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For the Laughs

by Becky De Oliveira

I was baptized at the age of nine by a pastor named Ham, and people found this hilarious. “An Adventist pastor named Ham!” they’d cry, wiping the tears from their eyes. “Your baptism probably isn’t even legitimate!” “A better name would be Pastor Stripple!” Even now, in an age with a great many more sources of humor—thanks especially to the Internet—the name kills. Nowhere else in Christendom can you get quite as much mileage out of Levitical law or meat substitutes. Or, for that matter, persecution. Make a crack about the cave you will one day inhabit, or your eventual but certain death in the electric chair anywhere outside of Adventism, and you’ll get a nervous stare.

Our jokes never get threadbare either. When I lived in England and my children were small, our church offered a selection of hot drinks after the service and these included both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Every single week offered a variation on the same riff:

“Coffee, please.”

“Righty-o. Decaf?”

“No, I need the stimulating effects of the caffeine, thanks. If you could throw in a pinch of black pepper, that would be awesome.”

Here the server would pull an exaggerated face, wag a finger, and say, “Ooo-ooh”—and

then go ahead and pour the coffee. No one actually stood in judgment—they were offering the coffee after all—but everyone felt compelled 1) to note that we were breaking ranks and 2) to make a joke of it. What does this say about Adventists? Perhaps merely that we’re the kind of people who care very much about doing the right things, that we realize we lack consensus in some cases as to what those things are and exactly how important to make them, and that in spite of our differences we do agree to coexist as a somewhat messy and often incoherent community of sorts. That in spite of our hardline rhetoric, we really do understand that people are where they are—and that some of them are young mothers who never get quite enough sleep. And I love that about being a Seventh-day Adventist.

In spite of a great mass of apparent evidence to the contrary—including the occasional church member who has gravely cautioned my husband against undue “levity” in his sermons and everyday conversation (and he’s British, so what do they expect?)—I find Adventists to be a largely humorous and self-deprecating lot. I love those t-shirts that show the classic sanctuary diagram with a caption reading “Any questions?” or the ones that say “I ❤ Haystacks.” How many jokes have I heard about bicycles or black pepper or watches or measuring the length of skirts? Our unique history and subculture are—let’s face it—pretty funny. Humor always contains an element of biting truth, and the biting truth behind our humor is the recognition that we are people earnestly trying to live a life of devotion in an imperfect and messed up world. Within the context of our deeply flawed and inconsistent selves. If we didn’t laugh, we’d cry. And we’d be of no use to anyone. By joking, we bring ourselves down to earth.

Some people find making fun of faith to be sacrilegious and assume that those who engage in it are less than committed believers, but as a long-standing practitioner of levity often accused of cynicism, I can assure you that this is anything but the case. Humor demonstrates love and acceptance. You mock that which is important to you, that which you love enough and trust enough that you know your jabs can do it no lasting damage.

Among my fondest childhood memories is caroling during the Christmas season with a multigenerational group from church—spreading good cheer on porches all over the city and soliciting donations for our community services projects. What a goofy mess we were! Few of us could sing and, as my parents often noted, those who sang the worst also sang the loudest. But we all muddled through as best we could, sang our hearts out, giggled and tripped each other, leapt over fire hydrants, and snickered off the rude rebuffs of people who called us cult members. We had a clear view of the constellation Orion, all six stanzas of Silent Night committed to memory, a good and noble purpose, a collection tin heavy with quarters, a fistful of leaflets about the Sabbath, and each other. Back at the church community hall, we sipped steaming cups of full-strength Postum, and the laughter continued well into the night.


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 piece was originally published in Compass Magazine in 2015.

2019-12-01T13:43:28-08:00December 2nd, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union ASI Young Professionals Rally Held in Northern California

by Pat Arrabito

Sharing their energy and enthusiasm for God, 130 Seventh-day Adventist young professionals gathered on Sabbath afternoon and evening, Nov. 15, at the Northern California Conference (NCC) office in Sacramento, Calif.

