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A new year is a comin' for the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
For the North American Division, 2009 is the year of evangelism and, of course, growth will be a focus around the globe as the world church gears up for the General Conference session next year. That meeting will also elect a new president.
What do you think should be a priority for the Adventist community and those who have the privileged of leading us in 2009?
Share your resolutions for Adventism below.
On Christmas Eve, a fire burned down the Cherry Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. The blaze which started around midnight harmed no one. In the video below, Pastor T. Duwayne Privette speaks to the local news about the devastation. According to the Baltimore Sun, Privette, 36, who has been a pastor at the church since 2003, said it was founded more than 30 years ago by members who started meeting in a small house. In 1988, the house was razed and members built a one-story church on the same property.
The church has grown to about 170 members and offers Bible study, an afternoon youth program, a food pantry and pastoral services in the community, he said.
Ruth Flowers, 76, and her husband, who died in March, were among the original founding members of the church.
Flowers, the church's community services director, went to see the charred ruins yesterday morning. She left in shock.
Some parts of the church - such as the doors in the front foyer that still had green Christmas wreaths hanging on them - seemed almost untouched. But other parts, including a large portion of an exterior wall, were destroyed.
. . .
"It was just unbelievable," Flowers said. "When you have really witnessed something grow up, and then see the destruction, it's just unbelievable."
Among the important things the fire damaged were the church's food pantry, used to help feed the homeless, and its membership records, she said. Flowers also lost her own laptop computer, which she had left at the church.
"Everybody is just like in total shock," she said.
According to city fire officials, firefighters were called to the church at 11:35 p.m. Tuesday and found the building fully engulfed in flames. Firefighters did not enter the building because of the danger, including the buckling of one of the exterior walls. No one was inside the building, and no injuries were reported.
Here's a news roundup of many ways that Adventists are making the news this Christmas in their local communities.
One of the highlights of evening was the singing of “O Holy Night” by Susan Hamilton of the Seventh Day Adventist Church and Pastor David Soden of Richmond Avenue Baptist Church. The crowd reacted with a thundering applause.
Nunez said that the food bank and other charitable efforts support more than 300 people a month.
As well as food, the organization provides blankets and clothing, and for people who have found a residence, St. Vincent de Paul provides dishes, cookware and other household necessities.
"We do provide some furnishings, but just not to everyone," Nunez said. "They have to demonstrate that they are working to get off the street."
Two other organizations that provide support for the homeless and needy, based upon donations, are the Seventh-Day Adventist Church through its Dorca program, and the Salvation Army.
PAW PAW, W.Va. — Rose Estep doesn’t let anyone inside her trailer.
For almost a decade she’s lived there alone, kept to herself inside the rotting, 50-year-old structure she bought for $500 from a woman who wanted a hundred more.
Dusty and sagging, it sits near the top of a mountain at the end of Cloud High Lane, a narrow dirt road that twists and climbs toward the heavens.
The winter wind blows hard up there, whips across the trees and settles into the bones.
For a couple of years, Estep lived without heat or electricity, huddling under piles of blankets, “camping out” in rooms that hadn’t been damaged by flooding.
She wouldn’t let anyone see her home — not friends or family or co-workers. It would simply cause distress. And even without running water or an indoor bathroom, Estep got along OK.
Then one day last spring a new friend from church wouldn’t back down.
Gary Kasekamp drove up the mountain to bring Estep groceries after getting to know her in Bible study and learning she wasn’t well-off. Outside her door, he pleaded for the better part of an hour to let him look inside. Estep finally relented. Kasekamp was stunned.
An elder at Cumberland’s Seventh-day Adventist Church, he saw conditions as poor as some he’d observed in Third World countries, where he’d taken at least a dozen mission trips.
“When I walked into that place,” Kasekamp said one day last week, his voice trailing off. “It was in pretty rough shape.”
He took his concerns to the church board, then, with the members’ blessing, started organizing a project to give Estep a present, hopefully in time for Christmas.
Volunteers from four local Seventh-day Adventist congregations would build her a house.
They christened it “The Rose Project” and started raising funds.
In September they painted signs with a single red rose to show the way up the mountain, past the ruts and turns, to get to Estep’s place. Volunteers agreed to meet once a week — on Sundays — to work on the house.
Unlike most Christian denominations, Seventh-day Adventists observe the Sabbath on Saturday, as described in the Old Testament.
The first Rose Project work day was Sept. 21, when two dozen volunteers cleared the site. They came from Cumberland, Frostburg, Oakland and Romney, where the Adventists have congregations, each with fewer than 100 members.
