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Archive for March, 2014

Realizing the Desires of My Heart

posted on March 25, 2014, under Camp Ministry, Member, Video Report by

by Theresa Stride

Theresa Stride and her horse, Lena. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Theresa Stride and her horse, Lena. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

“Let’s go visit the tiger for a while,” I thought to myself when I heard the zoo at Camp Kulaqua in High Springs was hiring. Imagining the possibilities of this fun adventure, I applied. However, with horses in my background, the Camp hired me to work in the horse barn. So, at 17 years of age, I reconnected with the camp of my childhood.

I grew up in a Christian home about 20 minutes from Camp Kulaqua in the little town of La Crosse. Our family regularly attended a Baptist Church, and I had a good support system and a loving family. My mom, who heard about the Camp first, went on a tour of the grounds and felt it was a safe Christian environment. “Let’s send you there,” she told me.

I came to Camp Kulaqua as a camper when I was eight years old and attended for four years. Summer camp definitely had an impact on my life, and there are certain things I still remember:

  • Riding into camp with my sleeping bag in the back of the car.
  • My counselors’ names.
  • The horse I rode was Big Red.
  • A lion roaring in the morning.
  • The Friday night program when, at age 12, I accepted Christ.
Theresa Stride leads Camp Kulaqua’s Flag Parade, kicking off the summer camp rodeo. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa Stride leads Camp Kulaqua’s Flag Parade, kicking off the summer camp rodeo. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

As we passed the cafeteria on my way home that year, I told my mom, “I’m going to work at Camp Kulaqua, and I’m going to be a counselor.”

When I connected with the Camp again at age 17, I began working in the horse barn. I continued my employment at the Camp while attending University of Florida in Gainesville. I made a lot of friends such as Julie Selby and Ray and Jannette Queen who became role models. These people took the time to build a friendship with me through which I started to learn more about the Adventist Church.

When I told my friends I was working at Camp Kulaqua, they would say, “Oh, that’s an Adventist Camp, right? What do they believe?” I wanted to answer their questions, so I studied on my own to know what Adventists believe, as I felt I was representing them in my work. Through my studies and my personal time with God, He led me to the Adventist Church. My mentors walked me through the beliefs, and these beliefs became mine.

Theresa carries the flag for the national anthem with her horse and announces events as campers participate in the rodeo games. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa carries the flag for the national anthem with her horse and announces events as campers participate in the rodeo games. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

God started to open my heart. I remember when I’d hear certain things like the Sabbath, it would click, and I would say, “Yeah, that’s what you meant, God.” It was never an argument. It was never something that my heart turned away. It became my belief, and it was through this journey that I joined the Adventist Church.

When I graduated from University of Florida, I thought I’d just work in the water park that summer since I had no other job in sight. At the end of summer, Phil Younts, Administrative Camp Director, told me about a job I didn’t even know existed. God opened a door and provided for me.

Theresa, who serves as Junior Camp Director each summer, accepts the American flag from a camper during the evening flag-lowering ceremony. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Theresa, who serves as Junior Camp Director each summer, accepts the American flag from a camper during the evening flag-lowering ceremony. (Photo: Ryan Becker)

Two years later, my dream came true to work with kids in the summer camp program. Once again, God created another opportunity for me to walk through.

When you are 12 years old, sometimes you don’t know why you say the things you say, but God does. He knew in my heart that I wanted to work at Camp Kulaqua even at an early age. I just didn’t know what that meant. I thought that it was as a counselor.

As it turned out, I’ve never been a counselor. Instead, I have worked in many other areas such as the horse barn and lifeguarding. Currently, I am the Summer Camp Registrar. God just opened doors, and I said, “Okay, God, I’m going to take this step of faith. This is Your truth, and I will stand on it.”

Yes, God opened doors, and He fulfilled my childhood desires.