The event was sponsored by the Pacific Union ASI (Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries), an organization that brings together business and ministry for the sake of the gospel. NCC Young Adult Ministry helped to facilitate the event by providing social media advertising and securing the meeting location. Additionally, Pastor Daniel Garza advised with program planning. The group was welcomed by Ed Fargusson, assistant to the NCC president. Attendees included teachers, business persons, lawyers, entrepreneurs, at least one psychiatrist, a Kickstarter employee, a denizen of Silicon Valley, a professional fundraiser, several chefs, a filmmaker, a social media marketer, realtors, builders, a GLOW (giving light to our world) leader, several pastors, and many others.

Students of Weimar college and music teacher Erwin Nanasi opened the meeting with singing and a devotional time of sharing stories of Total Member Involvement—a weekly community outreach that has connected Weimar with their neighborhood and brought people to Jesus. Shue Vang, high school chemistry teacher and sponsor of the “Bread of Life Club” at his public high school, told the group of how 70 students have come to his club to read the Bible during their lunch break.

After the Sabbath hours were over, business education began. Randy Bivens, Weimar Institute Chief Operating Officer, talked about the importance of EQ—emotional intelligence—in the business world. Danny Kwon, executive director of Life and Health Network, gave a short and practical lecture on the process of starting a 501(c)(3) organization.

Supper was an example of young professionals in the business world. It was catered by Chef Chew, who feeds the hungry of Oakland in his vegan restaurant, and featured his own invention: delicious meat substitutes, which are now available at Whole Foods.

The rest of the evening brought more inspiration and education from Beautiful Minds, the psychiatric practice of Daniel Binus; John Huynh, who shared his story of successful fundraising; and Chef Chew, who shared his food journey and what God has done in and through him. Ostap Dzyndra of Build and Restore International talked about the ways in which mission trips help the volunteers as well as those who were helped.

The evening ended with an opportunity for young professionals to engage with mission, to connect with each other more fully, and to engage more deeply in God’s work in order to hasten the coming of Jesus.

Top of page: Young people from around Northern California and beyond sit together during the catered lunch at the ASI Young Professionals Conference. Photo: Patti Guthrie


Danny Kwon, executive director of Life and Health Network, spoke at the ASI Young Professionals Conference. Kwon gave a short and practical lecture on the process of starting a 501(c)(3) organization. He has worked with ASI self-supporting ministries for almost 20 years and has been instrumental in the legal formation of several ASI ministries. Photo: Pat Arrabito


Chef GW Chew, general manager of the Veg Hub restaurant in Oakland, Calif., catered a delicious meal that included his famous vegan “chicken” noodle soup and barbecue sliders. Chef Chew has been a vegan food inventor/restaurateur for over 10 years and was one of the speakers at the ASI Young Professionals Conference. Photo: Patti Guthrie


The ASI Young Professionals Conference room was set up for 99 attendees, but the event drew 130. Photo: Patti Guthrie


2019-12-11T16:06:47-08:00November 26th, 2019|News|

Encountering the Other

by Becky De Oliveira


“When you encounter another person, when you have dealings

with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must

think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation?”

—Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, p. 124


It’s that time of year again. Many articles are advising people on how to get through Thanksgiving dinner with relatives who hold different political views and are not shy about sharing them in the most abrasive way possible. The toy company Mattel has come up with a creative solution, issuing a “nonpartisan” Uno game that features no red or blue cards to avoid any association with the Democratic or Republication political parties. The game also has a “veto card” to use against guests who discuss politics. Can I just say that what I’m most thankful for this year is my family, which does not need a game like this to get along?

These days Thanksgiving in my family is a relatively small and stable affair—our immediate nuclear family and sometimes my parents. We are all pretty much on the same page as far as the current state of affairs in the United States goes. The only conflict I can envision erupting this year is a brief spat with my mother over whether we should make the holiday “easy” for me by getting instant food and eating it in a hotel room at the Hampton Inn in Longmont, Colorado. (We will not be doing that.)

