by Gladys Neigel
God is opening new doors in new facilities for His work to grow and prosper in Florida. During the month of October, three buildings were dedicated.
On October 26, members and friends gathered for the dedication of this Creole-speaking church congregation that was born into existence on January 5, 2013, after the merger of Shiloh and Morijah Churches in Miami, Fla. The dedicatory sermon was presented by Duane Rollins, Florida Conference treasurer.
Lay pastor Wesle Pierre shepherds this flock of 158 members. The church building at 10185 NW 7th Avenue in Miami was previously occupied by another denomination and, before that, a funeral home.
During the weekend of October 18-20, Fort Lauderdale members realized the fulfillment of a 27-year dream to dedicate a new sanctuary. Since 1986, the adjacent fellowship hall has served the 297 members as a place of worship.
Pastor Jeffrey Thompson led the weekend celebration that included guest speakers George Brown, former Inter-American Division president; Henoc Paulicin, Florida Conference ministerial field secretary; and Conrad Duncan, Florida Conference vice president for general administration.
Jupiter-Tequesta Church dedicated its new facility on October 11 as the first step in a building program that will eventually include a sanctuary. Florida Conference President Mike Cauley was the speaker for the worship service.
Church members currently are meeting in their fellowship hall. The campus provides ample seating, parking, classrooms, and amenities for the 115-member congregation under the direction of Pastor Richard Moseley.
by Robert and Thomas Broome
For the past three years, Apopka, Fla., Church has partnered with Florida Hospital Apopka for a Let’s Move Day 5K walk/run and health fair. On September 22, in addition to the main event with 130 participants, a Kids’ Fun Run was offered to youngsters 12 and under. The goal of this event was to encourage healthy kids and families in the community.
One success story was that of Shermin Tao, a return participant from last year’s race. Shermin did well in the race but was determined this year to win his age category. His preparation included running a mile every day and playing tennis in the evening.
However, just weeks before the event, Shermin was diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He took the news in stride and promptly changed his diet to improve his health. Changes included more plant-based foods, a reduction in meat consumption, and staying away from his favorite fast food restaurant.
Confirmation of the results from Shermin’s efforts came just days before the race when both his high blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were lowered to within normal ranges. On September 22, a healthier Shermin Tao finished the 5K run and won his age category!
by Lennie Schiefer
The Pathfinder Club of New Port Richey received free CPR instruction from Tom Mazzant and Daryl Sample, two certified CPR teachers from Florida Hospital of North Pinellas.
According to Pathfinder Club Director Carol Koch, 18 Pathfinders and staff members took the three-hour CPR course. The teachers gave each Pathfinder a Red Cross booklet to remind them how to perform CPR. Instruction included a video and a how-to demonstration of each step in giving CPR to adults, children, and infants.
Pathfinders also performed hands-on practice with various-sized manikins loaned from the hospital, and they were instructed in Automated External Defibrillator (AED) usage.
After successfully completing the Family and Friends CPR course, each Pathfinder received a case containing an official CPR mask and gloves and a certificate of course completion.
These Pathfinders are ready and prepared to act in a time of emergency. Director Koch has approached the Church Board with this request from the Pathfinders, “Our church should look into obtaining an AED to have on the premises in case we should ever need one. They are simple to use and could save a life.”
by Gladys Neigel
Lloyd Babb, Master Gardener and member at Forest Lake Church, Apopka, Fla., hosted a Fall Gardening class at the church featuring Tom MacCubbin, fellow Master Gardener who appears locally on media and writes a newspaper column for Orlando Sentinel.
Lloyd hosted and/or taught 12 lessons on various aspects of gardening during the past year. He calls this mission outreach “Gardening For God.”
“We are told in Spirit of Prophecy that the health message is the ‘entering wedge,’” says Lloyd. “However, I have found that gardening can also be the ‘entering wedge’ to talk to others, as many people today are looking for ways to grow their own vegetables for several reasons:”
- Vegetables have flowers, too. Striking flowers can be found in the midst of the vegetable patch.
