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.
by Herb Pritchard
While eating at a restaurant, trucker Jerry Sutton was approached by a small lad and given an alphabet card for the deaf. Bored on long trips while delivering Freightliner tractors around the United States, Sutton practiced learning sign letters. This led him to study sign language courses for more than three years.
An Adventist trucker who drove for the same company gave religious tracts to Jerry from time to time. A friendship developed and Bible studies ensued. The provocative literature and his personal study created a challenge for Sutton when he could not find Bible references to support Sunday keeping. Not fully convinced of Adventist truth, he kept looking for the right church.
One night, he had a dream of three girls waving and beckoning him to come into Ocala Seventh-day Adventist Church. Sutton decided to attend the church and saw the three girls. “I could have picked them out of a lineup,” he says. Before long, he became a church member.
A short time later, Sutton found a surprising opportunity to awaken his interest in sign language. One Sabbath, a member brought a deaf friend to church and Sutton was asked to sign for the guest. The Ocala Church deaf ministry which started that day still continues.
With challenges caused by a bad back, Sutton has focused on teaching sign language to Rebecca Nolasco, 13, and Amanda Raices, 15, who now communicate Sabbath services to deaf attendees. “We saw a need and wanted to make friends with guests,” the girls admit. Pastor Dave Swinyar adds, “They are an answer to prayer by picking up the skill in a very short time.”
Each week, Sutton also teaches sign language to three young people at the Ocala Public Library. “Signing can be a difficult and tedious study as there are more than 5,000 signs alone in the Random House American Sign Language Dictionary,” he says. “Not only is there complexity in signing, there is a discipline of learning to teach with accuracy.”
The phonetics of sign language was born in the 17th century. Now, two 21st-century Ocala teens are moving out of their comfort zones into a ministry meaningful to others less fortunate; yet, who deserve to hear about the love of God.
by Martin Butler
“Lord, please show me how I can give my talents to serve you,” prayed Rudy Prado, an Orlando lieutenant fireman, paramedic, and member of Markham Woods Church in Longwood. The next week, David Canther, who contracts with Florida Conference and World Vision to train and deploy in emergency response, invited Prado to join him.
A month later, Prado was in the Dominican Republic training firemen, youth, church leaders, and personnel for World Vision and ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) in incident command, life-saving skills, and emotional and spiritual care. Soon afterward, a pastor wrote, “My recent training already helped me save two victims involved in an automobile accident.”
Prado is planning his work schedule so he will have even more time to join Canther in training individuals in Florida and throughout Central and South America. “This is the most fulfilling opportunity God has ever given me,” he admits.
In early August, Prado accompanied Canther to train 500 youth and church groups as emergency responders in Chile. The World Vision Emergency Response director for that South American country described the week as “utterly fantastic!”
Among the 45,400 people working for World Vision (the world’s largest humanitarian organization), 1,400 are Seventh-day Adventists with the same deep passion to share the love of Christ through their actions. “God is moving in miraculous ways to unite His people in new ways of evangelism which must exemplify itself in a willingness to lay down your life for others according to John 14,” says Canther.
Emergency response action photos are posted to www.actswr.org. Canther’s new book, First Response: Change Your World Through ACTS of Love, is also available from the ACTS site as well as the Adventist Book Center.
by Janice Boone
When Rene Brunet began studying the Bible with two gentlemen who came to his home in Florida, his mother, Grace, in Tennessee became worried that this exposure would misguide him. She had prayed for many years that he would join her in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
While visiting him two years earlier, Rene’s mother, Grace Brunet, had attended the Adventist Church in Brooksville and kept the bulletin for that day. Now, as the worry increased, Grace got out the bulletin, found my name listed as the first elder, and called me. She asked if I would contact her son and perhaps study God’s Word with him.
As my husband, Van, and I drove to church the next day, I decided to call the number Grace had given me. I simply invited Rene to come to a community clubhouse where I was conducting a Revelation Seminar that included a special slide presentation on space taken by the Hubble telescope. He seemed interested and agreed to attend. After the meeting, I asked Rene if he would like to come to our house to start at the beginning of the Revelation Seminar studies. He readily agreed, and we made an appointment for the following Monday evening.
When Rene arrived at our home, we learned he was a Vietnam War veteran who had suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He had also suffered a severe loss of hearing from bombs exploding close to him as a young soldier.
