The Seventh-day Adventist church is blessed with members whose long lives are dedicated to service and sharing Biblical truths with their community. Two members of the Southeastern California Conference illustrate the positive impact that each life can have when committed to Christ.
Helen Kirkpatrick moved to Los Angeles from Texas when she was 15 years old. Her lifelong friend Mildred Sweeney Bradley introduced her to Don Franklin, and Helen and Don married just days before he left to serve in Europe at the height of World War II.
Upon returning from the war, Don worked on the construction team for the Los Angeles Union Seventh-day Adventist School in El Segundo. “A coworker invited them to attend a George Vandeman Seminar in Lynwood,” their daughter Vicky said. “They were immediately drawn to the health message.” In 1949, they were baptized at the First African American church in Los Angeles.
The Franklins built a life of service to others. Don built the Kansas Avenue and Mt. Rubidoux churches, and Don and Helen became charter members of the new congregations. In 2014, they were honored to have the gymnasium and conference room at the Mt. Rubidoux church named in their honor.
In addition to full-time work and raising six children, Helen was active in the Dorcas Society. “She had an open door for whoever needed help,” said her daughter Stephanie. “She would invite single mothers to stay in our home and later fostered many children.”
Helen celebrated her 95th birthday on October 22, 2020, at the Linda Valley Assisted Living Facility with family and friends across the country joining in on Zoom. Local news channels reported on her remarkable life. “My mother has always been committed to church and family,” said her daughter Donna. “All her life, she dedicated her energy to helping others.”
Ernesto Vergara was born and raised in Mexico before emigrating to the United States with his future wife Eriberta in 1976. Ernesto began a job in manufacturing and was invited by a coworker to attend a Seventh-day Adventist church service. Ernesto and Eriberta felt that Adventism answered many of the questions that they had about their Catholic faith, and they began Bible studies. On October 25, 1983, they committed their lives to the Lord and committed to a life with each other as they were baptized and married on the same day at the Paramount church.
Ernesto and Eriberta had two boys each from previous marriages, and they added another boy and girl to their family. Ernesto’s parents and siblings in Mexico cut off contact when he became an Adventist. With his conversion, he lost the family that he was born into, but he gained a large spiritual family that grew every year as he gave Bible studies, led Sabbath School programs, and distributed editions of Steps to Christ with his phone number inside.
Despite having to drop out of formal education in the fourth grade, Ernesto was a keen student and teacher of the Bible throughout his adult life. “As a child, he had a stutter,” said his daughter Priscilla, “but God unleashed his tongue when he began to speak at church, and he was able to give Bible studies every night of the week.”
“Each time he would meet someone new,” Priscilla said, “he would tell them ‘God had a purpose for us to meet.’” This would include the doctors and health care professionals he met toward the end of his life. With every interaction, he continued to share his faith in the goodness of the Lord.
When he passed away in August of 2020, his family read his favorite Bible verse, Job 19:25-27, at the memorial. “This was my father’s favorite text,” said Priscilla. “At the end of his life he was blind, but he knew that at the resurrection he would see his Savior.”
By Tricia Murdoch Zmaj