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Archive for December, 2010

Pastors Affirm Desire To Make Disciples

posted on December 13, 2010, under Conference by

by Ken Burrill

Last month, more than 65% of Florida Conference pastors voluntarily chose to attend a seminar affirming their desire to be disciple-making leaders and to help their local congregations “create a new culture of mission and discipleship.” Presenters for the seminar were: Tim Burrill, Chief of Operations at Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children, and Tim Nichols, newly elected Vice President for Pastoral Ministries for Florida Conference who will take up his position in January.

Florida Hospital Mission Shared by Tim Burrill

Tim Burrill, Chief of Operations at Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children.

Burrill explained the hospital mission with pastors: “To extend the healing ministry of Christ to children.” By examples in the hospital system, he showed how to make the mission permeate throughout an entire church so every member is a part of it and not just the pastor and key leaders.

A few years ago, Florida Hospital for Children was near the bottom percentile nationwide in customer service, and now it is at the very top. The turnaround can be attributed to these key drivers for success:

  • Ownership at all levels: executive leaders, front line managers, and front line employees.
  • Continuous reinforcement.
  • Connecting to real “purpose.”

The parallels in the transformation process in hospital work and church work are very similar. Ownership of the mission statement still brings results.

Church Transformation Process Shared by Tim Nichols

Tim Nichols, Florida Conference Vice President for Pastoral Ministries.

“The church exists to be God’s instrument of grace and life transformation,” says Nichols, “as we and others learn how to experience a personal relationship with our Creator, Savior, and God.” He shared eight elements of a healthy transformation process:

  1. Vision Clarity
  2. Communicating Shared Vision
  3. Sense of Urgency
  4. Team Support and Cooperation
  5. A Simple Strategy to Accomplish Mission/Value
  6. Share the Success Stories
  7. Measure Progress
  8. Stay Focused on People

Pastors were given several ideas of how to implement each of these elements in their churches. Nichols also shared that the Ministerial Department stands behind each pastor with prayer as well as providing physical support in the form of small group meetings with pastors, training seminars, church board retreats, video conferencing, and resource materials.

In the end, “the goal is not just to change, but to change with purpose.”

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“We Can’t Afford Not To Tithe!” – One Family’s Testimony

posted on December 10, 2010, under Member by

by Saundra Suchora

Cocoa Church members Michael and Saundra Suchora with their children, Faith and David.

Born and raised Roman Catholic, Michael, my husband, and I knew of Jesus as our Savior for more than 30 years, but we didn’t really know Him. We had Bibles; yet, we didn’t know how to use them. Life seemed pretty good, although we had no idea of the wonderful things God had in store for us.

In 2001, God blessed us with a very special boy. From the start, he was a little different. A few years later, we realized he was mildly autistic. When we took him to church, we received “polite” negative comments and glares from the parishioners when he was making too much noise. So, we’d take him outside. Finally, we were spending so much time in the hallway, we decided not to attend church at all.

One day, God sent a Baptist pastor to our home, and our eyes were opened about the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. We began to search and study everything we could, but something just wasn’t right with all of the denominations we were investigating.

One day, Amazing Facts came on our television, and suddenly the pieces started fitting together perfectly. We opened the Word of God searching for truth and discovered the verses on the TV screen were as unchangeable as God. We asked ourselves, “How could the Bible, so plainly stated, be so misunderstood by so many people?”

Ultimately, we ended up at Cocoa Seventh-day Adventist Church and were baptized August 8, 2009. Up until that time, we were just putting $5 to $20 in the collection plate. Having received the truth about tithing, we started to return God’s portion the week of our baptisms.

As self-employed lawn service owners, it wasn’t easy at first. There was already barely enough money to pay the bills before we decided to rest from work on the seventh day, let alone to return a faithful tithe! In addition, I was having some health issues, and we had dropped our health insurance earlier that year, because we just couldn’t afford it.

How could we return God’s 10 percent, plus an offering? We put God first, tithing on what we had earned for the week even before most of it was received, and we left my healing to the Great Physician.

Things were rough during the adjustment period, but as we learned more and more to trust God’s way of doing things, He rewarded that trust and obedience with blessings beyond measure. The winter was very long, harsh, and not easy on self-employed lawn care services. Without God’s blessing and guidance, we would have been in very big financial trouble.

We not only survived the cold season, but we never went without food, and all of our bills were paid on time. God took care of the health problem, too, without the assistance of doctors or medicine.

