This week marks 150 years since the May 21, 1863, founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Today, the international Protestant denomination has a membership of more than 17 million.
Commenting on the anniversary, General Conference President Ted N.C. Wilson, said, “This milestone reminds us the Church was founded to serve God and share His love with others. We are celebrating because we don’t want to forget who we are, where we came from, and what God has in store for us.”
Founded in Battle Creek, Michigan, the Adventist Church promotes a personal relationship with God, healthful living, education, and service. During the formative years of the Advent movement, its leaders were mostly in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. Yet, it was these young men and women who led the Bible conferences during which the fundamental beliefs for the Church were discussed, debated, and agreed upon.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is well known for its world-wide network of schools, its leadership as defenders of religious freedom, its disaster relief and community development projects around the globe through ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency), and its promotion of healthful living.
The November 2005 National Geographic and a book, The Blue Zones (2008), profiled how Adventists are the longest-living people in the United States. In 2011, USA Today reported the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the fastest-growing denomination in this country with approximately 1.1 million members.
Florida Conference Organized
Thirty years after the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was formed, Florida Conference was organized September 22, 1893, with 139 members. Although more congregations existed, delegates from six churches were represented during the weekend meetings in the town of Barberville. Prior to the Florida territory’s first church plant, A W. Bartlett wrote, “Florida seems to be a very important field for labor, especially in the winter when thousands flock here from the North and Europe for health and pleasure.”
In a special 1993 Centennial Edition of Florida Focus, the official Florida Conference magazine, Editor Cindy Kurtzhals featured the Conference’s early beginnings, including the first church in Terra Ceia that was organized in 1885 as forerunner to the current Palmetto Church some 40 miles south of Tampa.
Now, 61,279 members strong and celebrating 120 years of service in their communities, Florida Conference congregations meet on Saturdays in 198 churches, 51 companies, and 32 mission groups.
Many of these members serve on the 24 Florida Hospital campuses located primarily across the Interstate 4 corridor. Today’s flagship campus in Orlando was referenced on July 23, 1908, when Florida Conference President R.W. Parmele wrote to W.C. White of the California Sanitarium, saying, “When we decided that we must let this property go because we did not have the funds in hand to secure it, one of our brethren voluntarily purchased the property to save it for us. The property is located at Clarence Crisler’s old home in Orlando.”
In addition to providing quality health care, Adventists of Florida are known for providing quality education. Adventist University of Health Sciences, adjacent the Florida Hospital Orlando campus, is among them. Throughout the state, Florida Conference members and the community are benefitted by 26 early childhood programs, 28 elementary and junior academies (which include grades 9 and 10), and two senior high schools.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is committed to the development of minds and characters through education which explains why the denomination operates the largest integrated Protestant network of schools worldwide.
As 17 million Adventist members worldwide celebrate 150 years since their denomination was organized, 61,279 of them in Florida celebrate 120 years of God’s leading in mission outreach throughout their state. With a vision for Florida and the world in this anniversary year, President Wilson challenged members to “move forward on that great journey on that narrow pathway, allowing God to make revival and reformation real and actual in our lives and in the church.”
Watch President Wilson’s anniversary message in the video below.
Florida Conference In Mission is a monthly video series about people reaching people.
This month’s video highlights Melbourne Church’s 5K Run/Family Fun Day which included a health fair and involved several other Adventist churches in the region.
Spring Hill Church was established May 14, 1988. Members are celebrating its 25th anniversary while noting that the first gathering of members was actually in 1986 and involved four families.
The church was featured in a May 21 article in the Tampa Bay Times newspaper. The full article can be seen on the newspaper’s web site.
by Jeff Zaremsky, Frank Cohen
Spring signals a rebirth as dormant flowers push their colorful heads towards the sun. The fields are dotted with new baby lambs, calves, and colts. All of God’s creation celebrates the season.
In the Jewish community, spring brings the observance of the Passover to celebrate the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery. Two Adventist Messianic congregations in New Port Richey and St. Petersburg, under the direction of Pastor Jeff Zaremsky, held Passover services, and Palm Harbor Company held a spring communion with a Christ In the Passover celebration led by member Frank Cohen.
Beth-El Shalom of St. Petersburg
Pastor Zaremsky shares: First, there is a matzah tosh (a matzah bag) that has three pieces of matzah (brittle flat bread eaten at Passover) in three different compartments.
The middle piece of matzah is taken out and broken in two. One piece is placed back in the matzah tosh with the other two pieces. The other piece is wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden away during the Passover. The piece in the linen cloth is called the afikoman.
After the meal, the children go and look for the afikoman. The “father” redeems it by giving a gift to the child who finds the afikoman. (In our synagogue, we have enough for all the kids to find one.)
The afikoman is then eaten by the family, and the children enjoy their gifts.
In review, the afikoman is one of the three in the matzah tosh. Part of it stays with the other two. Part of it is broken, wrapped in linen, and hidden away. Like all matzah, it is pierced, has stripes on it, and has bruise-like marks on it. It is found and brought back to the father for a redemption price.
Messiah was one with the Father and Holy Spirit. He remained fully God, but He also left heaven and became fully man. He was pierced in His hands and feet. He was bruised for our iniquities, and by His stripes we are healed. His heart was broken for us. He was taken and wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden away. He was found and brought back to the Father for the redemption price.
During Y’shua’s last Passover, He held up a piece of matzah and said, “This is my body which is broken for you, take eat all of you.”
Beth-El Shalom of New Port Richey
In the background is a representation of the Western Wall that was recently constructed at the New Port Richey Synagogue. The husband of a woman who attends is a stone mason and volunteered to do the work. Another person donated funds for the stones of this prayer wall.
