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The Next Drop Off

The Next Drop Off
Samuel Francis and Diego Rodriquez

Samuel Francis (left) talks with Diego Rodriquez on Francis' literature evangelism podcast "The Next Drop Off." Photo provided by Keith Reid

Samuel Francis is the founder and director of The Next Drop Off podcast. He was recently interviewed by Keith Reid, associate publishing director of the Southern Union Conference.

Keith Reid: Samuel, tell us a little about yourself and where you are from.

Samuel Francis: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in Bowie, Maryland. I went to mostly Seventh-day Adventist schools growing up, and gave my life to Christ when I was 16. Shortly after my surrender to Christ I was introduced to the wonderful work of literature evangelism.

How long have you been involved in literature evangelism?

I started in 2008, and am still going strong for a total of 13 years, by God’s grace.

Most students canvass to get through school and move on. What’s kept you going this long?

When I inquired of the Lord, “What would thou have me to do?” — as Paul did in Acts 9 — through Providential circumstances I received my calling to ministry. I firmly believe my ministry is literature evangelism, not merely as a means to get through school, but as a way of life.

I was convinced of this when I came across statements such as the following Ellen G. White [emphasis supplied]: “Canvassers must go out into various parts of the country. The importance of this work is fully equal to that of the ministry. The living preacher and the silent messenger are both required for the accomplishment of the great work before us” (Colporteur Ministry, p. 8).

White also penned this inspiration [emphasis supplied]: “The intelligent, God-fearing, truth-loving canvasser should be respected; for he occupies a position equal to that of the gospel minister. Many of our young ministers and those who are fitting for the ministry would, if truly converted, do much good by working in the canvassing field. And by meeting the people and presenting to them our publications they would gain an experience which they cannot gain by simply preaching” (Colporteur Ministry, p. 44).

These quotes help keep my head up when things aren’t going as planned.

What are the positions you’ve occupied in the publishing work?

After my second year of canvassing I began my leadership journey in Douglas, Georgia, in 2010 during a winter program. ReNeita Samuels, Youth Publishing director for the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, took me under her wings and taught me “the ropes,” so to speak. I spent the next 10 years of my life with that conference occupying positions such as head leader for the summer programs, and industry leader for a number of academies, colleges, and universities.

What has God led you to do now?

That’s a great question! As of last year, I was inspired to start a podcast called, “The Next Drop Off.” It is designed to provide young literature evangelists with a sense of community, encouragement, and even training for future leaders.

And what’s your vision for the podcast?

My vision is to greatly enhance the experience of students who enter Magabook canvassing programs and help publishing directors prepare quality leaders to carry the work forward. Too many students slip through the cracks and only do one summer when they could have done three to five and become excellent leaders. Also, there are too many leaders with insufficient experience who ruin their own chances of future leadership and discourage students from ever canvassing again. By God’s grace, I plan to use the podcast as a tool to keep students coming back for more, and at the same time, prepare quality leaders that students can look up to.

How can people tune in?

It’s very easy.  Just head to www.thenextdropoff.com, and from there you can stream/download all of the episodes. Also, we’re on Instagram @thenextdropoff.

kmaran Wed, 10/28/2020 - 14:14

Chosen and Loved

Chosen and Loved
Chauncey Smith photo montage

Left to right: Lucille Ball and Chauncey Smith at a hospital fundraiser Smith organized. Smith’s love of the actress led his friend to the first, and most important, clue about Smith’s biological family. Chauncey Smith and his biological mom meet for the first time. Marilyn and Church Smith, Chauncey Smith’s adoptive parents. All photos courtesy of Chauncey Smith

For almost 30 years Chauncey Smith has served as a producer and talent coordinator of Faith For Today’s Lifestyle Magazine television broadcast. Smith started working with the TV show General Hospital and has maintained friendships with many in Hollywood, which in itself is an amazing story. The focus of this interview, however, is to talk about adoption and his book So That’s Who I Am, which chronicles the story of Smith finding his biological family.

Kimberly Luste Maran: Why did you write this book, and why did you write it in third person?

Chauncey Smith: We found that there weren’t a lot of books out there on adoption. We did some research and found this was the best way to tell the story because it’s not just about adoption, it’s about blended families. If you come from a blended family, or you’re adopted, it’s not your choice. Decisions were made for you. In a lot of blended families there’s a death or there’s a broken marriage or there’s something that those involved are put into. I wrote the book to help both the adopted person and their families.

We chose third person for several reasons. First, this book is not just about me — it’s about the family. That’s why we used the “Two Families, One Story” tagline. It was important that my sisters wrote a chapter; and both my moms wrote a chapter about their feelings and experiences. Also, there is a chapter about how to find your biological family if you’re adopted, including the do’s and the don’ts. And because I am Adventist, I wanted to tell about the love of Jesus but not push the love of Jesus on people.