“Young people come to camp and many things happen. Theresa is a product of what summer camp can do—not just joining the Church, but accepting what she believes as truth and doing what God called her to do. By listening to His calling, God has given Theresa the desires of her heart.”
—Ray Queen, Summer Camp Director

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Missions at Home and Missions Abroad

posted on March 25, 2014, under Conference by

by Mike Cauley, D.Min.
Florida Conference President

Florida Conference has renewed its commitment to embrace its calling as a missionary agency. This is why our upcoming Camp Meeting, April 10-13 at Camp Kulaqua, will portray the theme, A Mighty Movement—Returning to the Cities.

The purpose for starting Conferences was to foster evangelism and church planting in their territories and promote overseas missions. Energy was highly expended in order to reach people with God’s saving message of grace and truth.

Early in her ministry, Ellen White urged leadership of the fledgling Church to adopt a world-wide approach to the movement. By 1874, she strongly encouraged the Adventist Church to use its means “to spread their beliefs to other nations, mentioning Australia by name (LS 208-210). Writing from Australia in 1892, she talked about the need to work in Africa, India, and China. (FE 208, 209) As her view of mission expanded, she was tireless in both urging and practicing widespread participation in the missionary task.” (The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia p. 994)

We are seeking to return to our roots. We are once again seeking to focus upon missions at home and missions abroad. God is at work in this endeavor. In February, the Impact Miami program was a wonderful success. If you read my report on page 7, you’ll learn how 10,000 people in and around Miami were impacted by this event.

As far as overseas mission is concerned, we are seeking to sponsor church planters in China. The ratio of Adventists to nonAdventists in Florida is 1:190, and the ratio in North America is 1:330. The ratio in China is 1:3,300! China is a country about the size of the continental United States with 1.4 billion people.

Prosperity is coming to China, and religious oppression is easing. For a donation of $1,500 a year, your church or school (or an individual) may sponsor a Chinese church planter to a city in China. Our hope is to raise enough support for 133 church planters, trained and prepared to reach people with the gospel and the Adventist message.

To help fund this project, you may donate through your local church by marking it “China Connection.” A provision is also being made through Adventist Giving online.

We invite you to join us in praying that God will help us be about our Father’s business and embrace our calling as a movement of destiny.

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How to Bring the Gospel Overseas Through the China Connection

posted on March 25, 2014, under Conference by

by Phil Bond, Florida Conference Development and Planned Giving Director

What Is the China Connection Project?
The China Connection funds 130 missionaries who are church planters in China. By faith, they are already serving there, believing that the funds will be available to sponsor them in 2014.

Why Is Florida Conference Involved?
We are returning to and emphasizing the original purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church—the Gospel Commission—as given by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20.

We believe in the inspired words of Ellen G. White:

“…for the prosperity of the home work depends largely, under God, upon the reflex influence of the evangelical work done in countries afar off.”
(Gospel Workers, p. 465)

Who Is Coordinating This Project?
The project coordination is under the leadership of the China Union Mission President, Bob Folkenberg Jr., and his wife, Audrey.

How Can I Make a Donation to This Project?
If the donation is coming directly from your local church, it can be sent with the church’s monthly remittance to the Conference, marked “China Connection.”

Individuals may make donations online at Adventist Giving through their local church web site. Members at local churches not currently participating in Adventist Giving may instead use Florida Conference’s Adventist Giving link.

Alternatively, checks made payable to Florida Conference Association may be written with “China Connection” noted then mailed to:

 Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
Attention: Andrew Elliott, Treasurer
P.O. Box 2626
Winter Park, FL 32790-2626

When Are Donations Due?
Commitments to this project are due April 30, 2014. Payment on these commitments should happen as soon as possible.

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An Army of Youth to Converge on Miami

posted on March 25, 2014, under Conference, Video Report by

by Pedro Perez, Florida Conference Youth Ministries Director

Have you ever heard the expression, “an army of youth?” This phrase comes from an Ellen White quote in which she envisions young people being properly trained to help prepare people for Jesus’ return. The Youth Ministries Department takes these words seriously. We are on a mission to train, equip, and deploy an army of young people.

