The diversity and breadth of the ministries of the North American Division (NAD) were on full display during the fifth day of the 2022 Year-End Meeting (YEM), themed “Together in Mission: I Will Go.” The Oct. 31 keynote event of the day featured the presentation of the treasurer’s report by Randy Robinson, NAD treasurer, but there were some unexpectedly emotional moments during other parts of the day, as when Bill Knott shared that he would be leaving his post as executive editor of the Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines after serving on staff for 25 years, speaking movingly of his time working in partnership with the NAD. Then the unforgettable Dr. Dexter Thomas, a blind board member of Christian Record Services, the church’s ministry to the blind, gave a passionate testimony of his personal experiences, inspiring everyone in the room with ways they can engage physically challenged people in their work.
Robinson presented a detailed and positive report on the financial state of the NAD, as well as team member presentations on such items as audit results, retirement plans, and 2023 budget assumptions. This will be covered in detail in a separate article, but Robinson especially highlighted the providential inspiration of the creation of the online AdventistGiving mobile app platform that was already in place so that when the COVID-19 pandemic came and churches closed, church members were still able to be faithful in their tithes — and one-half of the yearly tithe was processed through this platform in 2021. “A takeaway from the ordeal of the last two years that we all can embrace is that regardless of circumstances around us, God is faithful, and His people are faithful,” said Robinson.
During the course of the day, members also voted on the results of the education breakout discussions. The approved four points will direct the planning for action by the NAD and a follow-up report and recommendations for action are expected within the year.
The final breakout session of the year-end meeting focused on eAdventist, the digital membership services for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. It holds the data on church members and is collected at the local level. Director Brian Ford briefed members on ways to use the service, and gave an overview of all the ways eAdventist seeks to protect the privacy of individuals and ensure it is not overused for unwanted promotions. In the breakout sessions, members were asked to discuss additional ideas for how this commitment to privacy and proper use could be honored and strengthened. (Details of these sessions, including Oct. 30's discussion about online churches, will be covered in a coming article.)
The three main prongs of the Adventist work are often defined as evangelism, education, and health. NAD president G. Alexander Bryant introduced the presentation of Health Ministries by saying to delegates, “I want you to reflect and think on how we can better use this tool that God has given us, which we call Health Ministries, to witness for Him.”
Director Angeline Brauer shared in a video presentation how the team had responded to the urgent crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic when both members and leaders struggled to know how best to respond and faced their own personal issues of health and mental well-being. Actions included helping facilitate the vaccine education task force, launching a monthly webinar on emerging health issues, and publishing an action guide addressing health disparities among various population groups.
The department also built on strengths that have always been in the Adventist health message: that of the power of a healthful lifestyle to help curb the major diseases of today. The Joy of Eating program was launched with monthly online meetings and resources for healthful eating and exercise. The special emphasis for 2022 was restoration and the critical need for mental health and, for this, a virtual summit brought together 75 professionals.
In 2023 two newly developed programs will be launched; Not Consumed to address burnout; and Seasons of Grief, a support group program for those grieving the loss of a loved one. The NAD Power to Heal Health Summit will also be held April 2-8 in Lexington, Kentucky.
Adventist Review Ministries
Adventist World, a journal of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, operates in partnership with other world divisions. The most expansive partnership is with the North American Division, with one-third paid by the NAD and two-thirds by the General Conference — and two magazines, Adventist World and Adventist Journey published and printed together. “It takes a partnership,” explained Bryant as he introduced the presentation.
During the Adventist Review Ministries presentation, team members shared that they have continued to expand into streaming video content with AR TV and KidsView TV.
In his moving speech, long-time executive editor Knott said, “I share this division’s commitment to fairness, to equality, to justice, and to dialogue. Let me encourage you. Do not give up on your vision to your church.”
The division’s executive committee took a vote to express its special appreciation for his service. Knott will be the new world church liaison to the U.S. government in Washington, D.C., and Justin Kim has been appointed the new executive editor of Adventist Review.
Additional Adventist Ministries
In a video report, Wendy Eberhardt, NAD vice president for ministries, highlighted for delegates some of the services and upcoming products of key NAD ministries. These included encouraging delegates to help with the sale of the women’s devotional book that helps fund scholarships for girls; and a ministry to teen girls (Gorgeous2God), and a new ministry to teen boys (A Rugged Journey), which are websites providing resources and answering questions sent in by teens.
Eberhardt encouraged delegates to spread the word about Replenish, the Adventist Ministries Convention to be held Jan. 8-11, 2023, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Replenish, said Eberhardt, “is the practice of ‘coming away.’” More than 70 seminars will focus on the practice of “coming away” as Jesus once asked of His disciples. Replenish will be followed by the Children’s Ministries convention.
Children’s Ministries director Sherri Uhrig shared about a new GC Sabbath School curriculum that will be launched in 2024 and will be pilot tested in at least 15 churches across the NAD. It will include a segment just for parents, the launch of a new app that will include all the music for the program, as well as video devotionals for parents, as they are the number one spiritual influencers of their children.
Calvin Watkins, NAD vice president, evangelism and regional liaison, shared details of the Antioch Initiative, a world church initiative that targets designated cities to plant centers of influence. This reaching the cities is a major strategic emphasis of NAD and was emphasized by Bryant in his YEM sermon on Sabbath, Oct. 29. Watkins also highlighted the work of departments under his leadership including Adventist Community Services, Stewardship, the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty department, and Message magazine, which serves African-American members.
Christian Record Services (CRS)
The members of the NAD executive committee also serve as the constituency for certain institutions. CRS is one such institution and Bryant temporarily halted the executive committee and then convened the body for the CRS member meeting. CRS has been serving people who are blind since 1899 and Bryant commended president Diane Thurber for restoring it to success during her tenure.
Thurber shared that CRS serves 18,000 people in not only NAD territory but 70 countries through contracts with other divisions and church entities. Thomas, as mentioned earlier, shared how CRS provided spiritual resources to him when he was a boy growing up in Trinidad, helped him with a scholarship when he attended Oakwood University, and now helps him as a father with something called Twin Vision books. These books are in Braille, but also have pictures and texts, so he can read a beginner’s Bible with his sighted young daughter. Thomas has led his own ministry and shared with the group, “I learned a lot about ministering to the marginalized. … We need to come alongside them.” He shared that the church can be most welcoming to physically challenged people by putting them to work. Help them find what they like to do and give them an opportunity as this upholds their dignity and humanity.
In other business of the day, the NAD corporation appointed Jorge A. Ramirez as a new board member. The executive committee also named Gerardo Oudri-Varela as the new associate director of Resources for NAD Ministerial Association with responsibilities for technology support and the development of future pastors; and Kimberly Luste Maran, editor of Adventist Journey, as NAD Communication director. The General Conference Office of General Counsel also introduced three new attorneys who have joined the team.
— Heidi Straw Camargo writes from Nairobi, Kenya.