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Conrad and Eda Visser Celebrate 60 Years of Marriage

posted on May 11, 2012, under Member by

by Eda Visser

Eda and Conrad Visser. (Photo: Claude Visser)

Conrad Visser and Eda Bertolo were born and raised in Argentina, South America. They met at River Plate Adventist College where Conrad graduated with a theology degree in 1951. After a wedding on March 13, 1952, they taught at J.B. Alberti Academy in the Northern Mission of Argentina. Five years later, Conrad became director of the youth and education departments.

In 1958, he was called to be director of youth, education, and public relations at North Central Conference in Santiago, Chile. While there, he finished his master’s degree in education and counseling and later became vice president and director of the Teacher’s College at Chile Adventist University in Chillan, Chile.

In 1965, the Vissers arrived in the United States where Conrad became pastor of Broadway Church in New York, N.Y. for nine years and finished his master’s in education at Columbia University.

In 1976, both Conrad and Eda were called to work in Puerto Rico—Conrad as president of Antillean Adventist University, Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, and Eda as translator for the nursing department. Later, he served as vice administrator of Bella Vista Hospital.

After working for ADRA in the public relations department, they moved to Florida where he was employed at Hialeah Hospital to complete his 40 years of denominational service. In retirement, Conrad taught Sabbath School for 14 years at Markham Woods Church in Longwood, Fla.

The Vissers have three children: Hernan, Claude, and Vivian, as well as eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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My Personal Devotional Time: Son-rise Before Sunrise

posted on March 19, 2012, under Member by

by Geoff Patterson, senior pastor, Forest Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church

Pastor Geoff Patterson. (Photo: Alicia Patterson)

I used to live by the saying, “If God had wanted us to see the sunrise, He would have scheduled it later in the day.” Then, I had children. It did not take me long to discover they didn’t care at all what time I went to bed, they were still going to get up early.

I go to bed a lot earlier now than I used to. As a bonus—though I am not certain it is a bonus I longed for—I have seen many more sunrises in the past 16 years than I intended to see in my lifetime.

I mention all this not for the sake of sympathy, for what I have experienced is no different from anyone who has raised a family. Rather, I mention this to make a point: when opportunities, blessings, and responsibilities increase, nothing unplanned and unprovided for will ever happen consistently.

Getting to the real point of these words: there are very few who would argue there is little value in devotions—spending personal time in Bible reading, reflecting, and praying. In fact, most would affirm these things are critical to personal spiritual health. Yet, as I have discovered in my own life, it is one thing to affirm these words, but altogether another to actually live them.

My own history with Bible reading, reflection, and prayer was uneven for many years. I knew I wanted to read my Bible each day, but sometimes struggled to know how much reading was enough. Because it was several years before I included a reflective journaling component in my devotional time, there were days when I must admit the noise in my mind quite effectively blocked out anything I was reading. What I needed was a plan.

Nine years ago, I found the plan I needed. Since then, my devotional time has become the strength of my life.

A quick word about plans: I believe everyone needs to have a plan for daily Bible reading, reflection, and prayer. I do not, however, believe one plan will work for everyone. My plan works perfectly for me, but it does not work for my wife or my eldest son. That is okay, they have their own plans which nurture their spirits.

Do you have a plan?
For my plan to work, I need to be alone in a quiet house. In my house, that means early morning, and so it is that I drag myself to the shower around 5:15 each morning. Do I have to get up this early to make my worldly appointments on time? No. But I have a Heavenly Appointment that I just can’t afford to miss. I have a time, I have a place, I have a plan, and I have a Heavenly Father who meets me each and every morning.

It is the most important thing I do every day, my own personal Son-rise before the sunrise.

Yes, it’s early. Yes, it’s tough. But starting the day with God is what I want and need most.

I have a plan. It’s hard sometimes, but it works for me. Do you have a plan? You need a plan.

