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Helping Children Reach Their God-given Potential

posted on June 30, 2015, under Conference, Education by

Frank Runnelsby Frank Runnels, Vice President
Florida Conference Office of Education

I once attended a lecture highlighting the life of Thomas Edison and his most successful invention, the light bulb. The speaker stressed the value of learning to embrace failures as opportunities and developing perseverance as a talent for success. Also of note, Edison conducted more than 10,000 failed experiments before he achieved his ultimate success.

In reality, Edison never set out to create a light bulb. His purpose was to help people see in the dark, and I ultimately came to view Edison’s success in that purpose as the real triumph. Likewise, the staff of Florida Conference’s Office of Education believes its purpose goes far beyond the oversight and management of an education system. Instead, it is grounded in a belief that “every child has the right to reach their God-given potential,” which has become our department’s motto. This conviction fuels our passion, drives our mission, and motivates us to be and to do. It is best realized in our commitment to grow teachers, nurture students, support educators, and live Christ’s love.

Jeremy Davis, literacy teacher at Sawgrass Adventist School in Plantation, participated in this summer’s Reader’s Workshop. The training event incorporated student volunteers including Maggie Dehlinger, a third-grader from Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood. (Photo: Luke Evans)

Jeremy Davis, literacy teacher at Sawgrass Adventist School in Plantation, participated in this summer’s Reader’s Workshop. The training event incorporated student volunteers including Maggie Dehlinger, a third-grader from Forest Lake Education Center in Longwood. (Photo: Luke Evans)

We intentionally trust God to create a climate where Excellence in Education is again defined by the greatness of the One who is with us, in us, and for us. The outgrowths of this paradigm challenges students through a wealth of talented teachers, cutting-edge strategies, and meaningful content. We strive to produce learners who have truly been with and experienced Jesus (Acts 4:13). This, in turn, will produce an enduring culture where Christ is vividly portrayed as the Master Teacher and the One who is ever lovely, powerful, and present.

As a result, our moral imperative is to “value others the way our Heavenly Father values us.” A value not only grasped through curriculum, professional development, and initiatives, but that which also must be lived daily within the context of purposeful interactions and interpersonal relationships.

First seen within our education system, this value must then be extended into the communities where our schools exist. While we are grateful for the unparalleled support we receive from our Conference leadership, pastors, churches, hospitals, and constituents, we rejoice and praise God all the more for what He is doing through the lives of our colleagues who are helping students make decisions to follow Jesus. They tirelessly guide future leaders to understand and accept the sufferings with Christ to be of greater value than anything this world can offer (Hebrews 11:24-25).

That, to me, is the Gospel in education, and that purpose will invigorate and sustain us. The good news is that Christ is all, and He is with us! He is seen throughout our system—specifically in our students who will take His message to the world through academic prowess and purpose-driven careers.

I encourage your support, prayer, and commitment of your lives to these children who God will bless and use to light up this world with His glory. Please covenant with us in this journey to create a culture of innovation, character development, collaboration, civic mindedness, and academic, spiritual, and social excellence. This will uplift Christ while exposing the enemy for who he really is in this world—a liar and the defeated one!

The current issue of Florida Focus contains incredible stories occurring within our education system. These stories will also be available through the Florida Conference news feed. While I trust you will be inspired by new buildings, projects, committed leaders, and possibilities for the future, I hope most of all you see the imprints of our Savior Jesus Christ, our founder, foundation, and our all and all.

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Indigo Christian Academy Opens CREATION Hideout

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Stacey Tol

Indigo Christian Academy Principal Kari Wasmer and students Mariah Deavers, Quentin Fender, and Moses Silveira cut the ribbon that opened the new CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Indigo Christian Academy Principal Kari Wasmer and students Mariah Deavers, Quentin Fender, and Moses Silveira cut the ribbon that opened the new CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

As the newly-cut red ribbon floated to the ground on April 20, CREATION Hideout, a new play area at Indigo Christian Academy (ICA) in Daytona Beach, officially opened for business.

