The senior leadership of the Pacific Union Conference—including conference presidents, Union officers, North American Division officers, and education and health care leaders—convened for a Leadership Roundtable on June 10, 2020. Their purpose was to formalize a shared conversation and address some of the issues raised by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, and to respond to the nationwide protests against police brutality and systematic racial injustice and the outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The conversation was hosted by Dr. Ricardo B. Graham, president of the Pacific Union Conference. Below is a list of the members of the Leadership Roundtable.
by Becky De Oliveira—
My father, who has been in a mostly self-imposed lockdown since the beginning of March to protect both himself and my mother, who has late-stage Parkinson’s disease, from COVID-19, has used some of his downtime to work on his memoirs, focusing on the 38 years he worked in forest management in the Pacific Northwest, starting in 1968. His writing is informative, funny, interesting, and, above all, highly reflective. At 77, Dad finds himself often pondering what he might have done better, what he might have done differently.
One example is a tree-thinning operation he supervised in the early 1970s about a mile from a scenic lake. Thinking the distance between the lake and the harvest site was enough that the activities of the machinery would have no impact on the lake, he was shocked to discover the lake had turned brown and murky. Sediment from a nearby wetland was slowly seeping into the stream that fed the lake. The damage was not permanent, and the lake soon returned to its normal condition, but Dad calls this incident “a slap on the side of the head,” and says it caused him to learn to “look beyond the project at hand” and to “consider all the impacts” of his actions, always trying to “look at the broader picture.”
I wonder to what extent we are doing this—or not doing it—in our lives and communities. Make no mistake: a church, a town, a group of friends—these are all ecosystems, delicately balanced, precious. They can flourish. They can be destroyed.
For the first six weeks of the pandemic, I awoke every morning with a fleeting feeling of well-being. Almost as soon as my fingers hit the button on my phone to turn off my alarm, I would remember: “My life is over.” I’ve stopped feeling that juxtaposition of emotions. I’ve become used to going nowhere but the supermarket. I have plenty of things to do in my house; I’m a busy person. I do therefore I am. It would appear that my life is not yet over.
Anxiety-inducing as they were, I miss those six weeks—if that’s how long it really was—that period of time when everyone seemed to be on the same page. We faced a crisis and we had some idea of how we might approach it. We were (mostly) unified in our efforts to make sure the most vulnerable of our population remained healthy. It made me think, in some ways, of one of the happiest nights of my life, the one when as a college student I was stuck at a truck stop on Interstate 90 heading east from Seattle to Walla Walla because of avalanche warnings. There were dozens of motorists in the same situation, and we helped each other. We pushed stranded cars, provided change for pay phones, shared food and weather updates. Waiters in the diner gave out free coffee to cold travelers with nowhere else to sit. Things were not exactly going well, but we took our situation with good cheer. We wished each other well.
That night in 1993 is an example I consider when I think about a social, faith-based ecology—an ecology of cooperation, of goodwill, of friendship. Many people have similar types of memories, and many of us long for communities that feel good—communities where we can trust and be trusted. But it is getting ever more difficult to find these.
The things we do now in our little lives may seem inconsequential, the way cutting down trees a mile away from a lake seemed low risk to my father all those years ago. We may find, however, that our actions—the gossip we spread, the mean comments we post on social media, the people we choose to disdain for whatever reason—will change our ecosystem into something ugly and incapable of sustaining the good life.
I’m old enough to have adjusted to one new normal after another, but not so old as to have decided what I think it all means or to predict where exactly we—as humans—are going to land, what we’re going to decide to be. I hope—always—that it’s not anywhere close to as bad as it looks. I hope the damage is temporary. I hope for crystal clear water.
Becky De Oliveira is a doctoral student in research methods at the University of Northern Colorado, working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference. This article was originally published in Mountain Views, the quarterly journal of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, based in Denver.
President, Pacific Union Conference
Executive Secretary, Pacific Union Conference
VicLouis Areola, III
Asian-Pacific Ministries Director, Pacific Union Conference
Leon B. Brown, Sr.
President, Nevada-Utah Conference
G. Alexander Bryant
Executive Secretary, North American Division
President, Central California Conference
African-American Ministries Director, Pacific Union Conference
Robert A. Cushman Jr.