What about writing in a nonchronological way?

We chose this approach with flashbacks because we felt that it told the story better. It helps people understand what you’re going through at the time you’re going through it.

Chauncey Smith book cover

This book has been available for a few years. How has it been received?

So far, so good! We have found that people are discovering they’re not alone. A lot of people love the chapters that each mom wrote, because, in adoption, there’s always a mom who gave away a child and a mom who took a child. To understand what they were going through at that time and to see that they each were a part of the story makes this book different — and also helpful.

The other chapter readers have said they like is the one outlining the do’s and the don’ts of searching for biological parents. Everyone has a right to their privacy, but a person also has a right medically, mentally, and physically to find out about themselves. A person has to try to find that balance between privacy and a right to know where they came from. There are right and wrong ways to go about it.

You were able to find a happy ending, but that doesn’t always happen. And the process itself can be discouraging.

It is an absolute roller coaster ride filled with emotions that you sometimes can’t describe.

We know what it feels like to attend a wedding, a funeral, or a graduation. We’re used to those kind of emotions. But to find someone who you look like and sound like and have the same mannerisms — you miss those things when you’re adopted. Why do I like bananas with hot sauce—or something weird like this—you wonder, Is there someone else out there who likes the same things?

My parents told us (my sister and me) that we were adopted. They adopted me; years later they adopted my sister; then years later they had my brother. They believed that my sister and I might feel there were parts of our puzzle missing so they always encouraged us, saying they would help us find our biological families. I never thought I needed to since I was very happy and content. It wasn’t until adulthood, when a friend of mine started digging, that I realized I did have issues that I’d buried, put out of my mind, and that I actually did need to know.

My friend Bina was going through a divorce and wanted something to do to keep her mind off herself, so when she asked I said, "Go for it."

I started to realize all the times growing up where someone would say, “Oh, you look like your dad,” or “How much you looked like my mom,” and that, well, I actually didn’t. I couldn’t. Growing up, I didn’t think much of it. Then when they had my brother, their biological child, every time someone would say how much my brother was like my dad, my sister and I would try to ignore it.

What did the roller coaster ride, and ultimate relationship building, mean for you?

Once I reached out to my “bio mom,” and she had time to process things, the relationship grew. My parents called my mom’s four daughters, my sisters, their North Carolina daughters. And those kids called my parents their California parents. A relationship really grew. God brought us all together. You could see His handprint all over this entire journey.

But the very first thing I inherited was abandonment, because here’s this young woman who gave birth to me, but never touched me. Never held me. Never looked at me. She says she didn’t because she knew if she did, she couldn’t give me away. But eventually God brought us together, and I feel whole, accepted.

One of the strongest things that the Lord did for me occurred when I was on the plane going to see my biological mom for the first time. We landed, and I was a nervous wreck. The young woman next to me kept wondering, What is going on? I told her the story. She started crying. People around us started crying. She had a video camera and taped me — I wanted to get everything I possibly could on film. I stood up on the plane, but I didn’t move. I prayed, “OK, God, don’t be subtle. Push. I need the burning bush. Push.” And, there is no other way to describe it, He pushed me off that plane. That was just one instance in which I felt the love of God keenly during the experience.

November is National Adoption Month in the U.S. What do you want people to know about adoption? What can they learn from your story?

It’s important that there’s a month to celebrate adoption. We adoptees are out there.

There is still a need for children to find loving homes—the world needs to take note of that. This is adoption month, a [good time to] bring awareness, start conversations, offer help, and celebrate adoption.

A lot of people are scared to talk about adoption for a few reasons. A big one is that you're afraid you're going to hurt your parents. You're afraid you're going to hurt people. But people need to talk about it more. It's OK.

I highly recommend not finding/searching out your biological parents as a teenager. It’s too emotional. It’s a roller coaster of emotions—and you have to be prepared to be rejected again. I was rejected and still am rejected by my biological father. I have a brother and two sisters from my dad’s side that don’t even want to know who I am. They don’t want any contact. In my experience there’s all this joy and also the feelings of being rejected again.

One more thing: I try hard to not say “step” or “half.” Although no one means harm, using these qualifiers does put people into different categories. Jesus doesn’t put us in separate categories. We are all in this — with Him we are all equal. We are all chosen, we are all loved. So let’s be like Jesus.

Click here for more information on the book, So That’s Who I Am.

kmaran Tue, 10/27/2020 - 22:35

Kindness? Or Set them Straight?

