

I chose to change schools for a few reasons: I was itching to spread my wings, I had family that I was close to in my class at GCA, and I thought it would be fun to get to know a different part of the country. My mom had gone to an Adventist boarding school and had a positive experience, so I wanted to give it a shot.

GCA was the right choice for me. Living in an environment away from home helped me to get out of my comfort zone and have new opportunities. The faculty spent a lot of time on campus, even on the weekends, so great mentorships were formed. GCA is located near Atlanta and Chattanooga, so I could go to those places on the weekends. And, of course, there’s Taco House. Anyone who’s ever been to Calhoun, Georgia, will know what I mean.

Individual Choices

At the end of the day, there isn’t one “right” school experience. Different people can thrive in different environments. It’s more important to find a place that provides various opportunities and that can help you develop into the person you want to be. Looking back to my academy days, I know my time at both schools helped shape me into the person I am today.

–Juliet Bromme is a senior communication major at Union College and a summer intern at the Adventist Review; photo supplied

This article originally appeared in the Adventist Review Online, JULY 28, 2021 and is reprinted by permission.

28 Jul


By Gary Thurber

Dear Mid-America Union Conference Family,

Whew! It is hard to believe nearly five years have passed since our last Constituency Session! Time has flown by so fast; but then again, there were times during these past five years when the days and weeks seemed to stand still.

Here’s a recap, from my perspective, the past five years.

I think of our Pathfinders attending Oshkosh (Wisconsin) International Camporee and our own Union Camporee in Custer, South Dakota, both of which were spiritual high notes for them. It was also inspiring to watch so many of our Bible Experience teams move on from their conference, union, and over to the division level in this Bible knowledge journey.

Our union-wide pastor’s convention in Omaha, Nebraska, was a highlight as we came together to talk about our first calling—our own families. Then the teachers had an incredible division-wide convention in Chicago that brought wonderful exhibits, workshops and other learning opportunities they could never have experienced otherwise.

Evangelism is on the rise as well, and our local conferences work with pastors and laity to keep the Three Angels’ Messages ever before our communities. Both public and personal evangelistic strategies have been employed to share this beautiful message of the gospel and hope for what the Lord has in store for His children.

However, there were also times during these past five years like none we have ever experienced in our lifetime. Who could forget March 2020, when our country and world came to a screeching halt due to the COVID-19 virus? One Sabbath we were singing and worshiping together in our churches, and the next we were told not to meet because of the threat of exposure to this disease. It was painful to hear about and watch people we know and love suffer from this dreaded virus. Sadly, some even lost their lives.

Overnight, our elementary schools, academies and Union College faculty and staff had to figure out how to operate virtually as parents, teachers and students worked together in ways no one saw coming. They made it happen though! And they succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations!

Pastors and their teams, too, learned very quickly how to bring Sabbath school and church worship services to our Mid-America family, so we could continue to fellowship and study God’s Word together. As hard as it has been, our pastoral teams and church members have worked hard together to meet the needs of our church families. Virtual weddings, graduations and, yes, funerals have become part of our church life over the past number of months. We are still not able to fully assemble together throughout our region, but we are getting there…slowly but surely.

Another day when time stood still was when we watched in horror as George Floyd’s life was taken from him right here in our Minnesota and Central States conference territories. I don’t believe anyone can fully understand the pain and harm this brought to our communities and to our own church family. Racism is a sin and evil at its core. The hope we have is for a great awakening, where we will choose to love one another as Jesus loves us all.

Following God Together

Because of the COVID-19 virus, the General Conference Session was pushed back first one year, and now two years. Our GC leaders have worked tirelessly to meet the continued global needs of our church. Mission continues to move forward in a powerful way. It is inspiring to hear the stories of God’s sustaining His church. These stories are absolute miracles as we see God’s mighty hand at work.

“I Will Go!” is the GC’s theme for this quinquennium, and it has caught on beautifully both here in the NAD and abroad. The division is using that theme, along with the emphasis “Together in Mission.”

As we at the union office thought about these great themes and considered what our theme should be for the Mid-America Constituency Session, we acknowledged the personal commitment that must take place for “I Will Go” and “Together in Mission” to become a reality.

Our thoughts also went to the apostle Paul’s beautiful picture of the body of Christ, which he says is made up of many parts—all of which are essential.  He says, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

“In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So, if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly” Roman 6:4-8 (NLT).

