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Danilo and Lucila Rodriguez Celebrate 60th Anniversary

posted on October 05, 2012, under Member by

by Ingrid Hernandez

Lucila and Danilo Rodriguez.

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.

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Trucker Teaches Sign Language To Teens

posted on September 14, 2012, under Church, Member by

by Herb Pritchard

Jerry Sutton.

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.

Volunteers Amanda Raices, 15, left, and Rebecca Nolasco, 13, interpret for Winnie Tuninson in Ocala Church's sign language ministry. (Photo: Sam Minosh)

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.

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Orlando Fireman Trains Emergency Responders In Dominican Republic and South America

posted on September 14, 2012, under Member by

by Martin Butler

Rudy Prado, right, trained Chilean ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) volunteers on a South America trip with David Canther, ACTS (Active Christians That Serve) World Relief president. (Photo: David Canther)

“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.

World Vision Emergency Response volunteers in the Dominican Republic evacuated victims from a staged incident after they received training from Markham Woods Church member Rudy Prado. (Photo: David Canther)

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 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.

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God Answers a Mother’s Prayers

posted on September 14, 2012, under Member by

by Janice Boone

Janice Boone, left, studied the Bible with Rene Brunet. His mother, Grace, attended his baptism.

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.

A seeker of truth, Rene Brunet anticipated studying the Bible with four individuals.

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.

Rene's mother rejoiced as she watched Brooksville Pastor John Sabo baptize her son.

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!

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For the Least of These

posted on September 14, 2012, under Member by

by Eiren Oh

Robert Wilson. (Photo: 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.

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The Measure of a Man: Horace Edward Walsh—67 Years of Service For the Master

posted on August 31, 2012, under Church, Florida Living, Member by

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.

Horace Edward Walsh. (Photo: Lee Bennett)

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.

1st Lieutenant Horace Walsh, first Adventist Army Chaplain, proudly donned his uniform some 60 years later at the June 10 retirement celebration. (Photo: Lori Bennett)

“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.

While pastor of Florida Living Church at Florida Living Retirement Community in Apopka, Horace was appreciated for his compassion. Pictured: Horace prays with Betty Downs at the neighboring Florida Living Nursing Center. (Photo: Les Clark)

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.

Carmen Rodriguez, Florida Conference Executive Secretary, presented a plaque to Horace commemorating his years of service. (Photo: Lori Bennett)

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.

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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

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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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