Palm Harbor Company
Palm Harbor members prepared for their spring communion service with a Christ In the Passover celebration. Led by Frank Cohen, an elder, the evening focused on the Passover Seder and how Christ is found in the center of all traditions. Fifty friends and members attended as Cohen led them through the 15 steps most commonly found in modern Passover celebrations.
He explained how Y’shua Hamashiach (Jesus Christ the Messiah) is exemplified in many steps of the Seder, particularly with the breaking of the middle matzah called the afikoman. Cohen explained how families in the traditional Jewish home miss the significance of how Y’shua plays the central role in that He is represented by the middle piece of the matzah (the afikoman), and the three together represent the unity of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Cohen led attendees through the traditions surrounding the bitter herbs which represents the bitterness experienced by the enslaved nation of Israel, and the maror, a mixture of nuts, honey, and dates that represented both the clay that was used in making the bricks and the sweetness of freedom from slavery.
Having been raised Jewish, Cohen was able to conduct the Passover Seder in both Hebrew and English. The service concluded with the song Dayenu (It Would Have Been Enough) and a closing prayer. This Friday night service continued the following morning with a communion service.
by Mary Rogers
Children’s Week of Prayer
“Both services? I am on fire!” replied 10-year-old Josiah Gonzalez when asked to preach at Brandon Church. His sermon was a small segment in a Children’s Week of Prayer focused on Fruits of the Spirit. Fifty children, ranging in age from three to 12, participated in the week-long program.
The children were trained to memorize and recite scripture, lead praise and worship, perform special music, introduce speakers, call for and collect the offering, tell the children’s story, seek the Lord in prayer, and deliver a sermon. Daynette Sleem, a mom of two young children, introduced her vision for this ministry because she is passionate about giving children an opportunity to share Christ from the pulpit.
The culminating Sabbath programs contained longer versions of the nightly meetings, a special introduction by Pastor Rex Frost, and music performed by the children’s choir. The celebrating continued with a potluck luncheon featuring Fruit of the Spirit table decorations and fruit-flavored lollipops.
Following lunch, the children led their families into surrounding neighborhoods to talk with people and distribute REAL Magazine. Each magazine contained a postcard explaining the various church ministries available to children in the community.
“Our Sabbath School classes and Children’s Church are tremendous training grounds for this event,” says Mary Rogers, Children’s Ministries leader.
1,000 Cupcakes Become an Answer To Prayer
“Let’s have our own Cupcake Wars and take 1,000 cupcakes to migrant workers,” suggested 13-year-old Allison Rogers.
A group from Brandon Church volunteered to help at Good Samaritan Mission in Wimauma—an outreach for migrant workers. The event organizer was concerned she didn’t have dessert for the meal they were planning and had prayed about what to provide.
With Allison’s enthusiasm for the Cupcake Wars television show on Food Network, her idea of making 1,000 cupcakes soon caught on, and four mother/daughter teams met at the church for many hours to bake, fill, and frost cupcakes. The migrant workers ate all 1,000 cupcakes, and the volunteers were invited back and encouraged to make it an annual event.
During the same event, Brandon Church teens serving in Children’s Ministries provided a puppet ministry while kids and parents waited their turns for services offered by the Mission such as dental cleaning, immunizations, eye exams, back to school supplies, and tickets for food.
by Herb Pritchard
Sabbaths are always special at Ocala, Fla., Church, but a recent Sabbath could best be described as a “High Sabbath.” On this day, Erick and Marlene Angulo were baptized as the first fruits of the church’s Sign Language Ministry.
As Pastor Dave Swinyar entered the baptismal pool with Erick and Marlene, unseen volunteers stood in the adjacent rooms signing the service and conveying the pastor’s words. You could hear a pin drop as members sensed the sacredness of the service and watched the facial reactions of the couple as they became aware of the pastor’s words.
Ocala Church’s deaf ministry began when Jerry Sutton* was asked to sign the services for the guest of a member. This initial signing led several deaf people to attend church, and Jerry was led to teach training classes for others to sign. Today, more than 12 individuals, consisting of youth and adults, are capable of helping with the ministry.
“This is a beginning,” said Swinyar after the service. “I am looking for the Lord to bless us with more souls as we meet the needs of these dear blind and deaf people by introducing them to Jesus.”
* Read Jerry Sutton’s conversion story.
by Tim Floyd
Fourteen students from Forest Lake Academy (FLA), Apopka, Fla., partnered with ACTS (Active Christians That Serve) World Relief and its training arm, Global Rapid Rescue and Relief (GR3), to simulate a disaster at Orlando International Airport. The Orlando International Mass Casualty Training Event on March 13 and 14 had more than 700 participants, including students from FLA, Miami Union Academy in North Miami, Fla., and Heritage Academy in Monterey, Tenn. This was the largest mass casualty simulation on the east coast where young people took a professional part.
The day before the drill, students from the three academies gathered on FLA’s campus for training. They learned disaster response skills such as CPR, swift water rescue techniques, food safety, knot-tying skills, and moulage. FLA students were assigned to the moulage team creating fake injuries on the victims.
Thursday morning, students gathered to prep victims for the disaster drill. They spent the morning painting on injuries such as burns and head wounds. In one and a half hours, students helped prepare 320 victims who were sent to 21 different hospitals after the planned explosion at the airport. After the students prepped the victims, they were allowed to participate in a dispersion drill.
This program was an excellent opportunity for young people to support emergency response professionals in preparedness and response.
More information about ACTS World Relief and GR3 is available at ACTSWR.org including a Mass Casualty Training In Moulage video (which can also be viewed below).