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Archive for December, 2012

Okeechobee Prison Ministry

posted on December 21, 2012, under Church, Video Report by

Florida Conference In Mission is a monthly video series about people reaching people.

This month’s video highlights Okeechobee Church’s Prison Ministry which provides inmates with correspondence Bible studies, letters of encouragement, and monthly programs.

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Meals Packed With Love

posted on December 14, 2012, under Church by

Nearly 200 volunteers crowded around 12 rows of assembly line tables to prepare more than 30,000 meals for hungry children. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Florence DuBosque "had a wonderful time sealing meal bags" at the end of her volunteer line before carrying a box in her wheelchair. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

by Martin and Ashley Butler

It was a sight to behold as 190 volunteers gathered in Apopka, Florida, at the Forest Lake Academy gymnasium to pack 30,000 healthy meals in 50 minutes. With enough ingredients to serve a family of six, 180,000 hungry stomachs would be fed. “Incredible!” declared one participant when the staggering final numbers were announced.

Forest Lake Church Collegiate/Young Adults, under the leadership of Pastor Bernie Anderson, partnered with the Orlando nonprofit organization Feeding Children Everywhere. Success happened because people of all ages—Pathfinders to great-grandmothers—wanted to make an impact on their community.

“I was so impressed with the level of energy and commitment in the volunteers who came to serve people,” noted Anderson. “Their help will make a difference right here in Orlando, where the bulk of the meals will go to Lockhart Middle School.” Here, students who are fed on school days will receive a healthy meal to share with their families on the weekend.”

Someone described the scene as "a long parade of miracles" when 107 boxes each filled with 288 packaged meals for hungry children were carried to the waiting Feeding Children Everywhere truck. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

“Today, you’re answering the prayers of children who are really hungry,” said Feeding Children Everywhere Event Coordinator Jarrod Fucci. “Your love packed the meals. Now, Bernie and his staff will help us deliver them.”

None of these efforts came free, even though the sum total was cheap enough. At a cost of only 25¢ per meal, it would still take $7,500 to provide 30,000 meals.

“Have faith that God will help you reach this financial goal,” encouraged Forest Lake Church member Laura Gonzalez to the young people who worked alongside Pastor Anderson in fund-raising efforts. Gonzalez not only mentored, she helped decorated baskets and, with her husband, Arnaldo, and several collegiates, took them to the lobby between church services to collect the appealed-for quarters.

"I've never seen people work so hard for a good cause," observed volunteer Kristine Young. "They were so happy when a box was completed, they'd high five each other and let out this amazing cheer." (Photo: Delwin Finch)

Of course, it took more than quarters, even though one person turned in more than $200 worth that were unwrapped. Children emptied their piggy banks. One donor gave an anonymous gift of $1,000 in the closing days of the fund drive. When news came that more than $10,000 was raised, a resounding “Thank You, Jesus!” was heard even as dreams were expressed that “we must do this again next year.”

Reactions from those helping on the packing assembly lines and in other areas of this year’s event clearly indicated the impact that Pack the Forest had on them:

“The powerful part for me was seeing people of all ages and backgrounds who attend Forest Lake Church do something for local kids, and the impact is now!” —Alejandra Torres

“It was very fulfilling for our family to help someone in a simple way. We loved it!” —Mark Mastrapa

Young and old worked together to pack the meals described by Feeding Children Everywhere as "simple, healthy, and delicious" with main components of "lentils, rice, a blend of six dehydrated vegetables, and pink Himalayan salt." (Photo: Lee Bennett)

“It taught my kids to do something for someone else by helping other children.” —Dana Williams

“I kept remembering all the times I get hungry, and I was thinking about the Lockhart kids who must be feeling that way too.” —Kevin, representing one of the many young Pathfinder volunteers

“It was especially heartwarming around the holidays to see kids, parents, and the elderly working so passionately together for the good of others.” —Kristine Young

“It was a wonderful opportunity to be reminded of all the things for which I’m grateful such as family, shelter, food, church fellowship, and, of course, Jesus, the Bread of Life Who will always provide.” —Ron Pasos

“I can’t wait until next year when we do this again, because it will be another wonderful opportunity to serve just as Christ served others.” —Tyler Sutton

