Of Bees and Flies

by Becky De Oliveira


“Everyone has a ‘risk muscle.’ You keep it in shape by trying new things.

If you don’t, it atrophies. Make a point of using it at least once a day.”

– Roger Von Oech


Suppose you have two jars and you fill one with houseflies and the other with bees and cover them with vented lids. After a couple of hours, you remove the lids and go home for the night, leaving both the bees and the flies a clear and equal opportunity for escape. What will you find when you return in the morning? Both jars empty? Not quite. The jar containing the flies will be empty—and if you happened to leave a half-eaten sandwich sitting on the table, you’ll know just where to find them. The jar containing the bees, however, will be full of dead bees, depleted from lack of food and exhausted from flying repeatedly into the glass walls of the jar. It seems that bees are so highly programmed that they just try the same thing over and over again, while flies exhibit random behavior, which is also programmed but just happens to be more effective in this particular situation.

Now bees are far more highly regarded than flies, and rightly so. Bees make honey; they pollinate plants. They are black and yellow. They are often fuzzy. They are, perhaps most

importantly, busy. Busy as bees. They make a useful contribution to the world. When their numbers deplete, as they have in recent years, we worry and ask why. If flies, on the other hand, suddenly became extinct, the world would probably throw a spontaneous good riddance party. No one likes flies. They are dirty and annoying. They spit on your food and then drink it in liquid form. They spread an alarming spectrum of diseases. While they like to fly around looking just as busy as bees, anyone can see that they’re charlatans. They are just as useless as that guy at work (we all know the type) who is always running around in a froth of activity but never seems to actually achieve anything. (He probably at least refrains from spitting on your lunch.) But why, you wonder, if something has to be genetically programmed to get trapped in a jar and die, should it be the bees?

This illustration alone should convince any careful observer that we are not living in a just world.

But what it also tells me is that you can’t rely on being perfect and industrious and well- regarded. That may work for you the majority of the time—it may serve you well through most of your life. But there’s a good chance you will, at some point, enter a jar you can’t get out of by doing the same old things you’ve always done. Flies are icky and no one likes them, but they are hands-down champions at survival—even if their lifespan is only a few weeks at most. Why? Because they are persistent and random—and they try lots of different things. They stumble upon solutions, upon open windows and exit routes, not because they’re particularly smart or capable but because they just keep flying around like they have no idea what they’re doing.

I suggest introducing more fly-like behavior to your life. I don’t mean that you should approach annoyingly close to anyone’s ear or spit on their food. But why not try things you haven’t tried before? In all areas of your life—in your spiritual life, in your relationship with God, in the way you approach matters of faith.

See what happens. Who knows? You may discover a sliver of a crack in a door that leads you to a whole new room you never dared to imagine.


Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, and graphic designer working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado. This blog is adapted from an editorial original published in the magazine LIFE.info.

2019-08-20T14:36:49-07:00August 20th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Southeastern California Conference Hosts FEJA Youth Congress at La Sierra University

Faith Hoyt, with Abigail Marenco

Approximately 1, 200 young people from across the Pacific Union Conference worshipped together and built community at the Federación de Jóvenes Adventistas (FEJA) Youth Congress held at La Sierra University in late June.

The event, hosted this year by the Southeastern California Conference, included a Bible Bowl focusing on Luke and Acts, several social events, and volleyball, basketball, and soccer games. Each aspect of a FEJA convention is designed to help young people grow spiritually, form Christian friendships, and enjoy physical exercise.

“We are grateful to God for the response we’ve seen from our youth,” said Alberto Ingleton, director of Hispanic and Portuguese Ministries for the Pacific Union Conference. “Our objective is to encourage young people to keep walking with Christ, but beyond that we want them to become active disciples who witness to others—young people who have a story, who found Christ, and enjoy sharing that story with others in their communities.”

Guest speaker at the convocation was Andres Peralta, associate youth director at the General Conference. Peralta spoke in both English and Spanish, sharing the Word of God, testimonies from young people, and illustrations of God’s unfailing love and calling to all youth.

