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12-8-16 He Said Go! Missions Conference: Did You Know You're a Missionary ... Right Now?
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The “He Said Go!” Missions Conference brought together mission-minded Adventists in the North American Division and leaders from around the world to collaborate in the Great Commission.
 
By Amy D. Prindle

 
The He Said Go! Missions Conference was held Nov. 18-20, 2016, in San Diego.
Photo by Dan Weber/NAD Office of Communication

 
 

Mission work can sometimes be a lonely venture. Whether teaching at an island schoolhouse, tending to orphans in a poor village, or helping with an inner-city after school program, even the most convicted and mission-focused families or individuals need support, understanding, resources, or just a like-minded person with whom to compare stories and struggles.
 
On the other hand, many passionate individuals within the United States and Canada continue to search for a fitting place to serve, but don’t yet possess the information or connections needed to locate volunteer opportunities that would utilize their particular strengths or skills. They may feel called, but find themselves at a crossroads.
 
The recent He Said Go! Missions Conference, sponsored by the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, set out to address these scenarios as it brought together more than 250 individuals who spanned ages, professions, locations, positions, and talents. These attendees united under a shared passion for mission work as they gathered on Nov. 18-20, 2016, in San Diego, California.
 
All Together Now
 
This event was spearheaded by Elden Ramirez, director of the Office of Volunteer Ministries at the NAD, after realizing there was not yet a division-wide gathering that focused strictly on missions. While smaller-scale mission conferences do exist, held by Adventist universities or for specific niches such as medical missions, there was still a need for bringing together everyone interested in mission work, regardless of age or skill set.
 
“We’ve been anticipating this chance to brainstorm together about methods and strategies of mission work,” said Ramirez. “We also wanted to bridge the gap between volunteers looking to serve and mission coordinators seeking to address urgent and ongoing needs. There are many young adults new on the scene, and there must be a way to connect our abundance of mission opportunities to these recent graduates and young professionals—they may not know about or have access to the opportunities and resources available.”
 
That item was first on the conference agenda.
 
One day prior to the event proper, college chaplains, missions coordinators, and recent student missionaries gathered in a pre-session to network; discuss ideas; and connect with conference, union, and division leaders before the formal event schedule began.
 
“It was so useful to be in the [Adventist Volunteer Services] coordinators meetings beforehand with NAD universities,” said Janelle Scantleury-Smith, volunteer coordinator for the Inter-American Division. “We met directly with student mission coordinators from each campus and we can now be better prepared to serve volunteers coming into our territory from these colleges.”

 
Mission-minded attendees engage in a Go Session roundtable discussion after a presentation at the He Said Go! Missions Conference.
Photo by Dan Weber/NAD Office of Communication

 
 

“Division leaders only get together once every five years, so an opportunity like this helps us meet other coordinators, as well as those interested in volunteering for missions,” added Sergey Zhadan, Adventist Volunteer Service coordinator for the Euro-Asia Division.
 
The students at the pre-session also expressed gratitude for this opportunity. “It was so nice to have a chance to meet and talk with other student missionaries. There isn’t much of a chance to do that after coming back,” said Cheyanne Welch, a junior at Burman University in Canada who also serves as the campus’ coordinator for long-term missions. “I wish we could have a reunion-type event like this every year.”
 
Jaci Allison, a junior at WWU who just returned from a year in Pohnpei, appreciated that “we’re all here with the same mindset about missions. . . . From here we can all go home with a similar focus and a similar goal.”
 
Mission Work Everywhere
 
The following day, as the conference officially started, attendees were able to stroll through a bustling exhibit hall showcasing a variety of mission efforts from Maranatha, Guam Micronesia Mission, Adventist Frontier Missions, ADRA International, Adventist World Aviation, college campus programs, and more. Both overseas and local initiatives were represented, each seeking much-needed volunteer service.
 
“We want to encourage participation in missions wherever a person is,” explained Ramirez. “Scripture is clear that every Christian is a missionary, and there is so much need right in front of us, even in our own neighborhoods, that calls for total member involvement.”
 
The purpose of the weekend, therefore, was for attendees to work together and connect, rather than simply hear a set of sermons. And as everyone found their way into the main ballroom for the first presentation, they seated themselves at round tables instead of in rows of chairs. A blank, folded name card and pen waited for each person, encouraging them to learn one another’s names and get acquainted.
 
After the welcome by WWU chaplain Paddy McCoy, G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary of the NAD, took the stage to kick off the event’s first keynote presentation. Not even 10 minutes into his talk attendees were already sharing quotes on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #HeSaidGo.
 
This social sharing continued throughout the weekend, involving friends and family of the attendees they too could enjoy the points of inspiration from the event. In addition, hundreds of others from around the world tuned in to view the NAD Facebook page’s live stream of each general session.

 
G. Alexander Bryant, NAD executive secretary, addresses the 2016 He Said Go! Missions Conference this past November.
Photo by Dan Weber/NAD Office of Communication

 
 

Of Presentations and Table Talk
 
The continued line-up of speakers consisted of respected leaders and visionaries, each of whom presented on a specific facet of the call to “Go!” and spread the gospel to the world, as outlined in Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:15. Topics covered crucial subjects such as cultural competency, identity in Christ, clinging to God’s power instead of our own, and what it truly means to serve “the least of these.” Several mission success stories were shared, showcasing how intricately God can work miracles and change the hearts of unbelievers when He simply has willing servants to obediently “Go!” as He calls.
 
“I liked how [La Sierra University chaplain] Sam Leonor presented the idea of just telling people who they really are in Jesus, and how God can start working with just that,” remarked Kyle Elssmann, a senior at Walla Walla University (WWU) who recently returned from a year in Pohnpei and now works in the student missions office at WWU.
 