SIDEBAR: Extending the Hand of God
by Bernie Anderson

Forest Lake Church Collegiate/Young Adult Pastor Bernie Anderson conferred with Ashley Butler, a member who had a part in bringing Pack the Forest together. "Ashley is a behind-the-scenes person;" observes Pastor Bernie, "yet, she is proof that when a mission and cause is close to your heart, you'll do things you never thought you would." (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Since moving to Orlando in August 2012, I’ve come to realize that hunger in this area is a very real issue. On the March 5, 2011, CBS television program, 60 Minutes, Scott Pelly spoke of Central Florida’s hungry children in his profile, “Hard Times Generation.” This glimpse into the hearts of America’s youngest victims of tough times revealed stories and faces of children living right here in Seminole County, Florida, which is home to Forest Lake Church.

In late September, I invited 25 young adults from our congregation to join me at Pack the Park in Orlando where volunteers assembled 42,000 meals in 75 minutes for Feeding Children Everywhere. Our young people were so passionate about the experience, they asked if Forest Lake Church could partner with this nonprofit, Orlando-based organization in hosting an event. Thus, Pack the Forest was born, a December 1 date was set, and the rest is history.

You’ve read in this feature story how church members responded when invited to have a part in feeding hungry children. Forest Lake Church wants to be the leader in extending the hand of God in our community. We’ve already seen Him at work when opportunities are created to reach beyond the four walls of our church. Pack the Forest 2012 was just a taste of more to come.

With God’s blessing, the next goal is to host an event in 2013 where 100,000 meals will be assembled to feed 600,000 hungry children and their families. As the ministry of Pack the Forest moves forward, it is my prayer to never forget Jesus’ words when He spoke of feeding the hungry, “…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” —Matthew 25:40 KJV

(Gallery photos by Lee Bennett, Delwin Finch)

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One Hope NET Series Answers Questions

posted on December 14, 2012, under Conference by

by Abel Paulín

Florida Conference President Mike Cauley delivers the closing night sermon and appeal at Tampa First Church, site of the One Hope NET evangelistic series. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

If Jesus is the answer, what are the questions? This supposition provided the basis for One Hope, an eight-night Florida Conference NET evangelistic series in October which was broadcast on the Hope Church Channel, streamed online, and shown live at 37 churches that registered participation.

Tampa First Church hosted the Saturday to Saturday series viewed throughout Florida and other parts of the country. Nightly programs included the pastoral message, music, and a testimony or outreach ministry capsule via Skype videoconferencing.

The question topics and pastoral presenters were:

  • “Where Is the World Going?” by Brad Cassell
  • “How Does Jesus Change Us?” by Glenn Aguirre
  • “If Jesus Is Coming, What Do We Do Now?” by Juan Rodriguez
  • “Is There Meaningful Life Before Death?” by Stephen Stewart
  • “Can Broken Relationships Be Fixed?” by Marius Asaftei
  • “If You Want To Follow Jesus, Why Bother With the Church?” by Anthony WagenerSmith
  • “How Do We Find Time For What Matters Most?” by Henoc Paulicin

Following the Friday service, Lehigh Acres Church, where Newton Hoilette is pastor, e-mailed the One Hope production team with news that their average attendance was 118 for the first seven nights. The message concluded with these words of encouragement, “Please keep doing what you do to further the work of the gospel.”

The series ended with a closing appeal by President Mike Cauley after his sermon, “What Is Our Destiny?”

The complete series of sermons and testimonies are archived for online viewing at

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Students Conduct CREATION Health Evangelistic Series

posted on December 14, 2012, under Church by

New Port Richey Pathfinders Markley Richard, left, and Kayla Jimenez, joined by Pathfinder counselor Jake Hecht, performed a puppetry skit during the CREATION Health Evangelistic Series. (Photo: Carol Koch)

by Lennie Schiefer

A one-week, student-led CREATION Health Evangelistic Series was held at the New Port Richey, Fla., Church by Pathfinder Club members and 4th-8th graders at New Port Richey Adventist Christian Academy. Average attendance was 55-60 each night with 18 individuals attending all of the holistic lifestyle meetings.

Seven students led the one-hour video and PowerPoint presentations while fellow Pathfinders, students, and friends participated in music, puppet, and greeter ministries. The puppet skits dramatized each of the eight CREATION Health principles, and the scripts were written by Pathfinders and staff under the direction of Puppet Ministry Leader Yvonne Suescun.