When I was a child, we often had Thanksgiving dinner with both sets of grandparents and my mom’s brother, Victor. There was no telling what topics might come up over the course of the visit, which usually lasted several days. One year, my especially gloomy grandmother waited until we were all happily tucking into full, steaming plates to say, “Just think how different it will be once the Sunday Law goes into effect and Reagan puts us in concentration camps.” Indeed.

One year, I was kept awake for hours as I tossed on the sofa, one set of grandparents having commandeered my room, while my uncle berated my mother about the evils of sugar. He was firmly Team Honey. He was also against the idea of eating in general, which was obviously an unpopular stance on Thanksgiving, although my grandparents generally took some of the joy away from it with their carob health pies and other innovations seemingly designed to induce suffering. “Food will kill you,” he’d insist. And if he’d been talking about the health pies, I might concur. But no, he really did mean eating in general. “The goal is to achieve a foodless state,” he’d continue. Once he regaled us all with the story of a delegation of scientists who dug down to the center of the earth and there (presumably amongst the molten rock and fire, or maybe they didn’t dig quite that far) they found a rock. When they cut the rock open, they found a live frog wedged inside. “Why do you think the frog was still alive?” he asked, and none of us had a clue what the answer might be. “Nothing to eat inside the rock,” he said triumphantly.

“Oh, he exhausts me!” my mother would exclaim. But there was never any question of his presence at the table—Thanksgiving, Christmas, any time he felt like turning up. He was family. We had to tolerate him, love him even.

Family is easier than non-family. Like most people, I’m not entirely sure what to do with those individuals in my life who spew what I perceive to be hate-filled, crazy (and often misspelled) rants or worse, memes, on social media. Many of them are distant acquaintances and no real action on my part is required, but I like to keep a check on my attitude all the same. A former employee at the school I attended as a child is guilty of online vitriol, even having seen fit to direct it at my mother, a woman in her seventies with late-stage Parkinson’s disease, last year. The thing is, I remember this woman as a kind and generous person. Even now, in between her attacks on everything and everyone, she’ll pause to write me a kind message and ask after my children. She seems to be genuinely fond of me while simultaneously despising my kind. Who is this individual? Which version represents who she really is? The data is conflicting; I can’t resolve it.

So I have stopped trying. There is a story I love of a rabbi approached by one of two members of his community who were embroiled in a disagreement. The rabbi told the individual that he was right. Then the other person came to tell his side of the story. “You are right,” the rabbi said. His wife was incensed. “They can’t both be right,” she said. “You are right too,” replied the rabbi.

My suggestion for Thanksgiving is to approach it “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2, ESV). And don’t worry. You’re probably right.


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

2019-11-25T11:47:29-08:00November 25th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union Public Campus Ministries Hosts Solidarity Project at UC Berkeley Campus

by Faith Hoyt

An Adventist Christian Fellowship (ACF) chapter of Public Campus Ministries collaborated on a project in late October that showed support and gave voice to survivors of sexual assault.

UC Berkeley’s ACF chapter, in partnership with UC Berkeley’s Path To Care Assault Crises Center, launched The Solidarity Project on their campus on October 22. The project created spaces for student survivors to write their stories on a wall—giving voice to their experience as a step forward in recovery. Assisting ACF and Path To Care in the project was the LIFE Adventist Church in Berkeley and the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, who sponsored this event in a demonstration of love, care, and solidarity with survivors during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Volunteering with ACF and Path to Care were seminary students from Andrews University, who spent the week providing a “ministry of presence” as they engaged with students about the topic of domestic violence.

“Every year, seminary students join us in reaching out to students on this campus,” said Ron Pickell, volunteer ministry coordinator for Public Campus Ministries in the Pacific Union Conference. Each autumn, Pickell leads a team of ACF members and seminary students in connecting with those on the UC Berkeley campus who have questions about God, faith, religion, and a variety of other topics.