CREATION Hideout is aptly named. The nature-inspired play area occupies a shady spot in the school’s woods and was made possible by a Florida Hospital grant designated for projects inspired by CREATION Health. This concept is developed and used by Florida Hospital to educate people on eight key components of health and wellness:

Choice
Rest
Environment
Activity
Trust
Interpersonal relationships
Outlook
Nutrition

Calina Gibbs and her Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students stop for a photo at the CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Calina Gibbs and her Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten students stop for a photo at the CREATION Hideout playground. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Four years ago, ICA staff, led by Principal Kari Wasmer, worked with Florida Hospital and Florida Conference to interweave an emphasis of health and wellness into the school curriculum, culture, policy, and very fiber of ICA—becoming the pilot CREATION Health Adventist school.

Two years later, Florida Hospital set aside $1 million for worthy projects that embodied some or all of the CREATION Health principles. Learning of this, Daytona Beach Church Pastor Jerry Wasmer wrote a three-part grant proposal for ICA. The proposed outdoor learning environment included a nature-inspired play area, an outdoor classroom, and raised beds for a vegetable/herb garden.

Florida Hospital approved the project and gave more than $119,000 to fund it. Soon after, preparation and planning for the playground began. Bulldozers thinned the woods and cleared underbrush that surrounded the church and school.

Jerry and ICA Principal Kari Wasmer began working with Playworld Systems to create an original design for the play area. The final version included a small climbing wall, a slide, climbing steps, a bridge, and lots of lookouts and hideouts to feed kids’ imaginations.

The equipment pieces, designed to resemble stones, logs, and foliage, were manufactured in the United States from a polymer that gets neither too cold nor (critically for Florida) too hot to the touch. Two special panels of the playground were cut to match Jerry’s artistic renderings.

Kindergarden through second-grade students enjoy the CREATION Hideout playground’s climbing wall. (Photo: Martin Butler)

Kindergarden through second-grade students enjoy the CREATION Hideout playground’s climbing wall. (Photo: Martin Butler)

In early April, flatbed trucks, bulldozers, and cranes arrived at ICA to turn the planning into a reality. Students and teachers watched with fascination as multi-ton pieces were moved into place. In little more than a week, the work on CREATION Hideout and the outdoor classroom was completed.

With excitement in the air, Kari welcomed those gathered: ICA students, staff, and parents; Florida Conference representatives: Martin Butler, Communication Director, and Sandra Doran, Associate Superintendent of Education; and Daryl Tol, President/CEO of Florida Hospital Volusia/Flagler Market and of Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Following Jerry’s prayer of dedication, the ribbon was cut and CREATION Hideout officially opened. In moments, the play area became a happy buzz of activity.

The third part of the project proposal, the vegetable garden, is on the near horizon but not yet complete.

If you find yourself in the Daytona Beach area, take a walk in the woods behind ICA. Have a seat on one of the logs. Breathe in the pine-scented fresh air. Find rest. It will be good for your soul!

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Teachers Leave Legacies After Heartfelt Farewells

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Candy Bedford

When a study unit on sea life came up in Adele Jennings’ science class, she took her students on a shallow-water wading trip to Charlotte Harbor where nets filled with samples of ocean life drove the lesson home. (Photo: Adele Jennings)

When a study unit on sea life came up in Adele Jennings’ science class, she took her students on a shallow-water wading trip to Charlotte Harbor where nets filled with samples of ocean life drove the lesson home. (Photo: Adele Jennings)

What makes an Adventist school a success today? There are probably several contributing factors, but certainly one of them is the longevity of special teachers.

When new students look forward to a teacher their parents had, it speaks volumes about that teacher’s influence. Such is the case with two of the teachers at Port Charlotte Adventist School (PCAS). Sadly, we are saying farewell to Adele Jennings and Sandee Lawrence.

Adele Jennings

Adele Jennings

Adele Jennings, or Miss J as the students call her, recently finished her 43rd year of teaching. With a great love for God’s second book—nature—her classrooms have enjoyed bird watching around campus, butterfly tents, and raising baby chickens and chipmunks.

“What stands out most are all the blessings God has given me,” says Miss J as she thinks back over the years. “My goal for every child I have taught is that they know Jesus. It is a privilege to give our hearts to Jesus every morning and walk with Him throughout the day.

“What does the future hold for me? I take pictures of wild birds and will be doing more of that. I would love to get involved in giving Bible studies.” Recently at Port Charlotte Church, Miss J and her class of Kindergartners used sign language as they recited Psalm 91 from memory.

