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We Can’t Quit Now

We Can’t Quit Now
open Bible with sun glow

Photo from iStock

IMatthew 24:3-14 we find Jesus and His disciples taking a tour of the temple grounds in Jerusalem. Enamored, the disciples wanted to view more of it.

Throughout the week people had been piling in to visit the temple, drawn to watching the great debate in progress. There was the lonely Galilean, unlettered, untaught, surrounded by priests and scribes and rulers with all their rich apparel and judiciary badges and earthly trappings. Jesus, calm, poised, and dignified, unflappable, had met with confidence every theological question and challenge.

People were visibly inspired. They were impressed with Jesus. But they were perplexed. They didn’t understand why the scribes would not respond to Jesus’ words. After all, this was the trusted intelligentsia of Jerusalem. The people couldn’t believe that the rulers didn’t believe Jesus when He explained everything so carefully.

The Jewish leaders were never going to receive Jesus as the Messiah. And to His disciples, their mission seemed hopeless.

This was the background upon which Jesus warns the Pharisees: “Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:38, NIV).

What? the disciples must’ve thought to themselves. How could my Lord say something so foolish? Is He losing it? The stones of the temple were of the purest marble, restored to the luster and grandeur of the first temple.

Jesus cautioned that all the buildings would be knocked down, and “not one stone here will be left on another” (Matt. 24:2, NIV).

He continued, describing the signs of the end with false messiahs, earthquakes, and more (see verses 4-12). Jesus also declared that “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (verse 13).

Prophecy is fast being fulfilled. “The Spirit of God is gradually but surely being withdrawn from the earth,” writes Ellen White.1 “The agencies of evil are combining their forces and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.”2

Seventh-day Adventists are indeed a people of destiny. And like the church of Christ’s day, we have a stake in the outcome of the situation. We’ve been teaching and preaching this stuff for years. What is Christ waiting for?

He is waiting and longing for the manifestation of Himself in His church.

His Witnesses

W. R. Robinson, one of the forerunners of our missionaries to Africa and editor of Message magazine, one of the oldest gospel periodicals the church has published, used to stand up and say, “When the message goes out, guess what? Souls come in!”

We can’t quit now.

We are Christ’s witnesses. Preaching will forever remain primary, but we’re not going to get everyone into our evangelistic revivals. With all the preaching that Paul and the other apostles did, the greatest witness was declared by the believers.

Imagine a friendship ministry. A hospitality ministry. A sharing ministry. A compassion ministry. Imagine inviting your new friends in Christ to a prayer conference, an evangelism revival, a marriage seminar. Imagine exploring the Bible with them at Panera once a week while you eat dinner. Imagine a discipleship ministry. Imagine a vision complete.

God never, ever leaves undone what He has started. He leaves no stone unturned. God would never ask us to do the impossible.

We have to model to this generation that we are a preaching ministry and a witnessing ministry. Because when this gospel of the kingdom shall have been preached, born witness, we can go home.

1Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1948), vol. 9, p. 11.

2Ibid.

— Alvin Kibble is vice president of the North American Division for Leadership Development, Big Data + Social Media, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty, and Literature Ministries.

kmaran Wed, 02/19/2020 - 17:57

A Legacy of Volunteering

A Legacy of Volunteering
Majuro photo

A student missionary on Majuro teaches at the Seventh-day Adventist school. Photo by Dan Weber

I grew up listening to the stories told by my aunts and uncles of the Latinos and their plight to make a life during tough economic times and racial injustice. Of those stories was the awkward reminiscing of the days when my dad was an illiterate and troubled teenager learning to survive as an during the 1920s and 30s. That story seemed so inconsistent with the father I knew — a loving and God-fearing man who raised a family with my mom, a man who worked as a farmer for 10 years and then faithfully served the city of Robstown, Texas, for 38 years as a city employee until his retirement. Several days after his funeral I found the answer to this inconsistency within a stack of precious memories and legal documents hidden away was a certificate of appreciation, dated 1933.