President, Pacific Union College
President, La Sierra University
Hispanic Ministries Director, Pacific Union Conference
Daniel R. Jackson
President, North American Division
President, Arizona Conference
Treasurer, Pacific Union Conference
CEO, Adventist Health
President, Southeastern California Conference
President, Southern California Conference
Vice President, Pacific Union Conference
Berit von Pohle
Director of Education, Pacific Union Conference
Ralph Watts, III
President, Hawaii Conference
President, Northern California Conference
In this episode:
Celebrating Graduation and the Class of 2020
Little did we know just 3 months ago, that graduations around our Pacific Union would look so different from those in the past. But we have adapted and improvised; we have prayed and planned; our teachers and students have risen to the challenge; and we have some of the most meaningful and memorable graduation ceremonies to share with you.
A few interesting statistics:
Out of our 116 schools, we had 741 Kindergarten graduates; 902 eighth-grade graduates; and 751 twelfth-grade graduates. As of this date, there have been 49 drive-by or drive-in graduations and 10 schools have delayed their graduations to another time.
In this week’s episode of All God’s People, enjoy a video montage of some of our graduations from Hawaii to Arizona; California to Nevada and Utah.
Congratulations to the class of 2020! We are so proud of you!
Learn more about Adventist Education: https://adventistfaith.com/education/
~ ~ ~
“And we pray… that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way; bearing fruit in every good work, and growing in the knowledge of God…” –Colossians 1:10
PUC Virtual Graduation Encourages Graduates to “Learn with Purpose, Rise in Faith, and Serve with Love”
By Cynthia Mendoza
Graduation 2020 for students of all ages will likely go down in history as a bittersweet one, with the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly disrupting most of the ceremony and celebration, but at the same time providing a memorable experience from new ways of celebrating.
Sunday, June 14, Pacific Union College (PUC) celebrated the graduation of 279 students via a virtual commencement ceremony. The school created a special graduation page on their website that included video messages from guest speakers, student leaders, and administrators.
The page includes a “Wish you were here” introduction featuring lots of yellow and green balloons, some with doodled faces, representing students who were not on campus to celebrate. But even though they weren’t there in person, circumstances didn’t keep them from being there in spirit or in name. Another video depicts dozens of graduation-themed lawn signs, each with a graduate’s name on it. As the camera pans out, it shows that all the signs spell out PUC, representing the Class of 2020.
Scripture reading and prayer were offered remotely by a graduate, in full cap and gown. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!,” she read from Philippians 4:4-6 (NLT). “Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
“Even though it is not how we expected to meet, we are thankful that you allowed us to come together to celebrate our accomplishments,” she said in her prayer. “This year has been full of unexpected occurrences; there’s been pain, suffering, and injustice, and many of our students have not been exempt from experiencing that, but you helped us to carry on.… We thank you for the technology available that makes today possible for us graduates and our families.” The prayer also included thanksgiving for the support of PUC faculty and staff in mentoring students to become better people and professionals, as well as for everyone involved in making the online events possible.
The commencement address was given by pastor Tim Gillespie, who attended PUC for one year during his college years. Gillespie opened with a bit of humor. “Man, did you pick a weird year to graduate,” he said. “Pandemics, protests, riots, earthquakes—we’re in a tough time right now. So, thank you for giving me something to celebrate.”
Gillespie also praised the virtues of the campus itself, especially the natural beauty in and around it. However, he said, that isn’t what makes PUC great.
“You know what makes a place great? It’s the people,” he said. “So that means it’s you. So, while you’ll be moving on, your legacy remains, and it will make this school richer and more diverse—and it will leave a deeper density of meaning for those who will walk these halls after you.”
In her address to the graduates, Senior Class President Shekinah Francis thanked the college for providing opportunities for growth. Francis also challenged her new alma mater that, “It is time to listen. Listen to the stories of your Black students and alumni.”
On behalf of the Board of Trustees, Pacific Union Conference Executive Secretary Bradford Newton also offered a message of congratulations. Citing the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said that the church was not to be a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion but rather the thermostat that transformed the mores of society, Newton said, “Our prayer for you is that you become that thermostat of transformation as you depart Pacific Union College.”
By far, the longest video on the graduation page was the reading of the names of each of the graduates by academic dean Milford Mariano. A photo of the student was shown with each name.
“This is not how any of us anticipated finishing the school year,” said PUC President Robert A. Cushman Jr. in his video address to students. “In a few short days in March the coronavirus pandemic reminded us how quickly life can change for all of us. History will likely remember you as the COVID-19 class of 2020. I want to urge you not to let the pandemic define who you are today or who you become tomorrow.”
Each of the video messages were shared to inspired courage and hope, and they encouraged graduates to continue to “learn with purpose, rise in faith, and serve with love.”
