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Florida-funded Pioneer Teams Report from China

posted on November 28, 2015, under Conference by

by Audrey Folkenberg

Project PandaFlorida Conference members are partnering with Chinese Union Mission’s Project Panda in support of 36 indigenous two-person church-planting teams. These pioneer teams share the love of Jesus in unreached areas of China.

According to recent reports, one of the teams welcomed more than 60 nonChristians to health seminars. Three families from the church invited their parents to participate. After attending the health programs and accepting Bible truth, two of the parents gave up their fortune-telling practices. They changed their diet and living habits, and decided to observe the Sabbath.

Another team reported they are sharing Jesus through social services. “We held health fairs on 30 different occasions in the streets. A total of 613 people were served. While waiting for health checkups, we spoke to people about Jesus as church members spread gospel tracts around our service area. Some gave us their contact information and we continue to visit them, especially those near our house church.”

Thank you, Florida Conference members, for your financial and prayerful support of pioneer teams who are sharing Christ in China. Please pray that seeds which are sown by these teams will bring about a great harvest.

For updates about the Chinese church-planting teams, contact Project Panda staff at kgrowth.org.

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Oh No—Probate!

posted on November 10, 2015, under Conference by

by Gloria Becker

Probate“HELP! I just probated my parents’ estate, and I don’t want my children to go through this aggravation. What can I do?” In the Florida Conference Development and Planned Giving office, we hear this question quite often. How can people avoid the expense of probate and the delay in settling their loved ones’ affairs?

Simply put, probate is the process by which a court oversees your estate, including paying off your debts and distributing your remaining assets. Essentially, this process concludes all your legal and financial matters after your demise. The court will distribute assets according to your Will. If there is no Will, the court will follow the state rules for estate distribution.

What Are the Advantages of Probate?
The probate process:

  • Validates your Will and confirms the appointment of the Executor (or Personal Representative) you stipulated in your Will.
  • Supervises the Executor to ensure that debts are properly paid, claims are resolved, and property is distributed according to the Will.
  • Limits time for creditors to make a claim against the estate.

What Are the Disadvantages of Probate?
There are some disadvantages of probate, including:

  • Probate costs can be expensive with fees for attorneys, executor, accounting, filing, and other miscellaneous charges. Administrative fees can consume between 5% and 10% of your estate.
  • Your estate does not have privacy since your Will, beneficiary and asset information, and creditor claims are all matters of public record.
  • The probate process is inflexible as it must adhere to state statutes and strict court rules.
  • The time frame to probate your estate can be as little as six months, if it’s a simple Will, or two years or longer for a more complicated Will.

How Can I Avoid Probate?
Here are a few tips to avoid probate:

  • Establish a Revocable Trust and transfer your assets to the trust.
  • Legally co-own your home, car, or bank accounts with another person in joint tenancy.
  • Name beneficiaries on your checking/savings accounts, life insurance, pension plans, and IRAs.

Do I Need an Advisor and/or Lawyer?
It is highly recommended that you seek counsel from an estate planning consultant.

The good news is that the Florida Conference Development and Planned Giving Department has a consultant team ready to assist you in putting together your plan. We work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Together, we can familiarize you with your best options.

And there’s more good news: If you are a constituent member of a Florida Conference church, the service is FREE to you, so contact us today.

(407) 644-5000 x2241
planned.giving@floridaconference.com

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Film Workshop Inspires Orlando Filmmaker Meetups

posted on November 10, 2015, under Conference by

 

Sixty-two of 80+ weekend participants gathered for a photo at the close of the August 1-2 film workshop at Florida Conference headquarters in Altamonte Springs. When the group was asked what attracted them to the event, one answer perfectly summed up the reason: "For love of film. For love of God. For love of creating films for the Creator." (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Sixty-two of 80+ weekend participants gathered for a photo at the close of the August 1-2 film workshop at Florida Conference headquarters in Altamonte Springs. When the group was asked what attracted them to the event, one answer perfectly summed up the reason: “For love of film. For love of God. For love of creating films for the Creator.” (Photo: Lee Bennett)

by Martin Butler

SONscreen | Ignite Florida, an early August film workshop, found Florida Conference’s communication and youth departments partnering with North American Division (NAD) for a weekend of networking and learning opportunities including workshops, seminars, film screenings, a pitch panel, and a mini movie challenge.

