This week marks 150 years since the May 21, 1863, founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Today, the international Protestant denomination has a membership of more than 17 million.
Commenting on the anniversary, General Conference President Ted N.C. Wilson, said, “This milestone reminds us the Church was founded to serve God and share His love with others. We are celebrating because we don’t want to forget who we are, where we came from, and what God has in store for us.”
Founded in Battle Creek, Michigan, the Adventist Church promotes a personal relationship with God, healthful living, education, and service. During the formative years of the Advent movement, its leaders were mostly in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. Yet, it was these young men and women who led the Bible conferences during which the fundamental beliefs for the Church were discussed, debated, and agreed upon.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is well known for its world-wide network of schools, its leadership as defenders of religious freedom, its disaster relief and community development projects around the globe through ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency), and its promotion of healthful living.
The November 2005 National Geographic and a book, The Blue Zones (2008), profiled how Adventists are the longest-living people in the United States. In 2011, USA Today reported the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the fastest-growing denomination in this country with approximately 1.1 million members.
Florida Conference Organized
Thirty years after the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was formed, Florida Conference was organized September 22, 1893, with 139 members. Although more congregations existed, delegates from six churches were represented during the weekend meetings in the town of Barberville. Prior to the Florida territory’s first church plant, A W. Bartlett wrote, “Florida seems to be a very important field for labor, especially in the winter when thousands flock here from the North and Europe for health and pleasure.”
In a special 1993 Centennial Edition of Florida Focus, the official Florida Conference magazine, Editor Cindy Kurtzhals featured the Conference’s early beginnings, including the first church in Terra Ceia that was organized in 1885 as forerunner to the current Palmetto Church some 40 miles south of Tampa.
Now, 61,279 members strong and celebrating 120 years of service in their communities, Florida Conference congregations meet on Saturdays in 198 churches, 51 companies, and 32 mission groups.
Many of these members serve on the 24 Florida Hospital campuses located primarily across the Interstate 4 corridor. Today’s flagship campus in Orlando was referenced on July 23, 1908, when Florida Conference President R.W. Parmele wrote to W.C. White of the California Sanitarium, saying, “When we decided that we must let this property go because we did not have the funds in hand to secure it, one of our brethren voluntarily purchased the property to save it for us. The property is located at Clarence Crisler’s old home in Orlando.”
In addition to providing quality health care, Adventists of Florida are known for providing quality education. Adventist University of Health Sciences, adjacent the Florida Hospital Orlando campus, is among them. Throughout the state, Florida Conference members and the community are benefitted by 26 early childhood programs, 28 elementary and junior academies (which include grades 9 and 10), and two senior high schools.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is committed to the development of minds and characters through education which explains why the denomination operates the largest integrated Protestant network of schools worldwide.
As 17 million Adventist members worldwide celebrate 150 years since their denomination was organized, 61,279 of them in Florida celebrate 120 years of God’s leading in mission outreach throughout their state. With a vision for Florida and the world in this anniversary year, President Wilson challenged members to “move forward on that great journey on that narrow pathway, allowing God to make revival and reformation real and actual in our lives and in the church.”
Watch President Wilson’s anniversary message in the video below.
by Tim Floyd
Fourteen students from Forest Lake Academy (FLA), Apopka, Fla., partnered with ACTS (Active Christians That Serve) World Relief and its training arm, Global Rapid Rescue and Relief (GR3), to simulate a disaster at Orlando International Airport. The Orlando International Mass Casualty Training Event on March 13 and 14 had more than 700 participants, including students from FLA, Miami Union Academy in North Miami, Fla., and Heritage Academy in Monterey, Tenn. This was the largest mass casualty simulation on the east coast where young people took a professional part.
The day before the drill, students from the three academies gathered on FLA’s campus for training. They learned disaster response skills such as CPR, swift water rescue techniques, food safety, knot-tying skills, and moulage. FLA students were assigned to the moulage team creating fake injuries on the victims.
Thursday morning, students gathered to prep victims for the disaster drill. They spent the morning painting on injuries such as burns and head wounds. In one and a half hours, students helped prepare 320 victims who were sent to 21 different hospitals after the planned explosion at the airport. After the students prepped the victims, they were allowed to participate in a dispersion drill.
This program was an excellent opportunity for young people to support emergency response professionals in preparedness and response.