You may view these and other videos at puc.edu/graduation.
By Cynthia Mendoza
In response to the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Adventist churches nationwide, including in the Pacific Union, have joined in public demonstrations of support for the Black community through protests, prayers walks, and vigils.
Ahmaud Arbery was shot by civilians in February while out for a run near his home, Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in March by police officers while they were executing a search warrant, and in May George Floyd died during an arrest attempt by police officers.
The following are just a few of the churches within the Pacific Union that have engaged in public support for the Black community.
On Wednesday June 3, members, pastors, and conference officers of the Southern California Conference marched from the University church to the California African American Museum in Exposition Park, Los Angeles.
The event was a peaceful prayer protest and vigil. The group was joined by members of the community, a local business owner, a captain of the LAPD Southwest Division, and the captain of University of Southern California’s Department of Public Safety, who marched with them and addressed the people.
The message of this event was clear: “Black Lives Matter and God’s voice matters” and to do nothing is to be complicit in the injustice.
“We are surprised and devastated by continued police brutality, particularly against African Americans. It’s discouraging to see we’re still fighting the same battle for the last 100 years,” said Royal Harrison, SCC Greater Los Angeles Region director.
Conversely, Harrison said he was encouraged not just by the turnout at the march, approximately 300 to 350 people people, but by the ethnic and age diversity of those who came to show support.
“We all have to work together to make communities safe for everyone,” Harrison said.
Also within SCC territory, in Long Beach in early June, youth and young adults met for a morning community walk during which they visited and prayed with people from businesses that had been affected by a recent riot in that area.
“Never have we seen in our lifetime, a conference explicitly fight for social justice clearly,” read a statement on the One House Facebook page, a group of SCC youth and young adults, under a post of photos from the marches and protests. “We are proud POC [people of color], proud men and women, and proud members of the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.”
In Las Vegas, Nevada, on Friday, June 5, Abundant Life and New Life churches participated in a rally, march, and candlelight vigil at Kianga Isoke Palacio Park in Las Vegas. The theme was “We Deserve to Live—Black People Matter.” The event drew a crowd of approximately 2, 500 people.
On June 13, the Nevada-Utah Conference (NUC) also hosted a conversation via Zoom called Courageous Conversation About Race. The program was hosted by NUC President Leon Brown, Elder Karen Schneider, Elder Carlos Camacho, and Pastor Oneil Madden.
“This has been a very difficult time for our nation. The last several weeks have been especially difficult for me personally as I contemplated the deaths of three young people who died unjustly.” said Brown, in a separate video statement in response to the recent deaths. “As I shared my thoughts with our pastors and leaders, it became apparent right away they too were being impacted by the events taking place in our nation.”
Brown’s brief introduction then leads into a longer video, with voices and thoughts from NUC educators and pastors in response to the recent events. A common theme among the various responses was a commitment to the “weighty matters of the law,” such as justice and mercy, and a commitment to caring and helping set free those who are oppressed.
On Sabbath, June 6, Clovis church pastor David Dean interviewed Clovis Police Chief Curt Fleming. In his introduction, Dean said that, in light of everything that was happening, he felt convicted to invite Fleming to speak. Their conversation covered many topics currently being discussed in communities across the nation, and Fleming also shared specific physical and procedural policies regarding arrests, adding that all the information was publicly available online. You may view the entire interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch? v = xnwB0cJ5TfI. The interview begins at minute 58:10.
In the Northern California Conference, the Valley Community, Mayfair, and Pittsburg churches came together for a community prayer walk at a local park in Stockton on June 6. On Sabbath, June 13, the Mayfair church also hosted Crucial Conversations, an online forum with pastors and leaders to address the issues impacting people of color in the church and in society as a whole.
Within the Southeastern California Conference territory, the Mt. Rubidoux church hosted a rally on-site on Sabbath, June 6, in response to the deaths of the three African Americans earlier this year, and also took part in strategic plans to establish building togetherness. Church members are also encouraged to support Black wounded businesses and to reach out to lawmakers regarding abolishing “qualified immunity” so that police officers would no longer be immune from lawsuits or other legal consequences in cases of alleged wrongdoing.
Many of the churches mentioned in this article, as well as others not included at this time, continue to hold online discussions and other events and activities in response to the issues of racial justice. While churches and communities continue to grapple with racial issues, they are also engaged in safely navigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many churches preparing to reopen soon. And many are still fully engaged in ongoing community service, such as providing food baskets for people in need.