Sandee Lawrence

Sandee Lawrence

Sandee Lawrence is no stranger to Florida Conference. Born in Minnesota, her family moved to Florida where she graduated from Forest Lake Academy in 1966. After teaching assignments in other areas, she permanently moved to Port Charlotte in 1986 and began her legacy at PCAS, often managing multi-grade classrooms. Sandee has also held the position of vice principal over the years and acting principal in the absence of an administrator.

Outside of school, Sandee was involved with Liberty Voices from Walt Disney World and has made several professional CDs. She is also active in Port Charlotte Church’s music ministry. After retirement and 45 years of shaping young minds, she plans to pursue other activities such as traveling, community volunteer work, more music, and lots of reading.

“Even though you may be leaving us at Port Charlotte, Sandee and Miss J, you will long be remembered as the spiritual women that you are and for the guidance you freely gave during your careers. It is with heartfelt love and gratitude that we send you off to officially retire, but your legacies will live within our walls for years to come.” —The Staff and Students at PCAS

Randall ClausOn to Oregon!
Randall Claus, fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Port Charlotte Adventist School (PCAS), is currently on a 50-day, 3,900-mile bicycle journey from St. Augustine, Florida, to Medford, Oregon. Inspired by the Sager family’s mid-1800s journey along the Oregon Trail, Randall’s motivation is to meet new and interesting people, get some fresh air and exercise, and, most importantly, raise funds to purchase interactive white boards for PCAS classrooms. Follow Randall’s progress of tales and photos from his journey at http://www.ontooregon.com/

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New Kitchen House Coming to Orlando Junior Academy

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Ken Langdon, reprinted with permission from Edible Orlando

This artist rendering depicts the 3,000-square-foot Kitchen House and garden planned for Orlando Junior Academy.

This artist rendering depicts the 3,000-square-foot Kitchen House and garden planned for Orlando Junior Academy.

Construction will soon be under way on the new Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden at Orlando Junior Academy (OJA), thanks to generous contributions by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation and Florida Hospital for Children.

Designed in partnership with Midtown Architecture Studio and HuntonBrady Architects, the 3,000-square-foot, environmentally sustainable Kitchen House will be on East King Street, across from the OJA campus.

With a large veranda opening onto a 2,000-square-foot garden, the new facility will include a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen with four cooking stations. The entryway will be a reception area and retail store that will sell products such as jams and pickles made by the students.

The new facility will include a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen with four cooking stations.

The new facility will include a state-of-the-art teaching kitchen with four cooking stations.

Chef Kevin Fonzo of K Restaurant in College Park has been the mainstay behind the project since 2011. He will oversee the Kitchen House & Culinary Garden’s teaching and cooking operations along with Sarah Cahill, a certified raw food chef who has worked with Fonzo on the project since its inception.

Fonzo began his work at OJA seven years ago by providing healthy and delicious school lunches to the school’s 200 or so students, which led to the edible schoolyard and a cooking class. He now teaches a full day of classes once a week, incorporating the school’s curriculum into culinary lessons by teaching elements of math and science through food and cooking. His students are involved in each step of the process, from planting to harvest, and then cooking the foods they grow, including practical hands-on culinary experience.

OJA’s new Kitchen House & Culinary Garden is expected to open Spring 2016.

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The Joys of Teaching in a Small School

posted on June 30, 2015, under Education by

by Sandra Doran with Nancy Pinter

Naples, Florida, is known around the world for its warm, sunny beaches, high fashion, and yachts anchored in watery avenues behind spacious homes. But its greatest treasure is found not along the pristine shoreline or in the upscale shopping area, but on a quiet street on the west end of town: Naples Adventist Christian School. One day after school, I spoke with Nancy Pinter who was then the upper-grades teacher, and she told me about the joys of teaching in a small school.

Sandra Doran: Did you always want to become a teacher? Tell me a little bit about your background.

Nancy Pinter: I had a very troubled childhood. At the large public schools I attended, I felt invisible. I never thought the teachers cared or noticed the bad things happening in my life. Somehow, I found my way into Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) and began studying to be a doctor. Through the love and support of some wonderful Christian people, God came to me in a very powerful way, and I began to wonder, “What do I do with all this? What do you want for my life, God?”

SD: Up to this point, you had never even thought about becoming a teacher?