One of the strategies in place to accomplish this is through the summer IMPACT events. The Youth Ministries Department is ready to launch its second summer mission trip experience, IMPACT Miami, June 22-29, 2014. The first was last summer in Orlando. The vision is to offer young people, ages 14+, a Florida mission trip opportunity. It will be affordable and focused on training young people to do ministry and develop their spiritual gifts.

Students will attend as missionaries for the week. We will train them how to go door to door, how to start a children’s ministry, how to start a video ministry, how to start a homeless ministry, how to start a sidewalk ministry, how to start an elderly/nursing home ministry, how to start a hospital ministry, how to conduct Vacation Bible School (VBS)/CREATION Health meetings, and more! We want to create opportunities for young people to partner with pastors and local churches to advance the ministry of their local church and community and, ultimately, grow God’s Kingdom. We have partnered with SALT (Service And Love Together—a group of young adults in Florida) to help with the training.

Every day, young people will participate in community service projects to help beautify the city as they share the love of Jesus. They will also receive practical training and put into practice the skills learned that day.

We want to see an army of young people trained, equipped, and deployed. We are putting plans in place to make this a reality. We hope you consider joining us with your young people for this life-changing experience. More info is at http://www.floridaconference.com/iym/youth/mission-trips/, or you can call (407) 644-5000 and ask for Micky Santiago.

It is exciting to see young people catapulted into prominent roles of leadership and service in the local church and strengthen what the church means to that community. Young people who attend this mission trip are poised to IMPACT their local towns, recruit friends to join them, and start ministries that will IMPACT others in the cities and towns from which they came.

We are especially excited to see how well this fits into the vision of Mission to the Cities launched by our president, Mike Cauley. We see that young people can play a key role in making Adventist churches in a city more familiar to members of the community and serve them better.

We are all on the same team, and we all want to move in the same direction—reaching our cities and reaching our young people. Together, we’re stronger. Together, we can do more. Together, we can advance God’s Kingdom. Together, we can raise an army of young people that will help Florida Conference, with its Mission to the Cities, make an IMPACT and prepare young people for a life of service.

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Impacto Miami 2014

posted on March 25, 2014, under Conference by

by Mike Cauley, D.Min., Florida Conference President

Alejandro Bullón preached, Steve Green sang, and 1,050 people responded to the Sabbath morning appeal.  Follow-up continues with those who came forward. (Photo: Freddy Fernandez)

Alejandro Bullón preached, Steve Green sang, and 1,050 people responded to the Sabbath morning appeal. Follow-up continues with those who came forward. (Photo: Freddy Fernandez)

As a part of Florida Conference’s Mission to the Cities initiative, more than 6,000 Adventists and more than 1,000 of their friends in the community gathered at Miami Airport Convention Center on February 1 for a Sabbath of preaching and celebration. The program featured Evangelist Alejandro Bullón and Christian singer Steve Green. Jay Perez, Florida Hospital Vice President for Mission and Service Excellence, presented a seminar on CREATION Health. Of the 1,050 people who responded to the appeal on Sabbath morning, the vast majority were visitors.

More than 1,000 people benefited from free health screenings. (Photo: Freddy Fernandez)

More than 1,000 people benefited from free health screenings. (Photo: Freddy Fernandez)

The following day, Sunday, February 2, Adventist churches of South Florida and Florida Hospital’s CREATION Health presented Total Health Expo 2014—a free health fair. The purpose of the health fair was to inspire, educate, and motivate families in the communities of south Florida to a better lifestyle.

Attendance at the event exceeded expectations. There were 4,000 people who received gifts and participated in services offered by 107 exhibitors from companies and organizations in the Miami area. We forged partnerships with five area hospitals, a region in which we have no Adventist health care presence, and they participated with Florida Hospital Orlando in providing oversight and thematic content. More than 1,000 people received screenings from area health care agencies.

