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Archive for July, 2011

South Orlando Church: A Fit In the Community, part 2

posted on July 26, 2011, under Church by

by Gladys Neigel with Dan Forbes

Does revival come before outreach or outreach before revival? In the case of South Orlando Church, there is evidence of both. Members have experienced a revival and caught a vision for ministry that has led them to use their talents in different areas of outreach. As they become more involved in outreach, they feel the Spirit of the Lord working in them as they work for the souls of others.

We published a story in April which outlined South Orlando Church’s many outreach activities. Since that time, the outreach programs have continued with more life changing stories.

English Language Classes
Kelly Lee and her assistant, Hollie Isaac, have taught an English language class for more than three years. They pray with those who ask for prayer and invite the community members to church services and functions such as a health fair.

Recently, a young man who tried to kill himself three times felt drawn to the church through the sign advertising the English class. He felt conviction in his heart to learn more about Jesus and change his life for the better. The leaders and students were able to pray for this individual.

Food Distribution
Because of the economy, more and more people are showing up for assistance from Second Harvest Food Bank run at the church every Friday. Families are invited to come twice a month for food, and Wilton Campbell, food pantry director, says 380 families are now being served.

Prayer and Fasting
Each month, there is a scheduled time for prayer and fasting from Friday evening at sundown to the close of Sabbath on Saturday night. Led by Esther Adams and her assistant, Patricia Hines, folks begin fasting and praying in their own homes on Friday evening and continue this program after church on Sabbath with fellow believers. There are speakers approximately every hour, and there is time to pray and sing. At the close of Sabbath, a light supper of soup and sandwiches is served to close the experience.

“The success of church programs and events for the community are greatly attributed to the faithfulness of the members who take the time to meet together to pray,” says Pastor Dan Forbes.

Christmas Dinners
For four years, Patricia Hines, along with some helpers, have provided Christmas dinners for those in the community who are homeless or facing financial challenges. Christmas dinner is taken to the people. One year, dinner was served from their car under a tree near the church. Another year, they served dinner outside a bus terminal. Last year, when dinner was served in the fellowship hall, one guest was very surprised to learn that dinner was free. “I’m a sinner. I can’t believe that you would do something like this for me,” he said. Then he was heard calling his dad and saying, “Dad, guess where I am right now. I’m in church!”

Youth-directed Audio Visual Ministry
This purposeful ministry is geared to finding an outreach for youth participation. The necessary sound equipment, cameras, and a DVD duplicator are being purchased, and plans are being laid for designing a set for filming and producing a youth-directed audio visual ministry. Involved in this outreach are José Isaac, head elder; Charles Lee, treasurer and elder; Dover Adams; Vionca Michelle Chambers; and Anthony Martin.

Fitting It All Together
“There is room for every member to get involved in church-based community outreach no matter what their age or their interests,” says Forbes. “There is a real sense of excitement and anticipation in the air at South Orlando Church, because people can see that God is working in marvelous ways.”

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“I Was Found” Finds a Home In Miami Temple

posted on July 20, 2011, under Church by

by Reinaldo Sanchez

An average of 35-40 young people meet each Friday night at Miami Temple Church to study God's Word. (Photo: Roger Da Silva)

Roger Da Silva, Bible worker at Miami Temple Church, believes “there is no one beyond the reach of God’s grace.” In fact, these words are part of the I Was Found mission statement, which is the passionate outreach program for youth/young adults (ages 17-30) in the Miami area.

Established in October 2009, I Was Found meets every Friday night at the church, having outgrown its original gathering place at Da Silva’s apartment. The group began with four Adventist young people desiring a closer walk with God, who had the additional purpose of establishing a stronger youth department at Miami Temple. God has blessed them and “increased their territory” with an average attendance of 35-40 young people meeting each Friday, 80% of whom are nonAdventist.

Participants pray that God will "increase their territory" in the Miami area. (Photo: Roger Da Silva)

The premise of this ministry is simply to get into the Bible as a means of meeting the needs, concerns, and doubts found so prevalently in today’s world. There are no programs or gimmicks; just the simple study of God’s Word to find answers for which so many young people are searching; yet, are not finding in the voices of today’s world. There is an unwritten code of trust that enables all who come to express their feelings and concerns without the fear of being judged. It has become a refuge for the hurting and the searching. Says one member, “I honestly started going because my girlfriend was, but I have grown so much spiritually that I never want to leave.”

Da Silva works during the day with those who want more individual Bible study. His brother, Paolo is now conducting the Bible studies on Friday night. Because the group is becoming so large, they are planning to divide into smaller groups so people will feel more comfortable participating.