NP: No. Never. But over spring break, I visited my sister who was teaching school. Suddenly, I felt as if all of heaven was singing. It was almost like a giant light bulb was turned on above my head. I remember thinking, “So this is what it was all for.” I changed my major to education and have been teaching for many years. I can honestly say that I have never had a bad year of teaching. Even when I’ve been warned that I was going to have a bad class, it has never happened. I have loved every single teaching experience I have ever had. It’s just amazing. I still pinch myself and think, “I get paid for this? This is my job?”

SD: Wow! That’s incredible! You must truly love children.

NP: I thrive on the energy of kids. I have my best ideas when they are with me. I love to have kids after school with me. I can stay focused better with kids around. Their very presence stimulates me.

SD: And you feel that energy and connectedness more keenly when you are teaching in a small school?

NP: Most definitely. When I began my career in Pennsylvania, I was offered a position at the local Adventist school teaching two grades. Instead, I chose to commute 60 miles each way with a four-year-old and seven-year-old so my children could have a one-room school experience. My own kids are nontraditional, and I didn’t want them in a traditional environment. I’ve never regretted that decision. This was the absolute best thing I could have done for them. And in terms of my own career, I learned to love everything that a small school has to offer.

SD: Have you ever taught in a large school?

NP: Yes, and I quickly discovered it wasn’t for me. There’s this glamour thing about wanting to be in a big school. I fell prey to that like anybody else. I ended up with 75 sixth graders, and I was dying under the workload. I taught reading, but I never had the chance to figure out most of their reading levels. With the departmentalized model, I was just moving kids in and out of the room all day. The schedule drove everything. I would plan all these things I wanted to do, but I could never do them. There were so many things happening every day that were out of my control. In a one-room school, I always feel like I am the one who is accountable. I know I will have these kids again next year. There is no putting off what they need.

SD: So the small school setting offers you the chance to run your own show, and plan a flexible schedule that meets the needs of the kids?

NP: Yes, definitely. Let me tell you about a boy I had in my room one year. Before joining my eighth-grade class in January, he spent the first semester in reform school, having faced suspension after suspension and, ultimately, arrest. He was stuck in a cycle, unable to break the patterns of his life. When he was released from reform school, his family asked if I would accept him into my classroom. From the day he came here, I could never even imagine that this kid was in any trouble. The small school setting allowed me the luxury of getting to know him; I was able to treat him like a person worthy of respect, and he returned the favor. I’ve discovered something: the kids who have never had goodness shown to them are the ones who treat you the best. It’s like they are basking in something they’ve never known before.

SD: The old patterns are gone?

NP: Yes. He had a parole officer here once a month to check on him. The boy was in eighth grade, and he didn’t know how to subtract. Where else but a place like this is he going to be able to stay after school and get help? He didn’t have to deal with what he had to deal with before. There was no one to impress. It was a small school, and we were there for one another.

SD: That’s another thing you like about small schools? The lack of pressure to conform?

NP: That’s one of the things on my list! (See sidebar, below.)

SD: Do you think you’ll spend the rest of your career in the classroom?

NP: I’ve been encouraged to go into administration. I’m not interested. All I want to do is hang out with kids. I want to hear what they think. Kids are always going to be kids. I’m not naïve enough to think I can change that. I’ve scaled down my expectations. I used to think I would go out and change the world. That’s God’s thing. But you know what? I can change a kid’s day. I can provide an emotionally safe place for students. As an adult, I can take the time to hear what young people have to say. That is good enough for me.

Reprinted with permission, The Journal of Adventist Education,® v77n3 (2015), pp. 12-14

Sandra Doran, Ed.D., is an Associate Superintendent of Education at Florida Conference. She has taught on every level from preschool through graduate school and provides training and resources for teachers around the country.

Sandra Doran, Ed.D., is an Associate Superintendent of Education at Florida Conference. She has taught on every level from preschool through graduate school and provides training and resources for teachers around the country.

Nancy Pinter, B.S., recently completed 30 years of teaching. She has taught every grade from kindergarten through high school. Teaching math to struggling students is her passion, and she has completed master’s level courses in teaching algebraic principles to elementary students. In June 2014, she relocated to teach at Harrisburg Adventist School in Pennsylvania.

Nancy Pinter, B.S., recently completed 30 years of teaching. She has taught every grade from kindergarten through high school. Teaching math to struggling students is her passion, and she has completed master’s level courses in teaching algebraic principles to elementary students. In June 2014, she relocated to teach at Harrisburg Adventist School in Pennsylvania.