“This year, we had many great conversations with the students who wrote on The Solidarity Project wall,” Pickell said. “We also had a spoken word platform, Thursday, on the Sproul Plaza, where students came and shared their messages with the campus.”

The Solidarity Project provided Berkeley’s ACF chapter and visiting seminary students with a thoughtful way to speak to important issues and encourage peers.

Photo Caption: ACF members and seminary students from Andrews University gather at The Solidarity Project information table set up on the campus of UC Berkeley in late October.

Top of page: ACF members and seminary students from Andrews University gather at The Solidarity Project information table set up on the campus of UC Berkeley in late October.


The Solidarity Project team stands in front of the wall set up for student survivors of sexual assault to write their stories.

Photos by Ron Pickell


2019-11-18T12:14:31-08:00November 18th, 2019|News|

Heinous Lies

by Antoinette Alba

For the first time in my life, I understood the draw to shooting up. Yes, you read that right. Sticking a needle in my arm and pushing poison into my veins. Life up to that point had dealt me all kinds of blows, but never had I felt the crushing darkness the way I felt it that night.

The thing about depression that is so crippling is how your mind turns against you. It tells you these heinous lies—like, you’re a failure; you’re alone and always will be; no one understands and, worse, no one cares. It tells you that you should be afraid; you should be terrified because this feeling will never go away. You will always be this messed up person that no one gives a rip about. It was on one of these nights that I found myself pacing around my house, wondering where I could get something, anything, to shut my mind up.

I had just had an emotionally devastating conversation with someone who made me feel worse than worthless. I had some hard truths to face—I would never get what I needed from this person, and she would never willingly give it. In the span of less than an hour, I was brought to a breaking point. Just like that, Satan had seized his moment. Lies began to flood into my mind like a pipe had burst, and I became so weighed down by this heavy, opaque sorrow that I finally understood the desire to pump drugs through my veins. So, I began to pray.

My prayer life has never been solid. I’m not your classic Christian. I don’t get up and make a joyful noise in the front pew, and I don’t thank God for that parking spot right in front of the door. When people ask me about my “relationship with God” I tell them it’s like any relationship. I know God is there. I love Him and I trust Him with my life, but it’s not easy and it takes work. Most of the time God and I have a quiet relationship. We aren’t flashy. We don’t post about it on social media. We don’t take selfies with our dog to make everyone jealous of our perfect life. We don’t call each other weird pet names. We’re just us.

Turning to Him in the middle of this crisis was hard work. I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t have anyone to call that I could even hope to explain the situation to. The second I said, “I really want to shoot up tonight,” anybody would just tell me not to do that, and that God loves me and I’m special, and blah blah blah. No one would really get it. So, I turned to God because I knew He would.

The Bible says that Jesus told His disciples, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Mark 14:34, NLT). It’s one of my favorite Scriptures because I have felt that way so often. To worship a God who has also felt that way breaks through the lie that I am alone. During a struggle that deep, Jesus reminded me that He’s been there, that He knew what it felt like, and that, like me in that moment, He asked His father for help when He was feeling that way.

I began to meditate on this text: “I am not afraid, because I know you are beside me. Even when it is dark and I can’t see you, I know you are beside me” (paraphrase of Psalm 23:4).

I felt God’s presence with me, and to my surprise I actually fell into a deep, peaceful sleep. God kept watch with me, and in the morning, everything wasn’t better, but I was changed in the light of His love, comfort, and consistency.


Antoinette Alba is an artist and writer based in California.