God has richly blessed this ministry with 13 baptisms, and it is believed many more will soon be saying, “I was found.”

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Lay Pastors Minister as Servants of God

posted on July 20, 2011, under Conference by

by Allan Machado

Owen Roberts, Ph.D., standing right, lay pastor of Zion Advent Company in Plantation, Fla., and associate superintendent for St. Lucie County Public School District, presented a Teaching For Results seminar during the Lay Pastors' meetings at Pine Lake Retreat, Groveland, Fla. (Photo: Carmen Rodriguez)

A retreat for Florida Conference lay pastors was held at Pine Lake Retreat, Groveland, Fla., May 13-15, with the objective of aligning their congregations to the purpose, values, and strategies of Conference church growth goals. This retreat explored the role of lay pastors in creating a culture of mission and discipleship in their local congregation, as outlined in the retreat’s theme, The Church Transformational Process.

A lay pastor is a leader chosen by a sponsoring board and completes Conference certification through training and demonstrations of fitness for ministry. Statewide, 83 congregations are led by volunteer pastors. They shepherd close to 7,000 members of various cultural backgrounds and language groups such as English, Spanish, French, Romanian, and Korean.

Re-certification for lay pastor status is contingent upon attending annual re-certification training and an annual review and recommendation by the local church board, the pastor of the sponsoring church, and by the Florida Conference Ministerial Department. It is a continuing training process. Character, leadership, spirituality, loyalty to church, theology, and cooperative spirit need to be demonstrated.

“A lay pastor is a ministering servant of God and, like every Christian, is called to ministry, gifted by the Holy Spirit, and in baptism commissioned for ministry as referred to in Ephesians 4:11, 12,” says Allan Machado, lay pastor coordinator.


Departmental Staff Changes

posted on July 13, 2011, under Conference by

Abel Paulín Named Evangelism Director
Abel Paulín was voted Evangelism Director by the Florida Conference Executive Committee on March 22, 2011. He replaces Gerson Santos who transferred to Greater New York Conference’s Secretariat office.

Paulín continues to serve as Vice President for Spanish-language Ministries, a position he has held since December 9, 2001. He and his wife, Raquel, have three children: Ronald, Jeannette, and Lissette.

Oscar Tavera Named Associate Director for Spanish-language Ministries
Oscar Tavera was voted Associate Director for Spanish-language Ministries by the Florida Conference Executive Committee on March 22, 2011. He has served as senior pastor at Deltona Spanish Church and will be assisting the new pastor there until October.

Tavera served as pastor of Clearwater-Largo Spanish and Pinellas Spanish Churches, and previously was Personal Ministries Director at Central Dominican Conference in the Dominican Republic.

Tavera and his wife, Rossanny, have three children: Oscar Jr., Shalomy, and Gabriela.

Jay Cole Named Adventist Book Center Associate Manager/Operations Manager
Jay Cole began April 1, 2011, as Adventist Book Center Associate Manager/Operations Manager for Florida Conference. He comes to this position from Pennsylvania Conference where he served as Adventist Book Center Manager for the past 14½ years. He was previously employed at Potomac Adventist Book Center for four and one half years.

Cole and his wife, Connie, have two children: Alyson and Sarah.

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Young Artist Uses Music As Instrument To Witness

posted on July 13, 2011, under Education, Member by

by Gladys Neigel

Heather Clark. (Photo: Holly Clark)

“I thank God every day for my talents,” says Heather Clark, 18, a Saint Augustine Church member. “I’ve never been able to understand why I can do the things I do, but I’ve decided to go ahead and accept that God knows what He’s doing with me, and I want to follow Him wherever He leads.”

Heather uses her gift as a classical guitarist to provide special music for worship services by playing her own hymn arrangements. She’s an integral part of a youth group that meets Friday evenings for Bible study. Recently, Heather played for a youth-organized Daniel Seminar.

“She wants to use her talents to help others,” says Thomson Paris, youth leader. “Her goal is to become a music therapist. Heather gives a deeper and fresher meaning to the songs she plays and sings, like her rendition of Lord, I Want to Be a Christian, which is powerful.”

Heather also has opportunities to share Christ at her high school such as playing for beginning music classes to give them a feel for classical guitar. In addition, she participated in spring and winter concerts at her school which are still rebroadcast on local television.

Known as one of the top 27 classical guitarists at the high school level in Florida, she was selected as one of four students from her school to participate in the All-State Guitar Concert held during a Florida Music Educator’s Conference in Tampa. Heather has played guitar for seven years and started taking classical lessons three years ago from guitar instructor Trey Brewer who says she is one of the students “who eat, drink, and sleep guitar.”