Nancy’s Top 10 Reasons to Love Small Schools

  1. I can begin a school year and not take three weeks getting to know my students’ math, reading, and writing levels.
  2. Students learn to take care of themselves. I make it a rule to never do for them what they can do for themselves—and with only 10 students, tasks can get done in an efficient and timely manner.
  3. Children are like gas molecules—they fill whatever “container” they are in. I am fascinated how a classroom of 10 can feel like a classroom of 25. In a small school, children can express themselves more freely. Those who sat in a corner and never asked questions in a large classroom often will chatter away about themselves in a small one.
  4. I get to teach many subjects. Some people love to just teach one subject. Not me. By teaching science, math, literacy, Bible, and social studies, I stay fresh and interested.
  5. I know the names of every one of my students’ parents, their dogs, cats, birds, siblings, and what they got for Christmas.
  6. Students learn more real-life people skills. Do you only socialize with people who are your own age? In a small school, students learn to live with people older and younger than themselves.
  7. Students learn to work out their differences. In a larger classroom when my students had fights, they just moved on to another group. In a small school, you don’t have another group to go to, so you work it out.
  8. Students feel less of a need to be cool. After all, when there are only three seventh- and eighth-graders, who are you trying to impress? Many young people turn their lives around in a small school. It is a wonderful place to grow up slowly.
  9. I can grade every math problem and read every sentence my students write. In everything students do, there is a message: this is who I am, this is what I care about. I don’t miss any of those revelations.
  10. You are not a slave to someone else’s schedule. If you and your class think math is better in the afternoon for that day, you can do it!
  11. Okay, I couldn’t stop at 10! One-on-one time has to be the greatest reason. Most teachers don’t teach because of curriculum and methods; they teach because of children. A small school is the best place to get to know, teach, mold, mentor, and love children.
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Ocala Youth Catch the Vision to Serve

posted on June 24, 2015, under Church by

From left: Amanda Raices, Gerimar Medina, Kaylee Asencio, and Rosmarie Orta were among the 30 young people who helped serve 100 meals at the Outreach Ocala event. (Photo: Zoe Arauz)

From left: Amanda Raices, Gerimar Medina, Kaylee Asencio, and Rosmarie Orta were among the 30 young people who helped serve 100 meals at the Outreach Ocala event. (Photo: Zoe Arauz)

by Herb Pritchard

Eager to serve the homeless and needy, Ocala Church youth sponsored Outreach Ocala on a Sunday in March at the Tuscawilla Park pavilion. This type of outreach was promoted by Generation of Youth for Christ (an Adventist-laymen’s Services & Industries ministry) to encourage young people around the world to spread the love of Jesus in their communities.

Outreach Ocala began in the afternoon with the first 100 individuals receiving a care package including: socks, soap, granola bars, a blanket, and three GLOW tracts (Giving Light to Our World is a Pacific Union Conference Literature Ministries’ program). During the afternoon, 57 people received haircuts, 30 received massages, and nearly 100 enjoyed the meals provided.

“Thank you for what you have done for us here today,” said one homeless visitor. “It means the world to us. I know the Lord will bless all your efforts.” Testimonies like this made the efforts of organizer Gabriella Orta and her co-planner, Shadai Perez, worthwhile.

“…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” —Matthew 25:40 (NKJV)

Ocala member Carol Claytor helped provide haircuts for 57 people who participated at Outreach Ocala. (Photo: Zoe Arauz)

Ocala member Carol Claytor helped provide haircuts for 57 people who participated at Outreach Ocala. (Photo: Zoe Arauz)

Ocala member Robert Kvetko, right, helped distribute religious literature to community visitors at Outreach Ocala. (Photo: Zoe Arauz)

Ocala member Robert Kvetko, right, helped distribute religious literature to community visitors at Outreach Ocala. (Photo: Zoe Arauz)

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Love at Compass Communities Draws Precious Souls to Jesus

posted on June 24, 2015, under Church by

Compass Communities Company recently welcomed 10 new members through baptism after presenting Dave Smith’s Following Jesus NET evangelism series. Front row from left: Amber Morrow, Fawn Morrow, Mark Anthony Perez, Davion Ramos, Alivia Woodring, Cassidy Naekel. Back row from left: Roger DeWald, Donald Huck, Adam Shawn Raposa, Jacqueline Fields. (Photo: Rodney Grussling)