This first regional event associated with NAD’s annual SONscreen Film Festival, featured presenters Nathan Nazario and Rik Swartzwelder (Old Fashioned); Jeremy Rowland (Prodigal); Mark Comberiate (I Will Not Fear); Julio Muñoz, SONscreen Film Festival executive producer; Tami Cinquemani, Florida Hospital Church worship director; Stephen Majors, True Health Television Network lead editor; and Stanley Pomianowski, freelance filmmaker.

Acrobat PDF files of presenter handouts, videos of all the mini movie challenge entries, and a link to the Prodigal film are available at floridaconference.com/sonscreenignite as well as a link to the SONscreen | Ignite Facebook Group.

“Getting to interact with successful Christian writers, directors, and producers was most beneficial,” stated one attendee in summarizing the weekend. “Truly, it was an opportunity to network, share, and inspire with like-minded film makers.”

Recognizing the benefits of continued training and opportunities to have new projects critiqued, Pomianowski volunteered to host Orlando Filmmaker Meetup at Florida Conference headquarters the second Sunday evening of each month. Meetups began in September with each one featuring a film industry leader. Information on past meetups and future gatherings can be found at facebook.com/orlandofilmmaker.

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And the Walls Came Tumbling Down

posted on November 07, 2015, under Conference, Relocation by

"The demolition of our former Winter Park conference office during October 2015 causes me to recall the dramatic way in which God miraculously opened the door to acquire our present facility in Altamonte Springs," said Mike Cauley, Florida Conference President, after he saw photos of the walls coming down. "Who would have thought when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) told us they were going to widen Interstate 4 and that we needed to find a new home, God would lead us in such a marvelous way?" The entire Wymore Road property was purchased by the FDOT as part of the Interstate 4 expansion project. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

“The demolition of our former Winter Park conference office during October 2015 causes me to recall the dramatic way in which God miraculously opened the door to acquire our present facility in Altamonte Springs,” said Mike Cauley, Florida Conference President, after he saw photos of the walls coming down. “Who would have thought when the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) told us they were going to widen Interstate 4 and that we needed to find a new home, God would lead us in such a marvelous way?” The entire Wymore Road property was purchased by the FDOT as part of the Interstate 4 expansion project. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

 

On July 26, 1992, U.S. Congressman Bill McCollum, left, and Florida Conference President Obed Graham cut the ribbon during grand opening ceremonies for the new Wymore Road office. (Photo: Cindy Kurtzhals)

On July 26, 1992, U.S. Congressman Bill McCollum, left, and Florida Conference President Obed Graham cut the ribbon during grand opening ceremonies for the new Wymore Road office. (Photo: Cindy Kurtzhals)

 

Employees gathered for one last group photo at 655 N. Wymore Road for Florida Conference's 120th anniversary. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Employees gathered for one last group photo at 655 N. Wymore Road for Florida Conference’s 120th anniversary. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

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Paradigm Shift: Building Momentum Through Relationally-based Evangelism

posted on November 07, 2015, under Conference by

by Mike Cauley, D.Min.
Florida Conference President

I have always loved public evangelism: the energy in preparing for the opening night, getting to know those whom the Lord has brought through advertising and member invitations, building a prayer list of those who are contemplating full surrender to Christ, visiting people in their homes, and trying to move them to a decision by the final Sabbath of the five- or six-week campaign.

Relational Evangelism

Relational Evangelism

I am very indebted to this wonderful process as my mother came into the church through public meetings. Those evangelists who brought many people to Jesus and into the Adventist movement over the years through this method are true heroes.

But change has overtaken the American culture at warp speed. Around 30% of people under age 35 (20% of the general population) report no religious affiliation of any kind—Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc. A lack of respect for Christianity is evident in the media and pop culture. Biblical illiteracy is the new norm. Simple Bible stories are unknown to most people. Many young people have never been inside a church except to attend a wedding or a funeral.

In 2015, only 14% of Floridians attend church. About 90% of the population resides in metro regions, and society is becoming increasingly secular. Unfortunately, the trusted methods of yesterday do not work in reaching young adults. African-Americans, Caucasians, and second- or third-generation people from Latin or Caribbean families are no longer as responsive to traditional methods. Yet, people must be reached with a Christ-centered message of hope and wholeness.

If we are going to remain effective, we must establish new methods in more long-term, relational strategies. About 70 years ago, people were hungry for information. Today, they can access more information with their smart phones than they know what to do with. What they are now hungry for are genuine relationships.