Between 1933-42 a voluntary public work relief program recruited unemployed and unmarried men (3 million) to develop our natural resources. The workers planted three billion trees, helped construct the Hoover Dam, and built 97,000 miles of road —to name just a few things. The incentive? Room and board, a stipend that would be used to support their families, and a literacy program (40,000 were taught to read).[1] The program led to improved physical condition, heightened morale, and increased employability. At the age of 20, my dad was one of those recruits. The volunteer program was called the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Early Start in America

Benjamin Franklin founded our country’s first volunteer fire agency, believing that citizen service was essential to our democracy.  Since then, volunteerism has become a priority for the U.S. The 1960s gave birth to the Peace Corp — 15,000 young men and women making an impact around the world with U.S. technology, cross cultural exposure, and a desire to defeat the “ugly American” stereotype.

Its domestic counterpart was AmeriCorps VISTA, where 5,000 served annually, 40 percent complete bachelor’s degrees.[2] Senior citizens also volunteered through Senior Corps, sometimes called “super volunteer.” In the 1990s, AmeriCorps and the Alliance for Youth initiative were launched and endorsed by five U.S. presidents who met in support of American volunteer workforce.[3]

Benefits of Volunteering

Why is volunteering so important? According to a new Deloitte study of 2,506 U.S. hiring managers, 82 percent of interviewers prefer applicants with volunteer experience while 92 percent said volunteer activities build leadership skills, 85 percent identified better communication skills, and 88 percent praised these volunteers’ “strong character.”[4]

It’s troubling that only 4 percent of American college graduates 25 or older volunteer each year,[5] even though employers rank volunteerism as a factor in hiring. [See www.volunteerhub.com/blog/25.volunteer-statistics.] And volunteering is especially important to Latinos and other minorities as it allows these vulnerable populations to acquire the life skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in this economy.

Volunteer Opportunities

The North American Division’s Office of Volunteer Ministries provides a system that connects volunteers to service opportunities including positions in teaching, pastoral ministry, construction, medical, maintenance, and administrative work. These volunteers are provided a stipend, room and board, and travel insurance. To reach their place of service, we offer Latinos and Native Americans, in particular, a scholarship up to $1,500 toward their travel expenses.

Given these opportunities, OVM believes that volunteers, serving their communities, can harness the strength of humanity to impact our world with a Christ-centered message of hope and wholeness.

I sometimes wonder how my dad would have turned out if he had not been recruited by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Would he have succumbed to a life of crime? 

If not for those life experiences and lessons, would he have raised a family that now includes ministers, teachers, medical professionals, decorated war veterans and yes, the director of the Office of Volunteer Ministries?

kmaran Wed, 02/19/2020 - 11:51

Reaching Rich

Reaching Rich
stock photo of older man in hospital waiting area

Photo by iStock

“Do you have a minute? Can I tell you a story?”

It was Peter* on the phone. I had never met him before. He called a few weeks ago and shared a story that really touched my heart.

Peter is a Christian, though not a Seventh-day Adventist. Every Monday evening he attends a men’s Bible study at his church. Peter’s story, however, is really about his neighbor, Rich. 

For years Peter had tried to reach Rich for Christ without success. Rich is actually rich; and he’s never seen the need for a Savior. Rich and his wife are not only wealthy, they have ties to a “rough” crowd. In fact, Peter mentioned to me how he once saw a few Hell’s Angels motorcycle club members at a funeral for one of Rich’s family members.

About four months ago, one of Rich’s grandsons died unexpectedly. And then, more recently, another grandson was involved in a head-on collision — putting him in a coma. The doctors were not giving his grandson much time to live.

As Rich was sitting in the hospital, he saw a small GLOW tract called "What Makes Canada Great." The tract shares about times of crisis in our lives, and our ability to recognize our need for help outside of ourselves. It mentions our need of a Savior. 

Make Canada Great LE Glow tract cover

"What Make Canada Great" GLOW tract cover

As Rich read the tract, he thought about his great need. He broke down and wept. All his money, power, and reputation could not save his grandson. Although Rich was not a believer before this, he made a life-changing decision to turn to God that very day. Whether his grandson lived or died, Rich knew that he needed Jesus.

Later that evening, Rich crossed the yard to see Peter and he shared with him what was happening in his life. He told Peter that he believes everything in the tract and wants to know more about God. Peter was so happy to help and asked if he could pray for him right then and there. Rich agreed and also asked that the men’s Bible study group pray for him and his grandson. 