In order to say “I Will Go” and “Together in Mission,” each of us must first say, “Yes, Lord! I give my life to you to use me and empower me to do whatever you want me to do.” So, we decided our theme for the Mid-America Session will be “Yes, Lord!”

We plan to come together in person on September 12 for the Mid-America Session, which will take place in Lincoln, Nebraska. With our focus of “Yes, Lord!” we can join together as never before to accomplish the mission God has called us to fulfill.

As usual, we will review our By-Laws to see if they should be honed even more to help us accomplish our mission. We will have an opportunity to hear and see firsthand how God has sustained and blessed Union College. We will elect leadership for the next quinquennium. And as several conferences and our own Executive Committee has asked us to do, we will talk about the ongoing journey of recognizing our women pastors’ calling from the Lord.

If you have an old youth songbook from the ‘70s, more than likely there will be a song in it titled “Yes, Lord!” In full disclosure, that song came from the heart and mind of my father, John Thurber. And the words are probably more impactful and pertinent for me today than ever before. The simple chorus, which is really a very personal prayer, goes like this:

Yes, Lord, I give my heart to You.
Yes, Lord, my will I yield anew.
Love me, guide me, fill my soul,
Yes, Lord, take full control.

In Mid-America, let’s encourage one another to say “Yes, Lord!” to whatever God calls us to. Maybe it will be to go overseas as a missionary. Maybe it will be to come alongside our teachers at our schools to help them with the enormous mission they lead. Maybe God is going to call you to be an evangelist as a lay person or a pastor. Or maybe God will ask you to represent Him in a greater way in your workplace.

All I know is that if we will prayerfully say “Yes, Lord!” here in Mid-America, we will see mission happen like it has never happened before. Will you join me and the team here in the Mid-America Union office and commit to this prayer? Let’s do this together!

–Gary Thurber is the Mid-America Union Conference president; photo supplied

This article was originally published on Outlook Magazine’s website

27 Jul

REFLECTION: A Three Stranded Cord Is Not Easily Broken

By Lester Bentley

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they (either person) fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.  Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Solomon’s experience with independent life caused him to consider the importance of friendship and the value of people doing things together. As he penned these words from Ecclesiastes, he may have recalled an old Jewish proverb, “A friendless man is like a left hand deprived of the right.” In other words, a person without friends is like a man whose left hand is orphaned from his right hand. Therefore, Solomon concluded that two people working together are better than one working alone.

Why would two people be better than one?

Because when two are working together, they can get more done. While working, they will enjoy the company of the other. Even when they divide the profits from their work, they will have more than if working alone. It is also much easier to accomplish tasks of great size if two people are working together, rather than alone. As they work together, they can encourage each other, especially when things don’t go as planned.

In Palestine, walking paths leading from city to city were often steep, filled with rocks and stones that could give way when stepped on. It was easy to trip, fall and get hurt. Even the most experienced of travelers could stumble and fall. It often resulted in broken bones or turned ankles.  How wonderful it was to have a friend that could help during a slip or a fall.

In the garden, Eve left the side of Adam. Why? We are not told. But she did and subsequently fell to the temptation of not trusting in God. She thought there was something better. Yet God had provided everything she would ever need. If the first woman had stuck to the side of the first man, there would have been a strength to withstand temptation. The first woman would not have stumbled. Our Christian friends can help us walk straight and keep us from doing wrong. But we have Another that has also promised to help, and that is God in heaven. He has promised to be with us and help us when we’re in need. He is only a prayer, a cry for help, away.

As the passage says, two are better than one when it comes to warmth.  When this was written, two travelers camping or even staying in the courtyard of a public inn would feel the cold of the Palestine night. They needed each other for warmth. If one did not have a companion to keep him warm, he must add to his already-heavy burden by bringing extra blankets to stay warm.

Two are better than one so that while one rests, the other can keep watch over the other. Palestine had many wild animals and even those who would wish to rob a traveler. Therefore, one watched over and cared for the other while traveling, which segues into verse twelve. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.

When one person attacks another with the intent to rob or kill, the person attacked could easily be killed. But there is strength in numbers. If you unite with a friend, there is power to withstand the attack and win.

But the author finishes with an exciting statement. Solomon says, “And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  What is Solomon trying to say?