I recently interviewed Roger Hernandez, Ministerial Director for Southern Union Conference. He is using methods strongly tied to relationships between members and people who are far from God. Here are some of the things I learned from methods he is piloting:

PregnancyEvangelism Is Like Having a Baby
A shift from a short preparation process with a long evangelistic campaign to a long preparation process followed by a short campaign.

Hernandez likens the evangelistic process to having a baby. Bringing a baby into the world involves three things:

Conception. This may be likened to making friends in the community. It is an ongoing process for a disciple-making church, but there is a renewed focus upon this principle at the start of the evangelistic countdown.

Pregnancy. This is likened to the momentum established in the church as the congregation continues to make and cultivate friendships in the community through various avenues of service. Just as a mother prepares for childbirth for nine months by attending training classes, reading books, etc., this new evangelism model is also a nine-month process.

Delivery. In childbirth, the preferred outcome is for the delivery process to be shorter rather than longer. If the labor extends too long, it isn’t the ideal. If enough relationships with nonbelievers have been cultivated, a lot can be accomplished by a one-week (eight nights) evangelistic program. The momentum will build because much work is already being done with people in their homes.

Hand the CrossEvery Member a Minister
A shift from depending upon paid evangelistic workers to training volunteer church members to be missionaries where they live and work each day.

Every evangelist I ever worked with wished the harvest would be prepared before the meetings opened, but members were not taught the biblical concept of every member a minister. Frankly, we preachers didn’t understand it either. Evangelism and ministry were considered to be the pastor’s job, but a renewed emphasis on every member being a minister is changing the way members think. Interestingly enough, this concept has always been present in the writings of Ellen White. When put into action, the number of new members who remain after baptism is increasing.

In Hernandez’ model, a large-scale launch to prepare the church is held nine months ahead of public meetings. At the rally, an appeal is made for members to work with their pastor and attend all of the monthly training events. Here are some of the trainings:

Intercessory Prayer. Training in intercessory prayer is provided at the outset. Later in the preparation process leading up to the public meetings, a 40 Days of Prayer event is organized, and it becomes a spiritual revival for the congregation. The prayers are especially targeted toward people who don’t know the Lord.

Service. Service is the most practical and essential component for preparation. Research today tells us that service is a foundational element in helping people grow to maturity in Christ. When 40 Days of Service was conducted last year in West Palm Beach, it was exciting to see our churches come alive with engagement around this model: free car washes, painting houses of people in the neighborhood near the church, and doing good deeds for older people in the community. The multitude of service projects carried forth by young people, middle-age, and older members was transformative:

  • How to relate to nonChristian and nonAdventist friends and visitors in a way that is winsome.
  • Leading a community Bible study.
  • How to retain new members. These new methodologies focused upon relational strategies resulted in a 30-40% increase in retention.
  • How to help people make decisions.

InvitationPersonal Invitations
A shift from depending upon mass mail to personal invitations.

The money usually spent on mailing brochures is spent on a small wage for a couple of people who will give Bible studies for three months before the start of the eight-night series. These are temporary hires, but members are also trained to give Bible studies as volunteers. In the past, since pastors and evangelists were trying to do everything, churches looked to public advertising to bring people to the meetings—and it worked! My mother joined the Adventist Church after she saw meetings advertised in the local newspaper. Unfortunately, today, fewer people respond to mailers, newspaper advertising, and posters. Members may hand out advertisements to those with whom they have established a relationship.

SermonPractical Sermons
A shift from a month-long series to a one-week series.

Hernandez conducts baptisms each night and calls for decisions, since people have been studying the Bible in homes for months. He advises, “Preach decision sermons that answer the question, ‘So what?’ and show the blessing and benefits of the Sabbath, a life of vitality and health, and the second coming.” These practical sermons help people to embrace truth. Since American society knows less about the Bible today than at any other time in our history, people are much less resistant to embrace Bible truth since they possess fewer prejudices or biases.

FriendsMake a Friend
A shift from little follow-up to follow-up that is well-planned and implemented.

Every new convert is given a ministry assignment. They are immediately involved and assigned one or more spiritual mentors to encourage him/her in their walk. Make sure their circle of friends in the church enlarges quickly. When we relied primarily on advertising, most of those who decided to be baptized had very few, if any, friends in the church. The likelihood of their staying in the church was challenging.

My friend Alex Bryant, Executive Secretary of the North American Division, was invited to hold meetings this summer in Kansas City. He told the congregation if they would conduct service projects and establish relationships with 1,000 people, he would hold the meetings.