The grandson’s life was hanging by a thread. A group of 25 men started praying faithfully every day. And as the prayers went up, the power came down. The grandson’s condition started to improve.

Peter shared with me how, for the next few weeks, he had lunch with Rich on Mondays, got an update on the boy’s condition, and then told the men that evening about how God was answering their prayers. Within four weeks the boy came out of the coma. Today he is walking and doing well! The doctors cannot understand it, but Peter and Rich know where the healing came from.

Peter called me to get some GLOW tracts. He wants to give them to the men at the Bible study group and to share them with others so all can recognize their great need of Christ. 

Before hanging up, Peter told me this: “For years I have been trying to reach Rich for Christ. God used this flyer to finally reach him. This tract did something in a moment that I’ve been seeking to do for years. It did something that I could not do.”

God’s Word still changes lives today. Literature ministry is all about connecting people with the transforming Word of God. Ellen G. White’s words are still true: “The living preacher and the silent messenger are both required for the accomplishment of the great work before us” (The Review and Herald, April 1, 1880).

Literature Ministries

“Reaching Rich” is just one of the many stories in the making through literature ministries in Canada. In 2019, the Lord blessed our efforts to enlist more than 500 church members and 75 literature evangelists to visit 375,000 homes, pray with and for 13,200 individuals in local communities, and distribute 593,000 books and tracts. 

Join us in praising God for what he has done through Lifestyle Canada in 2019, and as you are able, please partner with us to share even more transformative books and tracts in 2020.

— Jonathan Zita is director of Lifestyle Canada, Canada’s literature evangelism ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

*Names were changed to protect privacy.

kmaran Wed, 02/12/2020 - 10:18

Hope for the Homeless: What We Can Do

Hope for the Homeless: What We Can Do
Pie Lady of Soso church bakes pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving

Terrance Crosby (left), manager of the Good Samaritan Soup Kitchen in Laurel, Mississippi, and Florence Knight Blaylock of the Soso Seventh-day Adventist Church in Mississippi, fondly known as "The Pie Lady," bake 70 to 80 sweet potato pies every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas to feed the homeless. Photo by R. Steven Norman III

In today’s hustle and bustle, it is easy to take for granted the things that are most common to us: our cars, our houses, our jobs. But, imagine being laid off unexpectedly, and the rainy day fund rapidly drying up. For those who are not fortunate to get assistance, the result could inevitably mean a radical life change — homelessness.

That’s the reality of 552,830 people who experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018, according to the latest figures from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Many of those individuals are veterans, people with disabilities, and youth under the age of 25.

According to HUD, the states making up the Southern Union collectively had an estimated 70,087 people experiencing homelessness on any given day in 2018: Alabama, 3,434; Florida, 31,030; Georgia, 9,499; Kentucky, 3,688; Mississippi, 1,352; North Carolina, 9,268; South Carolina, 3,933; and Tennessee, 7,883.

Between 2017 and 2018, homelessness nationwide increased slightly by 0.3 percent, according to HUD. While the increase is not drastic, it is not decreasing. That raises a frequently asked question: What is being done to help the homeless? Better yet, what are Seventh-day Adventists doing?

The issue of homelessness, of helping the needy, actually has long been a concern of Seventh-day Adventists, as noted by Ellen White.

“In the great cities, there are multitudes living in poverty and wretchedness, well-nigh destitute of food, shelter, and clothing,” says White in Welfare Ministry, p. 173.

Many Adventist churches and institutions across the Southern Union work with the homeless in their communities in a variety of ways. Here are some ways members are reaching this part of their communities.

Charlotte spanish church member gives socks to homeless man

A member of the Charlotte Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church gives a homeless man a new pair of socks. Photo by Ismael Montoya

Making an Impact

At Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, students frequently assist Project Rescue, an organization that helps the homeless by providing meals to more than 300 families per week, as well as other services. Student clubs such as Empowering Minds have volunteered there as a group project, handing out meals and canned goods to individuals experiencing homelessness. Additionally, once a year the ministry organizes a block party offering free haircuts, manicures, clothing, and connection, and Southern participates in this annual tradition.