- Vegetable gardening is healthier. Gardening provides the benefits of exercise and fresh air, and vegetables will supply the grower with nutritious produce loaded with vitamins and nutrients.
- Edible gardens are picture perfect. Gardens can be designed to offer just as much beauty, color, variety, and interest to your landscape as any ornamental-only garden.
- Vegetables are historical. Heirloom vegetables have been treasured and passed down for centuries, and many come with fascinating histories.
- Growing veggies can be profitable. Organic foods continue to rise in price, so a backyard vegetable factory may become a real moneymaker.
- Vegetable gardens are versatile. A simple garden can incorporate all manner of vegetation from fruits and vegetables, to herbs and flowers.
- Vegetable gardeners have more friends. Let word slip out that gourmet treats are growing in your backyard, and your popularity is almost guaranteed.
- Growing vegetables fosters creativity. You’ll be amazed at your ability to come up with new ideas for preparing loads of fresh produce.
- Cultivating independence. It is nice to know that your own two hands can put food on the table, reduce your dependency on the supermarket, and provide gourmet produce for your family’s enjoyment.
Let men and women work in field and orchard and garden. This will bring health and strength to nerve and muscle. Living indoors and cherishing invalidism is a very poor business. If those who are sick will give nerves and muscles and sinews proper exercise in the open air, their health will be renewed. —Medical Ministry, page 296.4
by Mark Reams
Mark Reams, pastor for youth ministries at Forest Lake Church, Apopka, presented this message during the June 22 worship service. “What a down-to-earth description of discipleship,” said one listener in attendance. “The heart of his message should be shared with Florida Conference members.” A condensed version of the sermon is below. You can also watch or listen to Mark’s sermon on the Forest Lake Church web site.
If you auditioned to become one of Jesus’ disciples, what would the criteria look like? If I, personally, had to stand before Jesus and audition for a disciple position, would I have what it takes based on His qualifications?
Luke 14:33 gives us a start in knowing what this looks like. This is Jesus speaking: “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Now, that’s radical! Everything!
In case you think Jesus is just talking about stuff, let’s back up in Luke 14 to verse 26. Again, Jesus is talking: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross,” carry his torture device on his back, “and follow me, cannot be my disciple.”
To follow Jesus takes complete priority over all earthly relationships and all earthly possessions. He said, “You can’t call yourself a follower of mine if you’re not willing to give up all these things.”
That’s crazy, right? I’m curious how your audition is going now, because we’re going to get a little bit more uncomfortable.
Let’s turn a few chapters to Luke 9. This chapter has a subheading, “The cost of following Christ.” Look at verse 57. Crowds are following Jesus. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, ‘I will follow you.’”
Hey, an eager beaver. “I will follow you wherever you go. I will follow you.” And Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
Jesus is saying, “If you want to follow me, it requires complete dependence on me. There is no guarantee of comfort.” We find out, in Matthew 8, this eager guy is actually a religious leader.
Jesus warns about these guys in Mark 12, because they would attach themselves to some form of a religious teacher in order to promote or enhance their position, their status, or their career—to climb the ladder, so to speak. And here you’ve got a guy who wants to follow Jesus as a means to an end.
So many times I’ve heard Christian language that portrays Jesus as a means to an end. “Come to Jesus so that you can get forgiveness. Come to Jesus so that you can get your best life. Come to Jesus so that you can get heaven.”
You don’t come to Jesus to get anything else. You come to Jesus, and you get Him. He’s the end. He’s not a means to anything. He is everything.
Jesus tells this guy, “I don’t have a roof over my head. If you follow me, I’m all you’ve got.” Do you want that kind of Jesus? If you answer, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go,” you have to ask yourself, “Do I want comfort or do I want the cross?” Because that’s where Jesus is going.
Let’s get a little bit more uncomfortable by reading Luke 9:59 where Jesus is talking to another man. “Follow me,” He says. The man replied, “Lord, first let me go bury my father,” and Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Isn’t that amazing? It seems as if Jesus is trying to talk this man out of following Him. Jesus says, “Don’t even go back to pay your respects.”
