by Alva James-Johnson
The historic Stranahan House—once home to Fort Lauderdale’s founding couple—sits on the banks of the New River as a memorial of the city’s pioneer days. Yet, what’s unknown to most people is that the house is also a testament to the city’s deep Seventh-day Adventist roots.
Ivy Stranahan, the wife of Frank Stranahan and “Lauderdale’s First Lady,” was a devout Seventh-day Adventist in her adult years. As an active member of the Fort Lauderdale Seventh-day Adventist Church, she was the first principal of the church school, now Sawgrass Adventist School in Plantation.i
Upon Stranahan’s death in 1971, the New River home, her most prized possession, was willed to the Fort Lauderdale Seventh-day Adventist Church to the surprise of many. In 1974, the congregation sold the property to the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society. Today, it is owned by Stranahan House, Inc., where it is preserved as one of the community’s most cherished landmarks.ii
Stranahan entered the church through an evangelistic crusade conducted by Allen Walker, the church’s first pastor, according to a history published by members of the congregation:
She listened attentively as the preacher told the fantastic truth about Saturday being God’s Sabbath, the dead sleeping in their graves, and the judgment now going on in heaven. Mrs. Stranahan decided to go to Washington, D.C., to visit the Library of Congress where she checked out everything about the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, and then compared them with the Bible. She returned home a convinced Adventist and got baptized!i
According to a souvenir booklet available at the Stranahan House, Stranahan’s faith played a significant role in her life:
Always a devout believer, and a Methodist in her younger years, Ivy became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1915 and followed its tenets of vegetarianism, served no red meat, and was discreet and never imposed her beliefs or attempted to convert others. Her Sabbath, which extended from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday, was spent going to church, visiting the sick and elderly, and resting. She was a staunch believer in strength of both mind and body and walked regularly to the beach for a swim to keep physically fit.iii
Stranahan, who was born on the Suwannee River, resided in Lemon City until she moved to the New River in 1899 to work as the area’s first school teacher. Frank Stranahan, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, and son of a Presbyterian minister, was already a settler in the area. He ran a trading post, purchasing pelts, plumes, and hides from the Seminole Indians, and his business thrived.iii Frank also established a U.S. Post Office and became the New River’s first postmaster.
At the time, Ivy was still unmarried and known by her maiden name, Ivy Julia Cromartie. “Often dressed in a white, ruffled blouse, she was clearly the belle of the little riverfront town. A petite, blue-eyed girl, Ivy wore her well-brushed fair hair pulled back from her high forehead. It didn’t take long for the postmaster to notice her.”iii
The couple married August 16, 1900, and began a life that would pave the way for Fort Lauderdale to become a thriving urban center. Despite the hardships of frontier life, they prospered, and their home on the New River soon became a center for the growing community. Civic meetings were held there, and Ivy taught Seminole children, which became a life-long passion. She also founded Friends of the Seminoles and served as their spokesperson for many decades. “The Indians came to trust and love her, calling her ‘Watchie-Esta/Hutrie,’ or ‘The Little White Mother.’”iii
Stranahan served as president of the Women’s Suffrage Association and as a member of the Planning and Zoning Board, and was a founding member of the Fort Lauderdale Women’s Club. As a member of the local Women’s Christian Temperance Union, she was a strong advocate for prohibition.iii
She was a volunteer in the Broward County Public Welfare Department and was very influential in coordinating the church’s humanitarian work. Her private records include an article published in the Miami Herald, June 6, 1954, which stated, “The church maintains its own welfare center from which it dispenses food and clothing to the needy regardless of religious affiliation.”ii
In 1929, Frank Stranahan took his life, jumping into the New River at the onset of the Great Depression.iii But Ivy Stranahan remained steadfast in her faith until August 30, 1971, when she died in her riverfront home at age 90. She lived a life of sacrifice and service, paving the way for others to follow. Her witness in the Fort Lauderdale community should be an example for Seventh-day Adventists around the world.