Two groups of people were baptized. One was a delightful group who were relatively new in the U.S. His sermons were translated every night, and a number of people were baptized.

He had another group who came from friendships. They were people who we usually don’t win in large numbers, but because they were connected with members and saw them as friends, they came. Many were baptized and enthusiastic about being a part of a family who are sharing the Gospel in practical, loving ways.

People are hungry for relationships. So, I challenge you to make a friend today. It may be a life that Christ will touch through you for eternity!

Sidebar mini-articles below:

Step Out Into the Neighborhood!

by Cleber Machado

Cleber Machado, right, pastor of Orlando Central Church, trains in Brazilian Jiujitsu with his instructor, Leo Gocking.

Cleber Machado, right, pastor of Orlando Central Church, trains in Brazilian Jiujitsu with his instructor, Leo Gocking.

One of the inevitable truths in the Bible is that God is at work. From the first page to the last, He is relentlessly involved. The greater adventure for any human being is to discover when and where and, then, to join God in His efforts to save us.

Knowing that, one of the first steps is to start being present in the streets and commercial establishments of the neighborhood—to be where people are and to engage them in conversation! I meet special people by stepping out into the neighborhood:

  • One is a tattoo artist who not only considers his work sinful, but feels that God will never accept him. In our conversations, sometimes we cry together thinking about how both of us need Jesus and how we can help each other.
  • Another person is a professor at the University of Central Florida. We’ve sat on his porch and exchanged ideas about the historic neighborhood in which his home and our church are located.
  • Since I needed to exercise, I also joined the local YMCA and a Brazilian Jiujitsu gym with the idea of engaging people with whom I would not normally converse. Following a short exchange of names at the gym, a mother of a fellow member approached me while I was warming up and asked me about the state of the dead! Talk about incredible!

God is calling us back to the neighborhood. It is time to be people of the Way; Good Samaritans. We must make a difference where we live. Our homes are to be lighthouses and our food to bring flavor.

As Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” —Matthew 5:16 (NIV)

West Palm Beach Young Adults Minister to the Homeless

by Stephen Stewart

Young adults from First Church of West Palm Beach have befriended homeless people in their community. (Photo: Stephen Stewart)

Young adults from First Church of West Palm Beach have befriended homeless people in their community. (Photo: Stephen Stewart)

Every Sabbath afternoon, a group of young adults from First Church of West Palm Beach bring relief to the homeless at John Prince State Park. Funded from their own pockets, the young people pass out sandwiches, toiletries, clothing, and shoes. They’ve formed relationships, and many of the homeless are known on a first-name basis.

When the church conducted its annual Community Guest Day, the young adults collaborated with the church’s Community Services and Sabbath School Departments to include these homeless individuals. They provided transportation from the park, a shower, and a change of clothing.

In addition to worshiping together, the homeless enjoyed an afternoon meal along with other guests of the day. The young people made a great effort to be sure those to whom they ministered felt right at home as they worshiped and fellowshipped with members of the church.

West Palm Beach young adults realize that homelessness is an issue much larger than they can handle by themselves. They are, however, determined by God’s grace to do what they can to share the love of Jesus with the homeless community.

At Avon Park Church, Everybody Matters

by Frank Gonzalez

Member Burton Wright helps the Avon Park Church's Community Services ministry distribute food and clothing to families in need. (Photo: Tom Amos)

Member Burton Wright helps the Avon Park Church’s Community Services ministry distribute food and clothing to families in need. (Photo: Tom Amos)

A refusal to let anyone—member or neighbor alike—feel unimportant has led the Avon Park congregation to implement a comprehensive, relational, small group strategy tailored after the counsel that a man named Jethro gave his famous son-in-law, Moses (Exodus 18).

In Avon Park, this Jethro Plan has resulted in the formation of 78 groups of 12. Group leaders lovingly contact inactive members with nonintrusive methods while encouraging active members to reach out to friends and neighbors.

During the past 2½ years, 58 ethnically diverse new members have joined the church through baptism, a difficult accomplishment in what is commonly regarded as a retirement community.

Higher Ground, a new outreach to young adults, has just launched under the enthusiastic leadership of Associate Pastor Ryan Amos who is assisted by highly talented lay associates.