The seven student speakers were: Alexis Dusel, grade 4; Bryan Lankston, grade 8; Franlis Simeoli-Montalvo, grade 4; Santiago Ortiz, grade 8; Markley Richard, grade 7; Brittany Rodriguez, grade 7; and Myranda Rodriguez, grade 9. Serving as adult advisors, Lynn and Leann Hecht, youth ministries; Carol Koch, Pathfinders; and Al Cruz, Adventist Christian Academy Principal, provided encouragement to the students.

Ten adults have registered for follow-up small group meetings that will include an in-depth study of the eight principles of good health.


Frostproof Members Let Their Lights Shine

posted on December 14, 2012, under Church by

by Brenda Welch

A lighthouse mural painted by member Linda Hofmann in the Frostproof Company's sanctuary is a reminder for all who see it to shine as a beacon of hope in the community. (Photo: Larry Hofmann)

When Frostproof, Fla., Company members anchored their church plant more than five years ago in this rural Central Florida community, they reaffirmed a commitment to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. A lighthouse mural in the sanctuary is a constant reminder to let their lights shine in this corner of the world.

Recently, crew members revisited their Captain’s orders in Matthew 28:18-20 to assess if His Majesty’s Ship was still on course. The crew did their utmost in 2012 to faithfully perform their duties, which included:

  • Deepening a trust in their Captain during two 10-day Prayer Fasts.
  • Giving Bible studies to those seeking a safe harbor in the One and Only true Captain.
  • Delivering food to those in need each month through a fruit and vegetable ministry. (This ministry was featured as the Florida Conference In Mission video for May 2012. See the video at
  • Sharing the Good News of their Captain’s love with community children through the Fruits of the Spirit Vacation Bible School program.
  • Responding to calls from distressed passengers of life who were drowning in despair or overwhelmed by waves of addiction.
  • Continuing to work on their humble new church facility as funds became available. Various projects are yet to be completed.
  • Serving hearty Sabbath fellowship meals where guests were invited to consider Frostproof Company as their next Port of Call.
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Trusting God’s Promises

posted on December 03, 2012, under Member by

When Robert Haas came back to God, he quit working on the Sabbath, started returning a faithful tithe, and devoted more time to helping those less fortunate, causing other truck drivers to marvel at how he works less, makes deliveries on time, and takes home greater earnings. This is one Prodigal Son who is quick to testify, "God is faithful!"

by Robert Haas

I was born into an Adventist family. My relatives worked for the Adventist Church. I was enrolled in the Adventist educational system from kindergarten through high school. Although raised in this environment, I didn’t experience a life-changing conversion or develop a personal relationship with God. As a young adult, I abandoned the principles I was taught and became the “prodigal son,” wandering aimlessly through life in pursuit of worldly happiness.

In my mid-twenties, with a wife and young children, I realized I needed to develop a relationship with God and started attending church. However, I never gave up my worldly pleasures such as smoking or drinking. This lifestyle eventually tore my family apart.

During the next four years, I hit rock bottom. I filed for bankruptcy and lost my job along with everything I owned. Worst of all, I lost hope. In despair, I started reading the Bible again in the fall of 2005, searching for answers as to why my life was such a mess. That’s when I read Proverbs 3:6 [TLB], “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” This lesson was learned the hard way.

In the spring of 2006, I purchased a truck and leased it back to the company for which I previously worked. That’s when I met Brenda by telephone, as she was employed at that company. Soon, I discovered she was in the midst of a divorce and experiencing the same hopelessness I had recently gone through. She told me that my sense of humor and confidence made it easy for her to talk, and I became her confidant.

As we visited, I learned that Brenda knew about God but had no relationship with Him. Like me, she was searching for happiness in the form of alcohol and drugs.

Even though our friendship was based on many enjoyable and enlightening telephone conversations, we had never met. One day, I told her about my web site, and she visited it. Noticing a page of scripture, she inquired about my denominational affiliation. She had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and started asking questions about our doctrines and why we believed them. Raised with very little knowledge of the Bible or God, Brenda wanted to begin studying together.

