In this week’s news round-up, a New Orleans chaplain couple helps patients and families, a traveling Adventist pastor is interviewed by Indiana Public Radio, Adventist organizations help to provide for Orlando’s homeless population, the Fiji High Court has ordered the Church to hand over management of Vatuvonu Adventist College to the Education Ministry, and an SDA church in Southern California provides aid to Central American asylum seekers.
New Orleans Chaplain Couple Serve Those of Many Faiths and Many Needs. Seventh-day Adventists Jackie and Allen Mitchell have collectively witnessed thousands of deaths. For the past 20 years, the couple has been New Orleans chaplains, teetering in the middle ground between spirituality and medicine, and ushering strangers of any age and denomination through their final moments on earth. They met on the first day of seminary school in June 1998 and married two years later, weaving their way from Michigan to New Orleans for training in the niche religious profession. Allen got his start with the New Orleans Police Department and Jackie in the hallways of then-Mercy Hospital. Nowadays, Allen nears his two-decade anniversary at Children’s Hospital, while Jackie spends her days at Serenity Hospice centers. Unlike traditional clergy, chaplains do not preach, pray, and lead with a regular congregation. They provide spiritual counsel to patients and their family members in times of crisis and trauma, serving as a pillar for those facing an uncertain future. Perhaps a chaplain’s greatest offering is conversation and companionship. As machines tick, pens click, and saline drips in hospital rooms, chaplains take time to pause with those faced with death. For Jackie, that might mean singing a duet with a 106-year-old resident. For Allen, a spitball competition with a terminal toddler. While they practice Seventh-day Adventism, on any given day, they could minister to patients and families of Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim faiths, as well as atheist or agnostic patients. “I’ve never met anybody — no matter what their faith or their lack of faith — who does not have the existential questions about life. Ultimately people find for themselves what is the meaning of this experience. I’m just along on that journey,” Allen said.
When Jackie gets called out to meet a new patient, their death is usually imminent and expected per the nature of hospice care. She’ll ask a series of questions: Are you accepting of your prognosis? Do you have a peaceful attitude about death? Do you have any unfinished business? Do you have any questions about what comes next? Patients have the right to refuse her services, but rarely do. From nola.com, “Meet the New Orleans couple who helps patients and their families through death.”
Traveling SDA Pastor in Indiana Typical for Rural Communities. Seventh-day Adventist pastor Melvin Matthews, who travels nearly 200 miles a week, mostly between his four Indiana churches, is featured in a recent Indiana Public Media article. Many of those miles are spent with his wife of 28 years, Carol, in their red Subaru Forester. As a pastor at Seventh-day Adventist churches for nearly 20 years now, Matthews has gotten accustomed to doing a lot of driving. “It’s a bit frustrating for me to spend more time actually traveling than ministering,” he says. From Indiana Public Media, “‘Never Had a Pastor That Was Here:’ In Rural Churches Economics Force Clergy to Travel.”
Adventist Organizations Partner with Service Group to Provide for Orlando Homeless. The Orlando Central Seventh-day Adventist church and donations from viewers of 3ABN Today, the Christian morning talk show on the Three Angels Broadcasting Network, helped provide homeless people in the Orlando, Florida, area with a place to shower. Local volunteers from SALT, which stands for Service And Love Together, proposed the idea for a shower trailer. Eric Camarillo, SALT president, and other SALT leaders appeared on 3ABN Today. These volunteers explained their idea to create the mobile shower center and its $40,000 cost. One viewer donated $16,500 to the cause. Another from Canada gave $17,000. The money produced a 24 x 8-foot trailer, a 225-gallon water tank, and two 375-gallon waste tanks. The church has provided its parking lot. SALT officially rolled the shower trailer out in August in downtown Orlando and received a lot of folks hoping to use it.
SALT has used the trailer for more than just its own events. After Hurricane Michael decimated parts of the Florida panhandle, volunteers hauled the trailer up toward the affected areas to offer showers. Water became a hot commodity very quickly as water mains and well systems became inoperable, Camarillo said. “We didn’t expect to see people crying after they took a shower,” he said. “It was amazing.” From Orlando Sentinel, “Freshening up the homeless, Orlando group 'SALT' creates mobile hygiene center for upcoming interviews.”
Fiji High Court Hands Control of Vatuvonu Adventist College to the State Education Ministry. The Fiji High Court has ordered the Seventh-day Adventist Church to hand over management of Vatuvonu Adventist College to the Education Ministry. In a statement, Minister for Education Rosy Akbar stated the order from the High Court also prevents the Trustees of the school from shutting down the College without the sanction of the Permanent Secretary for Education. The SDA Church had announced that the school would remain open but will be operating as a private school from Term Two. Akbar says the College trustees’ decision to charge a fee, financially burdening communities that once received the same education and services for free, is not within their legal authority. The College is the only school in the area for many students to conveniently attend, and about 80 per cent of the students are non-Adventists. Akbar says Fijian taxpayers have funded $1.84 million in fees for students, meals, salaries for teachers, textbooks, capital works, and other essential educational expenditures from 2014 to 2019. Akbar also confirms that a number of allegations of mismanagement and abuse of funds against the College trustees or their agents have been raised. These allegations are currently under investigation. The High Court ruling also restricts the College trustees from preventing students from attending school at the start of Term 2 or from refusing the appointment of teachers and school heads on the basis of merit. It also ensures that education will remain free at Vatuvonu and that students will not pay fees. From FBC News, “High Court intervenes in Vatuvonu saga.”
SDA Church in California Provides Aid to Central American Asylum Seekers. An unofficial hand-off from U.S. Border Patrol agents to Riverside County employees of migrants and asylum seekers has occurred nearly every day for the past three weeks, as agents with the Border Patrol's Yuma sector drop migrant families off at the Greyhound stop in Blythe, just west of the California-Arizona border, and county staff receives them and transports them to local churches, including Blythe’s Seventh-day Adventist Church, where church members provide people with a warm breakfast, clean clothing, and showers. County officials this week asked Gov. Gavin Newsom to help the county and local non-profits to respond to the influx of migrants and on Friday, the state approved the county's request for more than $500,000. The money is coming out the state's Rapid Response Reserve Fund, which allocates $5 million to address costs arising from immigration-related emergency situations during the 2018-19 fiscal year, and will go to Catholic Charities San Bernardino & Riverside Counties. From Desert Sun, “State approves $500K in aid for developing ‘immigration-related humanitarian crisis’ in Riverside County.”
Pam Dietrich taught English at Loma Linda Academy for 26 years and served there eight more years as the 7-12 librarian. She lives in Yucaipa, California.
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