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by Julie Z. Lee
On Sabbath morning, September 21, Don Noble stood before a crowd of more than 2, 000 people in Sacramento, California, welcoming them to the 50th anniversary celebration of Maranatha Volunteers International. Behind him, a massive globe spun on a screen, showcasing the thousands of locations where Maranatha has completed a project. In total, Maranatha has built 11, 229 structures and more than 1, 000 water wells in 88 countries. The numbers are impressive, but they weren’t the focus of the weekend.
“The story of Maranatha is a fascinating story,” said Noble, president of Maranatha. “Each one of you probably has your own. It’s a fascinating story of people; it’s a story of miracles.”
These stories were at the heart of this year’s annual convention, which focused on Maranatha’s five decades of service. Established by a small group of friends in 1969, Maranatha has grown to be an international organization that has mobilized more than 85, 000 volunteers on short-term mission trips to build churches, schools, and other urgently needed structures around the world. Many of these volunteers have returned with powerful stories of transformation, and several were highlighted during the three-day event, held September 19-21.
Among the stories was the testimony of Laurelie Hillebert, a mother from Redding, California. Hillbert lost her daughter to illness but found new meaning in the tragedy while on a family mission trip to Zambia. Dominique Garcia, a college student from Houston, Texas, shared her challenge with an eating disorder and talked about how mission trips have helped to bring healing. Jack and Neoma Wisdom, from Paradise, California, told of their narrow escape from last year’s Camp Fire, where they lost everything but found grace and gratitude in God’s mercy.
The program also featured Adventist church leaders from countries around the world, including Cuba, Kenya, Peru, and India. They shared how Maranatha’s involvement changed the landscape of the Adventist church in their countries, including an increase in membership.
“Sin and the fall have brought a lot of inequalities in the economic life, social life, political life, and even the spiritual life [of Kenyans], and Maranatha came in to fill the gaps, and we are very grateful for that,” said Samuel Makori, president of the Adventist church in eastern Kenya. “God has seen the work in Kenya change tremendously ever since Maranatha came in 2016.… We want to say, may the name of God be praised.”
Other events during the weekend included free seminars related to missions, a special anniversary dinner, and a Maranatha History Museum, which highlighted memorabilia and key moments in the organization’s history. Leading up to the convention, Maranatha also organized major renovation projects in August and September at three institutions in the Pacific Union: Pacific Union College, Rio Lindo Academy, and Leoni Meadows Christian Camp and Retreat Center. There are 24, 000 Maranatha volunteers and supporters in the Pacific Union alone—more than half of Maranatha’s current membership.
During the weekend program, Marc Woodson, Northern California Conference president, acknowledged the work Maranatha has done in the Pacific Union and around the world to further the gospel commission.
“Thank you. We are very proud of the fact that you are not only celebrating 50 years of ministry but 30 years with your home base in the Northern California Conference,” said Woodson, who has been on multiple Maranatha projects. “May God continue to bless this ministry. We recognize that’s it not really about building buildings. You all have been building lives.”
Main photo: More than 2, 000 people attended Maranatha Volunteers International’s annual convention, in Sacramento, California. This year, the program celebrated Maranatha’s 50th anniversary and focused on God’s leading in the mission organization.
Ricardo Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference, welcomed the congregation on Sabbath morning. Graham, who has been on a couple of Maranatha mission trips, said, “I congratulate Maranatha Volunteers International, and we ask God’s richest blessings as you continue to reach the world until Jesus comes.”
Sixteen-year-old Shanti Slater, from Forbestown, California, spoke of her experience in Kenya on the Ultimate Workout, Maranatha’s project for teenagers. Shanti says she found God on the mission trip and was baptized. “One of the main things I learned about God is that He wants to come into everyone’s life.”
All photos by Thomas Lloyd
by Faith Hoyt—
A while back, I did something that created both a fair amount of embarrassment for me and a great many laughs for my colleagues.
Our department had planned an informal dinner at a nearby restaurant right after work. I offered two of my coworkers a ride to the restaurant, but after waiting in the parking lot for a while, I left with only one of them. I later learned that had I waited two more minutes to hear from him, my other coworker wouldn’t have missed out on the gathering.