Robert met Brenda by telephone when he called the office where she works at the trucking company for which he makes deliveries from Jacksonville, Florida, to Seattle, Washington, and all parts in between. The Orange Cove Church members began studying the Bible together before they met in person and married two years later.

We finally met in person, developed a relationship centered around God, married in 2008, and began attending church regularly. As we grew spiritually in our pursuit of personally knowing God, we started questioning why we were holding on to worldly habits. Brenda was still drinking, and I hadn’t given up smoking. We quit and then read, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other….” (Luke 16:13 NKJV).

This thought started us questioning things we were watching, listening to, reading, doing, or eating. If we found they were distracting us from God, we eliminated them from our home and our lives.

Soon, I felt convinced to stop driving my truck on the Sabbath. Almost immediately, I was tested when invited to carry equipment on a two-month tour for the rock band U2. When I told the group’s agent I was sorry I couldn’t help because I had chosen to no longer work on the Sabbath, he asked me if I was a Seventh-day Adventist. He had an Adventist neighbor, so he understood and even thanked me for standing up for what I believe.

At the same time, Brenda and I made a commitment to start returning tithe and helping those less fortunate. That was another turning point when our lives changed dramatically. It seemed the more we gave, the more we received. Promises of God in Malachi 3:10 [KJV] became more evident in our lives as we read, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

Today, we continue striving to attain the lifestyle God intends us to have. We pray together and learn together. We no longer worry about our finances or our future. We pray about decisions we make in our lives, both big and small. We know the incredible power of prayer and faith and that the Lord provides for those who believe and have faith. That’s why we claim the promise of Matthew 6:25, 31-34 [NIV84], “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? …So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Brenda and I still experience occasional stress and worry in our lives, but we know that God’s promises will always be fulfilled as we ask for His guidance and His Holy Spirit to fill our hearts, leaving no room for the enemy.

The Lord does not abide with sin, so as we continue to do away with the things in our life that do not glorify Him, we will continue to receive His promised blessings. As others witness the change in our hearts and in our lives, they will know it is the Glory of God and the fulfillment of His promises that have allowed it to happen.

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Youth Walk Their Neighborhoods For God

posted on December 03, 2012, under Conference by

by Pedro Perez

The Once Project is a new Florida Conference Youth Ministries initiative mobilizing young people across the state to go door to door conducting surveys, identifying community needs, looking for Bible study interests, praying with neighbors, and partnering with churches.

Trained, then deployed in neighborhoods where Seventh-day Adventist Churches are located, this army of youth in action walk the streets of our cities and towns with adult presence and supervision to advance God’s work.

Recently, youth from Adventurer age to young adults throughout the Conference were reorganized into Clusters by the Youth Ministries Department. Now, every Adventist church in Florida belongs to one of these 23 Clusters representing 10-15 congregations. The Once Project has challenged young people to gather together at a church in their Cluster once each month to go door to door, followed by a debriefing session, vespers, and a church social.

“Imagine that!” says Robert Hines, Florida Conference Associate Youth Ministries Director and designer of the project. “Once a month in 23 Clusters around the state of Florida, trained young people are being deployed to knock on doors, get to know their neighbors, find Bible-study interests, and then share this information with the local church for follow up.”

Can you see it? Young people from various churches in the Cluster working side by side to help one church in their Cluster each month. Guided by Cluster Coordinators, young people are joining with local church Adventurer, Pathfinder, Youth, Young Adult, and Adventist Campus Ministry leaders to work their neighborhoods for God.

Once this army of youth marches into action where the rubber meets the road, the soles of their shoes will prove it, and the souls they touch in neighborhoods will testify of a movement worth joining. For more information, visit the Resources/Links page at

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Meet the Property Development Department

posted on December 03, 2012, under Conference by

Kathy Deering, right, Vice President for Property Development, reviews plans for Florida Conference's proposed new headquarters location with Deann Hawley, Associate Property Development Director. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

The Property Development Department assists churches, schools, and the Florida Conference Association with all property issues including:

  • Coordinating sales and purchases of real estate.
  • Processing loan applications.
  • Filing county property tax exemptions and appeals.
  • Following up with delinquent loans.
  • Helping resolve code violations.
  • Managing and leasing commercial properties.
  • Facilitating leases for churches.