Over the weekend, Ismael Cruz, FEJA president for San Bernardino County, led worship with a team of young people from churches across the Pacific Union. During their time together on Friday and Saturday, attendees watched videos summarizing FEJA activities from each respective conference and heard union and conference leaders share messages of encouragement and support.

On Sabbath morning, Manny Arteaga, pastor of the Kalēo church, encouraged young people to share their stories with others and step up as active disciples for the kingdom of God. At sundown, the gym was cleared to make way for a mini-Olympics event, and teams from all over the Pacific Union competed in soccer, basketball, and volleyball tournaments.

Many young people made new friends; others reunited with old friends that they had not seen for some time. According to many who attended, this congress was a spiritual blessing. One young person, when asked of his opinion of the event, simply responded: “When is the next one?”


The Pacific Union Conference FEJA Youth Congress was held at the La Sierra University gym in Riverside, Calif., on the weekend of June 28-30. On Sabbath, around 1,200 young people gathered to hear guest speaker Andres Peralta, associate youth director at the General Conference.

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Bible Bowl teams from each conference participate at the Pacific Union Youth Congress.

2019-07-29T10:34:26-07:00August 19th, 2019|News|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” August 16, 2019 Episode 332

All God’s People for the week of August 16, 2019
Episode #332

How do you capture the history of the Adventist church in a territory that encompasses nearly half a million square miles? How can a few stories of a handful of people properly represent a church of more than 700 congregations, with 245,000 members, who come from dozens of different cultures—and worship each week in approximately 30 different languages? Each week we bring you stories of things that are happening in the Pacific Union that show how God is working in our lives and in our churches, schools, and homes. But what about—as the old phrase goes—how God has led us in the past? Do we have a history of providence for the growth of the Adventist Church here in the Pacific Southwest? Our communication team here in the Pacific Union sat down and picked out just a few of the stories that help us remember how abundantly God has blessed us and led us.

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“We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” -Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, p. 204

2019-08-14T23:58:54-07:00August 14th, 2019|All Gods People|

A New Creation

by Becky De Oliveira

My grandparents wanted everyone to be perfect, and they worried all the time about the obvious fact that we were not. You had to eat the right foods and think the right thoughts and prepare yourself always—never knowing when Christ might appear—lest you be caught on a bad day and be forever lost. The chances of being caught on a bad day, I intuited, were pretty great. My grandparents held out little hope for themselves and far less for us. My mother wore jeans! I listened to rock music! Neither of my parents chewed their food enough times before swallowing! My brother ate too much pizza!

Because I was a kid and the idea never occurred to me, I didn’t interrogate them about what they really thought or what the implications of their beliefs really were. Did they believe each person had to be literally perfect? And what would that even look like? If a person—say me, for instance—were to become perfect, would that fact be obvious to anyone else? Would it even be evident to me? Would I be perfect if I managed to achieve some level of existence in which no other human being could find fault with me? That seems like quite a trick. I’ve even heard people say rubbish about Mother Teresa and Gandhi.

If you, the individual, get to determine what perfection is, well, it seems like a cop out. It’s almost too easy, but it doesn’t seem like there would be any other way to approach the concept since it seems unlikely that humanity as a whole could develop any definitive set of criteria. A single family probably couldn’t agree on what perfection really is. I doubt two like-minded people could agree completely. Religious people would argue that you can know what God thinks perfection is—what He requires of us—since it is laid out in the Bible, but this doesn’t really appear to be true. For starters, figuring this out would involve going through the entire Bible and making a list of all the things that God commands and then deciding whether they are specific to a certain time and culture or whether they apply to everyone always and then implementing these rules in your life. Just observe the average church community and it will become obvious that people cannot reach consensus regarding what God wants them to do. One journalist, A. J. Jacobs, engaged in a pretty entertaining experiment and wrote about it in a book called The Year of Living Biblically. He describes the project as being “about my quest to live the ultimate biblical life. To follow every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible.” I remember thinking, when I saw this book in a Barnes and Noble display case, that I was pretty sure I’d met a few people who’d done exactly the same thing—they just didn’t write about it.