- Thompson, Jeffrey, “The History of Fort Lauderdale Church,” 90th Anniversary Celebration, Fort Lauderdale Seventh-day Adventist Church, 2010.
- Kersey, Harry A., Jr., The Stranahans of Fort Lauderdale: A Pioneer Family of New River. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003.
- Cassels, Alice Cromartie, et. al. Frank and Ivy Stranahan: New River Pioneers. Fort Lauderdale: Stranahan House, 1995.
by Lynette Hyatt
Bob and Mary Lee celebrated 70 years of marriage on April 14, 2013. They actively keep up their home, beautiful lawn, and flower gardens. Blessed with health and energy, they are shining examples of graceful aging, optimism, and always being grateful to God for His many blessings.
Bob is retired from the U.S. Army with 21 years of service, having served in World War II and the Korean War where he was a P.O.W. for almost three years. A second career brought him to Forest Lake Academy, Apopka, Fla., where he managed several industries until retirement.
Mary worked as a nurse at Florida Hospital for 25 years. She loved nursing and caring for her patients who were blessed with her kind witness and gentle treatment.
As members of the Altamonte Springs, Fla, Church for the past 49 years, the Lees have served in many capacities and leadership positions. They have four children, ten grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren, and many friends. Their children say, “We are truly blessed to have parents who set such a wonderful example of marriage and strong faith in a loving God.”
by Sandra Yandoh
I was a cancer patient at Florida Hospital Waterman in Tavares when I called out to Christ for the first time. Oh, I believed in God. I was brought up in the Jewish and Catholic faiths.
When I arrived at Florida Hospital for treatment, I was very much in need of God. With cancer, as you can imagine, I prayed often. I noticed scripture verses and pictures of Jesus on the walls and thought that interesting—a hospital based on Christian teachings. With every radiation treatment, I thought of Jesus’ words, “By your faith, you are healed.”
I soon began reading the Bible and got all the way through it in six months. When Florida Hospital Waterman hosted a Cancer Center Christmas party, I met Chaplain Faye Rose.
One day, I made an appointment to speak with her about my relationship with Jesus. I told her it made me feel good to talk about Him, but I really didn’t know Him. She gave me some booklets and counseling. Meanwhile, I continued to read my Bible.
Then, I started listening to a Christian music radio station. At Christmas time 2011, their playlist included “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolf, the Red-nosed Reindeer.” I thought, “This doesn’t sound right for a Christian station.”
After the holidays, I looked for another station and found WGTT 91.5 FM, which I later learned broadcasts from North Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church. This station was different. Rather than music, the format was preaching and teaching, which really appealed to me.
When I had questions, I would bounce them off my fiancé, David, who was a Methodist lay preacher. He answered some of my questions, but I wanted to dig deeper into every truth I heard. We were both excited to learn new keys to open scripture, so we joined a local community church and became part of a Bible study group.
They studied the Bible, but answers were fed to us. Hungry for truth, we really wanted to search the scriptures for ourselves. As we continued listening to WGTT, we realized the presenters were Seventh-day Adventists.
Knowing Chaplain Rose was an Adventist, I approached her in February 2012 to ask if David and I could take Bible studies. With excitement, she suggested we all study together with Obed and Coretta Graham who are members at North Lake Church. Several studies later, the Grahams asked, “Why not come this Saturday and try our church?”
“How can I come this Saturday?” I asked David. “I’ve run my shop every Saturday for the past five years.”
After we prayed about it, I made the decision to take the day off so we could attend North Lake Church. The minute we entered, my thought was, “This is it!” David responded, “The first day was like déjà vu—a reuniting with long-lost friends. They’re like family, and we belong.”
I still faced the dilemma of what to do with the shop on Saturdays. So, we prayed again, and I was convicted no one in my shop would work on the Sabbath. We recently decided to permanently close the shop, and someone has offered to purchase it.