Kindness? Or Set them Straight?
peru stock photo

Photo from iStock

We know we have the story correct — the Bible says so. So how do we deal with persons who don’t believe that Genesis is right about creation and the flood? Jesus had some harsh things to say to the Pharisees who refused to accept Him, but He used a very different approach to other people He dealt with. How do we fit that into our scenario today? We will return to that question after some stories about real encounters that illustrate a possible answer.

The Approach

Some years ago a graduate student asked me, “What are the best arguments to use, to win an argument about creation?”

My response was “none. That’s the wrong approach. You should first become the person’s friend. Then if they reach a point where they begin asking questions about creation, be ready to give thoughtful answers.”

If we win an argument, it may seem satisfying. We have defended the Word of God. But we may have lost a friend, and lost the opportunity to be a positive influence.

In the early 1970s there was underway a national debate over teaching of such topics as creation in public schools. There was also a government-sponsored group preparing high school biology textbooks with an increased presence of evolution as the theme throughout the books. Some Adventists were seeking for a person to debate William Mayer, Ph.D., a leader in the preparation of these BSCS textbooks. The topic of the debate was to be creation versus evolution.

Arial Roth, Ph.D., who was at that time the chair of the biology department at Loma Linda University (later he joined the Geoscience Research Institute) was invited to participate in the debate. Roth believed strongly in creation, but he did not think debates were a constructive endeavor, and was hesitant to accept this task. There had been too many such debates that did not seem to display a Christian spirit. I remember that as he pondered what to do, he decided that it was better to partake in the debate with a positive attitude, than to leave it to someone else who might take a more aggressively negative position. Roth agreed to participate if it were a friendly discussion between scholars. That is how he approached it, and after the “debate” Mayer said to Roth, “You and I are not too far apart.” Mayer did not become a creationist, but they left as friends, not as enemies.

Friends First

Paul Buchheim, Ph.D., and I were conducting geology/paleontology research in Wyoming. A National Monument in that area appointed a new park paleontologist. We will call her “Mary.” To get Mary acquainted with the geology of the area, the monument allowed her to spend a summer working with us in our research. Mary was a secular scientist and, at times, made jokes about creationists. She often listened politely, however, to the devotional sessions with which we began our workdays. We diligently pursued our research and did not challenge her sarcasm about creationists.

During the summer, several from the group, including Mary, drove to a paleontology conference. As they drove, Mary asked Paul some questions. She asked, “Do you people believe that humans evolved from other primates?” Paul responded that we do not. She asked other questions, and later we noticed that she no longer joked about creationists. We treated her as a friend, and as she saw that our research and the papers we published were scientific work she could respect, she became respectful and receptive of other ideas that went beyond the physical research we were doing. I don’t know just what she now thinks about creation, but as the years have gone by she remains a good friend, and we never know what the ultimate result of this relationship will be. If we had argued with her, the result would likely have been quite different.

Searching for More Than Fossils

A group of scientists from Loma Linda University (LLU), Geoscience Research Institute (GRI), and Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) spent about a decade in research on fossil whales in the coastal plain of Peru. Early in this research we met a Peruvian paleontologist we will call “Sergio.” Sergio seemed to know very little about theology, however, he listened politely to our devotional sessions in the mornings, and helped us cook vegetarian food when we camped. Over several years he became a dear friend.

Sergio is from the Natural History Museum in Lima, and is a productive paleontology researcher. He was a valuable scientific consultant and also provided priceless help in dealing with the local culture.

Our interaction with Sergio was a long saga — I will only share some highlights. Several times through the years, while with us, he found a type of fossil he said he’d been looking for during many years. He said, “This always happens when you guys are here!” and he attributed it to our God that he observed us serving. After one such trip I received an email from Sergio, describing some problems he was having. He said, “Please pray for me.” You can bet we did pray for him.

Sergio knew almost nothing about theology, but the way he lived his life reminded me of Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (NIV).  I found opportunity to tell him so. Sergio was very poor; he had almost nothing. His work at the museum was volunteer work, as they had no money to pay him. He lived from such things as the contract pay we gave him. At the end of one of our research trips I paid him, and said “I hope this keeps you supplied with food.”

He replied, “Oh, no, I use this money to hire local people to help me with my fossil hunting. That way it gets recycled to people who are poorer than I.”

After some years of this partnership Sergio was also communicating with two European paleontologists. He hoped to convince them to come study his fossil seals. They wrote back after looking us up online, and said “Those guys are creationists. Don’t work with them; get rid of them. They will ruin your reputation.”

He responded, “They have their beliefs, and I don’t care what they believe. In the field they work like other scientists — and better.” He kept us and removed those others from his list of collaborators.