Total Health 2014 Advocate Awards were presented to Karent Sierra, DDS, a dentist and local TV personality; Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez; and Revital Malca, Deputy General Consul for Israel to Florida and Puerto Rico.

The key events of Sunday’s activities included an Urban Strategies presentation explaining the Affordable Care Act, a cooking demonstration from Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN) Latino Cooking, and the presentation of five distinguished doctors who engaged in open conversation with the audience about various health issues affecting the community.

Southeastern Conference and Florida Conference joined forces for the weekend events. Hispanic church leaders from North American Division also attended.

Many evangelistic small groups preceded the Impact Miami endeavor across Miami/Dade County. After the weekend events, there were 30 evangelistic reaping meetings with 15 guest evangelists from places outside of Florida joining the effort. As a result of the reaping meetings, 178 were baptized!

Events planned in South Florida as part of the Mission to the Cities 2014 initiative include (subject to revision):

  • May 30-31—Church Planting Training Event
  • June 22-29—Impact Miami Youth Outreach
  • May 25-July 30—Student Magabook Program, Plantation
  • July 18-19—Magabook Youth Rally, Plantation
  • Aug. 1-2—Church Transformation Event
  • Aug.-Sept.—Small Group Evangelism, Hispanic Churches
  • Oct.-Nov.—Evangelism in Marathon, Florida Keys
  • Oct. 18-25—Reaping Evangelism in Most Churches
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A Miracle from God at Every Step

posted on March 25, 2014, under Church by

by Eliecer Vallejo, president, HACER Ministry Corporation

“My faith grew even more when I saw how God opened the doors for the different programs that we developed without resources. Every step was a miracle from God.”

Special events brought joy to children of families less fortunate. (Photo: Ramiro Machin)

Special events brought joy to children of families less fortunate. (Photo: Ramiro Machin)

God calls us to feed the hungry, help the widowed, assist the poor, and visit the sick. This became the desire of three members at West Palm Beach Spanish Church: myself, Eliecer Vallejo; my wife, Maria; and Daniela Miranda. What began in a small room at the church has grown to a group of 45 volunteers who share the same passion and commitment with God to serve those in need.

We open a food pantry on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, feeding more than 200 families. Biannual health fairs, in conjunction with the support of organizations like The Caridad Foundation and The Mission Medical Center, provide a variety of free exams, vaccinations, tests, and ultrasounds that otherwise might be unattainable for people in the community.

Health fairs were held with help from organizations in the community. (Photo: Sandra Ramirez)

Health fairs were held with help from organizations in the community. (Photo: Sandra Ramirez)

For the past seven years, our group, Hispanics in Community Action, Education, and Rehabilitation (HACER), has distributed Thanksgiving food packages to the less fortunate. Last year, we gave baskets to nearly 450 families. Each fall, we encourage the public to go online and contribute $25 which will provide a Thanksgiving meal for a family of four.

New projects are constantly surging, such as providing school supplies to children, immunizations, and seminars. The projects become possible when we join forces with other entities in the community who share our commitment.

Accommodations were renovated to house low-income families. (Photo: Ramiro Machin)

Accommodations were renovated to house low-income families. (Photo: Ramiro Machin)

In my personal life, I find that blessings often come from adversity. When a downturn in the real estate market occurred, I lost properties and financial stability. I used this extra time to make connections with area organizations that bring help and hope to families in worse situations than my own. This work brought me strength even in trying times.

The valuable connections I made with these local companies and foundations have contributed to building partnerships that are working for a better community.