2019-11-17T18:50:21-08:00November 18th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Pacific Union Native American Ministries Co-Hosts Dental Clinic for Community in Page, Arizona

by Anne Crosby

God’s love was recently demonstrated through a group of dedicated volunteers in Page, Arizona. The Page All Nations church hosted a free dental clinic Sept. 23-25, attracting over 200 people in need of care. During the three days the clinic was open, approximately $200, 000 of free dental and dermatology services were provided. Patients expressed that they were overwhelmed by this gesture of love and service. 
The idea for the clinic came from Dr. Calvin Kim, a dentist and church member living in Washington state. Kim contacted Pacific Union Native American Ministries Coordinator Nancy Crosby about hosting a dental clinic for the community in Page, and soon after that a planning team formed. Each member was eager to make the event a reality. “God led, and through a series of events and much prayer, each detail fell into place,” Crosby said. 
On Sunday, Sept. 22, a mission group called F5 Challenge, together with volunteers from Build and Restore International, arrived ready and willing to help. The two groups comprised a total of 73 volunteers from across the United States and Canada who sacrificed time and money to serve. 
During their stay in Page, part of the group—which included licensed contractors and painters—roofed the church building and parsonage and repainted the church exterior.
The rest of volunteers set up a tent in the church parking lot and prepared to provide dental services starting at 9 a.m. Monday. The medical group grew beyond the initial seven dentists to include two medical doctors (one being a dermatologist), three massage therapists, and several nurses.
The tent was packed with patients each day, and many patients needed multiple procedures. The dentists offered extractions, fillings, x-rays, and more. Additionally, patients received medical advice and screening, were offered counseling with the pastor, and could meet with the Bible worker. The event generated interest in church services, and approximately 40 requests were made for Bible studies. 
On Tuesday, Sept. 24, Kim and another dentist gave a presentation on oral health and hygiene to 183 second graders at a local elementary school. Staff at the school said it was the best talk on oral health ever presented there. 
Volunteers at the clinic observed that although the patients seemed nervous and distrustful at first, smiles began to break out as people left the tent with their needs met. One Navajo grandmother remarked, “This is some of the best dental care I have ever received. Not only did they do x-rays and clean my teeth, but they also filled three cavities and replaced a crown.” Another woman told a volunteer that she had been embarrassed about her teeth, but now she felt respected and was happy to learn better ways of maintaining oral hygiene. A young Navajo father said, “I have always been afraid of dentists. But these dentists are so kind.” 
Many patients traveled from hours away to attend the dental clinic because of the scarcity of quality dental work on the reservation. Another obstacle is that the cost of dental services in Page is often too expensive for many local residents. The Page All Nations church is grateful that they could fill this urgent need. “We hope that this event positively impacted this community and that residents saw God’s love through each volunteer,” Crosby said.

Top of page: A husband and wife from Tennessee work as a dental team at the free community clinic hosted in Page, Arizona, in late September. The clinic was co-hosted by Pacific Union Native American Ministries—and a total of 73 volunteers from across the U. S. and Canada showed up to help. Photo: Miguel Manzo


The core team of people who made the dental clinic possible (left to right): Danny Kwon, attorney and executive director for Life and Health Network; Calvin Kim, dentist and founder of F5 Challenge; Randy Meyer, executive director of Caring Hands; and Nancy Crosby, Pacific Union Native American Ministries director. Photo: Miguel Manzo


While volunteers helped at the dental clinic, additional volunteers with Build and Restore International worked on reroofing the Page All Nations church. Photo: Michael Johnson


A volunteer pauses for a photo while helping re-roof the church in Page, Arizona. Photo: Michael Johnson


2019-11-14T11:19:05-08:00November 14th, 2019|News|

1969 Revisited

by Connie Vandeman Jeffery

The year 1969 wasn’t about Woodstock or the moon landing, although I remember the latter event in great detail. We watched it live on television—the Apollo 11 landing and then Neal Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped on the moon’s surface: “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I watched my dad wipe tears from his eyes and my mom sit spellbound in the rented trailer on Fenwick Island, Delaware, where we were vacationing that July. I was 13 years old and it didn’t get much better than a vacation at the beach and watching history unfold on live television. For me, though, 1969 was about learning to play the guitar, wishing I was Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary, and riding my horse, Nellie. And Vietnam—‘69 will always be about Vietnam.