Perfection—if you define it as following rules—is a bit of a cop out because following rules isn’t that hard. For one thing, as Jacobs points out, “fundamentalists may claim to take the Bible literally, but they actually just pick and choose certain rules to follow.” Because everyone does ultimately decide what constitutes a “perfectly” lived life, all you would have to do is create for yourself a list of rules. Lines you will not cross. And then follow the rules and stay inside the lines. Or redefine what they really mean when and if you fall short.

I would imagine that many people really are perfect in this sense. It’s not hard to stick to a vegan diet, to exercise a certain number of minutes per day, to devote a certain amount of time to prayer and Bible study, to be ready for Sabbath right as the sun dips behind the hills. I mean it’s hard, but it’s possible. It can be done. I myself have followed rather elaborate sets of rules—that admittedly changed from time to time, becoming either more or less restrictive depending on how I chose to rationalize them—for long periods of time. What I understand about religious fundamentalists is that there is great safety in ticking off day after day of “perfection.” I’ve often mused to myself that life isn’t really that hard—all you have to do is get through one day without doing anything massively stupid. One day at a time, just like the Alcoholics Anonymous creed emphasizes. But, unfortunately, it is entirely possible to do everything right on a micro level and still end up in a very wrong place in more wholistic terms. You can be so right that you’re wrong.

It’s surprising in many ways that perfectionism remains such a problem for Adventists. With our emphasis on healthcare, one would think we’d have highlighted the link between perfectionism and mental health—particularly depression, anxiety, and suicide—not to mention other health problems such as cardiovascular disease.

There are verses in the Bible that seem to suggest we must be perfect, although the word can be interpreted as meaning “complete” or “mature” rather than “flawless.” Even so, there are far more verses that speak of God’s love, mercy, willingness to accept us, and ability to transform our lives. For instance, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV). This is a statement of fact, not a cautionary prediction based on whether or not we happen to achieve certain goals or exhibit certain behaviors. We are new creations. That is even better than perfect.


Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, and graphic designer working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado.

2019-08-13T16:13:04-07:00August 13th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Linda Vista Robotics Team Wins Top Awards at National Robotics Competition

Faith Hoyt

A team of six students from Linda Vista Adventist Elementary School in Oxnard, Calif., won a series of top awards on May 5 at the National Robotics Competition.

The Astro Falcons, a team of students ranging from grades five to eight, travelled to the Adventist Robotics League (ARL) National Championship at Forest Lake Academy in Orlando, Florida, where they tested their skills alongside 29 other teams.

The Linda Vista Astro Falcons won first in robot performance, first place in robot design, first place in project, and second place in core values. The team was then awarded the National Champions Award and received the ARL nomination for the Global Innovation Award—an award given based on a team’s project comprising six documents and a video, which, for this team, focused on ways to protect astronauts from radiation in outer space. “The Astro Falcons chose to address the issue of radiation exposure in long-term space travel,” said Heidi Pennock, a robotics coach at Linda Vista. “They came up with a new type of tile that covers a space craft with boron nitrate nanotubes to deflect 90% of solar radiation.”

Team captain for the Astro Falcons was Joseph Pennock, who graduated this June from Linda Vista Elementary. This was Joseph’s third year as team captain and his fourth year in robotics.

“Being in robotics was fun! My co-captain and I were able to keep everyone focused on the main goal,” said Pennock. “I’ve learned about computer design, project management, keeping things organized, leading people, and public speaking.”

Linda Vista started their robotics program in 2015. According to Anne Blech, co-coach and faculty sponsor for the school’s robotics teams, the program impacts students in significant ways.

“The students learn how to work together and listen to each other’s opinions,” she said. “They learn how to solve problems, and they create attachments and plan displays for the judges, such as core values, project, and robotic design.”

Heidi Pennock added, “All of these students have learned how to present an idea and speak to a panel of judges. It takes a lot of guts to present a project your very first time. They did it, and they did so well.”

Blech and Heidi Pennock watched the Astro Falcons team put in extra time each week into preparing for the competition. Though teams are only required to meet once a week, the Astro Falcons regularly chose to use free time and Sundays to practice and work on their project.

In addition to working hard on projects and practice, the team also worked on fundraisers in order to pay the airfare to participate in the ARL competition. They met their $8, 500 fundraising goal thanks to support from local churches.