Now, there are scholars who debate this whole deal. Some people believe this man’s dad had just a couple days to live, and he wanted to spend those last couple days with his father and then give him a proper burial, which is obviously something he would want to do.
But even more than that, there’s a deeper religious obligation that a son honor his father in such a way. Others believe his dad had just died, and once he buried his father, he would come and follow Jesus.
We all celebrated Father’s Day last Sunday. I hope you celebrated yours, because I am privileged that mine is still alive. I know some of you have already lost your father. I was happy to spend some time with my dad. I could not imagine if my father was either on his death bed or already dead, and Jesus telling me, “Let someone else go bury your dad. You go proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Ouch! That seems cold, doesn’t it? Let’s be honest. That’s harsh. What is Jesus saying here? What is He doing?
He’s saying there is a responsibility and an obligation which supersede every other responsibility and every other obligation in this world, even the thing you would most want to do or need to do. Jesus says, “No, you go proclaim the kingdom of God. It’s far more important.”
The Church, individuals, and families will always face two options: maintenance or mission, status quo/business as usual or radical abandonment to proclaiming the kingdom of God. And if you answer Jesus and say, “Ah, yes, I will follow you wherever you go,” you have to answer yourself, “Will I choose maintenance or mission? Do I want comfort or do I want the cross?”
In Luke 9:61, we read about another eager person who was in the crowd who opened his mouth and said, “Oh, Jesus, I will follow you, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my mom and dad and my family. I will follow you, but let me go say goodbye.” And Jesus’ response to that was, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus was way ahead of His time. He said, “No texting and driving.” It will just mess up something. You can’t do that. Don’t even go say goodbye to Momma. Ooooo! That’s hard for some moms to hear.
Can’t you sense the indecision here on the part of this man? When Jesus tells us to obey, at least in my personal experience, I go through a series of justifying questions that may talk me out of it. Is it safe? Is it wise? Is it best for my family? Is it best for my career? Is it the right time? What will people think? How will this look? How can I even pull it off?
When Jesus says it, His follower does it. Period! Anything else is disobedient. Indecision hampers us from obedience to Christ.
What scares me is the implication of Luke 9. None of these three guys followed Jesus. What scares me even more is what we have done with what it means to follow Christ today. I wonder if Jesus would move right past us, and we’d still be standing there staring at His back walking away from us. That haunts me.
Am I a follower of Jesus? What does Jesus expect of us? What is expected of a Christian who lives in Florida? Sadly, not a lot really, not a lot. The bar is pretty low.
What is expected of a follower of Christ in Luke 9? Everything. What is expected of a follower of Christ in Luke 14? Everything. One hundred percent focus on Jesus. One hundred percent allegiance to Him. One hundred percent dependence. One hundred percent trust. One hundred percent undivided. Jesus is not willing to compromise for anything less. That’s what He wants. That’s what He requires.
Our hearts are like a pie chart where there are sections cut out to represent certain percentages for my career, certain percentages for my social life, certain percentages for the church thing, and God. See, God does not want a piece of your pie. He wants the whole pie, everything, undivided attention, and focus on what He calls us to do.
So, if you answer, “Yes,” and say, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go,” you have to ask yourself, “Will I be indecisive or undivided? Will I choose maintenance over mission? Will I choose comfort or the cross?”
These are the questions everyone must struggle with. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He calls us to radical dependence on Him. He never promises this choice will be easy or comfortable. He never does.
What does He guarantee? There will be danger. There will be heartache. There will be loneliness and suffering. There will be confusion. There will be questioning and even doubt. And through all of that, Jesus says, “I will be with you even to the very end of the age. My presence is there. I am there with you.” To give up everything to follow Jesus regardless of earthly consequences requires absolute dependence on Him.
To live the gospel, you must first be a disciple. To be a disciple, you must hang on to Jesus for dear life, regardless of the consequences, because there will be unknowns that take place. There will be danger that makes you one hundred percent dependent upon Him.
Go through the questions once again, “Will I choose comfort or the cross? Will I choose maintenance or mission? Will I be indecisive or undivided?”
Could you imagine this Church—this body of Christ—moving in the same direction and saying with conviction, “We are true followers of Jesus Christ willing to surrender all.”