Well, we’re a close-knit bunch, and our missing coworker was…missed. (He ended up deciding not to come.) I felt bad about my impatience, so later I asked our boss if he knew of something this coworker particularly liked—something that could help make amends for a failed rendezvous. The suggestion, which came with a grin now that I think back on it, was Malta, a soft drink made mostly in coastal Caribbean areas such as Haiti, Panama, or Puerto Rico.
I had tasted Malta several summers before, and although I remembered disliking the molasses flavor, I was eager to find this favorite beverage that would restore good will. (My coworkers are a great bunch, so actually losing their good will is hard to do.) Since we were in Los Angeles County, I figured the odds were good that I could find Malta at the local grocery store.
Fast forward to a scene on aisle 26 of said local grocery store, where a sales associate helped end a 10-minute search and tracked down one of the last cases of Malta in stock. I was thrilled. “Popular drink!” I mused as I headed to the checkout. Later, I triumphantly sought out the coworker whom I’d abandoned and held out the case of Malta as a peace offering. This was when my enthusiasm shifted to another state—we will call it “self-conscious distress.”
Here’s how the handoff of the Malta went down: I held out the container with a big grin and said nothing as I waited for the significance of the drink to register on my friend’s face. That look never came. Instead, he remarked, “OK, Malta!” and looked back at me with a confused expression. I felt myself mirror his look.
“But you like Malta!” I insisted.
“I do?” was his reply.
We stood there for a brief second. Then my coworker laughed, accepted my offering, and said a gracious thank you before returning to what he was doing—all with that expression of someone who is laughing inwardly.
Later, I learned that the name of this coworker’s favorite drink is Materva (something I haven’t tried—apparently a carbonated drink made from a popular tea in South America). For our office, however, the word Malta is engrained in our memories as the keyword for a running joke about good intentions.
I’m grateful each time this story comes up. Instead of resurrecting feelings of embarrassment, it makes me feel a strong sense of camaraderie with my coworkers. My community.
I’ve found that whether it’s the wrong drink, the wrong name in a bulletin, or even fabric swatches you’ve chosen for reupholstering pews that everyone else finds ugly, moments like these are an opportunity to stop taking life so seriously, laugh at ourselves, and—perhaps most importantly—laugh together.
Faith Hoyt is a communication specialist for the Pacific Union Conference. She lives in Riverside, California, and is earning an advanced degree from La Sierra University.
All God’s People Episode #341
In this episode –
Church Hosts Kids Cooking Class; Spanish Churches Launch Radio Program; Adventist Health’s TakeTEN™ Lifestyle Program; Clergy Appreciation Sabbath
Chino Valley Chinese Church Hosts Kids Cooking Class
Recently, the Chino Valley Chinese Church hosted Christine Fujitani, a cooking instructor who taught morning cooking classes for children interested in making delicious food. Christine, a professor turned entrepreneur, is the owner of La Tulipe Cooking Studio. She’s passionate about helping children learn to cook a variety of quality vegetarian meals that’ll encourage them to find healthy foods they’ll love to eat. You can learn more about Christine’s unique program via the link below:
Spanish Churches Launch Weekly Radio Broadcast
The Hayward Spanish church and the Central California Conference’s San Jose Spanish church have combined efforts to create a weekly radio broadcast in Spanish. The one-hour program can be heard around the Bay Area—and even as far away as Visalia. In mid-September, the churches held a concert at the Hayward Spanish church to raise money for the program, and 600 people from around California attended! Listen to the radio program on KXZM, 93.7 FM: Sunday from 8-9 a.m., Monday to Friday from 4-5 a.m., and Sabbath from 5-6 a.m.
Learn more: https://www.facebook.com/mediahoraconjesuslivestream/
Adventist Health TakeTEN™ Lifestyle Program Helps Participants Live Healthier Lives
TakeTEN is a physician-led, evidence-based program that uniquely combines expert medical care with nutrition, fitness, and spirituality into your personal lifestyle prescription. The program can help with smoking cessation, weight loss, diabetes care, cardiovasular care, and more. Learn more about this 10-day program via the link below.
Clergy Appreciation & Spirit of Prophecy Sabbath
Tomorrow, Sabbath, October 12, is Clergy Appreciation Sabbath. Why not let your pastor know how much he or she is appreciated? October 12 is also Spirit of Prophecy Sabbath—a time to focus on our special heritage and the writings of Ellen G. White. Her books include The Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, and The Ministry of Healing. Read her writings online via the link below.