Bill Peters with the Delivered Meals ministry visits with the program's founder, Kathlyn Myers, who was homebound before moving to a nursing facility. (Photo: Tom Amos)

Bill Peters with the Delivered Meals ministry visits with the program’s founder, Kathlyn Myers, who was homebound before moving to a nursing facility. (Photo: Tom Amos)

A vibrant Community Services ministry feeds and clothes more than 1,200 people a week (200 of which receive lunches in their homes thanks to our Wednesday luncheon ministry).

Inspired and led by Associate Pastor Geston Pierre, musical teams encourage the heart by bringing warm, hopeful, Christian music to people’s homes.

The Partnering for Eternity program, led by Walker Memorial Academy Principal Jacqueline Colón-Diaz, encourages qualified students to engage senior citizens in positive and mutually beneficial interaction.

Ellen White says, “The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort is a plan that has been presented before me by One who cannot err.” —Evangelism, p. 115. At Avon Park, the cross of Christ has taught us that, in our churches and neighborhoods, everybody truly matters.

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Members Touching Lives In China

posted on November 05, 2015, under Conference by

by Audrey Folkenberg

Project PandaHer husband had betrayed her many times. Her son, overwhelmed by ongoing conflict, chose to leave home. Despondent, she moved to a new city in order to start a new life; a life where her path intersected with ours, and we began studying the Bible and praying together.

One day, we found her very ill in her dimly lit home. She allowed us to take her to the hospital. During her hospitalization for dengue fever, our house-church completed several major home repairs for her and provided all her nourishment. Her fever finally normalized, she kept food down, and the rash which once covered her body began to dissipate.

Touched by the love and kindness she received, her heart fully accepted Jesus into her life, and baptism followed. Since her baptism, she testifies of God’s love. She frequently comments on how, during her hospitalization, her church family installed proper lighting in her dimly lit home. She says it represents the true light that she now has in her life.

Thank you, Florida Conference members, for your prayerful and monetary support of Project Panda. Because of you, church-planting pioneer teams are sharing the Gospel and growing God’s Kingdom in unreached areas of China, the most populous unreached region in the world.

Send questions or comments to kingdomgrowth@chumadventist.org

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Youth Impact Initiative Makes a Difference at Quiet Waters Park in Broward County

posted on November 05, 2015, under Conference by

by Rudy Alvir and Broward County Park Staff

Participants in Florida Conference's Youth Impact Initiative spent two days cleaning the shores of three lakes in Quiet Waters park. (Photo: Robert Hines)

Participants in Florida Conference’s Youth Impact Initiative spent two days cleaning the shores of three lakes in Quiet Waters park. (Photo: Robert Hines)

“Thank you again; your group is amazing,” wrote Peter White, a grounds-keeper from the Broward County Park System. With his letter, he also enclosed a web site where an official thank you was posted for those who participated in making a difference at Quiet Waters Park.

For two days, 45 young people and 10 adults from around the State of Florida worked more than 165 hours performing various duties at the park where they: painted a restroom, removed invasive plants from the mountain bike trails, and conducted a waterway cleanup along the shores of three lakes in the park.

Participants painted a restroom facility. (Photo: Robert Hines)

Participants painted a restroom facility. (Photo: Robert Hines)

This park effort was part of Florida Conference’s Youth Impact Initiative where young people ages 14 to 20 spent a week at their own expense working in the community. The participants also received training in assessment of community needs, Vacation Bible School (VBS), literature distribution, and giving Bible studies.

The young people also served at Cairn Place, a local institution for single mothers and their children, and at the Festival of Hope on Saturday afternoon.

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Florida Institute of Evangelism for Laypeople Changes Lives

posted on August 14, 2015, under Conference by

FIEL class members take part in evangelism classes taught by Florida Conference leaders and ministers. There are 616 students attending classes at six locations throughout Florida. (Photo: Guillermo Pimentel)

FIEL class members take part in evangelism classes taught by Florida Conference leaders and ministers. There are 616 students attending classes at six locations throughout Florida. (Photo: Guillermo Pimentel)

Allan Machado, Florida Conference Vice President for Spanish-language Ministries, teaches a FIEL class at Winter Park Spanish Church. (Photo: Guillermo Pimentel)

Allan Machado, Florida Conference Vice President for Spanish-language Ministries, teaches a FIEL class at Winter Park Spanish Church. (Photo: Guillermo Pimentel)

by Rolando de los Ríos

Florida Institute of Evangelism for Laypeople (FIEL) has completed the first half of its 2015 session with almost 70% of the students passing the requirements. FIEL’s purpose is to prepare laity in the serious work of evangelization. The Institute continues to grow from an initial enrollment of 275 students in 2014 to 616 in 2015.