In North Carolina, members of the Charlotte Central Spanish Church take food and other necessities, such as socks and underwear, to wherever the homeless may be — at a shelter, on a park bench, under a bridge. The members are inspired by the words found in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me” (NIV).

In Memphis, Tennessee, every second Sabbath of the month the Longview Heights Youth Department packages 40 to 50 “Blessing Bags” of small necessities and passes them out in the community. They also recently had a clothing drive, and also provided toys and books. 

“We realize that we need to get out in the community to help others,” says Ayana Boyd, who coordinated the event. “I think too many times we are sitting in church, listening to what the pastor is saying, and not applying those lessons in our lives. The youth felt that we can use one Sabbath in a month to go out and be difference-makers.”

Southern Adventist University student helps woman in wheel chair

For students like Dylan Gibbons, who is pursuing his master's degree in social work at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale Tennessee, connecting with those in need is a meaningful experience. 

A few hours south in Soso, Mississippi, 88-year-old Florence Knight Blaylock (a.k.a. The Pie Lady) voluntarily bakes between 70 and 80 sweet potato pies for the Good Samaritan Soup Kitchen at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The kitchen serves the homeless people in the Soso area, providing close to 1,000 meals.

Blaylock moved from California back to her hometown in Soso to be with family, and is a member of the Soso Seventh-day Adventist Church. She and her late husband were retired, but she felt compelled to help those in need.

“I just like doing things for people. I find it rewarding,” says Blaylock. “I can’t sing, play the piano, or preach, but I can feed you.”

In Huntsville, Alabama, the First Seventh-day Adventist Church is preparing to mobilize their First Church Homeless Community Mobile Feed Ministry by meeting people where they are.

“I’m passionate about serving, period, but I know this is a community that a lot of people are either afraid to serve, to talk to, or intimidated by these people,” says Minnie Anderson, who oversees the ministry. “I am not, because I know when I talk to someone, the Lord will give me the words to say to reach them at their level.”

In addition to serving food, small trinkets are passed out as a reminder of God’s love, and most importantly, hope for a better tomorrow.

“I’m giving away trinkets that remind them of the Kingdom,” adds Anderson.

Madison Campus church feeds the homeless (Tennessee)

On Sabbath mornings, the homeless are fed breakfast at the 403 Center (Adventist Community Services) in Madison, Tennessee. Meals are provided each week by a Sabbath School class, from youth to young adults, at the Madison Campus Adventist Church, or by Madison Academy. Photo by David Conrad

In Nashville, Tennessee, members of Madison Campus Church have a pancake breakfast for the homeless each Sabbath morning at a local Adventist Community Services center. Other area Adventists also use the center as a place to provide counseling for the homeless, as well as other services to help improve their situation.

“People mingle with those who come to eat, do Bible studies with them, and sometimes they’ll bring individuals from the pancake breakfast to church,” says Chelsea Inglish, youth pastor at Madison Campus. “I think reaching out to absolutely anybody is exactly what Jesus did. He came alongside people and helped them no matter where they were.”

While there are a number of ways to deal with homelessness, the most effective solution is to prevent it, according to the AdventSource website.

“Timely focused assistance to families can often prevent a crisis from becoming a catastrophe, and keep people out of homelessness. Prevention assistance can take several forms. The most common are … rent, mortgage, or utility assistance and budget counseling.”

The problem of homelessness should also be viewed in the context of the larger community environment, according to AdventSource.

“Those who advocate for this population must enlist the support of all segments of the community who are affected by the problem. The key word to helping the homeless is networking. By networking with other agencies, your Adventist Community Services program can develop a large range of service alternatives, which can be packaged individually for each client. These unique services are tied together by agencies with a common purpose, to help the homeless.” 

Indeed, we all can do something to help the homeless, or any of our brothers and sisters who may be in need. In doing so, with humble hearts, we will be able to receive the reply in Matthew 25: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (NIV).

— Zachary Boyd is a freelance reporter and a radio personality in Memphis, Tennessee; this article is the main feature in the February 2020 Southern Tidings magazine; read the original version here

kmaran Tue, 02/04/2020 - 06:18