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“Nothing tends more to promote health of body and of soul than does a spirit of gratitude and praise.” -Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 251
New from the Living God’s Love Blog: Entertaining Unawares, by Edward Motschiedler
Read the blog at: https://adventistfaith.com/category/blog/living-gods-love/
by Edward Motschiedler—
Highlights from the 2019 Student Leadership Conference
Student leaders from 34 junior and senior academies spent the last weekend of September at Leoni Meadows camp in Grizzly Flats, California. Their aim? To learn how to better love, serve, and lead their campuses. This year’s theme for the conference was “Leadership lessons from Nehemiah.”
Over the course of the weekend, group facilitators helped students discuss how they want to lead, what they want to accomplish, and ways to help their classmates get involved and grow together. Leadership groups from the different academies spent time working on teambuilding through different outdoor and indoor challenges, games, and activities.
In addition to fun activities, attendees also gathered at the Leoni Lodge to sing and worship together.
This week, Gisselle Asij, senior at Newbury Park Adventist Academy and the ASB president for the 2019-2020 school year, joined us as our guest host of All God’s People! Watch this week’s episode to learn more about the great things students learned at this annual conference, and click the link below to learn more about Adventist Education in the Pacific Southwest.
Sign up for the All God’s People weekly news roundup: https://adventistfaith.com/subscribe/
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So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” -Nehemiah 2:20 (NKJV)
As Church Support Services Director Rich DuBose will tell you, his department is eager to help fulfill the mission of sharing the gospel. Formed to serve the needs of churches, his department has provided a host of resources to help churches share the gospel in the Pacific Union Conference territory.
DuBose joined the Pacific Union Conference as an associate director in the Church Ministries department in 1994. “Back then, we launched a new ministry help-desk called PlusLine,” he said. “We had an 800 number that local church leaders could call to help them find ministry-related tools and resources, and we handled event registrations. Toward the end, our staff answered as many as 100 calls a day.”
Soon, other unions were included in the service. Today, PlusLine, now known as AdventSource, is owned by the North American Division (NAD) and operates in Lincoln, Nebraska.
With the acquisition of PlusLine by the NAD in 2005, the nature of DuBose’s work transitioned to developing resources that could be used in local church ministry.
“Our mission is to develop and share curated content that inspires pastors, church leaders, and members to use their best gifts to connect people with Jesus,” DuBose said. “Our goal is to find and share knowledge and stimulate engagement that can help turn theology into biography.”
Over the years, Church Support Services has conducted seminars for ministry training; developed online study guides; created sharing cards and flyers on healthful living and other topics; and produced web ads and various theme-based websites for preaching, Bible study, and more.
Several recent projects include the creation of a smartphone app called SpiritRenew and an initiative called inSpire that celebrates and promotes using the arts in ministry. In addition, they’ve produced over 75 videos ranging from six to eight minutes in length that focus on specific ministries and individuals that God is using throughout the Pacific Union territory—a project called Stories of Faith.
“By far our most comprehensive website is Answers For Me,” DuBose said. “It provides content for people who may or may not be Christian-oriented. It has resources for users who wish to grow spiritually, but it is intentionally low-key in its approach.”
DuBose helps local churches use RSS technology to feature his department’s content, such as stories and recipes, on their church websites without diverting traffic away from their sites.
“It takes a village of ideas and efforts to help create a culture for change and experimentation,” DuBose said. “We focus on sharing traditional and innovative ideas that churches can experiment with to fulfill our shared mission.”
To learn more about the resources produced by Church Support Services, visit http://www.churchsupportservices.org.
Photo: “The inSpire TV show features Adventist creatives within the Pacific Union Conference who desire to bring good to life and to use their gifts to share God’s story,” says Rich DuBose, director of Church Support Services. “Art, film, graphics, music, and more are being used as a vehicle for sharing God’s message of healing and hope.” Left to right: Greg Evans, singer/songwriter; inSpire co-host, Jesús Noland, app and game developer; Cecia Garcia Lopez, music therapist; and Rich DuBose, inSpire host.
Photo by Summer Medina