We want to hear from our members throughout Florida Conference. We invite you to share ways/experiences in which you find special meaning to your devotional time. E-mail us at floridafocus@floridaconference.com

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Medicine With a Personal Touch

posted on February 03, 2012, under Member by

Patricia McEachrane-Gross, M.D., M.D.H., recently opened a new medical practice, Peppertree Primary Care, in Ocala, Fla. Following is a condensed version of a story printed with permission from Ocala Magazine.

Patricia McEachrane-Gross

Patricia McEachrane-Gross, M.D., M.D.H., worships with the Crossroads Mission Group congregation in Ocala, Fla. (Photo: courtesy Ocala Magazine)

“I call my philosophy ‘functional medicine,'” says Dr. Patricia McEachrane-Gross.

“It’s treating the patient as an individual person, with a unique makeup, and looking at the symptoms to find an underlying cause,” she explains. “It’s just a natural way of thinking about things…. We then might use a combination of mainstream medicine, drugs, supplements, and modification of one’s lifestyle and diet as treatment. That’s preventive medicine.”

Prior to seeing a patient, Dr. McEachrane-Gross will review the individual’s medical history and background in detail, followed by a 20-minute conversation with the patient. Her approach, she says, involves “spending time with the patient, looking carefully at the symptoms and medical history, and getting lots of information.” This helps her tailor the treatment for each individual.

Dr. McEachrane-Gross is board certified in family medicine and preventive medicine. Her practice, she notes, will be primary care with office hours throughout the week. However, she intends to reserve Thursday and Friday afternoons for house calls—a component of family medicine that has practically disappeared in the 21st century.

Educating patients about proper diet and lifestyle will be a major component of her practice, she says. “Most of our chronic diseases, whether it’s high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer—all of them have a lifestyle basis. Yes, there are some hereditary aspects, but the majority of the causes are based on lifestyle and diet. The Western diet is what I call an inflammatory diet, because it produces inflammation in the body…. Often, it’s what we choose to eat.”

Dr. McEachrane-Gross is aware of how difficult it is for some patients to make a transition to a healthier lifestyle, but she says she’s here to help. “It can be difficult to make these changes, but that’s my goal—to help my patients through these transitions.” It’s a common-sense philosophy, or as Dr. McEachrane-Gross calls it, “medicine with a personal touch.”

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Former Quartet Members Celebrate Wedding Anniversaries

posted on January 03, 2012, under Member by

by Martin Butler

Collegedale Academy's Harmonaires Quartet, circa 1948, from left: Craig Asher, first tenor; Sherman Cross, second tenor; Stewart Crook (sitting at piano), baritone; and Obed Graham, bass. (Yes, that is Obed Graham! Florida Conference president from 1990-1997.)

Four young men met at Collegedale Academy, Collegedale, Tenn., more than 60 years ago and formed a quartet. Sherman Cross sang second tenor, Stewart Crook was baritone, Obed Graham sang bass, and Craig Asher held down the first tenor position.

During their academy years, Sherman and his girlfriend, Patricia Blevins, and Stewart and his girlfriend, Martina Martin, became friends. After graduation, the two couples planned August weddings with Stewart standing as Sherman’s best man. Six days later, Sherman was a groomsman for Stewart. Both couples celebrated 60 years of marriage this past August.

Sherman and Patricia Cross.

Sherman and Pat married August 13, 1951, in Lynn Wood Hall Chapel on the campus of Southern Missionary College, now Southern Adventist University.

Sherman studied business, then spent 28 years in hospital work and 17 at McKee Baking Company in Collegedale, Tenn. Pat has worked as a cosmetologist for 35 years and continues in this profession today in Zephyrhills, Fla., where the couple makes their retirement home.

The Crosses have three daughters and four grandsons.

Stewart and Martina were married August 19, 1951, in St. Petersburg, Fla., Church.