In early May, Linda Vista Adventist Elementary School’s Astro Falcons team travelled to the Adventist Robotics League (ARL) National Championship, where they tested their skills alongside 29 other teams.


The Astro Falcons team included Joseph, Gilart, Grace, Bryanna, Hudson, and Janae.

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Linda Vista’s Astro Falcons received first place in robot performance, first place in robot design, first place in their project, and second place in core values at the ARL National Championship. Additionally, the team won the National Champions Award and the ARL nomination for the Global Innovation Award.

2019-07-29T10:35:43-07:00August 12th, 2019|News|

Pacific Union “All God’s People,” August 9, 2019 Episode 331

All God’s People for the week of August 9, 2019
Episode #331

Livestreaming Oshkosh Camporee; August Recorder Highlight; Pacific Sunrise; Stories of Faith, and more.

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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13, NIV

2019-08-06T20:34:34-07:00August 8th, 2019|All Gods People|

Sisters Day

by Connie Vandeman Jeffery

The first Sunday of August every year is National Sisters Day, which celebrates the unique bond between sisters. I had no clue the holiday even existed until I received a card from Pati last Friday. I worked with Pati and her sister Lorraine for many years in media ministry. Her card brought tears to my eyes and totally made my day!

I never had a biological sister. My three older brothers were great. They played with me, teased me, and taught me how to throw a football and ride a horse. But I didn’t have that “sister” bond that comes from having a female sibling. The bond between Pati and Lorraine was beyond special; I’ve never seen two women who were closer. And I was envious, but in a good way. I loved being around them. They had their own secret language it seemed, even though they were five years apart.

I love being around all women who have sisters—twin sisters, big families full of sisters, any sisters. They have something I don’t have. I have BFFs and amazing girlfriends. One friend gave me a pendant that reads, “Best Friends are the Sisters We Choose!” I love that. I have a group of “prayer sisters” and several girlfriends who are as close as sisters. But there’s no one quite like Pati.

When Pati retired and moved away, we kept in touch by email and text. We’d send birthday cards and Christmas cards. Sometimes, out of the blue, I’d get cards from her that would encourage me right when I needed the lift. When I was in the midst of depression, Pati sent me a card saying that I was on her GPL: her geographical prayer list. There were 97 people on her list for whom she prayed every day—by name! Oh, how I needed to hear that, right at that moment. She didn’t know my issue, but she had included me in her GPL. I assured her that I was praying for her as well.

In the spring of 2018, Pati sent news that Lorraine was sick. I began to pray in earnest. I took Lorraine’s name to every prayer group of which I was a part. I sent cards to Lorraine and texts and emails to Pati. We shared scripture and assurances with each other. We prayed for complete healing. I made audio recordings on my iPhone of favorite hymns and songs with my guitar and emailed them. Lorraine’s husband and Pati lovingly cared for Lorraine during her nine-month battle with cancer. There were new treatments and doctor’s visits. And then there was hospice and earthly goodbyes. Pati was heartbroken and grief stricken, as were Lorraine’s daughters and husband. For Pati, it was the hardest of good-byes. Heaven didn’t seem soon enough.

It’s been nearly nine months since Lorraine’s memorial service—excruciating months for Pati as she tries to adjust to the new normal of life without her sister. Her card arrived last Friday, again at the precise moment that I needed it. In it were six pictures of Pati and Lorraine—from toddlers to teenagers to adult women. And then one sheet of paper that said, in part: “August 4 is Sisters Day, so I thought I’d send you some sister pictures. Here is what a sister means to me when I think of Lorraine. These words come from my hurting heart.”

What followed was a beautiful acronym of the word SISTER with descriptive words like sympathetic, irreplaceable, sensitive, treasured, elegant, and radiant. Each word reminded me of the Lorraine I knew. She had left such a legacy of love for all of us.

Pati added a few words I will treasure forever. “Connie, since you don’t have a sister, let’s share Sisters Day together.”

Yes, let’s do that, I thought as I grabbed a tissue and my phone to text Pati. The generosity of that one sentence filled me with such gratitude. I may not have a biological sister, but I belong to a sisterhood of remarkable women who use their own brokenness to heal others. Sisters like Pati.


