Rwandan and Afghan refugees find warm welcome
Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
When Karen Yang, family ministries director of the Ann Arbor Adventist church in Michigan, recognized a young man, Vincent, a refugee from Rwanda who had been a regular Ann Arbor church attendee, she pulled over to offer a ride. Vincent was with Sherif, who was newly arrived from a Rwandan refugee camp. She took the teens to their temporary home, in a hotel, and met the new family. Yang invited them to church on Sabbath and offered to take them. They brightened at the invitation and quickly agreed to go.
The Ann Arbor church warmly welcomed the family and provided them with winter clothing, shoes, blankets, and more. Through the generous sponsorship of a church member, the youngest son enrolled in the Ann Arbor Adventist Elementary School.
Yang began to visit the Rwandan family more frequently at the hotel and met other refugees who had noticed that the Rwandan Adventist family seemed less distressed.
Daniel Rodriguez, the new pastor of the Ann Arbor church, suggested that the congregation provide a meal for the refugee families. Fifteen Rwandan and 17 Afghan refugees came for the dinner.
Later, a group took the Afghan refugee women to purchase clothing and other things from a secondhand store. Church members took the children to the public library to borrow books and play at the playground. An agency soon found apartments for the families.
Yang visited homes in the community around the church and offered the services of the refugee youth and others to rake leaves and shovel snow in exchange for donations. The neighbors not only gave generous donations but also brought out jackets, suits, winter shoes, hats, gloves, and good wishes for their resettlement. Yang says, “I rejoice in the refugee ministry. The new Rwandan family started a Bible study twice weekly. We open the Scripture and let the Holy Spirit move. If no translator is available, we use machine translation. The Holy Spirit may not call us to go to Rwanda or Afghanistan as a missionary, but He brought them close to our home to share the love of Jesus and the gospel.” [Ann Arbor Seventh-day Adventist Church, for Lake Union Herald]
First virtual church established in New York
Lancaster, Massachusetts, United States
On February 1, 2022, the Northeastern Conference (NEC), headquartered in New York City, United States, made history by establishing The Living Manna First Online Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Abraham Jules, NEC president, was exuberant about the new endeavor. “The pandemic has taught all of us some lessons, one of them being that we can have church while we are at home. There are many people who we will be reaching through this virtual congregation that we would not reach otherwise.”
As a virtual church, Living Manna is intended to operate in the same manner as a church with members occupying a physical building, including having church elections and submitting tithes and offerings. “The only difference is [the members] will come from around the world,” says Jules. “They will be indoctrinated in the teachings of the Adventist Church, and we will have elections like any other church—all of the typical auxiliaries will be represented in the virtual church.” Living Manna members will utilize AdventistGiving online to return tithe and give offerings. As a virtual church, Living Manna will also operate seven days a week through varied online programming addressing daily living, finances, mental health, and more.
Ivor Myers, a pastor and dean at Oakwood University, has been appointed pastor of Living Manna. Myers previously pastored a church in Campbell, California. During the pandemic, as many churches moved services online, Myers’s programming with the online congregation developed. As he interacted with viewers, he noticed a significant increase in the reach and size of his online audience. “We were communicating directly with them. We saw their comments come up and responded in real time. That ended up being a real blessing.”
Myers approached Northeastern Conference with the idea of forming a virtual church. “The difference between streaming services online and forming a virtual church is that the people online are not on the outside looking in; they are not just joining a service; they are the service,” explains Myers.
When asked about possible impacts a virtual church may have on members choosing to support a virtual church and not attend their local church, Jules was not worried. “I have always said that if a pastor is scared about losing members to any other congregation, any other preacher, or any other establishment in town, you should lose them. If you are doing what is right and people still leave, it is a free country. You do your best to minister.”
Nicardo Delahaye, NEC associate secretary, agreed. “The online church is catering to a different audience. We are going after two different demographics.”
“Online church isn’t for everybody, but it is for some, and that number of people is pretty big,” said Myers. “There are some people who won’t walk into a church building, but they will watch online. We don’t want to come off as competition or a threat to any church. That’s why our emphasis is not on moving Adventist members into Living Manna but on getting new members who are not already in our churches. Hopefully, we will also help fill other churches.” [Debra Cuadro, Atlantic Union Gleaner]
First African American woman with MDiv degree in Adventist Church passes to rest
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Bernadine Archer, a pioneer in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, passed away on January 27, 2022, at age 69. Archer graduated from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in 1987, becoming “the first black woman to receive a master of divinity degree in the Adventist church” and the first “credentialed female prison chaplain endorsed by the Seventh-day Adventist church,” after completing clinical pastoral education in Detroit, Michigan (Adventist News Network, October 17, 2016). Her call to serve at Macomb Regional Correctional Facility in New Haven, Michigan, made her “the first Adventist woman to be employed as a correctional chaplain” (Adventist Review, June 30, 1994).
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Archer was introduced to Adventism with the support and encouragement of Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s grandmother. Archer was a commissioned minister in the Michigan Conference, and also received an ecclesiastical endorsement from Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries.
Archer was featured on the cover of the Adventist Review, February 20, 1986. She stated, “Wanting to work for God and not being able to is one of the worst forms of human suffering. It was a test of faith for me. This test of faith resulted in a mustard seed experience, and God has removed great mountains of difficulty.” [Jeffrey Brown, Ministry]