Stewart and Martina Crook. (Photo: Tim Putt)

Stewart studied music and taught at several Adventist academies and Southern College (now Southern Adventist University). Later, job positions found him wearing varied hats including dean of men, youth leader, pastor, and trust services director.

He received his Trust Services Certification from the North American Division in 1986 and spent 10 years at Southern Union Conference in Decatur, Ga., before retiring from full-time denominational work in 1997.

In retirement, he served full time in planned giving at Georgia State University and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital before coming to Florida Conference where he works part time in Planned Giving and Trust Services. Martina’s work career was mostly spent in the bookkeeping and accounting field.

The Crooks have three daughters, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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My Lord, the Strength of My Hope

posted on December 21, 2011, under Member by

by Adriana Pasos, Spiritual Ambassador Coordinator, Florida Hospital Mission Development, Orlando, Florida

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…” —Romans 1:16

Adriana Pasos reads from a near-100-year-old Romanian-language Bible used by her grandmother. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

The larger-than-life Bible stood open on the round, beveled glass table in my grandmother’s bedroom. The sunshine flooded the room through the opened, sky-blue French louvers. As I lazily opened my eyes, I could see Buni, my dear grandmother, kneeling down to pray. As I tiptoed my way out of bed, I quietly knelt down beside her. Even at the tender age of 7, I understood those moments were sacred.

Every morning, without fail, Buni would read from that huge, red Bible that covered nearly half the table. Its pages tattered by use, the red and blue markings and notations were a clear indication this Book had been read many times. It was only later on I would realize the courage it took for her to even own a Bible, much less have it displayed in plain sight, in a country where Christians were persecuted for much less.

Every morning when I would get up, she would read a verse out loud from that Ancient Old Book. Then, my mother and I would harmonize soprano and alto voices, giving praises to God through precious hymns.

I couldn’t wait for evening to arrive. It was then that Buni would recount to me the wonderful Bible stories in such a vivid way. My favorite was Joseph. His faithfulness to God, his courage in the face of adversity, and the power to stand for what is right, no matter what, would leave an indelible mark on my life that I would only later discover.

As I look back at those experiences, I realize now how they shaped who I am today. They painted the picture of a Saviour who is real. A Saviour who hears me, who forgives me. A Saviour who will never, ever leave me. A Saviour who loves me “immeasurably more than I can hope or imagine.”

Today, so many years later, I am convinced that starting my day with God is the most important thing I can do for my own sanity and that of my own family. I have found that when I don’t, my actions and reactions are quite different than I would desire. My husband and my children have experienced the difference first hand and have lamented many times, “Oh, no. Mom has not had her time with Jesus today. Watch out!”

So, I am learning, in a world that’s running at warp speed, I need Him above anything else. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) The world in which we live screams for our attention, through every device possible and every application. Each one can be used for my good or for my bad. The choice is mine.

I have found, however, that one timeless invention—the Sabbath—is still at the top of my list as the true oasis from the chaotic, crazy pace I run. That piece of eternity in a dying world, linking us to Our Eternal Creator God as a reminder of Who He is and whose we are, is a most precious gift. Just as in years past, our family still gathers together as a third and fourth generation, around the piano, singing those hymns, talking about what God has done in our lives, and watching our own children now play out the Bible characters they’ve learned. No doubt, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (Romans 10:17)

2012 Camp Meeting Speaker Releases New Book

Sperantza Adriana Pasos grew up under the stronghold of Communist Romania. At age 14, she and her mother braved a daring escape plan, evading government officials and armed guards, with the teenager wondering whether she’d ever see her four-year-old sister and adoring father again.

This heart-stopping venture is now told in a new book, Hope In Present Danger, and set for release January 13 through Florida Conference Adventist Book Centers (ABC). The ABC will also host a book signing at Camp Meeting 2012 after Adriana tells her dramatic story.

“You will be inspired as you read this amazing story of hope and courage,” says international speaker Mark Finley. “Adriana’s story, in the face of overwhelming odds and insurmountable obstacles, will touch your heart, lift your spirits, and increase your faith.”