As events continue to unfold, more stories and responses will be shared in upcoming print publications and online. For more information on what various conferences and churches are doing, members are encouraged to visit the churches’ and conferences’ official social media pages.
Photo—top of page: On Wednesday June 3, members, pastors, and conference officers of the Southern California Conference marched from the University Seventh-day Adventist Church to the California African American Museum in Exposition Park, Los Angeles. The event was a peaceful prayer protest and vigil. The group was joined by members of the community, a local business owner, a captain of the LAPD Southwest Division, and the captain of USC Department of Public Safety who marched with them and addressed the people.
On Friday, June 5, the “We Deserve to Live – Black People Matter Rally, March and Candlelight Vigil” took place at the Kianga Isoke Palacio Park (formally Known as Doolittle Park) in Las Vegas. Supported by the Abundant Life and New Life SDA Churches and friends, the event drew a crowd of 2, 500.
On Sabbath afternoon, June 6, in Stockton, Calif., the Valley Community, Mayfair, and Pittsburg churches gathered for a Community Prayer Walk.
On June 5, Southern Conference youth and young adults in Long Beach, Calif., met for a morning Community Walk to check in, visit, and pray with businesses affected by a riot in that area.
by Alberto Valenzuela—
While waiting for a connecting flight in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, I had my shoes shined. I had arrived at noon and my next flight didn’t depart until 3:00 for Roatan, one of the islands in the Caribbean.
In the oppressive noonday heat, the man working on my shoes told me about his daughter. She was 20 months old, a few weeks older than Camy, my daughter. She was sick with pneumonia, and he didn’t have money for the antibiotics.
In the way some people have of letting you know their life story, he shared that he hasn’t seen his wife for several months. They’d had their first child when she was 16, and she left him when their second child was barely a year old. He thought his mother-in-law might have taken his wife to the United States.
“I think she went as a mojada (wetback), but I’m not sure,” he said. “I have to work and take care of my children.”
I knew he wasn’t telling me a made-up sob story because I had overheard him talking about it to another shoeshine guy. It just broke my heart. I gave him 120 lempiras (about $12) to get the medicine for his daughter. He was so surprised he didn’t know what to say.
About an hour later, when I had already forgotten what he looked like, he came to where I was waiting and said, “Jefe, what’s your name?”
“Alberto,” I told him.
“My name is Miguel,” he told me as he shook my hand. “When you come back Friday, I’ll look for you. God bless you.”
He’d never been able to pay for a full series of antibiotics to his daughter. “Her name is Jessica,” he told me. He just couldn’t afford them. The days weren’t long enough to shine enough shoes to buy the medicine his daughter needed. As I took the plane out of Tegucigalpa, I prayed that little Jessica would make it and not become another statistic.
That Friday I returned to Tegucigalpa. As I approached the American Airlines counter, Miguel came up, all smiles, to greet me. “I was looking for you upstairs,” he told me while he vigorously shook my hand. “I brought my son with me so you can meet him.” He then proceeded to carry my luggage and place it next to the counter. “I’ll wait for you outside,” he said and disappeared.
When I had finished checking in, I went outside. Miguel was there, beaming with pride. “This is my son,” he said, presenting a little boy dressed in very clean clothes who didn’t seem to be any taller than my Camy.
“What’s your name?” I asked the boy.
“Miguel Angel,” he said shyly. I shook his hand and placed 40 lempiras in his other hand. He immediately put the money in his pocket.
“How old are you?” I asked him, trying to make conversation.
“Tell him how old you are,” Miguel urged. Miguel Angel raised four fingers to show me.
The father turned to me. “Do you want me to shine your shoes?” he asked. “It will be a ‘courtesy.’” He used an expression in Spanish that means something like “on the house.”
“No, thank you,” I told him. “My shoes are fine.”
I noticed that Miguel Angel was vigorously chewing on some gum. I remembered that I had a packet of gum somewhere. I found it after searching in every possible pocket and offered it to him. He took it and immediately threw away his old gum. I also found a pack of breath mints and gave it to him as well. I told him not to chew on them but to just place them in his mouth. His intelligent little face, a small replica of his father’s, nodded with understanding.
“I bought the medicines for Jessica,” Miguel told me. “She is doing better already. I’m going to buy her some more with what I make today.” I felt sorry I didn’t have a single lempira left. The money exchangers wouldn’t take my traveler’s check.
“When are you coming back?” he asked me.
“I don’t know. I have no idea.” I told him, really sorry that I couldn’t do anything else for his little Jessica.