Known as a conservative Christian denomination, the church has about 15 million members around the world and participates in a “global mission” to spread the gospel of Christ. It has projects in more than 200 countries, the church’s Web site says. Kasekamp has been to Honduras and the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico.
“We go to all these places and do stuff,” said Kasekamp, a woodworker who lives just outside Oldtown. “There’s people right here that need help. It’s just finding these people and figuring out who really needs the help and wants the help. It’s hard.”
Over 12 successive Sundays, with intermittent work by a handful of workers, Rose Project volunteers poured footers, laid sewage pipe and water lines, raised the walls and shingled the roof.
By Nov. 16, they were installing doors and windows. By Dec. 14, the electrical work was done.
Almost everything was donated — insulation, shingles, concrete and lumber from a company that has no ties to the church.
“I just called them and asked them,” Kasekamp said.
One church volunteer is paying for all the kitchen cabinets. Another man from Oakland did all the electrical work for free. Another dropped off a never-used propane heater he’d bought for his own family.
Just three days before Christmas, they’d spent only about $6,800 of the $16,000 raised.
Estep, 45, is dumbfounded by the generosity.
Raised a Baptist in West Virginia, she said she strayed from the church after a difficult childhood. After graduating from a Maryland high school, she began working minimum-wage jobs, sometimes two or three at a time to make ends meet, she said.
In 2002, she quit her last job as a sewing machine operator because of lupus and other related disabilities, she said.
“I figured sitting down I could probably do something,” she said. “And it was right close to my home. But my knee gave out, then my hands gave out. And my emotions gave out, cause I was really at the end of my rope.”
Never married, she has no children and lives on the Social Security check she gets once a month.
About a year ago she began writing letters to a pen pal with a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Bible study. By spring, she had found her way to Kasekamp and the Cumberland church.
When Kasekamp knocked on her trailer door that day, she didn’t want to let him in.
“I don’t like trailers, but that one was the right price at the right time,” said Estep, who had bought about 14 acres near the top of the mountain in 1987. “You do what you do. I mean, it’s better than being homeless, out in the elements and all. It was protection against the winter.”
Estep’s new house will be simple — four rooms, about 700 square feet. Church members plan to round up donated furniture and other items so she can set up housekeeping.
Last week, Estep watched, clear-eyed and ruddy-cheeked, while workers installed insulation. From the bedroom window, she can see the mountains of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
“I love to watch the snow come down,” Estep said, shifting from foot to foot to keep circulation flowing in the 20-degree cold. “And thunderstorms in the spring.”
The house won’t be ready by Christmas, but Estep should be moved in shortly after the new year, church members hope.
Once she’s settled, Estep plans to have an open house to thank everyone. She plans to hang a plaque over the door.
“The House That Love Built,” it will say. “Because God is Love.”
And finally, a blog poem from a retired Loma Linda Dentistry Professor:
Once upon a Tuesday dreary
As I pondered thoughtless and weary
That, I'd written days before
Mindless drivel designed to bore
There came a tapping at my door
Irritating tapping at my chamber door
Opening, I thot to find a Raven
Rather than Raven there was a man
Garbed in brown with a matching van
Packages wrapped and taped in hand
Grinning as though this was something grand
But better I knew
And had not to guess
Santa had sent him
To the wrong address.
Merry Christmas to all sufficiently dour
With faces twisted to grimaces sour
As nearer comes the expectant hour
When relatives appear with gifts to shower
Who clean the table and ice box too
And ride clear of the mess hailing
"Merry Christmas," to you!
With all due respect to William Johnsson, I found his recent editorial entitled "What the election of Obama means to Adventists" embarrassing.
Though nobly emphasizing the importance of this event for African-Americans, this editorial managed to successfully marginalize a group of Americans and it propagated the unacceptable concept of "us" versus "them." While his words aim to highlight the importance of hope and unity, this editorial misses a greater point. I believe it is impossible for us to have intellectual unity with different types of people if we subscribe to the notion of "I can not fully understand them."
Johnsson began by correctly asserting, regarding Obama winning the election, "Many people have a vague sense of something big happening before their eyes, that they are living through a kairos, a moment when the wheel of history has turned sharply." He makes a critical point by noting that many people were pleased, along with the rest of this world, about this "something big happening before their eyes." I agree with him that not all were pleased that Obama won, because many Americans voted otherwise. But pleased because, Yes, our country has its first biracial president-elect. Like Johnsson touches on, Obama's youth, political beliefs and powerful message of hope are not the kairos we are experiencing together; they are all great things, but not firsts for our American history. What all Americans are experiencing together, including the ones who voted for someone other than Obama, is that American history will never be the same now that we will have our first biracial president. Was it inevitable? Most likely. Was it surprising? Maybe not. That does not need to make it any less thrilling to us all.