Are you willing?
The Florida Conference family is shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Yesenia Suarez and her children, Thalia Otto and Michael Otto, members of Deltona Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is part of the Florida Conference sisterhood of churches. According to news reports, police have concluded Yesenia and her children are dead, although the search for their bodies continues at this time.
Our prayers as a church family are with all involved familes as they go through this tremendously difficult time. We are thankful for the expressions of love and compassion that have already been poured out.
Florida Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is a mainstream Protestant denomination with more than 61,500 members. We are Bible-believing Christians who base our faith, hope, and future in Jesus Christ.
by Rolando Morgado
Twenty young people from Hialeah Spanish Church participated in a summer mission trip to Costa Rica, July 12-22.
For 10 days, these young people, accompanied by their pastors, Efrain Duany and Rolando Morgado, preached, worked on construction projects, held medical visitations, and ministered to the poor. More than a dozen people were baptized, and many decided to attend church because of the example and love shown by this group of young people.
“Being able to help others and bring them hope was more than a logo or theme for our mission trip, it was our motto and purpose,” says Gabrielys Carbajal, one of the participants.
It was not a mission trip of only 20 young people—the entire Hileah Spanish Church was involved. Funds were raised with car washes, letters to institutions and businesses, and money boxes for children and families.
“As I saw the young people going out every day, giving their best in construction sites, medical activities, and preaching the Word, I saw Jesus working in and through them, touching hearts in need of a Savior,” testifies Pastor Morgado.
Next year, the Hialeah youth plan to minister state-side by joining the Impact Miami 2014 mission trip, a two-county outreach initiative by the Florida Conference Youth/Young Adult Ministries Department.
by Daniel Schiffbauer
A three-week, youth-conducted evangelistic series held at Altamonte Springs Church by four young people, ages 13-15, featured 16 full-length sermons, including two on Sabbath morning. As a result of the meetings, five individuals made decisions for baptism, several decided to join the church by profession of faith, and a number of nonattending members returned to church.
Many families expressed interest in joining the congregation because of the priority given to young people, and they are now attending Sabbath services. Several members remarked that the presentations helped them come to a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Church. One man said, “The kids made the doctrines more clear than many professional evangelists I have heard.”
Just prior to hearing about the death of a close relative, one woman heard the message about the state of the dead. She was not troubled by death as in times past because she now understood that her loved one was resting in the grave and would soon be reunited with her when Jesus comes.
The greatest impact of the meetings was felt by the young people who delivered the sermons. In January, they were encouraged to attend a special preaching seminar held by Florida Conference at Pine Lake Retreat in Groveland. Later, Altamonte Springs Church decided to have the youth present an evangelistic series as a follow up to the area-wide summer outreach initiative, Impact Orlando, sponsored by Florida Conference Youth Ministries. Though several elders and Pastor Dan Schiffbauer helped prepare the young people for the series, it was mainly through the efforts of head elder Josie Oates that they practiced, prepared, and rose to the occasion.
Every night, Schiffbauer, Oates, and other prayer team members prayed over the youth evangelist who was going to speak, asking for him or her to be anointed with the Holy Spirit. The young people mentioned they felt God helping them as they spoke, and many attendees said they could feel the Holy Spirit working.
Each of the speakers said they would like to preach again in the future. Through their influence, other young people have asked if they could participate in a future youth evangelistic meeting. Altamonte Springs Church looks forward to being the launch pad in the months and years ahead for many aspiring young preachers.
by Gladys Neigel
Mission trips have a way of bringing conviction to the hearts of participants; yet, after returning home, these feelings often die or lay dormant. Such was not the case with Gabriel Cardona. He immediately sought to share the good news of the gospel.
Cardona began to pass out literature such as Steps To Christ and necessities such as baby diapers on South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, in an area of drugs, prostitution, and criminal activity. Joining him in this venture were Emilio Navarro, David Hernandez, and Julio Ramirez. It wasn’t long until 30 individuals, including street people, were consistently involved in the program.