Richard M. Nixon became president in 1969, and while Vietnam seemed like someone else’s war, it soon became our war, too, when my brother Bobby was drafted. Having a brother in Vietnam brought its own kind of anxiety to our family. I prayed for his safety every night and wrote letters to him and helped Mom with the care packages. He was seven years my senior and the closest brother I had. George, my oldest brother, got married and left home when I was three. Ronnie was 14 years older than me; following a complete nervous breakdown, he lived in a state hospital near our home. Bobby was all I had. He was more serious and grown-up when he came back from boot camp and headed quite quickly to Vietnam—which seemed like such a scary place. Bobby was a medic in 1969— right at the height of U. S. troop involvement. I just wanted him to come home safely.

I cried a lot about the war and about Bobby being gone. I strummed the three chords I had learned on the guitar and sang my Peter, Paul and Mary songs: “How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man? And how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand? And how many times must the cannonballs fly before they’re forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” And that’s where I thought the answers were—blowing in the wind, just out of my grasp.

When the telegram arrived, hand-delivered by two uniformed men, I watched in slow motion as my dad accepted the black bordered envelope and ripped it open with mom at his side. I stood in the background, too afraid to move. When their eyes lit upon the words “not seriously wounded,” they actually fell to their knees right there at the front door and wept tears of joy. I didn’t know what to feel. Elated, of course. Bobby was coming home, and he’d only had some shrapnel in his leg. He would be at Walter Reed Hospital for several weeks. It was the best possible news.

But I was numb, too. So many conflicting emotions would follow. I was so proud of Bobby. He’d served his country, made it through with only the most minor of physical wounds, but he was so different when he returned. Something had changed. He would never talk about the war. And he wasn’t proud of his service, Purple Heart and all. He was broken, but I was too young to know why. I had Nellie, the horse, who listened to all my mixed feelings, and I had my music. I also had that simple childlike faith that would only later become something solid—my faith at age 13 felt mushy, like Jell-O. I wanted to believe everything would work out. That Bobby would be normal again. That Ronnie would be healed of schizophrenia. That Romans 8:28 was true and all things really do “work together for good to them that love God.” It just didn’t feel as if my prayers were being answered.

I was just as surprised as my parents when Bobby re-enlisted, got married, and moved to San Antonio, Texas, stationed at Fort Sam Houston. He would live in the South the rest of his life—Texas and Georgia. And he would struggle for the rest of his life with the addiction issues that had begun, I later learned, in Vietnam. Marriage, a beautiful daughter, a divorce, remarriage, a series of jobs as a car salesman for different dealerships, buying a home in Georgia, losing that home to foreclosure, two grandchildren he adored, then cancer, and a too-early death at age 60. I am grateful the story of Bobby’s life doesn’t end there. Bobby, on his deathbed, found the one Answer that wasn’t blowing in the wind. It turned out to be real, tangible, and solid.

In October of 2009, when we learned Bobby didn’t have long to live, my oldest brother George and I flew to Georgia to visit him in the hospital. We would fly back just a few weeks later for his funeral. In between the two visits, Bobby and I talked on the phone while he was still lucid. He told me he wanted to be “saved.” I explained that he just needed to “call on the name of the Lord” and he would be saved. He’d see our parents again. We’d all be together again. And he did call on the name of the Lord. He prayed a simple prayer asking for forgiveness and surrendering himself, perhaps for the first time in his life, to Jesus.

When I sat with his wife, daughter and family, our brother, and a few friends at his simple, sweet service at a military cemetery in Milledgeville, Georgia, I was filled with such gratitude for the gift of Bobby to the world. And for the gift of all the wounded warriors who fought and survived the atrocities of wars. And for those who didn’t survive. I was taken back to 1969, to the girl singing, “How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry? And how many deaths will it take ‘til he knows that too many people have died?”