Compass Communities Company recently welcomed 10 new members through baptism after presenting Dave Smith’s Following Jesus NET evangelism series. Front row from left: Amber Morrow, Fawn Morrow, Mark Anthony Perez, Davion Ramos, Alivia Woodring, Cassidy Naekel. Back row from left: Roger DeWald, Donald Huck, Adam Shawn Raposa, Jacqueline Fields. (Photo: Rodney Grussling)

by Donna Dunbar

Compass Communities Company in Port Charlotte targets two groups of people for relationships: Homeless friends (alcoholics, drug addicts, etc.) and Youth (reaching youth in public schools and journeying with them as they are introduced to our best friend, Jesus).

Our Homeless Friends
Meeting in a soup kitchen with a small group of nearly 60 believers, the church began the new year by presenting Pastor Dave Smith’s Following Jesus NET evangelism series with an interactive discussion after each sermon. Homeless individuals participated and many desired to join the body of Christ as they saw members model the love found in the messages of Pastor Smith. As the series unfolded, 10 people were loved into the church and gave their hearts to the Lord through baptism.

In serving the homeless population, Compass Communities meets their needs by providing food, companionship, physical needs, and help with addictions. I believe it is God’s love flowing through us that makes all this possible. Our little church is growing because the members are, one by one, starting to live out the messages of Following Jesus.

Partnering with Wyldlife
If someone had told me two years ago that I would be working with middle-schoolers, I would have thought they were crazy. We had nothing in common.

I truly believe God has a sense of humor, because He put me in just the right place at the right time with Port Charlotte Pastor Ben Shurtliff who told me there were 8,000 kids in our community who did not know Christ. Then, he told me about the nondenominational Young Life program, WyldLife—a ministry that reaches out to middle-schoolers. My team at Compass Communities supported me in my desire to work with these kids, even though team members are unable to fit their schedules around school hours.

The first day in Port Charlotte Middle School, you would have heard my knees knocking. I was totally out of my element. I began to pray, “Father, help me to reach Your kids for Your kingdom. Give me the kids I need to speak to and the words to say, because I haven’t a clue how to reach them.” And, He did!

Week after week, I learned the kids’ names and little things about them. I helped them with school fundraisers, took them to the mall, and started building relationships. My husband and I spent our 20th anniversary taking kids to WyldLife Camp.

I also felt impressed to start a Campaigner’s Club—a disciple-making part of WyldLife. We met weekly with swimming parties at my home, and some of the kids came to church with me. Joseph, one of the boys we sponsored, accepted Jesus and was baptized.

At a fall camp, we took Amber, an autistic girl who wouldn’t let anyone touch her. Although we couldn’t touch her with our hands, some of my girls and I touched her heart by singing the secular song, “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars.

I watched Amber change before my eyes as she said, “I just want to be like everyone else.” She accepted Jesus and started attending Compass Communities. Her family was overjoyed, and her mom joined Amber in baptism. Several other young people have also been baptized.

In Conclusion
These are the people we minister to week after week. It is our prayer at Compass Communities that we learn to love like Jesus and not see the problems, just the finished product and picture that He sees. Jesus is just waiting for one more WyldLife child or one more of our homeless friends to join the mission to grow our little church through His message of love.

We long to have a building of our own in the same neighborhood so we can continue ministry to our homeless friends and have a place where we can meet more than once a week for a few hours. We would love to have a Pathfinder club and small groups. I know when the time is right, God will provide.

I am so glad that God called me to Compass Communities! When He calls you, He equips you. I don’t know where He is calling you, but I know that He will. When He does, just go with it. It will be the journey of a lifetime!

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Church Transformation: A Pastor’s Journey

posted on June 24, 2015, under Church, Conference by

Bob Hayes, pastor of Palm Coast Church, teaches a CREATION Health class in the community. (Photo: Michelle Morton)

Bob Hayes, pastor of Palm Coast Church, teaches a CREATION Health class in the community. (Photo: Michelle Morton)

by Bob Hayes

The following article is my personal journey through the church transformation process. It is not my intent to imply that my journey should be yours, or become the new blueprint for churches. By sharing this, it is my hope that you will find inspiration to assist you in building God’s Kingdom wherever you find yourself serving the Master.