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Winter Springs Member Receives Prestigious Nursing Award

posted on July 13, 2011, under Member by

by Gladys Neigel

Sylvia and Daniel Thomas with University of Central Florida President John C. Hitt, Ph.D.

Sylvia Torres-Thomas, Winter Springs Church member, is one of 18 students to receive University of Central Florida’s (UCF) most prestigious student award—Order of Pegasus.

Sylvia is a Ph.D. candidate in the College of Nursing. She received a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, and a Master of Science in nursing from UCF. She presently serves as vice president of the Organization of Doctoral Students in Nursing and holds memberships in several honor societies.

The Order of Pegasus award honors outstanding academic achievement, university involvement, leadership, and community service. As a doctoral student, Sylvia has participated in National Institute of Health funded research and presented her findings in the area of Hispanic health issues at a national nursing conference in Washington, D.C. Service in the community includes involvement in family and children’s ministries at Winter Springs Church and volunteering as a nurse for Shepherd’s Hope Clinic.

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West Palm Beach Teacher Receives National Award

posted on July 13, 2011, under Education, Member by

by Melissa Cechota

2011 Excellence in Teaching recipient Keren Taccone with husband, Jim.

Keren Taccone, third- and fourth-grade teacher at West Palm Beach Junior Academy (WPBJA), is among 10 teachers in North America selected by the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) to receive a 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award. Since 1995, this nonprofit organization has recognized 106 exceptional teachers.

Keren also serves as Special Needs Coordinator for her school in partnership with the Florida Conference Office of Education. In this volunteer position, she assists in regional training by demonstrating effective ways to implement positive learning communities. At WPBJA, she initiated After Glow ministry services and organized the first campus drama team.

Through her dedication and effort, low-achievers and behaviorally challenged children are beginning to meet with success for the first time. “As a teacher, I can be a doctor for the hurting student, a lawyer to plead on their behalf, and a counselor to guide them as they make choices,” says Keren. “This career choice pays in great rewards, as I can impact lives for eternity!”

From left: West Palm Beach Junior Academy teachers Melva Bracero, Nieves Jenkins, Renata Teter, and 2011 Excellence in Teaching recipient Keren Taccone; Alumni Awards Foundation Board Member Byron DeFoor; and West Palm Beach Junior Academy Principal Glenn Timmons.

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Forest City Adventist School and Orlando Junior Academy Gain EDGE Status

posted on July 12, 2011, under Conference, Education by

by Sandra Doran

Orlando Junior Academy Principal Nicole Agbonkhese, left, and Forest City Adventist School Principal Alipia Gonzalez were instrumental in leading staff toward earning EDGE School status.

The Florida Conference Office of Education is proud to report that Forest City Adventist School in Altamonte Springs and Orlando Junior Academy have successfully submitted applications to Southern Union Conference for money to become EDGE Schools (Educators Delivering GREAT Education).

“We recognize the amount of work that the administration and teachers have put forth in order to make this happen,” says Arne Nielsen, Florida Conference Vice President for Integrated Youth Ministries. “We are anxious to see all of our schools become EDGE Schools even as we congratulate Alipia Gonzalez (Forest City) and Nicole Agbonkhese (Orlando) for their leadership in this direction.”

Southern Union Conference provides schools with a double-match (up to $12,000) in SMART funds (Schools Making A Real Transformation) for establishing a solid plan for achieving excellence in the five areas of the acronym GREAT: God-centered, Results-oriented, Environment that nurtures, Aligned with Adventist and national standards, and Team effort. Schools that apply must demonstrate they have clearly adopted the EDGE philosophy and are well on their way to becoming EDGE Schools.

SMART funds at Orlando Junior Academy will be used to create a science lab. “We want to provide a place where the students can be engaged in science and design,” reports Anna Adkins, vice principal. “Our science lab will allow our students to experiment and demonstrate results through planned, hands-on activities.” Forest City Adventist School is applying their funds to the development of a cutting-edge library.

Florida Conference now has four elementary schools that have received funding. Beryl Wisdom Adventist School in Orlando and Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood received their official designation as EDGE Schools in 2010.

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College Student’s Jonah Story Has Happy Ending

posted on July 12, 2011, under Education, Member by

by Angela Baerg

Sean's positive life changes also helped him win over the girl of his dreams. He is engaged to Jacqueline, the high school sweetheart he followed to Tennessee. (Photo: Justin Peter)

Sean Lemon, a member of Forest Lake Church, Apopka, dreamed of playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He excelled in the sport throughout his high school years at Forest Lake Academy (FLA) where he developed exceptional skills, in part from training with former NBA player Anthony Bowie.