When we consider whether we could afford to return a tenth of our increase plus offerings, our resounding response is, “How can we afford not to?”

Our family’s testimony is that you can’t out-give God! Trust Him, and He will take care of all your needs and more, guaranteed! Just don’t miss out on the amazing blessings He has in store for you. Take a leap of faith. You will not be disappointed, because God’s way is always the best way!

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Walker Memorial Academy Graduate and Jeopardy! Finalist Brings National Attention To Southern Adventist University

posted on December 09, 2010, under Education by

by Jeannette Zesch

Hans von Walter with Alex Trebek on the Jeopardy! set.

Avon Park resident Hans von Walter spent eleven years as a Walker Memorial Academy (WMA) student. At the age of seven, he decided he wanted to eventually be a contestant on the television quiz show, Jeopardy!, hosted by Alex Trebek.

Recently, the dream of a child was fulfilled. Now, as a young man, Hans competed as a collegiate finalist winning $25,000 at the Jeopardy! tournament representing his school, Southern Adventist University (SAU), located near Chattanooga in Collegedale, Tennessee. As a biochemistry major at SAU, he plans a career in medicine.

Hans’ goal never was a secret on the WMA campus. His classmates and faculty openly encouraged and supported his ambition. “His enthusiasm was an inspiration to all. Everyone cheered for him,” says Principal William E. Farmer.

Florida Conference's publication, Florida Focus, featured Hans von Walter on the cover of the July-August-September 2004 issue after he won the State Geography Bee. (Click the photo to link to a PDF of this issue.)

Hans has a history of competing in academic contests. As an eighth-grade student at WMA, he beat all competitors and became the 2004 Georgraphy Bee Florida state champion sponsored by National Geographic.

Alex Trebek, who hosts Jeopardy!, was also the host of the National Geography Bee when Hans represented Florida in Washington, D.C. They got reacquainted at the Jeopardy! finals.

In addition to his Geography Bee experience, Hans has led SAU academic teams in annual College Bowl competitions.

Judy Johnson, humanities teacher at WMA, became his mentor as he prepared for his 2004 state geography contest. She says, “Hans was a very inquisitive student; it seemed like everything about the world fascinated him. He spent endless hours learning about the world by studying various books in my classroom, practicing for the Geography Bee, talking incessantly about his dream to compete in the ‘real’ Jeopardy! and focusing intently on learning trivia. When he won the school Geography Bees and the state level bee, I knew he was destined for great things.”

Judy Johnson, humanities teacher, Principal William E. Farmer, and Hans von Walter, pictured in 2004.

Recent Study Reveals Benefits of Adventist Christian Education

“Our four-year independently financed study showed that students in the Adventist schools outperformed their peers at the national average in every subject area. The Adventist Church runs a Christian school system second only in size to the Roman Catholic parochial schools.”

—Quoted from “For real education reform, take a cue from the Adventists” in Christian Science Monitor Weekly Review of News and Ideas by Elissa Kido, November 15, 2010, Vol. 102, Issue 51

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Derek Morris Accepts Call To General Conference

posted on December 09, 2010, under Church by

by Terry Hall

Pastor Derek Morris

After six years as senior pastor of Forest Lake Church, Apopka, Derek Morris has accepted a call to Silver Spring, Maryland, to be an associate ministerial secretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Morris’ last Sabbath in the pulpit will be Christmas Day December 25.

Morris will become editor of Ministry, the Adventist Church’s international journal for pastors. He will also travel the globe to teach and minister to local Adventist Church pastors.

Morris received the invitation to his new post during the General Conference’s Annual Council meetings in October. After Morris and his wife, Bodil, flew to Maryland to talk with church leaders about the position, he said, “This was not an easy decision. We weren’t looking for a new assignment, but God sometimes calls you to minister in a new place when you least expect it, and when He calls, you must listen.

Derek and Bodil Morris pictured at a Forest Lake Church event.

“Being a registered nurse practitioner, Bodil will also continue to minister in her area of passion,” says Morris. “She has been asked to join the General Conference’s Health Ministries department and is looking forward to ministering with me in my travels around the world.”

Morris’ six-year tenure at Forest Lake Church has greatly impacted the ministries and growth of the congregation. Under his vision and leadership, the church has grown to nearly 3,700 members and seen a fifth worship service added, as well as more children and adult Sabbath School classes.