Spring and summer seemed like a whirlwind. We started marriage counseling with Chaplain Rose after she agreed to perform our wedding ceremony July 15 in the chapel at Florida Hospital Waterman. Meanwhile, we continued attending North Lake Church with the intent of becoming members. On December 15, 2012, we were baptized by Chaplain Rose at North Lake Church.
It’s a miracle how God led us into the Adventist Church. For me, this is evidence that our great God brought us to the right place at the right time to join this amazing Church family!
We continue taking every opportunity to study God’s Word. Whether it’s our Wednesday study or the Sabbath School Bible study group, we are being drawn into a closer relationship with Jesus.
When we learned about the April 11-14 Florida Camp Meeting, we knew it would be a blessing if we could attend. The speakers, the topics, and even the theme, Revealing God’s Heart: Digging Deeply In His Word, all point to a wonderful opportunity for getting to know Jesus better, and this is the deepest desire of our hearts.
by Alrie Mundell
Five long-time, active members of Kendall Church in Miami, Fla., celebrated age 90+ birthdays during 2012. With thankfulness to God, the lives of these individuals were recently recognized for service in His work and for the blessing they are to the congregation.
Pearl Bell is known as a strong supporter of her church. Her friendly smile and gentle demeanor helped Kendall Church become recognized as the friendly church. (No photo available.)
Hugh Crarey served as an elder and interim pastor during his service of more than 24 years at Kendall Church. He still attends every Sabbath and blesses the services singing hymns of praise with his rich baritone voice.
Ethlyn Gordon holds the distinction of being the oldest member. She has mentored and inspired both young and old. Seeing her on Sabbath mornings gives every age group the inspiration that being 95 is not too old to faithfully serve the Lord.
Marjorie Mundell, along with her husband, Roderick, are charter members of Kendall Church after it grew out of its mother church, Miami Temple, more than 25 years ago. Before Kendall Church was built, Marjorie’s home was the site of many prayer and board meetings. She strongly supports the work of her church in the community it serves.
Jean Richards has willingly served her church as an officer for more than 20 years. She was employed for many years as a nurse and still gives sound medical advice to her church family.
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.
by Robert Haas
I was born into an Adventist family. My relatives worked for the Adventist Church. I was enrolled in the Adventist educational system from kindergarten through high school. Although raised in this environment, I didn’t experience a life-changing conversion or develop a personal relationship with God. As a young adult, I abandoned the principles I was taught and became the “prodigal son,” wandering aimlessly through life in pursuit of worldly happiness.
In my mid-twenties, with a wife and young children, I realized I needed to develop a relationship with God and started attending church. However, I never gave up my worldly pleasures such as smoking or drinking. This lifestyle eventually tore my family apart.
During the next four years, I hit rock bottom. I filed for bankruptcy and lost my job along with everything I owned. Worst of all, I lost hope. In despair, I started reading the Bible again in the fall of 2005, searching for answers as to why my life was such a mess. That’s when I read Proverbs 3:6 [TLB], “In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” This lesson was learned the hard way.
In the spring of 2006, I purchased a truck and leased it back to the company for which I previously worked. That’s when I met Brenda by telephone, as she was employed at that company. Soon, I discovered she was in the midst of a divorce and experiencing the same hopelessness I had recently gone through. She told me that my sense of humor and confidence made it easy for her to talk, and I became her confidant.
As we visited, I learned that Brenda knew about God but had no relationship with Him. Like me, she was searching for happiness in the form of alcohol and drugs.
Even though our friendship was based on many enjoyable and enlightening telephone conversations, we had never met. One day, I told her about my web site, and she visited it. Noticing a page of scripture, she inquired about my denominational affiliation. She had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and started asking questions about our doctrines and why we believed them. Raised with very little knowledge of the Bible or God, Brenda wanted to begin studying together.
We finally met in person, developed a relationship centered around God, married in 2008, and began attending church regularly. As we grew spiritually in our pursuit of personally knowing God, we started questioning why we were holding on to worldly habits. Brenda was still drinking, and I hadn’t given up smoking. We quit and then read, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other….” (Luke 16:13 NKJV).