Upon graduation from high school in 2006, Sean took the next step toward achieving his dream—he enrolled at University of Central Florida (UCF) and went to his first basketball tryout, which was held on a Sabbath. During the exercises, Sean broke his ankle, disabling him from completing the tryout.

Discouraged, but determined to try again, he planned for his training to get him back to the same skill level by the same time exactly one year later. Ironically, one month before the second tryout, Sean broke his wrist on his shooting hand in a casual basketball game with friends. “That’s when I realized it wasn’t God’s plan for me to play basketball,” says Sean. “It was my Jonah story. I figured if I didn’t listen, I might get swallowed by a whale!”

With his basketball dream demolished and his grades dwindling to a 1.9 GPA, Sean knew he needed a change, so he followed his high school sweetheart, Jacqueline Soler, to Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. Southern’s environment was different from that of UCF, and Sean initially resented living under Southern’s rules. Four years later, Sean is glad he decided to give them a shot. As a health science major with a 3.34 GPA, he graduated May 1 a different person in many ways from the one he used to be. Sean attributes his turnaround to God’s persistent efforts to pursue him and Southern’s Christian atmosphere of fellowship.

“Now, I appreciate the rules,” he reflects. “I actually feel that having them helped me mature. I’ll probably follow a lot of them for the rest of my life, like having worship every night, going to bed early, and getting things done in a timely manner.”

More than simply following the rules; however, Sean became proactive in pursuing God and helping others. Rather than dreading worships, Sean worked as a resident assistant and often held worships in his room for the dormitory men on his hall.

He also served as vice president of the Wellness Club on campus, organizing activities for college and elementary students, and raising money for charity. He was involved with Flag Camp which connects Southern Adventist University students with local children through football, snacks, and arts and crafts. This past year, Sean received the Student of the Year Award from his department for involvement in both school and community.

Sean’s positive life changes also helped him win over the girl of his dreams. He is engaged to Jacqueline, the high school sweetheart he followed to Tennessee. After graduating, the two returned to their parents’ homes in Florida. Now, they will pursue their masters’ degrees—hers in social work and his in health and business administration and finance. They plan to marry in the summer of 2012.

“God wanted me to be at Southern, though it wasn’t what I wanted at the time,” says Sean. “Before I came to Southern, what I knew about Christ was what I read about Him. Now, I truly understand what He did for me. Being at Southern made me want to live with Christ leading in my life. In any success that I have, I am humbled because it is a testimony to His glory.”

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Award-winning Filmmaker Credits Adventist Schools For Success

posted on July 12, 2011, under Education by

by Ingrid Hernandez with Jeremy Rowland

Filmmaking became more than just a hobby for Jeremy Rowland during his senior year at Forest Lake Academy (FLA) where he was a student of Lloyd Young, video and media instructor. Jeremy’s fascination for film grew as he learned editing and camera work while assisting with the school’s weekly news video, Eye On FLA.

Working with a team that shared his passion, Jeremy realized he wanted to major in film production so he could work with like-minded artists. That’s when he decided Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, was the place for him.

“Southern had the best to offer,” says Jeremy. “It had the best program in the Adventist world.”

Quickly falling in love with the School of Visual Art and Design, Southern’s campus, and the area in general, Jeremy developed a determination to learn all he could about film. By Christmas, he scripted Prodigal, the story about a young man who leaves his demanding home life only to face trouble and deceptive relationships. Jeremy approached fellow student Chris Bohlender with the offer to direct this short film; Chris accepted.

The next big break for Prodigal came when David George, associate professor in the School of Visual Art and Design, chose Jeremy’s script for a school-sponsored film shoot. The project was scheduled over the five-day spring break with 25 first-year film and animation students.

Upon completion, Prodigal was submitted as an entry in the 2010 SONscreen Film Festival. Traditionally held at Adventist Media Center in Simi Valley, California, the 2010 event was held in Atlanta, Georgia, in conjunction with the Adventist World Session. When the Sonny Award winners were announced, Prodigal took home “Best in Fest.” For winning top spot, Jeremy and Chris received a trophy and $2,000. Shortly afterward, Prodigal won first place at the Enzian Film Festival in Orlando, Florida.

“I was completely surprised to win,” Jeremy admits. “It is a very secular festival with audience-chosen winners, so success depends on how many people you bring to the festival in support of your film. Our biggest competition (a film that included a whole lot of blood, guts, and skin) filled a majority of the theater with backers. However, we won, and I had several people come up to me afterward and tell me they were there to support the other films, but had voted for ours. It felt great to know that Christian cinema can be a powerful evangelistic tool, as well as a success in the secular world.

“I believe that God has really worked through this project, and I hope that it will continue to reach people all over the world.”

Watch Jeremy’s film, Prodigal, at or below.