More information about ACTS World Relief and GR3 is available at ACTSWR.org including a Mass Casualty Training In Moulage video (which can also be viewed below).
by Janice Banks
Stuff the Magic Dragon, mascot of the Orlando Magic basketball team, recently received a healthy lunch box makeover with fresh vegetables harvested from Orlando Junior Academy’s (OJA) Edible Schoolyard (ESY) Garden in exchange for his normal fare of hot dogs and nachos.
He donned an apron to visit the ESY nutritional science lab and tasted fresh produce students prepared as part of their integrated curriculum. On hand to greet Stuff were OJA alumnus Ken Bradley, Winter Park mayor and CEO of Florida Hospital Winter Park; and his wife, Ruth, a licensed dietician.
During a student assembly led by Mission: FIT Possible, a Healthy 100 Kids initiative sponsored by Florida Hospital for Children, the Mission: FIT “edutainers” highlighted the importance of fueling the body with healthy food. Students taught Stuff the importance of movement by leading him through a Just-A-Minute routine.
Principal Nicole Agbonkhese explains, “Stuff has previously visited our campus for traditional Pep Rallies, but today we’re celebrating God’s provisions and OJA’s commitment to healthy living, and we thought Stuff would enjoy sharing in the bounty.”
Teachers and administrators interested in extending their classroom to the garden or kitchen may register to attend OJA’s Edible Schoolyard Academy this summer, June 12-13, through the Edible Schoolyard OJA page on Facebook.
by Stephanie Johnson
Forest Lake Academy (FLA) Principal David Denton announced that Devin Shaw, a senior, was named a Commended Student in the 2013 National Merit Scholarship Program. As such, Devin placed among the top five percent of more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2013 competition by taking the 2011 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.
Devin is not only an excellent student, but he is also a strong, Christ-like leader on the FLA campus. He is a member of the servant leadership class and has quite seriously taken the challenge of “being Jesus” to his fellow students. Devin spends time with freshmen each week as a leader in the mentoring program to help ninth graders learn to treat each other as Jesus would treat them. He also works with a weekend campus ministries team helping to run vespers and youth church programs.
In addition to working with ministries, Devin has held the position of class treasurer for the past three years, played on FLA’s varsity basketball and soccer teams, and has played violin all four years in the FLA string ensemble.
Learning to lead as Jesus led is definitely a priority for Devin. It is a foundation that will lead him to excel in all areas of his life.
Orlando Junior Academy (OJA) is not the same school it was when first established in 1906. With a steadily increasing enrollment that encompasses Pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade, OJA exhibits a learning environment that is drawing students and catching the eyes of the community 107 years after its beginnings.
Edible School Yard
Photos: Brad Jones
Every class at OJA participates in our school garden. The teachers integrate what they are teaching in the classroom with what they are doing in the garden. The students are learning about different foods, how they are grown, and how they are beneficial to everyone. Students are provided with opportunities to taste different foods both in the garden and in the grades 5-8 cooking classes. —Amy Sorensen, grade 1 teacher
We are right at the top in our garden and kitchen program. We are intentional about creating a garden culture, and our students are growing and benefitting from this tremendously! —Janet Braga, grade 4 teacher
The Robotics Team
For the fourth year in a row, the OJA Robotics Team, RoboJags, will participate in the Adventist Robotics League Southern Challenge hosted by the School of Computing at Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, Tennessee. This site is one of 560+ to host the annual worldwide robotics tournament. OJA will join more than 200,000 students, age 9-16, from more than 60 countries in exploring the topic of aging and how it may affect a person’s ability to maintain his or her lifestyle. The RoboJags will research obstacles and then suggest ways to improve the quality of life for seniors.
“I really feel that when I am trying to solve the tasks in robotics, I am helping to make the world a better place,” shares Alex, a fourth-grade student. —Carianna Farfan, grades 5-8 teacher
Students produce a weekly podcast, Mini-Jag, with news, inspiration, and class events. The computer and writing teachers introduced this communication tool in an effort to teach students how to collect news, write scripts, and announce the material.
OJA places a strong emphasis on teaching leadership and presentation skills. These podcasts are one fun way to implement this effort. —Leanne Andino, parent
Adventist EDGE School of Excellence Award
OJA is the 14th school in the southeast to receive the Adventist EDGE School of Excellence Award from the Southern Union Conference Department of Education. The award represents the highest achievement possible for schools within the Southern Union.