Rene became such a seeker of truth that I told him he reminded me of Nicodemus meeting Jesus. He diligently studied, comparing scripture with scripture. As soon as he recognized there were certain adjustments that had to be made in his lifestyle, he learned to rely on Christ’s ability to get him over these hurdles.
It wasn’t long before Rene told me that his mother was worried about him studying with the two gentlemen. My response was, “Well, Rene, I’m NOT concerned at all because you are studying the truth, and if there is anything you hear that is contrary to that truth, you will recognize it!”
Soon, he was showing the two men scriptures that were not in harmony with what they were teaching. After several weeks of attempting to help them recognize truth, the men stopped coming to his home. Rene hoped that God would prepare him to minister to them some day.
It was a great blessing for Van and me to watch Rene grow stronger in Christ week after week. Sometimes, it was hard for him to hold back tears when he was obviously at the foot of the cross. During his six months of Bible studies, he also read The Desire of Ages and asked if we could study twice a week with him.
Rene wanted to go right into the Daniel Prophecy Seminar when the studies on Revelation were finished. After three months, he decided to be baptized. What a day of unspeakable joy for Rene’s mother to be at Brooksville Church, watching her precious son step into the water as he was baptized by Pastor John Sabo. Grace had prayed many years for this moment, and God had answered her prayers.
By this time, Rene had planned to become a Bible teacher. He had four people with whom he was planning to study; however, this would never happen. Just three months after his baptism, Rene and his son, Derek, were in a motorcycle accident. Rene was rushed to the hospital where he went to sleep in Jesus.
How grateful Grace is to have seen God’s purpose for her son realized, and how blessed and honored I am to have been his teacher. When Grace calls or writes, she constantly speaks of the reunion she is promised with her dear son when Jesus comes again.
My purpose in sharing this story of Rene and the answered prayer of his mother, Grace, is to encourage mothers and other family members to never stop praying for loved ones—God may answer in the eleventh hour!
by Eiren Oh
“And when did we see You sick or in prison and came to visit You? …Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least of these My brethren, you did it for Me.” —Matthew 25:39-40 (AMP)
“Look no further,” answered Lakeland Church member Robert Wilson when he learned that inmates at Polk Correctional Institute in Polk City asked Sergeant Duffy Le Boeuf to find an Adventist to preach to them. After 11 months of filing paperwork, waiting, and praying, his application was accepted in October 2005.
As the massive doors locked behind him, Volunteer Wilson was shown to a room where his congregation of four awaited him—three inmates and Sergeant Duffy. Instead of being discouraged, he pressed on and saw the attendance increase each week. Seven years later, an average of 36 men attend the Sabbath services every week. Along the way, his wife, Blandina, and other members volunteered until there are now ten individuals helping with the program. So far, God has blessed this ministry with 69 baptisms.
In June 2006, Wilson was granted the opportunity to become an official volunteer chaplain. At first, he was spending 13 hours on Fridays working one on one with the men and doing crisis calls. Now, he has six hours a week to hold an open Bible study every Sunday afternoon, anger resolution classes every Wednesday evening, and an increasing number of invitations to preach on Sabbath.
Wilson also began ministering in the Cross City prison once a month. He started out just sitting in a circle with the men, talking about his personal experiences, sharing the love of Christ, and encouraging them to share as well. As a result, nine men came forward to accept Christ and were baptized. Economic reasons now keep him from going to Cross City. He is hoping to return, because he feels responsible for the nine men he left behind.
Overall, the men in both prisons truly appreciate the commitment and sincere interest Wilson and the other volunteers show as they invest time, energy, and prayers. The men also enjoy receiving Bibles and literature donated by friends of the ministry. They have many questions about biblical beliefs and appreciate the answers.
One of the Lakeland Church members prayed with Wilson and his team one Sabbath as they were leaving for the prison. He asked God to give Wilson at least one soul that night. A man who had been attending the meetings for six months came forward to accept Christ. He was baptized three weeks later, and he is a faithful member of the prison congregation as a result of one person’s prayer.
Two men stand out in Wilson’s mind from all the people to whom he has ministered:
One man from Polk Correctional Institute needed to understand forgiveness and ask people he had hurt to forgive him. Wilson helped him write to these individuals, and one of them actually accepted his apology and forgave him.
Then, there’s Cheston, an inmate at Cross City prison. God used Wilson to help him understand that God takes us where we are and changes us. Over the course of six sessions held once a month, Wilson helped him to seek forgiveness by writing to the people he had hurt. By the sixth session, he asked if he could be baptized. In the baptismal waters, Cheston shared his testimony before his fellow inmates and asked God to forgive him as he named the ones he had hurt.