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Lay Advisory Committee and Florida Conference Work to Hasten Christ’s Return

posted on March 25, 2014, under Conference by

by Eric Cantillo, Lay Advisory Committee Chairman

Lay Advisory Committee members at work, clockwise from left: Eric Cantillo, Santiago Cuellar, Joe Grasso, Thomson Paris, Adriel Bermudez, Michael Sutherland, Jimmy Mitchell, Eugene Torres, Josie Oates, Pat Holness. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Lay Advisory Committee members at work, clockwise from left: Eric Cantillo, Santiago Cuellar, Joe Grasso, Thomson Paris, Adriel Bermudez, Michael Sutherland, Jimmy Mitchell, Eugene Torres, Josie Oates, Pat Holness. (Photo: Martin Butler)

The Lay Advisory Committee is the layperson’s direct line of communication to Florida Conference Administration and Executive Committee. It is the voice of our laypeople working as a team with Conference leadership toward finishing God’s work.

If we are to continue moving forward in unity, just as the disciples did in the early church, we must listen to ideas, concepts, and troubles our constituents share, and pray that God will direct us in providing help with situations we can address, and intervene and guide those where we can only ask for His help.

The state-wide Lay Advisory Committee is committed to the following:

  1. Study problems identified by Conference officers or the local Lay Advisory Committee and make recommendations to the Conference Executive Committee and/or other appropriate persons.
  2. Receive reports from Conference officers and communicate the appropriate information to church members.
  3. Originate new concepts of activity and/or policy.
  4. Make informal evaluations of the effectiveness of Conference departments and programs.
  5. Help promote Conference programs in the churches.
  6. Solicit information from church members concerning problems or areas of concern they may have.

In order to facilitate these goals, a representative is chosen from each church to meet quarterly at their respective regional meeting. Listed in the table below are the newly elected state-wide Lay Advisory Committee members and their quarterly regional meeting locations.

There are three remaining quarterly regional meetings this year, convening at 10:00 a.m.:

  • Second Quarter—April 6
  • Third Quarter—July 13
  • Fourth Quarter—October 5

To participate in a meeting in your area, contact your local church lay activities worker or one of the individuals listed below with your concerns, suggestions, and comments. Together, we can facilitate the work in Florida Conference to hasten our Lord’s soon coming.

REGION CHAIRPERSON SECRETARY MEETING PLACE
North Florida Thomson Paris
t4christ@gmail.com
James Sirmans
jrsirmans@hotmail.com
High Springs Church
Ridge Pat Holness
pholness1@gmail.com
Felix Kelmes
fkelmes@yahoo.com
Arcadia Church
Gulf Alex Benitez
abenitez77@hotmail.com
Jimmy Mitchell
mitchellj9931@yahoo.com
Brandon Spanish Church
West Central Joe Grasso
joeyvilma@gmail.com
Tony Corbin
corbintony1@gmail.com
Forest Lake Church
East Central Ken Prachniak
cprackniak44@yahoo.com
Josie Oates
joates116@aol.com
Florida Conference Office
Upper Gold Adriel Bermudez
abermud1@gmail.com
Michael Sutherland
michaelshaen@yahoo.com
West Palm Beach First Church
Lower Gold Eric Cantillo
canti7@bellsouth.net
Freddie Poggi
fpoggie@yahoo.com
Miami Temple Church
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Mission Group Holds Inaugural Sabbath

posted on March 21, 2014, under Church by

The new Tampa Bay Filipino-American Mission Group received official recognition of organization from Florida Conference leaders on December 21, 2013. (Photo: Katty Castro)

The new Tampa Bay Filipino-American Mission Group received official recognition of organization from Florida Conference leaders on December 21, 2013. (Photo: Katty Castro)

by Orpha Ale Mineque

Members of Tampa Bay Filipino-American Mission Group in Clearwater, Fla., dedicated a special Sabbath to commemorate Florida Conference approval of their mission group status and inaugurate their 2014 officers. More than 100 guests attended the services, including friends from various churches, pastors, and church leaders. The group’s sponsoring congregations are Clearwater and St. Petersburg Churches.