But then the article states only one group of Americans are able to "stand a little taller," and "their eyes shine brighter." He writes African-Americans are experiencing this kairos phenomenon to a higher degree than the Americans who are not of the African race. This is a dangerous concept because it marginalizes African-Americans by creating division within America's varied racial groups. Are we one America or not? Is there one American history being written or are there two? Let us unite and share this phenomenal moment together, standing taller, eyes shinning brighter, as one body.
Then he writes, "Those of us who do not share that history of horse-whips, lynchings, segregated water fountains, slights, insults and denial of the right to vote can never enter fully the experience of black Americans … No, we cannot enter, but we can watch from outside, and rejoice in their rejoicing, whether we voted Democrat or Republican." I believe we must remember that Obama's mother is white and his father is directly from Kenya. By Johnsson's definition, not even Obama can rejoice to the full extent of the 12.8% of people who identity themselves as African-Americans in the USA. Johnsson's premise is noticeably unsuitable for Obama's racial heritage. What I think is even more critical is to understand that "horse-whips" and "lynchings" infected the souls of African-Americans no less than other Americans. Inhumanity to humans poisons all sides equally; the perpetrators, the bystanders, and the victims.
Some may argue that we can not truly understand a person who had a different set of experiences or background. I can appreciate this idea to an extent, but believe it is an incomplete concept. If you follow the thought on it's logical path, you separate every human from each other: Nobody, not even identical twins, shares all of the same experiences in their life. God created us with blessed individuality, but gave us hearts to connect to each other. It is true, we can not literally step inside another person's brain with it's unique thoughts and emotions. But this is precisely why I think we should say to each other, "Even though we have different backgrounds and perspectives, you can understand me if you listen to my story." We can value the God-given action of connecting. By doing this we can honor each other as equals who possess the ability to use our imaginations and connect. Without denying our differences, we can come together as one.
This is why I disagree with Johnsson's idea that different American racial groups necessarily experience the impact of Obama's election to a varied degree. I believe this concept misses what hope for humanity should look like and what Obama's message was really about. In the 1st century AD, Paul wrote to new believers in modern day Turkey, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28; NASB). Although slavery was an issue of class, not race at that time, it was still an inhumane arrangement for all sides of the institution: owners of slaves, slaves themselves, and those aware but not participating.
Paul was not saying we must ignore the differences between each other, but that we need to advance by realizing we can be one in Christ Jesus. Paul's message was to unite believers and we can use it to help us understand what America should strive for today. We can transpose Paul's mantra to unite all types of Adventists today: There is neither conservative nor liberal, there is neither mixed race nor unmixed race, there is neither upper class nor lower class, there is neither intersexed nor solitary gendered; for we are all one in Christ Jesus.
A 2005 graduate of Andrews University, Heather M. May taught ESL in South Korea for the SDA church from 2005-2006. She worked at Southwestern Adventist University from 2006-2008 and is headed to Graduate school.
Once upon a time there lived a poor man named Christian who had a very limited wardrobe. It consisted of only one garment - a robe given to him by his Lord as a present. He wore it to church every week and was content. He didn't care much for fashion and paid no attention to what others were wearing.
Now it so happened that there also lived an itinerant tailor who roamed the earth from end to end. One afternoon he knocked on Christian's door.
"Excuse me, sir", said the tailor. "I attend at your church from time to time and couldn't help notice your shabby robe. It stands out in sharp contrast from some of the real classy dressers in your congregation. So I took it upon myself to inquire and see if I might be of some assistance. I am, in all modesty, the finest tailor in the Christian world. I have designed clothes for some famous churchmen, whose names might surprise you. But I even make clothes for average people like you. In fact, I've created whole wardrobes for many in your congregation. Perhaps you've noticed?"
Christian admitted he hadn't. Then he looked down at his garment. It looked fine, even beautiful. But he was a bit flattered that such a popular tailor would be willing to sew for him.
"Well", said Christian. "I've never paid much attention to how I'm dressed. But I would like the others in church to think well of me."
The tailor smiled and discreetly edged his foot in the door.
"I can see already that you're a man of good taste. But let me tell you more."
"I will make for you a handsome suit of clothes. It will be made of the finest material, which I myself will weave. But here is the most remarkable thing - the material is invisible to those who do not truly know God."