This thought started us questioning things we were watching, listening to, reading, doing, or eating. If we found they were distracting us from God, we eliminated them from our home and our lives.
Soon, I felt convinced to stop driving my truck on the Sabbath. Almost immediately, I was tested when invited to carry equipment on a two-month tour for the rock band U2. When I told the group’s agent I was sorry I couldn’t help because I had chosen to no longer work on the Sabbath, he asked me if I was a Seventh-day Adventist. He had an Adventist neighbor, so he understood and even thanked me for standing up for what I believe.
At the same time, Brenda and I made a commitment to start returning tithe and helping those less fortunate. That was another turning point when our lives changed dramatically. It seemed the more we gave, the more we received. Promises of God in Malachi 3:10 [KJV] became more evident in our lives as we read, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”
Today, we continue striving to attain the lifestyle God intends us to have. We pray together and learn together. We no longer worry about our finances or our future. We pray about decisions we make in our lives, both big and small. We know the incredible power of prayer and faith and that the Lord provides for those who believe and have faith. That’s why we claim the promise of Matthew 6:25, 31-34 [NIV84], “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? …So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Brenda and I still experience occasional stress and worry in our lives, but we know that God’s promises will always be fulfilled as we ask for His guidance and His Holy Spirit to fill our hearts, leaving no room for the enemy.
The Lord does not abide with sin, so as we continue to do away with the things in our life that do not glorify Him, we will continue to receive His promised blessings. As others witness the change in our hearts and in our lives, they will know it is the Glory of God and the fulfillment of His promises that have allowed it to happen.
by Naomi Zalabak
Earl and Marie Ward recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. Marie grew up on a farm about seven miles from Battle Creek, Mich. Earl, after losing his father at the age of 15, lived with his uncle, Lee Cook, on his farm not far from Marie’s home.
Earl and Marie met when her mother sent her to buy eggs from Earl’s uncle and suggested she invite Earl for the 4th of July fireworks in a nearby town. They both attended the little church in Bedford where they were married on September 19, 1942.
Following their wedding and serving in the army for two years, Earl began working as a taxi driver. Then he drove a truck to move mobile homes before he switched to delivering oil and fuel. Marie worked as a secretary and bookkeeper for an architectural firm.
Earl and his aunt and uncle were frequent snowbirds to Florida as he was growing up, as were Marie and her family. For three winters, Marie’s parents worked for Dr. John H. Kellogg at his winter home in Miami. During this time, she attended Greater Miami Academy and graduated from Forest Lake Academy in Apopka. It is not surprising, therefore, that Earl and Marie decided to retire in Florida and became faithful members at Avon Park Church.
Earl and Marie have five children, nine grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.
by Jane Allen Quevedo
“I played on winning teams with the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, but now I’m on the real winning team—the team of Jesus Christ,” says Félix Millán, retired Major League second baseman.
Instead of hitting fastballs at a ballpark on Saturdays, these days Millán is in church. In fact, he and his wife, Mercy, helped establish two Adventist Hispanic congregations in Florida.
In the 1980s, while working as an infield instructor for the Mets minor league team in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Félix and Mercy started a Spanish-language Sabbath School class at Fort Pierce Church. What began as a class has since become a Spanish-language church which has also spawned a new Hispanic congregation meeting in Port St. Lucie.
The Milláns are now part of another Spanish group that meets at Clermont, Fla., Church. They look forward to helping establish a church in that city, too.
Growing up in a sugarcane valley of Puerto Rico, Félix played ball from the time he could whittle a bat from the branch of a guava tree. He fashioned a mitt from a piece of canvas stuffed with newspaper, and the seat of his first uniform bore a Gold Medal® logo. While plagued with extreme shyness, young Félix showed promise for the big leagues with his speed, quick hand, and reliable hitting.