“I’ll look for you every day,” Miguel told me as we shook hands in farewell. I left him by his shoeshine box. Miguel Angel was energetically chewing gum while thoughtfully watching the people who came to take the planes bound for the United States.
I doubted I would ever see Miguel again. I hoped Jessica would get to be as intelligent and good looking as her big brother.
I couldn’t help thinking about the story of Jesus and the 10 lepers. He had healed all 10 of them, but only one came back. Evidently, he knew by then who Jesus was. This former leper came back, not to ask another favor of Him, not to take advantage of His miraculous powers, not even to present Him with a request for someone in his family. He came to thank Him.
Miguel had spent enough time with me that he recognized me immediately. He knew when I was coming back. He knew that I lived in the United States. As far as he was concerned, I was rich. I had dollars. I had the power to heal—because I could afford to buy the medicines that I needed or that my family needed.
But he didn’t come to me looking for another favor. He didn’t come back expecting me to provide for him and his children. He came back to thank me.
It’s been a long time since I met Miguel at that small airport. I haven’t gone back. But I don’t doubt that Miguel keeps an eye out for me with every international flight that arrives. To thank me again.
Alberto Valenzuela is associate communication director for the Pacific Union Conference and editor of the quarterly magazine, the Pacific Union Recorder, which is published in both English and Spanish.
In this week’s episode:
—Clovis Church Pastor Interviews Police Chief—
Pastor David Dean felt convicted to reach out to Police Department Chief Fleming after he saw an official online post of his balanced, heartfelt, and informative response to the death of George Floyd. Chief Fleming agreed to come to the Clovis church and answer questions on Sabbath, June 6, and the church deeply appreciated it.
“It has opened up a door for further connection and bridge-building between us,” Pastor Dean said. Their interview was posted to the Police Department website and has had nearly 8,000 views! Thank you, Clovis and Pastor Dean, for a very tangible demonstration of community engagement.
Watch online: https://www.facebook.com/376151075761914/videos/565110844426722/?__so__=channel_tab&__rv__=all_videos_card
—Celebrating Father’s Day—
This weekend we will celebrate Father’s Day, a day to honor what our fathers mean to us and to express our gratitude to them. This year, Father’s Day occurs on Sunday, June 21.
The senior leadership of the Pacific Union Conference—including conference presidents, Union officers, North American Division officers, and education and health care leaders—convened for a Leadership Roundtable on June 10, 2020. Their purpose was to formalize a shared conversation and address some of the issues raised by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, and to respond to the nationwide protests against police brutality and systematic racial injustice and the outpouring of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Watch Online: https://adventistfaith.com/leadership-roundtable-june-10-2020/
—Arizona Conference Youth Ministries Hosts Virtual Camp Sabbath for Adventurers—
Some wonderful things have been happening for our children to help combat the isolation of social distancing due to the coronavirus.
Using Facebook and YouTube, the Arizona Conference Youth Ministries department recently hosted a virtual Camp Sabbath for Adventurers—children ages 6-10. Participants sang together, prayed together, listened to stories, shared photos of their pets, and used the Kahoot app to answer questions about the Bible. Supplies needed for the various activities were posted on the Adventurer’s page of the youth ministry website.
Follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/azsdayouth/
—Gracepoint Church Adventurers Enjoy Camp-in Weekend—
In Northern California, Gracepoint church’s Adventurer Club held a “camp-in” in place of the traditional spring campout. Director Janis Koh, leaders, and parents endeavored to make it as much like a real camping trip as possible. Families slept in tents in their backyards and living rooms; they prepared “camp” food, such as s’mores; and they went on nature walks near their homes. Fifteen families gathered together by Zoom for a Friday evening vespers and a Sabbath afternoon program. Kids and parents enjoyed singing, earning the Nature A to Z Award, going on a nature scavenger hunt, making crafts, and playing online charades. They posted photos of their activities in a Google album and then watched a slideshow together to see all the fun.
More Photos: https://www.facebook.com/graceisthepoint/photos/?tab=album&album_id=3437665619594507
—June Recorder 2020—
The June Recorder should be in your homes by now. It’s also available online. And the brand new summer 2020 Spanish Recorder is also online; see the link below.
Even as circumstances have forced us to develop new ways of connecting and communicating, each month it’s our great privilege at the Pacific Union Recorder to bring the inspiring news of God’s care and blessing to the Adventist believers in the Pacific Southwest. The churches, schools, and ministries that serve our region continue to function and fulfill their vital role for worship, learning, fellowship, and witness. This month we are pleased to begin the serialization of William G. Johnsson’s new book, Simple Gifts.