Pick up Hope In Present Danger at the ABC beginning January 13, by telephone order at (877) 553-5222, or at Camp Meeting.

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Blessings Without Measure

posted on December 21, 2011, under Member by

by Gladys Neigel

Indiana Academy faculty members Fred and Gladys Neigel.

It was a cold, blustery winter evening, far removed from the balmy Florida nights I would later enjoy. It was home leave for Indiana Academy students, and the empty campus was covered in deep snow. A blizzard howled about us as my husband, Fred, and I trudged through the snow from an evening meal and fellowship with the boys’ dean’s family.

When we arrived back at the girls’ dean’s apartment, I discovered my watch was missing. Not just any watch—the white gold watch with its slender band was a statement of commitment to a marriage still in its beginnings.

What was a dutiful husband to do but retrace the lighthearted steps of the evening in response to his wife’s tearful entreaties while the hosts of the evening searched their apartment. The watch was not to be found.

Upon the students’ return to campus two days later, they looked up and under and around snow banks searching for the missing watch. At first, I prayed that my husband or one of the students would find the watch. While appreciative of their efforts, I had lingering doubts of ever seeing my watch again.

From the beginning of our life together, returning tithes and offerings was part of a pattern that we each brought to the marriage. I began to claim the promise found in Malachi 3:10:

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.

The engagement watch, shown in its original case (with a new band), was lost in the snow and miraculously found. Even today, the experience reminds Fred and Gladys of God's care and concern for large and small details in life. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

Claiming this promise gave me hope. One week went slowly by and then another began with no watch to be found. On the last day of the second week, the rains came and made short order of all the snow piles. That afternoon, my husband grabbed an umbrella and headed for a class he taught in the administration building, which was quite a distance from the dormitory. As he was about to open the door to the building, much to his surprise, he saw a shiny object in the mud and rain. Yes, there was my watch! After a little cleaning, it was as good as new.

The watch still resides in its original case, and the young couple who have become seasoned veterans of marriage still work for the Lord from a warmer climate. However, the remarkable recovery of the watch has not lost anything in telling and retelling the story. God’s Word is still sure—the God who rewarded our faithfulness still opens the windows of heaven and pours out blessings without measure to those who steadfastly return their “tithes into the storehouse.”

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The Impact of One Life

posted on December 21, 2011, under Conference, Member by

by Gladys Neigel

“Without the blessing of God and the dedication of our Pathfinder lay leaders, this could not have happened,” are words Cheeko Cotta often repeated when constituents approached him with accolades about the Florida Conference Pathfinder program.

Cheeko, your team thanks you for the impact you've had on their lives and the lives of young people in Florida Conference. (Photo: Tamara Fisher)

Cheeko burst onto the Florida Pathfinder scene in December 1983. At that time, there were approximately 2,000 Pathfinders. When he retired in May 2011, there were more than 5,000.

“No one can measure the impact Cheeko has made in Florida,” says Micky Santiago, a fellow staff member. “His service was always consistent and unselfish.”

Cheeko knows no strangers. Everyone he encounters is rewarded with his friendly smile and words of cheer. “He is a man of God, a leader, and a friend to everyone,” says Stu Davis, Brazilian Chapel Pathfinder director in Deerfield Beach.

“When Cheeko accepted the challenge to direct the Pathfinder program in Florida Conference, his vision was for growth,” say Calvin and Myrlin Brooks, south area Pathfinder administrators.

“His philosophy was to allow lay leaders to build the program under his direction, and it worked. He left a defined mark on the Pathfinder program in Florida Conference and on our lives.”

Lisa and Brad Gary, Conference lay Adventurer directors, add, “We have always considered Cheeko as our close friend and confidant. In the years we worked together, he not only taught us so much about Adventurer ministry, but he taught us to have confidence in ourselves and in our ability to help others.”