“We are so proud of Orlando Junior Academy,” says Sandra Doran, Florida Conference Associate Superintendent for Education. “This school makes a unique impact on the community with their emphasis on gardening and healthy living. The EDGE Award is a symbol of the countless hours of hard work and the tireless dedication of the entire faculty and staff.”
This time of year always provides me an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings God has provided over the past twelve months.
One such blessing is the overall increased school enrollment we have seen this year. I am encouraged whenever I hear stories about one of our students making a decision for Christ. I feel particularly blessed when that student is able to attend one of our schools because of grants from our Worthy Student Fund. Here are two such stories:
Michele Huarte is a senior at Greater Miami Adventist Academy (GMAA). Michele, lovingly known as Coco by her family and friends, has always had a passion for art and previously attended a school that focused on the arts. She realized, however, that although she had this passion, there was a void in her life that it could not fill. In her words, “The emptiness continued, and I cried every day.”
One time, the person who drove her to school each day failed to pick her up. Her family became concerned about the reliability of this arrangement and decided to check into GMAA which is within walking distance of her home. Although her family is not Adventist, Michele began attending our church in Westchester. Again, in her words, she says, “I felt like the Holy Spirit was steering me in a different direction than what the art school was offering.” Michele applied for admission to GMAA and, with assistance from the Worthy Student Fund, was able to enroll.
“I thank God for reaching out to me and saving me. God spoke to me in many ways, and I became very active at school. On November 11, during GMAA’s Week of Prayer, I was baptized by Pastor Samuel Reyes.”
Another encouraging story is that of Mariank Gonzalez. She is a freshman at Forest Lake Academy (FLA).
Mariank loves the Lord and has attended a Simple Church group since 2008. During that time, five of her friends from public school have come to Simple Church at her invitation; and one of them has been baptized.
Mariank had never before been able to attend an Adventist (or even a Christian) school. She often spoke of how it distressed her to have to study things she did not believe and repeat the information back to her teachers. It was her dream to be able to attend FLA, but financial reasons made it seem inaccessible to her.
Last April, however, she and her family began applying for scholarships. Thanks to scholarships from FLA, Florida Conference, and Simple Church, Mariank is attending FLA this year.
We are truly blessed to hear stories such as these. Unfortunately, here in our Conference, we still have many deserving students who are unable to afford or find scholarships to cover the costs associated with a quality Christian education.
This holiday season, please consider giving a gift that will impact a young person’s life for eternity by making a year-end gift to your local Adventist school or to the Conference’s Worthy Student Fund. You may either use the envelope inserted in print copies of the Winter 2012 Florida Focus, or contribute online with the Adventist Giving web site. Thank you for your generosity. Merry Christmas!
We are shocked and saddened by the death of J.J. Branchedor that occurred late Friday afternoon at New Smyrna Beach, Florida. J.J. was on a school outing with Forest Lake Academy, our Seventh-day Adventist high school located in Apopka. He was a student of the Distance Learning Academy through Walker Memorial Academy in Avon Park.
Our hearts and prayers go out to the parents of J.J., the student body, and faculty at each of these schools, as well as our extended church family. We are all devastated right now, but we take courage in the hope and assurance of a soon coming Saviour.
Counselors have been on hand to counsel our students and will continue to be available to be with our student body as needed.
We want to thank all of those who were involved in the search and rescue operation.
The safety and welfare of our students is our highest priority, and we take seriously our responsibility to protect them every day.
Arne Nielsen, Florida Conference Vice President for Integrated Youth Ministries, is the spokesperson for the school and the Conference pertaining to this tragedy. Send e-mail to Arne with any questions or information.
by Sandra Doran
A recent article published by National Public Radio boasts something Adventists have known all along: “‘Children Succeed’ With Character, Not Test Scores.” Not surprisingly, author Paul Tough asserts that “intensive mentoring” by caring adults who teach “character-building experiences” is what gets kids over the rough spots in life and assures success. His latest book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, argues for less emphasis on memorizing facts in the formative years and more time spent on the deep traits that will last a lifetime.
What matters most in a child’s development…is not how much information we can stuff into her brain in the first few years. What matters, instead, is whether we are able to help her develop a very different set of qualities, a list that includes persistence, self-control, curiosity, conscientiousness, grit, and self-confidence. Economists refer to these as noncognitive skills, psychologists call them personality traits, and the rest of us sometimes think of them as character.
We, as Adventists, would lend a hearty “Amen!” Florida Conference operates 12 early childhood centers, 28 elementary schools, and two academies in the state of Florida. Our goal is not only to provide the best academics, but to fit our students with what the world at large is finally realizing matters most: a character that will ground them for everything life might throw their way.
