Friday evening vespers at the 2021 North American Division Year-End Meeting, hosted by Jose Cortes Jr., NAD associate ministerial director, and Calvin Watkins, NAD vice president for evangelism, featured missional stories of compassion and multiplication from around the division. From Canada to the Mexico border, from the east coast to the west, members, pastors, and church administrators shared compelling stories of reaching people in a hurting world through vibrant, Christ-centered ministries that are changing lives.
Members of the Merritt Seventh-day Adventist Church in British Columbia, Canada, for example, are literally the hands and of feet of Jesus as they reach out to their community through the church’s soup kitchen known as the Friendship Outreach — where hungry people are fed, not only physically, but spiritually. Prayer and music with messages of love, hope, and salvation are vital components of this community outreach. One couple, Mary and Michael, initially came to Friendship Outreach for the meals, describing their experience as being similar to dining in a restaurant. But it was the music that kept them coming back for more. A connection with the pastor and several church members eventually led them to Bible studies and then baptism. Having once been homeless, Mary and Michael are now actively involved in the church and with the soup kitchen, providing food, connecting with people, meeting their needs, and offering them literature that points them to Christ. “The reason why we [are involved with this ministry] is because we know that people need Jesus,” they said.
From Idaho, conference president Bill McClendon reported that their emphasis on “exponential growth” is changing the conference’s culture to one of evangelism. Currently engaged in a series of conference-wide reaping meetings, McClendon says that despite having been in evangelism for a number of years, “There is a response like I’ve never seen before. . . . If evangelism isn’t working, it’s because we’re not working it.”
In the Southwestern Union, members are showing compassion at the Texas-Mexico border by reaching out to people in need of food, clothing, and other items. In New Orleans, teacher Carla Drake and her colleagues are reaching inner-city children for Christ. With a student body comprised mostly of non-Adventists, 16 children recently gave their hearts to the Lord, and 14 of them were baptized. “We want to see our children saved,” Drake said.
In the Pacific Union, the Crosswalk Church, pastored by Tim Gillespie, grew in a short time from a small congregation of 85 to 1,000 members. Now engaged in church planting, Crosswalk church plants have sprouted up around the division, in such places as Chattanooga, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Portland.
In the Southern Union, Ron Smith, president, says evangelism is a priority in their territory. Despite being a busy union president, in the coming months Smith plans to run seven evangelistic series that he calls “A System for Survival.” “My priority is to introduce hurting people to Jesus Christ. In this pandemic [people] need hope to navigate through this maze of hardship.”
Cortes concluded the meeting with a thought-provoking challenge, prompted by a visioning process that the NAD Ministerial Association, along with evangelism directors and pastors across the division, have undertaken. “What would happen if, in 2022, all of our pastors, all of our seminary students, all of our theology students, all of our universities, all of our volunteer lay pastors, and all of our able lay leaders, would do something to call people to accept Jesus and become a part of God’s kingdom?” he asked.
“There are some good things coming,” Watkins said in his concluding remarks. “The North American Division is turning in the right direction.”
— Pat Humphrey, a retired communication professional, writes from Texas.