It is rewarding to see the enthusiasm of FIEL students. Some students travel more than two hours to attend area classes. Florida Conference leaders and ministers teach the classes once a quarter. Online tests covering selected books support classroom presentations about Jesus’ Methods of Evangelism and Hermeneutics. Students also participated in a church campaign as a requirement of practical evangelism.

FIEL student Adriana Rodriguez was assigned to preach on the subject of baptism, although she was never baptized. The appeal process of the sermon spoke to her heart, and she chose to give herself to the Savior. Her family joined her in baptism (from left): Jimmy, Adriana, and twin daughters Valentina and Luisa. (Photo: Guillermo Pimentel)

FIEL student Adriana Rodriguez was assigned to preach on the subject of baptism, although she was never baptized. The appeal process of the sermon spoke to her heart, and she chose to give herself to the Savior. Her family joined her in baptism (from left): Jimmy, Adriana, and twin daughters Valentina and Luisa. (Photo: Guillermo Pimentel)

Adriana Rodriguez is a FIEL student who attends the small Renacer congregation which meets in the library of Winter Park Memorial Hospital (part of the Florida Hospital network). From a pastor’s sermon, she prepared the assigned message including an appeal for baptism. Preaching on this subject was a challenge for Adriana because she was not yet baptized. She organized everything with the corresponding PowerPoint presentation and, when she concluded the message, a baptism appeal appeared on the screen. The message moved Adriana to tears. Her audience thought she was just caught up in the moment.

To the audience’s amazement, Adriana confessed her confusion when assigned the sermon. “I was not ready to preach it. I did not feel ready for baptism. Yesterday, I decided to delete the appeal and conclude without a call for baptism. Yet, tonight, we have just seen on the screen what I thought I had wiped out. I see this as a sign God wants me, and I will not continue to fight against the Lord’s call for baptism. Now, before you, I choose to give myself to Jesus through baptism.”

In reality, Adriana’s memory stick with the presentation was missing. As a computer systems engineer, she resorted to something that was easy for her to do—she searched the internet for her files and retrieved the presentation. She unknowingly retrieved the original presentation that contained the baptism appeal slide. She now praises God for her mistake and believes He is able to act on our behalf even when we are wrong.

Adriana’s twin daughters, Luisa and Valentina, wanted to join her in baptism. They asked Rolando de los Ríos, FIEL Director and Florida Conference Hispanic evangelist, to officiate the baptismal ceremony on January 17. As Adriana and her daughters entered the baptistry, it was a bittersweet moment. Her husband, Jimmy, who had been an Adventist in the past, had not joined them in the baptism decision.

Unknown to his family, Jimmy had spoken before with the pastor about his desire for baptism. So, it was with joy he entered the baptismal waters, embraced his family, and joined them in baptism. Adriana and Jimmy continue as active FIEL students preparing to be evangelists. Their goal is to let everyone they come in contact with know about Jesus.FIEL logo

FIEL students are preparing to preach and serve as Bible teachers at the October 2015 Caravan of Victory Campaign. Each student’s mind is set on winning souls for Christ, so they do not waste time in vain discussions. Those who concern themselves with the things of the Kingdom have no time to lose. Christ is coming soon! Every FIEL student will proclaim that message until they see Him coming in glory.

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Florida Members Support Project Panda

posted on August 14, 2015, under Conference by

Project Pandaby Audrey Folkenberg

Florida Conference is partnering with the Chinese Union Mission in Project Panda which supports 40 indigenous two-person church-planting teams. These teams share the love of Jesus in unreached areas of China. As a result, 1,822 people were baptized this past year.

Recently, one church-planting team shared an experience from their ministry efforts:

“People finally seemed to be listening. They were not turning us away, and a few had chosen to study the Bible with us. We had joy in our hearts, but suddenly, we faced another challenge! We had been reported to the local government as members of a cult. Leaders from the religious bureau came to our home and banned us from sharing Jesus and worshipping there on Sabbaths.

“Desperately, we notified members from our far-away hometown of our plight. They fasted and prayed for us for several days as we prepared, with sadness, to leave this unreached city. Then, a miracle happened. An official from the bureau showed up at our door and gave us a permit. He told us that we were free to invite others to our home to share about Jesus. Our hearts now leapt for joy.”

For updates of the Chinese church-planting teams, contact Project Panda staff at kingdomgrowth@chumadventist.org

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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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