I know now, 50 years later, that the answer is not just blowing in the wind. For me, it is my faith, stronger and more solid with each passing year. The soundtrack of my life still includes the great folk songs and ballads of 1969, but it was a different song that I sang at Bobby’s service, standing next to his flag-draped coffin: “For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”


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.

2019-11-08T17:01:23-08:00November 11th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Native American Camp Meeting Hosted in Southern Utah

by Nancy Crosby

November is Native American Heritage month. The Pacific Union is home to more than 1.2 million Native Americans. Much of the Navajo Nation lies within the Pacific Union.

One of the highlights of the year is the Native American camp meeting. Nevada-Utah Conference held the annual Native Camp Meeting from September 6 to 8 in Southern Utah. The weather was beautiful for the event.

Dr. Winston Craig was the guest speaker for the camp meeting. Craig spoke on nutrition and diabetes prevention. On Sunday, volunteers prepared a delicious meal of Navajo tacos for lunch.

“Many people enjoyed the fellowship and time at camp meeting,” said Pastor James Crosby of Kayenta. “Everyone pitched in to make the camp meeting happen. Local community people even came to help set up the tent and attended some of the meetings.”

Top of page: Three Navajo church members stand together for a photo at the annual Native American camp meeting hosted by the Nevada-Utah Conference.


Church member Betty Greyeyes makes Navajo fry bread for attendees of the Native American camp meeting hosted in Southern Utah.

All photos by Thomas Lloyd


2019-11-04T11:49:20-08:00November 4th, 2019|News|

One Word

by Becky De Oliveira

I’ve done graphic design, including hundreds—perhaps thousands—of assignments for Seventh-day Adventist institutions and organizations, for more than two decades. My experience leads me to conclude that if there is an authenticity problem in the Adventist church—and the amount of discussion around this topic leads me to conclude that there is— it can be summed up in just one word: earrings.

Try to guess how many times I’ve removed earrings from a photo using Photoshop. Let me put it this way: If I had a dime for every time, I’d be—in the words of country singer Maren Morris—“sitting on a big [mild expletive] pile of dimes.”

Not only have I removed earrings (and necklaces and bracelets and nose rings and lip rings and eyebrow rings and finger rings) from stock photos of models who are not personally known to anyone in the church, but I have had to erase them from pictures of people who actually go to church every week wearing these items. Everyone can see that they are wearing them. So who are we trying to fool? And how must the photographed person feel when they see their edited photo? They certainly would be aware that their earrings and other “adornments” have been removed.

What does this communicate exactly? It doesn’t seem to say, “Come as you are.”

Malcolm Gladwell talks about how consumers say they want one thing while really wanting another. He uses coffee as an example, saying, “If I asked all of you what you want in a coffee…every one of you would say I want a dark, rich, hearty roast. What percentage of you actually like a dark, rich, hearty roast? …somewhere between 25 and 27 percent of you. Most of you like milky, weak coffee.… But you will never, ever say to someone who asks you what you want that I want a milky, weak coffee.”

I wonder sometimes if we are the same—we say we want “authenticity,” but what we really want is conformity. I had a client for several years who always insisted that she wanted a really “edgy” design, but she always chose something traditional, usually based around a navy blue color scheme.

There are many reasons we struggle with authenticity—like all people do. There is the continual sway of social media and the need to impress other people, for instance. But I don’t think we can discount the possibility that we don’t really want it or encourage it. Perhaps one reason authenticity is so hard to come by in our churches is that there is a sizeable if somewhat hidden population that is uncomfortable allowing people to exist simply as they are.

We have a great deal to gain from being ourselves and accepting others as themselves (barring, of course, violent, abusive, or criminal behavior). I have to believe that God created us each for a reason and that existing fully as the people He made us to be, rather than weak copies of a supposed ideal, is part of what we are here to do. The strength of our individual characters is what allows us to do great things in the name of God, not merely to abstain from sins or behaviors that might be frowned upon by our communities.