I was originally taught a cycle of evangelism that went like this:

  1. Do prework (give Bible studies, door to door, smoking cessation programs and health fairs, send out handbills, etc.).
  2. Hold evangelistic campaign.
  3. Do follow-up work (visitation, seminars, Pastor’s Bible class, etc.).

All this worked well for a while, but we continued to see less church participation and poor attendance at meetings. Not to mention spending thousands of dollars for limited results! When I attended evangelism workshops on how to get better results, I always walked away hearing the same solution: “Work harder at prework and follow-up; pray more.” I did this; however, I continued to see the same poor results—with a lot of hard work and spending as much as $40,000 on an evangelistic campaign. I have come to label this model as the “STP” model for my churches. It seemed to always be the Same Ten People doing all the work. I became so frustrated with this process that being in ministry began to lose all its joy and I wanted out.

During this time, Florida Conference began to send us to seminars on Church Transformation and encouraged us to allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and our congregation back to a discipleship model.

Following some of what I had learned, I prayerfully formed a Dream Team. When I met with my team, I asked them to prayerfully do an evaluation of how we were doing at carrying out the gospel commission. The first thing we did was to biblically define what a disciple of Jesus looks like. We then asked the question, “How is our church doing at reaching people and providing the environment for the Holy Spirit to develop disciples of Jesus?” We were a busy church as far as activities and programs were concerned, but in our assessment, we were failing at producing disciples for Jesus—people who love God and live their lives wholly devoted to Him. As a result of this self-evaluation, we came up with a three-phase plan:

Phase 1: Re-education
Discipleship classes to help people understand the purpose of God’s church; what their individual role is; what gifts God has blessed them with; and how to use those gifts/passions in the community to advance God’s kingdom. After a participant finishes this discipleship class, we interview them in order to assist them in placement in either one of our church’s ministries, or a ministry within the community. The goal in doing this is because we know that service is a part of God’s plan for transforming our characters: “The only way to grow in grace is to be disinterestedly doing the very work which Christ has enjoined upon us—to engage, to the extent of our ability, in helping and blessing those who need the help we can give them.” —Steps to Christ, p. 80

Phase 2: Becoming Community-based
Jesus was known in the communities He visited as One who was filled with “…the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” —Acts 10:38 (NKJV) We wanted to pattern ourselves after the life of Jesus. We based our community outreach on the blueprint of Isaiah 58 where God commissions us “…To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free…to share your bread with the hungry…When you see the naked, that you cover him…” He promises us, “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” —Isaiah 58:6-8 (NKJV) So we began to pray about our community and how we could come in line with the blueprint of Isaiah 58. Once we stepped out into the community, God continued to open doors for us to minister.

Phase 3: Continuing Education
Based on Jesus’ model with His disciples where He sent them out and then continued to teach them, we continue to educate our members in order to strengthen each individual’s walk with God while sharpening their skills in soul winning.

So what is the fruit of all this? Well, we are becoming known in the community as a people who go about doing good. Each Sabbath we see more and more visitors from our community. We see growth in the lives of our members who are participating and becoming more like Jesus. The atmosphere within our church family is one of love and acceptance. Our retention of newly baptized members has gone from approximately 10% to 80%. Church attendance has gone from 150 to 300 on Sabbath mornings. With regard to stewardship, tithes and offerings just keep increasing.

Personally, I have never been more fulfilled in my ministry. Satan throws his arrows of course, but I am not afraid for my eyes are on Jesus. I praise God for all He is doing. May God guide all of you as you serve Him. If I can help you in any way, feel free to e-mail me at bhayes1319@aol.com

Reprinted by permission of the North American Division Best Practices for Adventist Ministry pastor newsletter.


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Saved In Prison

posted on June 03, 2015, under Conference, Member by

by Rebecca Knecht

Rebecca Knecht reconnects with pen pal Iralee Medder who encouraged Rebecca while she was in prison. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Rebecca Knecht reconnects with pen pal Iralee Medder who encouraged Rebecca while she was in prison. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

I’m a third-generation Adventist. I attended 12 grades and some college in Adventist schools. I sang solos and was a choir member. My children were Pathfinders, and I was on the staff. You may say, “So what? A lot of people have done that. There’s nothing special here.”