After each presentation, the round table groups of 5-8 people then participated in a “Go Session,” a dedicated time of debriefing, reflection, and brainstorming based on the material that had just been covered. Each table also had a designated facilitator, trained before the event and armed with conversational prompts to help group members share their questions and express their ideas. And since most attendees were seated next to new acquaintances, these Go Sessions allowed for a diverse, purposeful networking experience.
 
The majority of attendees found this activity to be their favorite. Several eagerly expressed that these small group discussions provided a rare chance to put their heads together on a topic they don’t normally discuss in a structured, intentional setting.
 
“I found the Go Sessions enjoyable and reflective, good for our own souls in order to make sure we stay mission-focused,” said Scantlebury-Smith.
 
“Our table had amazing conservations,” added Megan Weems and Kelly Siegal, both students at Pacific Union College who recently served for a year in Fiji and Brazil, respectively.
 
John Thomas, associate secretary of the General Conference (GC) and director of the Adventist Volunteers program, also agreed. “These [Go] Sessions helped bridge the message being preached with the practical ways they can be applied,” he said. “And it was a pleasure to talk with the recently-returned student missionaries at our table.”

 
Jonathan Portney, from Loma Linda University, takes part in a Go Session small group discussion at the He Said Go Missions Conference, held Nov. 18-21, 2016, in San Diego, Calif.
Photo by Dan Weber/NAD Communication Office

 
 

Go Now With Prayer
 
Meanwhile, throughout the event, a prayer room was open for attendees to use at any time. A prayer request jar sat on a welcome table in the busy room, and chairs were set up for personal prayer time. During breaks between sessions, the event’s prayer room coordinator, Zac Page, pastor of the Templeton Hills, California, church, led prayers that specifically lifted up each of the names on the current list of NAD missionaries serving on the front lines.
 
After a total of 12 presentations, attendees were challenged to hold onto their passion for mission work in whatever capacity they find themselves called. The crowd then dispersed from the main ballroom and the hallways immediately echoed with positive accolades. The event also spawned several spontaneous small-group meetings to discuss particular mission ideas with new contacts.
 
“This event was even bigger than I realized, and it was very well done,” shared Adam Deibert, chaplain at Burman University and one of the Go Session facilitators. “But it was also small enough that it was easy to cross paths with those you might want to collaborate with.”
 
“It was also inspiring to hear from such a diversity of speakers,” Deibert continued. “I can tell this provided positive encouragement to our students. It was good for them to hear about a wide variety of cultures and experiences as they think about their own futures in mission work.”
 
— Amy D. Prindle writes from Loma Linda, California.
 

***

 
Elden Ramirez, Office of Volunteer Ministries director, addresses the audience at the He Said Go! Missions Conference.
Photo by Dan Weber/NAD Office of Communication

 
 

He Said Go—Again!
 
The NAD Office of Volunteer Ministries hopes to make this a regular, ongoing ministry gathering. If you feel God has blessed you during this missions conference and you would like to see more "He Said Go!" mission conferences, or if you would like to offer feedback and have suggestions and ideas to share, contact hesaidgo@nadadventist.org.
 
Did you miss He Said Go! this year? Visit www.hesaidgo.org to view session replays or browse the video collection on the North American Division Facebook page for selected #HeSaidGo presentations.


What They Said
 
Here is a list of He Said Go! Missions Conference speakers and a short quote from their presentations:

  • G. Alexander Bryant (executive secretary of the NAD and associate secretary of the GC): “Whether our mission is across the street, on the other side of the country, or whether it’s in Africa or Guam, the challenge is the same. We must first come to Jesus to receive the power that His Holy Spirit brings.”
  • Leslie N. Pollard (president, Oakwood University): “[Jesus’] mission moved from ethnic exclusivity to ethnic inclusivity. Out of diversity, He built community. . . . My prayer is that we would embrace the notion of cultural competency in spreading the gospel.”
  • Jonathan Duffy (president, ADRA International): “Are we prepared to serve, to speak love, to have our words and actions point people toward a loving Savior who desires their good? . . . Matthew 25:31-46 is not about who they [the “least of these”] are, but who we are.”
  • Dwight Nelson (lead pastor, Pioneer Memorial Church): “God does not need the human race’s help to finish His work. But by going, we are growing. No go, no grow.”
  • Gary Krause (associate secretary of the GC, director of Adventist Mission, General Conference): “‘Missions’ isn’t an event, it’s a lifestyle.”
  • Randy Roberts (senior pastor, Loma Linda University Church): “Let’s banish the phrase ‘it’s not my job’ from our vocabulary. . . . Jesus illustrated principle this when He got up to wash His disciples’ feet.”
  • Andrea Luxton (president, Andrews University): “Jesus speaks to people at places and points that they are familiar, then pushes them deeper. He speaks in their language.”
  • Elden Ramirez (director, Office of Volunteer Ministries, NAD): “Mission work can get scary, it can get difficult, and we may fall. But it is clear that God is always there to love us and pick us back up.”
  • Sam Leonor (chaplain, La Sierra University): “If we continually tell people who they are in Jesus, they will eventually come to believe it themselves.”
  • Yami Bazan (vice president for Student Life, La Sierra University): “I may not know what your calling is, but I know you have one. Because God’s desire for everyone is to encounter the Divine so the Divine can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.”
  • Carlton Byrd (senior pastor, Oakwood University Church; speaker/director, Breath of Life Media Ministry): “God is not calling the equipped, He’s equipping the called.”
  • Steve Case (president, Involve Youth): “Our own assets aren’t essential. In fact, they can be a distraction from spreading the gospel, if we rely on our human skills.”
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