The church’s web and media ministries have also grown. The church now has a full-time web church pastor and seven separate web sites (including the main one at which highlight the church’s numerous ministries and programs. Forest Lake Church online has grown from a few dozen members in 2004 to more than 1,000 worshiping from numerous sites around the world.

With Morris at the helm, the church’s media ministries records and produces Forest Lake’s church services and the popular Hope Sabbath School program, as well as special series such as the Life and Teachings of Jesus, that are viewed world-wide via satellite on the Hope Channel.


Integrated Youth Ministries Holds Premier Convention

posted on December 09, 2010, under Conference by

by Sandra Doran, Ed.D.

Integrated Youth Ministries is a bold, new restructuring that links Pathfinder and Adventurer Ministries, Camp Ministries, Children’s and Family Ministries, Youth Ministries, and the Office of Education, in order to meet the total needs of children, from birth to young adults.

In a bold, first-ever move, the newly-organized Florida Conference Integrated Youth Ministries pulled off a convention that drew in educators, children’s ministries leaders, Pathfinder and Adventurer directors, Sabbath School teachers, youth leaders, and others interested in positively impacting the life of a child for Christ. During the high-energy gathering at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs, October 22-24, 2010, more than 600 people gathered to sing, pray, clasp hands, and discover how to work together to “raise up an army of youth.”

A dynamic musical team led by Pastor Jerry Wasmer of Daytona Beach Church, set the positive, upbeat tone that permeated the entire weekend. The convention was kicked off on Friday evening by Richard Neil, from Loma Linda University, who combined the science of the adolescent brain with an urgent appeal for understanding, compassion, and wisdom in guiding teenagers along the path to Christian adulthood. On Sabbath morning, Mark Finley, evangelist and advisor to General Conference President Ted Wilson, presented a rousing message, imploring listeners to connect with young people, stating, “It’s easier to enforce a rule than change a heart.” That evening, James Black, North American Division Youth and Young Adult Ministries Director, once again hammered the point home: Every child needs to have someone who believes in them.

“The general sessions were totally amazing,” said one participant, Janet Braga. The speakers had us laughing, crying, and more determined than ever to win the hearts of the children entrusted to us.

During the general sessions, interaction between different ministries put the Integrated Youth Ministries mission statement into action with group leaders announcing new configurations and assignments such as, “find four people from different ministries who you don’t know, and talk about what you are doing for kids.”

In addition to the highly motivating general speakers, the convention featured more than 50 break-out sessions with a wide range of choices. Participants attended meetings ranging from puppetry to the adolescent brain. Early each morning, Pastor Joseph Kidder, Professor from the Andrews University Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan, led a prayer walk where ministry leaders poured out their hearts in adoration, praise, and worship to God.

Camp Kulaqua made a fitting venue for the hundreds of people assembled together, with well-organized staffing, housing, meals, and activities. Saturday evening interactive games and a moon-lit hayride added to the spirit of camaraderie.

“The biggest question I am getting is ‘When are we going to do this again?'” says Jim Epperson, Vice President for Integrated Youth Ministries. “The quality of the programs, level of enthusiasm, and overall weekend was more outstanding than we could have ever imagined. I want to thank all of the ministry leaders that worked so hard to make this a reality.” Epperson is already laying the groundwork for the next Integrated Youth Ministries Convention.

Read more about Integrated Youth Ministries in the Autumn 2010 issue of Florida Focus (PDF link).

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Jacksonville Mandarin Church Christmas Concerts Attract Community Visitors

posted on December 08, 2010, under Church by

by Gladys Neigel

Jacksonville Mandarin Church is transformed into a Christmas concert spectacle of lighting and sound by the audio/visual team.

Not a typical Christmas program, the concerts held at Jacksonville Mandarin, Fla., Church are a plethora of sound, lights, technology, music, and vignettes that bring stories to life.

Last year’s concert, Reflections, was widely received, and more than 100 community guests attended the program. The participants, who perform as polished professionals, are church members who give their time to create this special gift for the holiday season.

The theme for this year’s program is Hearts of Christmas. Pastor Juan Rodriguez explains, “We will hear from the Christmas story’s traditional main characters as they share their feelings surrounding the birth of Jesus.”

All are invited to this year’s Hearts of Christmas program, December 11, 7:00 p.m. at 10911 Old St. Augustine Road, Jacksonville. More information is available from the church: (904) 268-7476.

The program will be streamed live from the church’s web site at

YouTube Link: Jacksonville Mandarin Christmas Concert 2009 Sample Clip

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