Connie Vandeman Jeffery is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference, and has had a long career in media.

2019-08-05T16:51:11-07:00August 5th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union Education Department Presents Five Students with Scholarships—Future Teachers Committed to Living God’s Love

Faith Hoyt

Earlier this year, leadership from the Pacific Union Department of Education attended the graduation weekend ceremonies of five students in order to present them with scholarship awards.

Every year since 2015, the Pacific Union has awarded four-year scholarships to five high school seniors pursuing education degrees at an Adventist university. The winners for this year’s scholarships are Alivia Lespinasse, Dannica Roberts, Lauren Vandehoven, Molly Gram, and Se Bin Bong, five students who share common goals: living God’s love in their classrooms and helping their future students discover the joy of learning.

When Alivia Lespinasse graduated from Loma Linda Academy this June, she knew without a doubt that the career she wanted to pursue was elementary education. “My love for teaching and helping others is something I believe God gave me for a reason,” Lespinasse said. “Kids are the future of our church. I want to be able to teach them about the joy of Jesus so that they continue down the path of wanting to know more about Him.” Lespinasse plans to pursue a degree in elementary education from Andrews University.

Dannica Roberts, who graduated this year from Hawaiian Mission Academy, wants to use her future role as a teacher to inspire others to love, serve, and live the way Jesus did. “My school has encouraged me to help those around me by assisting with their needs and teaching them about God’s love,” she said. Roberts believes her participation in several activities at the Aiea church contributed greatly to her desire to become a teacher. From volunteering as a crew leader for Vacation Bible School to working with young people on a mission trip to Peru, she learned how to teach others about Jesus. Roberts looks forward to earning her education degree at Southern Adventist University.

On her first day of Kindergarten, Lauren Vandehoven fell in love with school and met the first of many teachers who would inspire her decision to pursue a degree in education. “I have had a teacher who helped me wrestle with questions on spirituality, two who helped me find my passion for art, another who taught me how to make a good presentation and reflect questions in my answers, one who explained long division to me six different ways until I got it, and one who encouraged me to pursue teaching and has guided me along the way,” Vandehoven shared. She believes that teaching is the path towards infinite learning. “There will always be something new to find out and another perspective to discover,” she added. Vandehoven is a graduate of PUC Preparatory School and plans to attend Pacific Union College this fall with the goal of someday teaching high school English.

Molly Gram, a graduate of Newbury Park Academy, discovered her love of teaching while leading gymnastics classes for children ranging in age from 1 to 14. Her hope is to not only inspire young people with the fun of learning, asking questions, and being curious but to also teach children about God’s love. “I want to be able to show up to work every day and teach children about the love God has for us,” she shared.

Se Bin Bong, a graduate of Redlands Adventist Academy, attributes her passion for teaching to the mentorship and help from teachers in her life, as well as her love of children. “My teachers molded me into the person I am today and never failed to love and support me,” she shared. “They taught me about God and showed me who He really was through their actions. I want to make a ripple effect of God’s love.” Bong believes in the importance of mentorship and showing God’s love through actions. She will use her Pacific Union Education scholarship to attend Andrews University this fall.

The scholarships provided to these five students are one of the ways that the Education Department of the Pacific Union Conference is planning for the continuation of a quality education system. “As we identify individuals with a passion for teaching, there is nothing more exciting than to be part of helping them reach their goal,” said Berit von Pohle, Director of Education for the Pacific Union Conference.

Alivia Lespinasse, a June graduate of Loma Linda Academy, plans to pursue a degree in elementary education from Andrews University. Her passion for teaching grew through her experiences leading children’s Sabbath School at the Kansas Avenue church and serving as a ministry director in high school—an opportunity that involved teaching elementary students about Christ. Lespinasse receives her scholarship from Martha Havens, Associate Director of Elementary Education for the Pacific Union Conference.

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Molly Gram, an incoming education major at Pacific Union College this fall, discovered her passion for education while teaching gymnastics classes. At her graduation from Newbury Park Academy this June, Gram is presented with a scholarship towards an education degree by Berit von Pohle, Director of Education for the Pacific Union Conference.

2019-07-29T10:27:08-07:00August 5th, 2019|News|