"Why that's amazing!" said Christian to the tailor, who by now was standing in the front hallway. Christian felt strangely excited. "No one in church ever notices me", he thought, and looked down again at his robe.
It was very plain.
"Yes sir", he said. "I believe I'd like a suit like that."
"Fine", said the tailor. "I was sure you would." He whisked away, then returned in a flash with his equipment - loom, cutting table, etc. which he promptly set up in Christian's living room.
"Now", he said. "Let's decide what kind of suit would look best on you. Are you intellectual?"
"Well, I don't know", said Christian. "Why do you ask?"
"Oh, I've made some marvelous suits out of intellectual material", said the tailor. "I have some Higher-Critical thread that might weave up just fine. Perhaps with a matching eschatological vest, an existential hat, a pair of antinomian loafers ...".
"Well, I don't know", said Christian. "I dress a bit more conservatively than that."
"Ah, conservative! Something along traditional lines. Yes, yes. I often make clothes like that. Let's see ... something zealous! Perhaps some heresy-resistant material would be best. A nice blend of upholding-the-standards and avoiding-evil."
The tailor paused. "No, that's not quite you. Yes, I have it. For you we need something middle-of-the-road. A nice triple-weave of attendance, loyalty and tithing. Something comfortable, right? Woven from the finest thread - imported from Laodecia. Then maybe a hat that will keep out the sun, a sturdy pair of shoes that will go the second mile. Nothing flashy, just durable. Clothes that you know will take you through to the kingdom."
With that the tailor began to set up his loom. But to Christian's shock - there was no thread!
"Oh dear", he thought. "Could it be that I do not truly know God?"
"Look", said the tailor. "See how durable, yet fine the thread is". He held his empty hands out toward Christian. "Do you like it?"
"Uh, yes", said Christian. "Superb."
The tailor smiled to himself, then began threading the loom. All afternoon he worked, the shuttle clacking back and forth across the empty loom. Evening came. Finally he finished weaving and elaborately removed the finished product. He carefully carried the pile of air to the cutting table.
"See how beautifully muted the pattern is?" he said. "Such strong and durable cloth."
Christian squinted. Could he see it? It must be there, it must be! "Why yes", he thought, "I believe I can see it. I'm not a spiritual giant like the tailor but I believe I can even make out the pattern. Knowing God is certainly harder than I thought, but", he squinted harder, "I do believe I'm making progress."
Now the tailor was fitting the pieces and the suit began taking shape. On through the night he worked. Dawn came. At last he was finished.
"There!" he exclaimed, holding up a bare coat hanger. "Look at it."
Christian raised his head from the arm of the couch where he'd been sleeping and rubbed his eyes. Was it there?
"Oh my, my", said the tailor. "No time to lose. You'll be late for church. Here, let's try it on."
Christian took off his robe and was helped into the suit.
"Look in the mirror", said the tailor. "Isn't it great?"
Christian looked at his jockey shorts. "Great."
"I knew you'd love it. Here's the bill. I take Visa or MasterCard."
Christian was stunned. The price was enormous! Why hadn't he asked about the price to begin with? Too late. The tailor whisked Christian's Visa card out and ran it through his machine.
"Sign here. You're late for church."
"Better hurry along", said the tailor, pushing Christian toward the door. "I'll let myself out."
Christian stood on the porch. It certainly was cold out here. He looked at his watch. "My, I AM late", he thought, and began to run. He ran the several blocks to church, up the steps and into the lobby, out of breath. Then he remembered. His new clothes! And he looked down at himself. He was standing in his underwear. An edge of panic began creeping up. He looked around the lobby. And there was the Head Deacon – standing in HIS underwear. And there was the Choir Director and Education Superintendent - standing the THEIR underwear. It seemed like half the lobby was underdressed!
"Good to see you, Christian", said Deacon George. "Say, that's a sharp suit you've got on. I've been wondering when you'd get some new clothes."
"Uh, you look good yourself, George." Christian stared at George's long johns.
"You know, I think we have the same tailor."
Rich Hannon is a software engineer who lives in Salt Lake City. His reading interests focus on philosophy and medieval history.
A ranking of the number of visits per city over the last year.
8 Los Angeles
7 Evans, Georgia (I wonder who lives here. : )
6 Monterey Park, California
5 New York
4 Casselberry, Florida
3 West Hollywood
1 Loma Linda
Others in the top 25 in descending order of visits.
Dallas (holds the highest non-Spectrum employee time on site record with an average of 10:39 minutes per visit.) The average visitor spends 4:51 per visit.