Because this ministry targeted the unchurched and the urban community, the group became involved in working with residents of an extended-stay hotel. For two years, they visited the residents every week and became involved by playing with the children and meeting needs where possible. “The purpose was to make a spiritual connection without an agenda,” says Cardona.
The group started holding a relaxed service at various churches on Sabbaths at 2:00 p.m. They never invited people to church; however, questions about the ministry often led to Bible studies and church attendance which have culminated in four baptisms.
After two years, the group, which had taken on the name Lighthouse Ministries, moved to Altamonte Springs, adopted 300 families residing at Remington Inn and Suites, and began visiting three times a week. Church services are now held in a nearby storefront through the generosity of Florida Living Church members in Apopka.
Once a month, “church” is brought to the Remington community with field day games for kids, free clothing, free food, etc. They recently provided the children with backpacks for going back to school. “The goal is to uplift Christ in the community and in our relationships as we meet people where they are,” says Navarro.
One Sabbath each month, they pack sack lunches to take to Lake Eola in Orlando. Here, they find homeless people scattered throughout the park. First, they sit down, talk, listen, pray, and give a book to each individual before handing a lunch to them, as being friendly matters as much to the homeless as does the food.
The next goal is to find a location large enough to house a place of worship and a community center where classes can be conducted in healthful living, computer usage, studying for the GED high school equivalency test, résumé preparation, and money management. They also plan to provide tutoring, counseling, free wireless internet, and recreation.
Matthew 7:20, “By their fruits, ye shall know them,” definitely applies to the results of this endeavor, with amazing changes happening in people. “When those we are serving come back, we know Christ is making a difference,” says Cardona. “This ‘love in generation’ is tired of hearing sermons and want to see actions of Christ. We are also tired of preaching, so we are focusing on actions of Christ.”
Florida Living Church Celebrates More Than 25 New Members
It was the dream of Lighthouse Ministries’ lay pastors, Gabriel Cardona, Willie Ramos, and Emilio Navarro, to plant a church from their ministry of more than four years. Florida Living Church, Apopka, adopted this group because of their close proximity, and so that members could become involved in soul-winning activities, if only vicariously.
The first step was to officially become a mission group as voted by the Florida Conference Executive Committee on July 30, 2013. The second step was on August 31 when the sponsoring Florida Living Church congregation welcomed the 25+ members into their fellowship. During the service, Gabriel Cardona was ordained as head elder for the mission group.
The two congregations are a unique fit with senior citizens from a retirement community comprising the majority of the Florida Living Church congregation, and the Lighthouse congregation mostly consisting of 20- to 30-year-olds. “They can teach us,” says Ramos. “With the wisdom of the old and energy of the new, together we can finish the work.”
“This group is highly motivated and involved by point-to-point ministry—meeting people where they are—which was the ministry of Jesus,” says Jim King, pastor of Florida Living Church. “It is our desire to help them with any particular resource we can provide to help accomplish this mission.”
by Denny Rosendo
Forest City Spanish Church, Altamonte Springs, Fla. celebrated its annual Men’s Ministries Day on September 7. The guest speaker for Mega Sabbath 2013 was DeVon Franklin, vice president of Columbia Tristar Pictures, Hollywood, Calif., who inspired the capacity audience representing 30 Adventist churches and organizations.
Franklin, a studio executive responsible for the production of films such as The Karate Kid, The Pursuit of Happiness, and Jumping the Broom, is also a book author and motivational speaker. Most importantly, he is a devoted Seventh-day Adventist whose testimony of faith is powerful in today’s society.
This worship experience was a celebration of Forest City’s current and future Men’s Ministries vision: engaging men to find their purpose and challenge themselves to reach out to the community to bring back those who have drifted away from the church and those who have not had the opportunity to get to know Jesus. Many nonAdventist visitors expressed interest in attending and discovering more about the church and the Word of God.
Recognizing a need to reach out in the community and testify of God’s love, this event proved to be an important step in that direction. “We thank God for this opportunity and pray for future plans that will follow our vision and the spreading of the word of God in all our surroundings,” says Forest City Spanish Men’s Ministries Director Denny Rosendo.