Heading this department is Kathy Deering, Vice President for Property Development with the Florida Conference Association. Kathy has been a licensed real estate broker since 1989 and uses this knowledge to work for churches and schools in their building programs.

Deann Hawley, the Associate Director, has a law degree from Indiana University as well as a financial background working with credit unions in Indiana and Florida. She is available to assist churches and schools with finance and loan questions.

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Departmental Staff Changes

posted on December 03, 2012, under Conference by

Phil Bond Named Director of Development/Planned Giving and Trust Services
Phil Bond assumed his duties as Director of Development/Planned Giving and Trust Services on August 1 with the call being placed to him on May 20, 2012, by the Florida Conference Executive Committee.

He comes to Florida from Berrien Springs, Michigan, where he was the Planned Giving Specialist with Adventist Frontier Missions. His background also includes employment as a business banker at RBC Centura Bank and a personal banker at Wachovia Bank.

Phil enjoys scuba diving, tennis, reading, and spending time with his family which includes his wife, Sheri, who works at home supporting Phil, and their two sons, Russell, 10, and Samuel, 4. Phil says he praises the Lord for how He has led and looks forward to serving Him in his new position at Florida Conference.

George Carrazana Named Associate Superintendent for Administration and Finance
George Carrazana was advanced to the position of Associate Superintendent for Administration and Finance in January 2012. Prior to this, he served as Comptroller in the Florida Conference Office of Education on a contract basis for two and one half years. “He has a passion for helping people, and his greatest desire is to see schools be financially successful,” says Sandy Doran, Associate Superintendent.

“I was born in Cuba,” he says, “but my family moved to Spain when I was nine years old to ensure freedom and opportunity for my sister and me.” After a beginning career in health care, George became business manager at Greater Miami Adventist Academy and then at Forest Lake Education Center.

“I love that I can now help so many schools,” says George.

Madlyn is George’s wife, and he has three children, George, Joshua, and Jason.

Daniel Dunn Named Associate Director for Information Technology Services
Daniel Dunn was voted on July 26, 2012, as an Associate Director for Information Services by the Florida Conference Executive Committee and began his responsibilities on August 26, 2012.

Daniel was previously employed by the North American Division in Silver Spring, Maryland, as the Network Administrator, a position he held for ten years. He was originally employed at the Division as their computer repair technician for several years. Prior to denominational employment, Daniel worked for World Bank in Washington, D.C., as part of the Microsoft Office team help desk.

His family includes his wife, Becky, who is a contract programmer, and three girls, Thea, 14; Faith, 12; and Holly, 5.

“I look forward to continuing the service-oriented ministry the IT Department provides for my new Florida Conference family,” says Daniel.

Robert Hines Named Associate Director for Adventurers, Pathfinders, Youth, Young Adults, and Adventist Campus Ministry
Robert Hines began serving in July 2011 as Associate Director for Adventurers, Pathfinders, Youth, Young Adults, and Adventist Campus Ministry, with emphasis in North Florida. Voted into this position by the Florida Conference Executive Committee on March 20, 2011, he says, “My work focuses on equipping and deploying an army of young people.”

Robert came to Florida from Southern New England Conference in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, where he served as Associate Youth Director.

He came to the U.S. from Great Britain where he held the following positions: podiatrist and working for the National Health Service; chaplain and preceptor for Stanborough School; chaplain for John Loughborough School; and Associate Youth Director for South England Conference.

His wife, Paula, is a homemaker since the birth of their daughter, Phoebe, now age 7.

Lori Thieme Named Associate Superintendent for Early Childhood Education
Lori Thieme began her work as Associate Superintendent of Education in June 2012, after a vote taken on March 20, 2012, by the Florida Conference Executive Committee. She comes to this position from Deltona Adventist School where she was the Pre-Kindergarten Teacher.

Lori has worked with young children since 1997 as Meadows Academy Child Care Center Director for ages birth to five years, Principal and Teacher at Champion Preparatory Academy, and Pre-Kindergarten and 1st-grade Teacher at Orlando Junior Academy. It is evident she loves what she does, as she says, “This is one of the Adventist Church’s greatest mission fields.”

Lori has a great love for the outdoors and things in nature, which is shared with her husband, Ken, who is Park Ranger for the city of Altamonte Springs, Florida. They have two grown children, Zachary and Chelsea.

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