Life changed the day I found myself standing in front of a judge, hearing the word “Guilty.” What just happened? I told the truth. My daughter and son told the truth. How did a jury not believe us?

I was sentenced to 8½ years in prison, plus five years probation, for something I didn’t do. I couldn’t even comprehend the length of my sentence and had no idea how I would get through, but God knew.

Arriving at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida, I was terrified! After settling in, I found a chapel list on the bulletin board and learned that a local Adventist church came on Friday evenings. I was so excited to attend their service before I was transferred to Gadsden Correctional Facility near Tallahassee, Florida—five hours from family and friends. After getting situated, I found, to my disappointment, that no Adventist church held services there.

However, one day I saw a Florida Conference Prison Ministries newsletter, and I was elated. I opened the pages and saw where I could write to ask for prayer and a pen pal. I mailed off my requests.

I started receiving the monthly newsletter, and it wasn’t long until I met Iralee Medder through the Prison Ministries pen pal section. Her letters were inspirational and uplifting, and she often sent stamps. Sometimes, she sent copies of songs from the church hymnal. She also made sure I had the Adult Sabbath School Quarterly with Ellen G. White Helps. She faithfully wrote to me the remainder of time I was in prison.

Florida Conference Prison Ministries newsletters were a “God thing” that helped Rebecca through a difficult time in her life. As a Christian singer, Rebecca regularly visits churches to perform and share her testimony. She can be reached at knechtrebecca@yahoo.com (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Florida Conference Prison Ministries newsletters were a “God thing” that helped Rebecca through a difficult time in her life. As a Christian singer, Rebecca regularly visits churches to perform and share her testimony. She can be reached at knechtrebecca@yahoo.com (Photo: Lee Bennett)

After I had served my required 12+ months in Gadsden, I requested a move to Hernando Correctional Institution to be closer to family and friends. I wrote to Iralee and asked her to visit. Pen pals didn’t usually visit the inmates, but the authorities made an exception and gave her permission to see me.

After Iralee’s visitation was approved, she came to see me the next Sabbath. It was wonderful to finally meet my pen pal! We enjoyed visiting while a family member patiently waited for her.

When I was released in 2008, I returned to my home town to start probation. After completing less than nine months of a five-year probation, I requested a termination of my probation, and it was granted. My probation officer said he had never seen anything like that in all his time as a deputy and a probation officer. I looked at him and said, “It’s a God thing.” In 2009, I rededicated my life to God, and Iralee attended my rebaptism.

It was a “God thing,” all right. God was with me before I went to prison, He saved me in prison and when I was on probation, and He has been with me every day since. That’s why I pray, “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for your Son, Jesus; for Iralee; and for Florida Conference Prison Ministries for helping me through a difficult time.”

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Ocala Young People Conduct Worship Service

posted on June 03, 2015, under Church by

by Herb Pritchard

Ian Robison presented his sermon challenging the audience to arise and serve as soldiers of Christ. (Photo: Joshua Asencio)

Ian Robison presented his sermon challenging the audience to arise and serve as soldiers of Christ. (Photo: Joshua Asencio)

You name it—church greeters, elders, deacons, children’s story, prayer, special music, the Sabbath sermon—and the Ocala Church Pathfinders/Adventurers, ages 6 to 14, handled it at a recent worship service.

Addisen Raices and Rachel Parker served as greeters at Ocala Church, assisted by North Area Zone A Cluster Coordinator Cherrie Betaudier who lent her support to Ocala’s special Sabbath. (Photo: Joshua Asencio)

Addisen Raices and Rachel Parker served as greeters at Ocala Church, assisted by North Area Zone A Cluster Coordinator Cherrie Betaudier who lent her support to Ocala’s special Sabbath. (Photo: Joshua Asencio)

Sermon presenter Ian Robison, age 12, challenged youth and members as soldiers of Christ to arise just as Samuel and Timothy did in their service for God. “The Holy Spirit was there,” said member Trudi Sykes, “and we all felt the call. It was a high Sabbath, and we are still talking about the wonderful experience.”

Pathfinder Director John Bott resurrected the formerly dormant club, commencing with the 2014-2015 church officer year. With his wife, Laura, and two children, Joshua and Emily, John strongly believes in the biblical admonition of Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

“My vision is to give children the opportunity to experience Jesus with hands on activities,” says Adventurer leader Brenda Parker.

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