After my last trip to Peru I received an email from Sergio. He wrote, “It is an honor to have known you . . . in this life.” What does that say? We didn’t lecture him, but there is reason to believe that he is thinking of another life after this. I can’t wait to see Sergio in heaven!

The Holy Spirit’s Work

Several of us biologists or geologists at LLU collaborate as researchers in one way or another with unbelievers. Our consistent experience is that although they may think our beliefs odd, as they learn about the science we do, they respect us. That would not be the case if we were argumentative and tried to prove them wrong. If we become their friends, that relationship can, if they are open, some day lead them to begin asking questions. And it will be by their choice.

Jesus’ responses that seem harsh were directed toward Jewish leaders who should have been an example for others, but they were arrogant and self-righteous. They saw themselves as better than other people, especially the poor and those who were struggling spiritually. Jesus’ kind and loving spirit was always displayed to anyone willing to learn. We never know who is willing to learn, and our task is to reach out with a loving spirit to all our contacts.

What happens after that is the Holy Spirit’s work.

— Leonard Brand, Ph.D., is professor of biology and paleontology in the Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, Loma Linda University.

kmaran Tue, 10/27/2020 - 21:42

Nothing Short of a Miracle – Giving Towards Missions

Nothing Short of a Miracle – Giving Towards Missions
stock photo of boy in the middle east

Stock photo provided by Kamil Metz

My mother and her six children knelt down that Sunday afternoon to pray when suddenly our prayer was interrupted by a knock! An answer to prayer?

Just the day before we had gone to church on Sabbath morning, and my mom, a new Adventist, had felt strongly impressed to leave all her money in the offering plate to support a mission project. By the next afternoon, however, we discovered that we were temporarily out of food until Dad’s next pay day. 

My dad was a part of the Czechoslovak Communist party and wasn’t favorable to any religious influence in the home. Now that we were out of money and food, the only thing my mom could do was to pray and see what God would do, despite Dad’s displeasure.

As mom prayed that Sunday afternoon, we were interrupted by a knock at our apartment door. Two nurses from a nearby nursing home came to inquire if we would be interested in taking some leftovers.  They had seen mom walking with her large family, and having an overabundance of leftovers, they thought she might be able to use it. That day we made the first of many trips to the nursing home to collect leftovers. God truly provided!

Years later, I’m blessed to live and do ministry in the U.S., but I still see needs all around me. It seems that there are never enough resources for every ministry idea we hope to implement. Yet, God is faithful and has allowed us to accomplish so much!

Expanding the Impact

Four summers ago, our local conference ministry decided to launch a small project called Canvassing for Missions. The canvassing work in our field is itself missionary work — impacting both those who are contacted and those who take part in the ministry. Still, we sought to further expand our impact.  An idea developed to set aside one day in the summer to raise money for foreign missions. That day our student canvassers and the employees of the literature ministries department could donate that day’s earnings toward pre-selected overseas mission projects.

This idea was inspired by Ellen White: “The home missionary work will be farther advanced in every way when a more liberal, self-denying, self-sacrificing spirit is manifested for the prosperity of foreign missions; for the prosperity of the home work depends largely, under God, upon the reflex influence of the evangelical work done in countries afar off” (Testimonies to the Church, vol. 6, p. 27).

God did something very special for us during those one-day projects. The young people raised more money canvassing that day than on any other typical day — and they would point it out to me. They could see God’s intervention. It was truly a faith-building experience. And then there was the promise of the “reflex influence” — the work supported afar off was closely linked with the success of the work in our own territory. For that reason, we emphasized the need to support foreign missions with our young people.  It blessed us both alike!

This Year

This summer our young people have once again been able to contribute their day’s earnings toward foreign missions. And we’ve set a goal of raising $10,000 by the end of the year. We want to extend the invitation to you, as well, to consider giving a day’s wages for foreign missions, whether it be to help us or donate in another way, such as through Adventist Mission, or the North American Division's tithe portal AdventistGiving

This year we want to help with the translation and printing of the book Steps to Christ in the Yakut, Kurdish, Kazakh, Crimean-Tatar, Tajik, and Farsi languages. We also have a request to help fund the translation of the missionary book of the year and Bible study guide for the Muslim community in the Kurmanji and Sorani languages.           

Another project we want to assist with is the restoration of the gravesite for the first Adventist pioneer to Asia, Abram LaRue, who also happened to be a literature evangelist.

Kamil Metz is director of Literature Ministries for the Michigan Conference. Click here if you would like to join Michigan Conference young people in supporting their exciting mission projects.

kmaran Wed, 10/21/2020 - 15:15