Learn more by contacting the Florida Conference Office of Education at (407) 644-5000 x139 or http://www.floridaconference.com/education/
by Denise Daly-Stennis
Gene Austin Taylor Krishingner earned the title of Salutatorian and Seth Lauren Daly Stennis was named Valedictorian of the 94-member, 2012 graduating class at Forest Lake Academy (FLA), Apopka, Fla. Both graduated with honors in health careers, humanities, mathematics, and science. They have completed 27 college credits in Anatomy and Physiology, Statistics, Calculus, Psychology, and English Composition.
The Bible says, “A friend sticks closer than a brother.” When it was announced they were Valedictorian and Salutatorian of their senior class, they accompanied each other home to share the good news of success with their families. Impressed by the loyalty shown for each other, the following conversation ensued:
How did the two of you meet?
- Austin – “I first met Seth in the 7th grade at Forest Lake Education Center, Apopka, Fla.”
- Seth – “We got to know each other better our sophomore year at FLA.”
What are some things that you admire about each other?
- Austin – “I admire the abundance of care and loyalty that Seth expresses to those in his life, making himself available to those who need a warm smile or a listening ear. Also, I find Seth admirable in the way he handles stressful situations, never letting the moment get the best of him; instead, keeping a level head and focused mentality.”
- Seth – “I admire Austin’s honesty, patience, and steely perseverance. He’s not a person who would lie for any self gain or get riled up because of trivial matters. I would have to say that half the reason I even try, is to keep up with him.”
What were some things you enjoyed about attending an Adventist Christian school?
- Austin – “The myriad of activities and adventures my class participated in throughout my years at FLA left me with a sense of fellowship, camaraderie, and belonging. I was able to bond with my classmates and can take those connections with me into the rest of my life.”
- Seth – “I enjoyed going to beach vespers, going to Bible conference with my friends, being a part of the varsity soccer team, going on the senior class trip, and going to Senior Outbreak where our class became closer as a group.”
Do you have a favorite Bible text by which you’ve chosen to live?
- Austin – “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (MSG).
- Seth – “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (KJV).
Envisioning their educational goals and future plans, both young men confirmed they aspire to become doctors: Austin, a cardiothoracic surgeon; and Seth, a general surgeon. This fall, they began attending Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn.
by Kaleigh Benge
Joan Waite, seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Forest City Adventist School, Altamonte Springs, Fla., is among 10 teachers selected from across North America this spring by the Alumni Awards Foundation (AAF) to receive a 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award. This year’s award includes a medallion and a $2,000 gift sponsored by Union College, Lincoln, Nebr.
Waite brings classroom lessons to life at Forest City Adventist School with an immersion approach to teaching. For example, during their study of the Civil War, students draw lots to side with the North or South. After conducting research, they make flags for their side, create canteens and cooking equipment, and set up an outdoor camp. Battles from the Civil War are then reenacted.
Helping students realize their full potential, Waite guides them in the discovery of their gifts while encouraging them to be leaders around the school. Each week, students visit the kindergarten and first-grade classrooms where they participate in “reading buddy sessions.”
After studying the scriptures in Bible class, Waite’s students lead a week of prayer for younger children. Students and parents have requested Bible studies as a direct result of Waite’s impact. Following an invitation for students to attend evangelistic meetings at Forest City Spanish Church, two were baptized.
When students graduate from Forest City Adventist School, many become tutors in math and reading for fellow ninth graders. Waite also serves as a mentor to new teachers in Florida Conference and often leads monthly teacher in-service training.
Nominated by principals, superintendents, colleagues, and former students, the 10 teachers selected from across the nation to receive a 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award are celebrated by peers, the local church, and community for their impact on Seventh-day Adventist education. AAF recognized Waite on May 20 during Forest City Adventist School’s eighth-grade graduation ceremonies.
AAF is a nonprofit organization working to support and improve Adventist K-12 education throughout North America. It has awarded grants totaling more than $2 million to Adventist schools and educators. Since being established in 1995, the organization has recognized 106 exceptional teachers with an Excellence in Teaching Award.
This past year, AAF refocused its mission and created the Renaissance Network, an initiative that improves the level of excellence in Adventist schools by providing leadership expertise, vision, resources, and training. AAF aims to awaken the Adventist community to the full potential in Adventist education. More information is available at http://www.alumniawards.org/