If we are to have faith communities that truly exist in authenticity, we have to really mean it when we say we want our “coffee” dark, rich, and hearty. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, one that we must begin learning to appreciate now. The Bible indicates that this is what God wants from us—honesty: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, ESV). Being authentic means accepting our own imperfections along with those of others; it means cultivating a culture where authenticity is actually encouraged.


Becky De Oliveira is a teacher, writer, graphic designer, and doctoral student working on special projects for the Pacific Union Conference from her home in Colorado. This piece was adapted from a longer article that appeared in Mountain Views, the quarterly journal of the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, based in Denver.

2019-11-04T10:03:12-08:00November 4th, 2019|Living God's Love|

Instant Answer

by Donna E. Starr

We live in a society of instant! Everything is instant. You push a button and your computer is on. You turn your phone on and it’s instantly available. You place something in the microwave and it’s instantly cooking. You turn your car on and you have instant transportation. Turn the radio on and there is instant music. Flip the light switch, instant light. (As long as the electricity bill was paid!)

We are conditioned to expect the instantaneous. We pray to God wanting instant results. As soon as we finish our prayer, we stand up and expect an instant answer to that prayer. When we take Him our deepest needs, wants, and desires, we expect instant results. However, God can use non-instant results to teach us a lesson, to make us realize that God’s timing is not our timing, that He knows the beginning to the end—and back again.

I found out last fall that my rent was going up, not by $50 or even $100 but by $200 a month. I am single and my budget did not allow for an extra $200. I began to pray with earnestness. I had been given until the first of October to indicate whether I planned to move and until the end of November to vacate, so I started looking for a new place even though I loved the area where I was living and didn’t want to move. Finally, I found a place I truly liked, but that complex didn’t have an apartment available. I was told they would keep me posted. Every so often I would check in, but nothing was available. Then, after much prayer, I did something I have never done before. I gave the manager at my apartment complex my answer: I would be moving. No place to go whatsoever.

I told friends I had taken a leap of faith. I think some thought I must be crazy! But the search for a new apartment was on full speed ahead. There was a complex next door to where I was living, but the apartments were even more expensive than the new rent. Meanwhile, I kept checking with the complex that I really liked. It seemed perfect. Good location, rent was workable—but never anything available. I checked with so many other places, but nothing.

I decided to stop in one last time on October 30—one month before moving day. Still nothing. I knew God had answered so many prayers before. He knew I needed a place to live. I didn’t understand why He hadn’t opened a door for me at that complex. I totally lost it on the way home, sobbing. I didn’t sleep well that night. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I never stopped praying, but I was feeling defeated. The prospects looked extremely dim. It didn’t seem like God was hearing or answering my prayers.

The next day, several apartment complexes showed up on Facebook. One of them was the one next door to where I lived. After work, in the pouring rain, I went next door again. To my surprise, they had an apartment available and the rent was less than what I was currently paying. (Apartments always work on supply/demand. A $1, 300 apartment one week might be down to $800 the next week.) I filled out the application, provided paystubs, and left my deposit. That evening I prayed and prayed, thanking God for the door He had opened. A day later, I got the confirmation: I would be moved by my deadline, and the rent was even lower than initially quoted!

I immediately thanked God. This was nothing short of an answered prayer. None of this would have happened if I had not placed my situation in His hands. Prayer works. Sometimes God does answer instantly, but other times, when it seems like prayers are not going higher than the ceiling, God is trying to teach us a lesson. We must always lean on and trust Him. We need to fully depend on Him. There is nothing we can do of ourselves, but when we have faith as small as a mustard seed, great things happen (Matthew 17:20).

My favorite Bible text has always been Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).


Donna E. Starr is a member of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Arlington, Texas.


2019-10-27T16:58:01-08:00October 28th, 2019|Living God's Love|