Read Online: https://adventistfaith.com/recorder/
—Adventist Risk Management Resources for Churches—
As congregations everywhere are looking forward to reopening their doors and beginning live services at churches once again, Adventist Risk Management has provided complete guidelines on reopening our churches. Click below to find to these comprehensive guidelines.
Next week, our program will showcase some of the amazing graduations from our schools around the Union. It’s going to be a very special program that you won’t want to miss.
~ ~ ~
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” –1 Peter 5:7, KJV
by Ray Tetz—
Where are their names? It is a surprise to me that so few of the names of the people who were healed by Jesus are known by their names.
Jesus cured the nobleman’s son; cured Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever; healed a leper; healed the centurion’s servant; raised the son of the widow of Nain from the dead; cured two demoniacs; cured the paralytic; and raised the ruler’s daughter from the dead. No names.
He loosened the tongue of a man who couldn’t speak; healed an invalid at the pool called Bethesda; restored a withered hand; cured a demon-possessed man; healed a woman of Canaan; cured a boy who was plagued by a demon; opened the eyes of a man born blind; cured a woman afflicted 18 years with an issue of blood; cured a man of dropsy; and cleansed 10 lepers, of which only one came back to thank him. No names.
Person after person, in situation after situation, “healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35, KJV). Yet we don’t know the names of all these who were healed, raised from the dead, and restored to health.
And it isn’t just the miracles. We don’t know the name of the Rich Young Ruler, but perhaps that was to save him embarrassment. We don’t know the names of the Good Samaritan, the man he helped, or those who passed him by—but that was a parable, so it gets a pass. We don’t know who got married at Cana or the name of the little boy with a big lunch.
I miss the names. We know the names of the disciples—and even their nicknames. The “begats” are a list of people whose names alone tell us they were important. The story of the man who climbed the tree wouldn’t be near as much fun without his name—Zacchaeus.
The fact that the man who helped carry the cross was named Simon of Cyrene, and that he was the father of two boys—Alexander and Rufus—makes me long to know their story. Not only that, it convinces me that they were people just like me, with families and histories and places to safely go when the world is full of chaos. Lives behind the life stories.
But rather than asking why we don’t know very many names, perhaps we should ask why it is so important that we DO know some names. The disciples we know, for they were the ones closest to Jesus. Pilate we know because he was a coward. Nicodemus we know for his insightful queries and the resulting conversation when he sought Jesus out by night.
And we know the name of Bartimaeus, literally, Son of Timaeus. Bartimaeus was the man who was healed of blindness as Jesus was coming into Jericho (Mark 10:46-52). Bartimaeus was the first man who publicly called Jesus by a name reserved for the Messiah. Bartimaeus, when told to pipe down, turned the volume up even louder and shouted all the more! Bartimaeus, when asked by Jesus what he wanted, knew exactly the right answer: “Lord, I want to see,” which was clearly a reference to his physical condition because he saw and understood so much already.
Bartimaeus refused to be designated as beggar, blind man, troublemaker, protester, or annoying distractor. In the end we know his name: Bartimaeus. And we know that Christ commended him for his faith. We know that it was his voice and clarity that made the naysayers in authority fall silent. It was his faith, his voice, and his courage that Jesus responded to so completely and in such dramatic fashion.
Bartimaeus is memorable because he shouted and wouldn’t be quieted when others were silent. Following his healing, the Bible says he “followed Jesus along the road” (Mark 10:52). He took up the journey that Christ was on—and something tells me he wasn’t silent then either. After he was healed, I think that Bartimaeus told his story to anyone who would listen. And his witness was memorable, unforgettable. His very name became synonymous with the grace and healing that Jesus embodied.
Of course, this is just speculation, but I think it has the ring of truth: Bartimaeus told his story because he knew that his experience mattered. He knew that his story could be important to others who might be fearful. He knew that the story of how he was healed might bring courage and hope to someone who had been abused or ignored. He knew that even his name could evoke hope.
Across the centuries, when his story is told, it is not just about his blindness, his begging, his shouting, or that Jesus was passing. We put a name to this story—and names are important. They were then, and they are now, too. It’s not just “one who is blind,” not just “a beggar”—it is a man: Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, and, now and forever, disciple of Jesus Christ. A life (and a name) that matters.
Ray Tetz is the director of Communication and Community Engagement for the Pacific Union Conference.