A person alone could easily be overpowered, quickly get hurt, encounter burdens and work that is too great and have difficulty staying warm when exposed to the elements. But with a friend, these things become easier. You have companionship, warmth, a shared workload, and can watch out for each other and pick the other up when he falls. There is strength and resilience when two combine their efforts. But as strong as a two-stranded cord or rope is, a three-stranded rope or cord is even stronger. When we unite ourselves with others and add Christ, we have a three-stranded rope or cord. It is a bond not quickly broken.

Christ has asked us to unite with each other and unite with Him, and when we do, it forms a bond that is not quickly broken. Jesus has promised to watch over us. To comfort and strengthen us and He asks us to do this for others.

–Lester Bentley pastors the Northeast Wyoming church district; photo by UnSplash

22 Jul


By Jon Roberts – Worland, Wyoming …. In a recent email to supporters of the ministry The Hope of Survivors, Steve and Samantha Nelson announced that they will be retiring as directors at the end of 2021.

The ministry, which focuses on ending clergy sexual abuse, has been challenging and also a blessing over the last 20 years. Recently, during the camp meeting event at Mills Spring Ranch in Wyoming, they shared their two-decade long experience with The Hope of Survivors.

“The Hope of Survivors has blessed [us] in many ways, including being able to travel around the world to minister to broken lives and hurting people because of clergy sex abuse. We have also been able to plant similar organizations in various countries. However, it has been an awful lot of hard work and, yes, it has been a heavy burden to carry at times.”

Samantha recalls that the ministry has often been very challenging [when] dealing with different church entities. “They don’t want to recognize or deal with the issue and want the ministry to just go away so they don’t expose the real-world issues that affect the church, not only in Adventism but [also] other denominations.”

Steve agrees with Samantha’s perspective on the ministry which they ran together for 20 years adding, “I think it’s opened the door for a ministry that never would have happened had we not gone through with this and started the ministry. We wouldn’t have been able to touch [some} people’s lives without it. I mean, these are huge issues. You can’t really put a price on being able to spiritually talk to a situation that nobody was talking about.”

They shocked some, disappointed some, and angered some for discussing this issue, but they would do it all over again, Steve added.

He explained that the struggles have taken a toll on Samantha’s health which led to the counsel by medical professionals that they step aside to reduce the stress.

For those in the Adventist church who would like to bury their heads in the sand and imagine this issue is not prevalent, Samantha has strong words of counsel.

“I would say you have absolutely no clue what’s going on within the church because it is a very prevalent issue within Adventism as much, if not more than it is within the Catholic church or any other denomination. We are not immune just because we’re Seventh-day Adventists.”

“You need to educate yourself and be aware. People really need to educate themselves and not blame the victim. Don’t say it takes two to tango, and make it seem like it’s an affair when it’s not, because clergy sexual abuse is all about abuse of the power held over the one that they’re supposed to shepherd and watch over,” Samantha said.

She added, “It’s frustrating at times to hear people still say, ‘Well, that doesn’t happen at our church.’ What makes you think you’re immune? It’s not a denominational problem. It’s a human sin problem and we have sinful humans within the Adventist church.”

What has been challenging to the Nelsons is that the church is receiving credit for speaking out when, in fact, the church isn’t addressing the issue adequately at all.

“The Adventist church has actually gotten a lot of kudos that they didn’t technically deserve because of what The Hope of Survivors has been doing. And to explain that, I’ll just say that victims who contacted us believe that we’re speaking on behalf of the Adventist church, and they’re like ‘Wow, I’m so grateful your church is speaking out about this. All churches need to,’ and we’d let it go, but it hasn’t always been the case of the churches speaking out. It’s mainly just us and The Hope of Survivors,” Samantha explained.

She added that “one of the things we used to hear a lot was, ‘Why do you want to air the church’s dirty laundry? Why do you want to expose this? We are not supposed to talk about it.’ Our perspective on that is that transparency leads to trust. If you want victims and others to trust you, you need to be transparent. You need to be honest. You need to admit this is a problem.”

Success stories of the ministry can be both sad and joyous, according to Steve. “The sad part is there are success stories that are short-term and some that are long-term. The short-term ones can come to mind quickly. The long-term ones are more complicated. We know that marriages have been saved; people have stayed with the church, but then later on, their marriages disintegrated because the abuse is that difficult to deal with.”