Above all, Wilson wants to follow God’s leading in going to facilities and spreading His love. He still keeps in contact with men after they are released or transferred to another facility by writing to them and sending whatever literature he can to encourage them in their walk with God. He says he wants to make good use of the opportunities he has to reach these men as long as he can.
UPDATE: Horace Walsh passed away Thursday, August 29, 2013 at age 93. Services held September 3 at Forest Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church, 515 Harley Lester Lane, Apopka. Visitation: 1:30-2:30 p.m.. Funeral: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Military Honors: 4:00-4:15 p.m. at Deltona Memorial Gardens, 1295 Saxon Blvd., Orange City.
More information is available at the Deltona Memorial Funeral Home web site.
by Gladys Neigel
What great accomplishments would propel a person to the cover of Florida Focus? Can you tell the measure of the man from a photograph? Let me introduce you to Horace Edward Walsh.
As a young man, Horace had two interests that might have guided his career track: Baseball—In his early teens, he spent several days as an official bat boy for the Washington Senators baseball team during spring training in Orlando. Music—Horace worked with a vocal instructor in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to train his Irish tenor voice. In order to accompany himself, he studied piano. Later, he was privileged to attend The Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1939, Horace enrolled at Washington Missionary College (now Washington Adventist University) in Takoma Park, Maryland. After a few months as a student in pre-medical studies, he felt the call of the gospel ministry and changed his major to theology.
Following graduation, he was assigned as a singing evangelist for an evangelistic campaign in Salisbury, Maryland. Horace willingly accepted the duties assigned him except when the sermon was on hell, and Evangelist Dan Harris wanted him to dress in a devil suit, stand on a corner, and pass out fliers.
Horace’s first pastorate was in Wilmington, Delaware. One of the young people, Elizabeth Sterndale, remembers him playing volleyball and starting a camera club for them.
Later, two firsts came into Horace’s life: he was the first to receive a Master of Divinity degree from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary and the first Adventist minister chosen to become a military chaplain.
“Congratulations, Horace, on your retirement after nearly 67 years of ministry,” wrote Gary Councell, Director of Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries. “You are the first to receive Ecclesiastical Endorsement from the [Seventh-day Adventist] denomination as a chaplain. Since your visionary and courageous step, more than 200 men and women have followed your example and legacy.”
After the military, Horace became Chaplain at Loma Linda Hospital (now Loma Linda University Medical Center) in California and taught Bible classes for 10 years at Loma Linda College of Medical Evangelists. His inventive nature soon had him presenting a daily devotional program, Silver Linings, that was piped into each patient’s hospital room.
Horace went on to pastor in Rochester, New York; Miami Temple Church, Miami, Florida; and Forest Lake Church in Apopka, Florida, before his first attempt at retirement in 1983. He continued to preach in various churches for two years before returning to Miami Temple Church where he helped plant the Kendall Church in Miami. He then pastored churches in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and DeLand, Florida, before his 17 year pastorate began at Florida Living Church, Apopka, Florida.
As an example of this beloved pastor’s influence over the years, several people who attended a June 10, 2012, retirement celebration shared their stories. Dr. Ted Furnish, a Urologist from Spokane, Washington, told how his choice to not carry a gun while in the Army in Germany had upset his superiors. A fellow soldier whose mother was an Adventist told him to “go see that Adventist Chaplain” to get him out of the mess.
Furnish, who wasn’t a church member, attended the Adventist service and spoke to Chaplain Walsh. Soon, he was taking Bible studies, and even before his baptism, Horace had him teaching the Sabbath School lesson. Dr. Furnish’s comment, “Thanks so much for the introduction,” was a testimony of his gratitude to Horace for bringing him into the Church.
At age 92, with 67 years of service, Horace Walsh closes his ministry as senior pastor of a congregation and stands tall among the denomination’s elder statesmen. To recognize this milestone, members gathered on June 10 to honor their highly respected friend and celebrate with him in thankfulness for his many years of service for the Master.
Rejoicing with them were Horace’s daughter, Bronwyn and her husband, Bob; and grandchildren, Bobby and Sam. Horace’s son, Bryan and his wife, Callie, could not attend.
Horace’s first wife, Pat, passed away in 1977 and his second wife, Aimee, passed away shortly after they came to Florida Living Church.