Volunteer Lay Pastor Angel Lucena and church Elder Perry de Guzman had a burning desire to leave a legacy for the Church’s next generation. They wished to train young adults for serving the Lord and ignite them to organize a congregation. Lucena’s inspiration came from his father who started a church in the Philippines. Meanwhile, de Guzman envisioned organizing a mission group that would keep him motivated to spread the gospel.

During Tampa Bay Filipino-American Mission Group’s inaugural worship service, Walter Castro, Florida Conference Lay Ministries Coordinator, shared experiences and challenges he encountered in his ministry. Anthony WagenerSmith, Florida Conference Church Planting Coordinator, offered a dedicatory prayer. Orlando Filipino Church Pastor Daniel Catangay presented the sermon, “Our Identity with Jesus.”

In the afternoon, Castro and WagenerSmith reviewed the new congregation’s mission statement with group members and assisted them in developing communication, evangelism, and spiritual enrichment goals for 2014.

Additional photos from the organization service are available on the following Facebook photo album for Florida Conference Volunteer Lay Pastors.

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Spring Meadows Church Hosts Mission Conference

posted on March 21, 2014, under Church by

by Ted Bair

Spring Meadows Church members Dean Bixby, left, and Berkley Moss learn about mission opportunities in Adventist Frontiers magazine. (Photo: Ted Bair)

Spring Meadows Church members Dean Bixby, left, and Berkley Moss learn about mission opportunities in Adventist Frontiers magazine. (Photo: Ted Bair)

Spring Meadows Church near Sanford, Fla., recently held a Foreign Mission Conference. The Conference provided a forum for Adventist mission sponsors from around the world and potential volunteers to connect with each other.

This congregation has a history going back to the 1980s for conducting domestic and foreign mission projects. For years, members experienced the challenge of recruiting and placing volunteers and coordinating trips. As a result, the idea for a Mission Sabbath was born from the realization that other organizations might have the same issues.

Morning worship time included John Baxter, recruitment director for Adventist Frontier Missions, who encouraged members to participate in mission projects. Jennifer LaMountain and Rudy Micelli were the guest musicians. Also, teens and youth took part in an active mission project discussion.

More than 100 potential volunteers from central Florida came to hear the following afternoon presentations:

  • Paul Opp, People of Peru—abandoned children.
  • John Baxter, Adventist Frontier Missions—the challenge of 500 million Christians reaching 7 billion unreached people.
  • Madeline Torres, Guam Adventist Clinic—medical education.
  • Pia Soule, Spring Meadows Church—partnerships with Maranatha Volunteers, International; God’s Helping Hands; and Faith FM Belize.
  • Nancy Rorick, Spring Meadows Church—summary of the church’s upcoming mission trip to Panama in October 2014.

Following these presentations, 19 Foreign Mission Conference sponsors provided promotional material to participants. Members of the Spring Meadows Church Mission Committee were also available to answer questions.

As a result of the Conference, there were many serious conversations and information exchanges. A dozen people signed up for a Panama mission trip, and Guam Adventist Clinic received several applications for service.

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Food for Soul and Body Found at Walmart

posted on March 21, 2014, under Member by

by Naomi Zalabak

“Someday, I will go into that church,” said John Conyers as he walked past the Avon Park, Fla., Church. Little did he know that he would one day become a member.

On a November day in 2013, Alejandro Sarria, Bible Worker for Avon Park Church, stopped by Walmart intending to do a bit of shopping. He encountered John outside the store asking for food, as his family was destitute. Alejandro invited the man to come into Walmart, and he purchased several food items for the family.

As they left the store, Alejandro asked John if he would like to have Bible studies. Eagerly, the man accepted. After a series of studies, Avon Park Pastor Frank Gonzalez baptized John and his wife, Sherry Taylor, on January 18 into membership.

Where do you find subjects for God’s kingdom? Look among friends and neighbors—and at Walmart. “Cultivate an interest in people and an awareness of their needs,” says Alejandro Sarria who has developed a habit of offering Bible studies to everyone he meets.

 

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