The success stories are evident in the volunteers with Hope of Survivors, according to Samantha. “The majority of our volunteers were prior victims who had contacted us for help. Then, as God healed them and used The Hope of Survivors in that process, they wanted to become a part of it. They are the ones who are going to be helping carry The Hope of Survivors forward when we’re not here anymore.”

“Other successes are the lives that have been saved. I can’t even count how many people have said ‘I was ready to commit suicide and I found your website. You saved my life.’”

As the Nelsons prepare to close this chapter of ministry in their lives, they are taking with them the blessings God has given them–“The blessing of knowing that what God called us to do, so long ago, won’t die because we step away. He’s gonna make sure that it carries on and will continue to impact lives and save lives around the world,” Samantha expressed.

Steve is looking forward to hearing the stories in heaven. “I take with me the thought of eternity and hearing about how this ministry has blessed individuals and saved them from hurt and pain.”

They want their ministry to be remembered as groundbreaking and as them having the courage to speak to these issues. “[This is] an absolutely essential ministry to those who are hurting from clergy sexual abuse. There really wasn’t any other organization doing what we were doing when we started. I believe that’s why God called us to begin this ministry to fill that void. I just want it to be remembered as something that made an impact on Christians of all denominations. In fact, I shouldn’t even say “Christians” because we’ve actually had Hindus, Buddhists and atheists contact us for help,” Samantha said.

Steve wants people to remember them as individuals who finally stood up for the victims and who helped those who were in desperate need to reconnect with the church and with God.

The Nelsons ask for prayer as they wait to see what else God has in store for them in future ministry while continuing with their pastoral ministry in Wyoming.

On January 1, 2022, Martin Weber, a board member since 2008 and a retired hospital chaplain, will become Board Chair and President of the organization, with Shyleene Rosado and Carlos Rosero serving as CEO and treasurer, respectively, who currently are leading the Latino division.

To learn more about The Hope of Survivors please visit http://www.thehopeofsurvivors.org

–Jon Roberts is RMC media / communication assistant; photo by Sherry Taylor

22 Jul

Remembering Abner Escobar Portillo

By Vanessa Alarcón – Greeley, Colorado … The Rocky Mountain Conference Hispanic churches are in shock and disbelief as well-known and beloved youth leader, Abner Escobar Portillo, died unexpectedly in a car accident on July 4.

Abner had served in various ministries in RMC since arriving in Colorado when he was 16. He founded the RMC Hispanic Youth Federation, FEJA, 20 years ago with a vision for having a youth federation led by volunteer youth leaders from across the region that would provide ongoing spiritual and social activities. FEJA quickly became the main source for youth programming for  the Hispanic churches in the Rocky Mountain Conference, from youth retreats to sports tournaments.

“He set his life aside to serve,” Jorge Alemán, former FEJA president, remembers. “He fully owned his calling to serve the youth of this conference and kept all of us leaders accountable.”

Abner had a heart for young adults that longtime ministry collaborator with FEJA and Pathfinders, Nancy Quiñonez, had never seen in anyone else. “Abner always tried his best to talk to as many young people as he could at all youth events. He wanted to make sure they felt welcomed.”

After serving as FEJA president for nine years Abner became a Master Guide and Pathfinder area coordinator.

“His personality and charismatic leadership allowed him to have a positive intergenerational influence, from children to adults. His leadership wasn’t only effective in his local church, but transcended to the whole Latino Adventist community,” Rubén Rivera, RMC Hispanic coordinator commented.

It was evident that Abner’s ministry influenced many lives by the tributes written on social media.

“He was at almost every single [youth event] devoting time and energy into all of us in such a positive way,” Liz Cabriales, Newday church member, wrote.

Abner‘s funeral service was held July 7 in Chihuahua, Mexico. His memorial service will be held at LifeSource Adventist Fellowship in Denver on July 31 at 4:00 p.m.

He is survived by his wife, Gisela, and two children, Belinda, age 9, and Azael, age 2.

The Greeley Hispanic Seventh-Day Adventist Church is collecting funds to help support Abner’s wife and children. To contribute to the memorial fund, please mail donations to:

Greeley Hispanic Seventh-day Adventist Church
PO Box 310
Greeley CO 80632-0310
Please mark donations: Abner Escobar’s memorial fund.

–Vanessa E. Alarcón is the former FEJA communications director; photo by Rubén Rivera.

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