When Cheeko received a Ministry Award from the North American Division, he was cited for “his commitment to a caring Pathfinder ministry, his steadfastness in teaching Pathfinder values, leading young people to meaningful spiritual experiences that blessed the lives of thousands of young Adventists, and being an example to other Pathfinder leaders.”

How can you measure the results of 28 years of Pathfinder ministry in Florida Conference and more than 14 years in Potomac Conference? Any report would include: thousands of young people baptized, mission trips, Reveilles, Red Zones, camporees, drill and drum corps competitions, and Bible Bowls.

Every winning team has an encourager, guide, trainer, planner, and leader. Cheeko was that person. Through it all, he would say, “With the Savior’s blessing and thousands of dedicated volunteers, these things were accomplished.”

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Nine Days That Changed My Life

posted on December 05, 2011, under Member by

by Mason Sumner

"As I looked over the desolation, I couldn't even think of where to begin helping." ---Mason Sumner (Photo: John Sumner)

My name is Mason Sumner. I am 15 years old and live in Nobleton, Florida, with my dad, mom, and twin baby sisters. We were baptized into the Adventist Church in 2006.

My family and I are currently members at an elderly church in Inverness; however, we are searching for a church with younger people. With a youth group, we could help change lives by showing God’s love. Until that happens, I am going to keep doing all I can to positively impact lives, just as mine was forever changed in nine short days during the month of June, 2011.

Mason Sumner. (Photo: John Sumner)

You may recall the headlines in the spring of 2011 when disaster struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with no mercy. The after effects were devastating. Tornadoes destroyed everything, not caring if you were rich or poor, big or small. They came with one purpose; to completely desolate.

Out of that destruction, God put together a plan that sent me on my first humanitarian mission trip with my dad through our family’s 5 Loaves 2 Fish Ministries. I have grown up with a commercial contractor dad who, on the side, loves to give—whether it’s helping a neighbor put on a new roof or an elderly woman paint her weathered home.

When I saw the path of destruction the Alabama tornadoes left behind, it was hard to comprehend. Those people were left with only fragments of their home, scattered county wide. As I looked over the desolation, I couldn’t even think of where to begin helping.

This tent in a campground served as Mason's living quarters during her volunteer time in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo: John Sumner)

During the next nine days, my dad and I worked hard in many different places for multiple organizations while staying in individual tents at a campground. It was eye opening. God showed me how blessed I am and how fortunate my family is. Our mission trip wasn’t to deliberately preach God’s word, but to show Christ’s love through our actions. We went in the name of God to be servants of the Lord for others. Wherever we picked up a branch or pieced a home back together, footprints of God’s love were left behind. As a result of this mission endeavor, I developed a stronger love for helping people in their time of need.

One memory that stands out above all the rest is the day I was volunteering for Salvation Army. A women and her son came for help to get back on their feet after they lost everything. Their home was no more, and their belongings could not be located. The fear and pain I saw in their eyes was heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but ask her, “How do you recover from this?” She replied, “God has a plan; He will provide.” Hearing that response from a person who just lost everything was such a powerful witness of faith—that there is still hope on this earth.

The enormous impact that one person can have on another is incredible. Just imagine that impact if we all came together and worked as one, united in the Body of Christ. It took a disaster for me to realize that, so it is my job to spread God’s love to other people of all ages now, before another disaster strikes.

I think we all see that some churches are failing to embrace their youth. As an effect, the youth are leaving the church to find unhealthy places where they feel truly welcomed. The whole church—not just a few pastors or youth group leaders—needs to embrace each other so, when disaster strikes, we can all help change lives by showing God’s love.

Disasters do not care if you are young or old, and neither should we. We are all God’s children.

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Elmer and Violet Jones Celebrate 65th Wedding Anniversary

posted on December 05, 2011, under Member by

by Naomi Zalabak

Elmer and Violet Jones.