Playing in the Major Leagues, 1966-1977, Millán made three All-Star teams, won two Gold Glove Awards®, and, for four seasons, ranked as the National League’s toughest batter to strike out. With the Braves, he usually hit ahead of Hank Aaron, crossing home plate many times when the home run king hit the ball out of the park.
As an athlete, Félix had to stay in good physical condition, and Mercy was health-minded, too. One summer, she attended an Adventist cooking school in New York. Returning home with two grocery bags of vegetarian products, she announced, “Félix, we need to talk.”
The Milláns adopted an Adventist diet long before they joined the Church. They also enrolled their children in an Adventist academy near their winter home in Puerto Rico. Mercy’s occasional church attendance grew into frequent visits, finally leading to her decision for baptism, followed by the baptism of their three children.
“If that’s what she wanted, I would not stand in her way,” says Félix, “but I made it clear she could leave me out.”
In his autobiography, Tough Guy, Gentle Heart, available at Adventist Book Centers and felixbook.com, Millán explains he had Jesus in his heart; yet, he did not see a need for baptism to prove it. However, he had not counted on the prayers of his wife, the prompting of the Holy Spirit, or his children questioning, “Daddy, why don’t you go to church with us?”
After playing in the Major Leagues, the Milláns moved to Japan where, in 1979, Félix was the first foreigner to win the country’s batting crown as leading hitter. Finally, the convictions of his heart led him to request being excused from games played on Sabbath. In time, the tough guy with a gentle heart publicly declared his faith through baptism—a decision that changed his sports story into a story for God’s glory.
by Renee Brownlow
Barbara Popp and Norm Middag met while students at Emmanuel Missionary College (now Andrews University) in 1950 and married in the summer of 1952.
Norm was an educator, pastor, and youth director in a career spanning more than four decades of ministry. He served in Michigan, Southern California, Northern California, Florida, and Potomac Conferences before joining North American Division (NAD) as Pathfinder, Adventurer, and Camp Ministries Director.
When Norm was with the NAD, he coordinated development of the Adventurer and Pathfinder curricula and the Association of Adventist Camp Professionals. He was the originator of Camps For the Blind and the 1991, 1992, and 1993 Witness Through Rose Parade floats sponsored and decorated by Pathfinders. As chairman of the Camporee Coordinating Committee, Norm helped launch the North American Division camporee program and its first national gathering of Pathfinders in 1985 at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colo.
In addition to supporting her husband in ministry, Barbara taught French, music, and secretarial science subjects at Battle Creek Academy in Michigan. Taking a break from the classroom to raise their family, Barbara returned to the workforce in the early 1970s to teach at Forest Lake Academy, Apopka, Fla. Later, she served at Potomac Conference and as an administrative secretary in the General Conference presidential office.
Norm and Barbara were blessed with three children: David, Loren, and Renee Brownlow; and six grandchildren. The Middags are retired and make their home in Mount Dora, Fla. They are members of Forest Lake Church, Apopka, Fla.
by Ingrid Hernandez
Danilo and Lucila Rodriguez were married September 28, 1952, in San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic. Throughout the early years of their marriage, the couple worked as literature evangelists.
Danilo was ordained as a minister in 1965, and his first church was in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. For 41 years, Danilo and Lucila were spiritual leaders in 50 churches with Danilo serving as pastor and Lucila fulfilling several church roles.
The couple relocated to New York City after Danilo’s retirement in 1988. They currently live in Kissimmee, Fla., and are members of the Buenaventura Lakes Spanish Church. Since retirement, Danilo has led evangelistic campaigns in the United States and served as first elder of several churches. Lucila has also continued to be heavily involved in church responsibilities.
As the couple celebrates 60 years, they credit long marriage to God’s leading, their lasting love, and mutual respect. Raising their children in the Church and assisting in their grandchildren’s spiritual growth is among their proudest accomplishments. They have five daughters, Besaida, Bethania, Brenda, Belinda, and Belisa; one son, Danilo Jr.; and 15 grandchildren.