Each morning of the 2023 Year-End Meeting for the North American Division, delegates started their day with worship. A different speaker presented every day, and the group participated in worship through song as well.
Friday, Oct. 27: “Clear and Present Danger — Your Move”
“We’re living in a very critical time,” began Friday’s speaker, Brigadier General Andrew Harewood, deputy chief of chaplains for the U.S. Army Reserve, and director of Strategy, Plans, Policy, Resources and Soldier/Family Spiritual Readiness (SPPRS) at the Office of the Chief of Chaplains (OCCH) for the Pentagon. “The world is a mess. We’re just a few conflicts from self-destruction and our values are almost nonexistent.”
In his devotional entitled “Clear and Present Danger — Your Move,” Harewood pointed out that the delegates in the room with him were not called to manage, but to lead, and there is a distinct and important difference between the two.
“Why did you get up this morning?” he asked the room. “Why are you here? When you go to bed tired tonight, what would be the purpose of these hours of sweat? Who will your efforts impact — globally or individually?”
Pulling from his military experience, Harewood explained that in his line of work, in strategic planning and systems analysis, faulty decisions based on emotions result in people dying.
“It’s all about the mission,” he said. “We as a church have forgotten we’re on a mission. … We were called to be a movement.”
Sunday, Oct. 29: “Where Our Church Meets the World”
Richard Hart, president of Loma Linda University, spoke for Sunday’s worship. He began with a quick history of healthcare in Adventism, which goes back to 1863.
“At that time, this country was engulfed in a terrible, bloody civil war with uncertain endings,” Hart said. “American medicine was a mess — doctors were not standardized, practices they followed were abysmal in many respects, and more people died from being taken care of than lived. It was within this context that Ellen White had a vision that became the hallmark of our church.”
He was speaking of the “eight simple remedies,” which have been assigned several acronyms and mnemonics, perhaps the most well-known of which is CREATION: Choice, Rest, Environment, Activity, Trust in God, Interpersonal relationships, Outlook, Nutrition.
“Adventist health is more than institutions and hospitals,” Hart commented, adding that it includes Adventist healthcare professionals in many different places, not just hospitals, clinics, and private practices.
“It’s also you,” he said, “Every member has a message to share about health. A loaf of bread or a kind word are both part of the Adventist health message. And with this message, we have the opportunity as a church to take all of God and make Him an integral part of our lives, our activities, and our institutions.”
Monday, Oct. 30: “The Day is Near”
During his worship talk, Paul Llewellyn, president of the Adventist Church in Canada, urged listeners to eliminate the things that are separating them as a church so they can support and encourage one another and together allow God to transform them. He quoted the story of Elisha visiting King Joash to encourage him. Predicting he would conquer the Aramaians. Elisha tells the king to take his arrows and strike the ground, which the king does three times.
“Elisha is angry with the king!” Llewellyn points out. “He tells the king he should have hit the ground five or six times, then he would have entirely destroyed Aram. Now he will only be victorious three times.”
Llewellyn brought out his own quiver of arrows and began tapping them on the podium.
“Today we have arrows in our hands and God is asking us to strike the ground in faith,” he said, still tapping.
Then he began to pray, tapping throughout. “We’re not letting go of each other, and we won’t stop praying until you bless us, Lord. We are not letting go until you lead us, Lord. We’re not letting go until you pour out your latter rain on your people, Jesus. May we tap our arrows until we are lifted off the ground and joined to our Savior.”
Tuesday, Oct. 31: “The Price of Unity”
“When I was in secondary school in England, I was part of a choir,” began Andrea Luxton, associate director of higher education for the NAD, and recently retired president of Andrews University. During a concert, Luxton and her friend accompanied the choir, she on her clarinet and he on his violin.
While they were playing, a loud crack from her friend’s violin distracted them both. In the space of that brief moment, he skipped an entire line of music. They followed each other back and forth across their music until the director held the choir on a long note and they ended together.
Luxton pointed out that in John 17, Christ prays that His disciples become one, as they were bickering, arguing, vying for the best, and excluding others.
“This isn’t about agreeing on a committee,” Luxton said. “It’s about the unity that comes among a group of believers in a community with Christ at the center.”
She noted how often Paul comments on the importance of relationships. “They were establishing the early church, determining their theology and organizing, but the importance of community comes through every time,” she said.
Luxton outlined three ways to create an environment of unity and community: putting Christ at the center; valuing diversity; and leaving the judgment to God.
“We can have different opinions, but the community Christ has called us to is one of compassion and love,” she concluded. “That does not give room for discord, pulling against each other. Disagree, yes, but in the context of love, compassion, and forgiveness, as Christ is and continues to be at the core of who we are.”