Elmer Jones and Violet Sickler were married in Bridgeton, New Jersey on November 3, 1946. Their first date occurred after Violet’s mother twice introduced Violet to Elmer—once by a picture and then in person.

Elmer was a horticulturalist near Trenton, N.J., until they moved to Kettering, Ohio, when Violet was asked to help establish Kettering Memorial Hospital, now Kettering Medical Center. As the head nurse, she admitted the first patient.

Returning to their farm in New Jersey, Elmer started working in the greenhouses at Rowan University. Violet studied for a masters in public health at Loma Linda University while working as a public health nurse and teaching nursing.

For several years, Violet and Elmer visited Florida as snowbirds. In 1976, they moved to Sarasota, then retired in Avon Park in 1992. Violet’s nursing and health education skills gave her opportunities to conduct cooking classes and help more than 1,000 people quit smoking through Stop Smoking clinics. She also served as a church elder, and Elmer served more than 40 years as a deacon.

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My Journey Home: How Did God Get Me Here?

posted on November 04, 2011, under Member by

by Joan Smith

Joan Smith, right, preparing for baptism by Pastor Dave Swinyar, serves the Ocala Church in communication and developed an interactive web site with hopes of making members' lives easier. "I hope their smiling faces on the pages will lead someone else to our church, just as it was their faces on the web site that invited me in when I was searching for truth." (Photo: Sam Minosh)

My journey started a little more than a year ago. Life seemed fine the way it was; yet, God obviously had different plans.

I had settled spiritually into New Age after years of searching different denominations and facing disappointment in teachings and people. It seemed being alone with God and my books was enough.

For years, a friend tried getting me to church. I didn’t want to hear of it, but God kept working on my heart. Lying in bed one morning, I prayed, “If You want me to change course, then You have to show me the way. Just show me the truth, and I will follow wherever You lead.”

God started to do just that in a peculiar way. He began waking me each day at 3:00 A.M. It was perfect—no distractions just learning at the computer. I thought at the time He was validating my beliefs in New Age.

One day, I heard a speaker say the Garden of Eden wasn’t real. I knew this was untrue. Here, my journey took a new path as I began searching on my own instead of waiting for direction.

While sitting at the computer one morning, I typed, “What is truth?” in the search box. A list of comments about truth appeared, and two words caught my eye—Amazing Facts. I had watched this program some 15 years earlier and thought it interesting. I went to their web site and, day after day, listened to sermons.

Soon, Amazing Facts led me to 3ABN (Three Angels Broadcasting Network). Then, my search led me to other ministry sites. I couldn’t satisfy my thirst.

After months of studying, I knew I had found the truth. I started observing the Sabbath at home, but Doug Batchelor and Ken Cox kept telling viewers to become involved with a church.

The day I chose to visit Ocala Seventh-day Adventist Church, my true journey began. When my husband dropped me off, he said he’d wait for 10 minutes in case I decided not to stay. I told him, “Don’t worry, I’m staying.”

As I walked through the doors, I was greeted by warm, smiling faces. I explained I was new and was given a welcome packet. Heading for the sanctuary door, frightened to death of unfamiliar surroundings, I approached a gentleman who greeted me. I explained it was my first time to visit the church.

Jay Dewitt took my hand, said, “Come with me,” and led me to his wife, Joan, which caused us both to chuckle that we shared the same first name. Jay whispered in his wife’s ear, “She is new.” From that day, they have taken me under their wings and guided me through my journey.

When I recall that first Sabbath, tears fill my eyes. If I hadn’t been treated so kindly, I may not have returned. I’m a testimony that a simple smile or friendly gesture to a new face can literally save a person’s spiritual life.

After studying God’s truths for several months with Pastor Dave Swinyar, I was baptized December 10, 2010. The church members, surely a chosen generation of people, have accepted me so warmly.

Now, I pray for God to show me how I can be an active part of this body of Christ. My desire is to serve God with love, compassion, and grace.

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