September | October 2023

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Southwestern Union Restoring the Soul 4 Small Groups Bring People Together 9 Seeking the Wisdom of Solomon Safeguarding the Mind 10 11 Cultivating Heaven at Home 6 A Consecrated Life Aligning Priorities with Heaven Above September | October 2023

A Consecrated Life

Editor’s Note

In this issue we examine what it means to consecrate our lives to Jesus. Do our lives reflect a heart and mind that is focused on things above? Is our connection to Jesus evident to those at home, work and in our social circles? How do we work to align our priorities to Heaven while we honor God on this earth?

In the midst of the back-to-school busyness and fall festivities, take some time to check in. Quiet the distractions and seek your Savior’s guidance, not just on major decisions, but also mundane ones. Revel in His company as you make your way in this world, awaiting the next.

Kristina P. Busch

September | October 2023

Vol. 122, No. 05



Editorial EDITOR





Arkansas-Louisiana Conference


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Southwest Region Conference LESLIE SOUPET |

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Equipping, inspiring and sharing hope and wholeness in the Southwestern Union territory.


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Southwestern Union HEADQUARTERS

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President Carlos Craig

Executive Secretary Stephen Brooks

Treasurer John Page

Undertreasurer Bo Just

VP Church Ministries Tony Anobile

VP Education Carol Campbell

VP Multicultural Ministries Osvaldo Rigacci

Children’s Ministries Sonia Canó

Church Planting Robin Lopez

Communication Kristina Busch

Community Services Bo Gendke

Evangelism English Stephen Brooks

Evangelism Spanish Osvaldo Rigacci

Family Ministries Letty Craig

Health Ministries Randy Phillips

Human Resources Joel Wallace

Men’s Ministries Tony Anobile

Ministerial Tony Anobile

Ministerial Spouses Letty Craig

Native Ministries Carlos Craig

Personal Ministries Stephen Brooks

Prayer Ministries Helvis Moody

Prison Ministries Tyrone Boyd

PARL Stephen Brooks

Revolving Fund Joel Wallace

Sabbath School Sonia Canó

Secondary Education Mike Furr

Stewardship Tony Anobile

Planned Giving/Trust Services Bo Just

Women’s Ministries Letty Craig

Young Adult/Youth Ministries Helvis Moody

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Features 4 Restoring the Soul 6 Cultivating Heaven at Home 9 Small Groups Bring People Together Columns 10 Equipping: Seeking the Wisdom of Solomon 11 Wholeness: Safeguarding the Mind 12 Ministries: Small Groups with a Big Vision 13 Education: Navigating Back-to-School News 14 Southwestern Happenings 15 Southwestern Union 18 Arkansas-Louisiana Conference 23 Oklahoma Conference 28 Southwest Region Conference 33 Texas Conference 38 Texico Conference 43 AdventHealth 44 Southwestern Adventist University Back Pages 46 Classified Ads 46 Obituaries 47 Announcements & Milestones
Colossians 3:1-4

Destination: Christ’s Kingdom

Driving on a busy multilane highway in a large metropolitan area during rush hour tests the patience of the most confident driver. Doing this in an area that one is not familiar with is even more frustrating. Under these circumstances, one definitely has to depend on a global positioning system (GPS). Ideally, the GPS will systematically give accurate instructions to the final destination.

Many have come to depend on GPS to guide them on the road through their daily travels. Though we appreciate the modern technology of GPS, the device has one major limitation: GPS is incapable of giving directions in the absence of a destination. One must first choose a destination and input that destination into the GPS before it can benefit the driver with directions. With GPS, the destination influences the directions.

Therefore, it is essential that one first determine their destination. Then, they should manage the route based on that destination.

In Colossians 3:1-5 the Apostle Paul wrote, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hid -

den with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

Paul argues that those who have been resurrected with Jesus Christ in baptism should stay focused on Christ’s Kingdom. Therefore, the destination is to be with Christ in His Kingdom. Paul continues his argument with the salient point that those raised with Christ are dead to earthly things. The old person of sin has been crucified, buried in baptism and the old person of sin must stay buried through continued surrender to Jesus Christ. In the same way that death precedes resurrection, the old destinations must be deleted before a new destination can replace it.

Once the new destination is programed into the GPS, the option will be given for the most direct route to reach the destination. As one continues traveling to the destination, one must remain vigilant due to the presence of temptations to veer off the straight path. One of the greatest impediments to reaching the destination is detour tourism, or rerouting at the exit of ev-

ery alluring billboard, taking detours to see every oddity and uniqueness advertised.

Paul explains that the new person resurrected with Christ has replaced the old person of sin who is now buried. Now, one must continue aligning priorities with things above and not on earthly things. The destination is now the Kingdom of God and not the earthly detour. Therefore, the direction of our lives should be characterized by Kingdom-living through the Holy Spirit of God. a

On The Record

Restoring the Soul

Time seems to slip away from us so quickly in our fast-paced lives, consumed by the demands of work, technology and endless to-do lists. The busyness and associated stress have a way of bringing us right up to the point of exhaustion.

But there are moments when we experience a different kind of time, where it slows down. We find ourselves fully present, at peace with the world around us. When was the last time you experienced such a moment?

For me, it was a few weeks ago while on vacation in Seal Beach, California. Standing barefoot with the warmth of the sand under my toes, the rhythmic sound of waves crashing against the shore, feeling the gentle breeze on my skin and tasting a hint of salt in the air. Standing there, I simply admired the vastness of the ocean, which stretched beyond the expanse of what could be seen. It hit me as I breathed in deeply; I was fully present in that moment.

These calming sensory experiences have a restorative effect deep within our being. Reflecting on that moment, I realized that I was not concerned about the things that needed to be done. I was not thinking about the next destination on our road trip or how much gas costs in California. I wasn't worried about things back home. I was entirely in that moment sensing the beauty of God’s Creation.

Jesus, in an interaction with His disciples, reminds us of the importance of rest and rejuvenation. In Mark 6:31, Jesus told the disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

The disciples had just returned from being sent out two by two. They had experienced great success in their ministry of healing and casting out demons. However, Ellen G. White reflecting on this encounter, shared, “He [Jesus] saw, too, that they had become weary in their labors, and that they needed to

rest.” In The Desire of Ages, she says, “They had been putting their whole souls into labor for the people, and this was exhausting their physical and mental strength. It was their duty to rest.”

Our loving Creator knows that rest is a vital part of our nature. He knows that the work that we are engaged in can be exhausting and draining. He knows that in service to other people, we must be recharged. That is why He created two avenues for replenishment from the beginning: Sabbath and communion with Him. Preacher Vance Havner, reflecting on this passage of Scripture, notably said, “If you do not come apart [and rest], you will come apart.”

Jesus, in what appears to be an unplanned interruption to the flow of ministry, led the disciples away from the crowds and spent uninhibited time with them. The disciples “were vitalized by divine power and inspired with hope and courage,” continues White in The Desire of Ages. Through this person -

A Consecrated Life Feature
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul. - Psalm 23:2-3

al restorative session, they were refreshed and empowered again to face the crowd of people and their upcoming responsibilities.

Do you need that same inspiration in your sense of hope and overall courage today? Do you need to be refreshed by spending quality time with your Savior?

Jesus offers the same beautiful promise of renewal to all who would follow His leading today. Psalm 23:2-3 says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul.”

To restore the soul is to revive, quicken or relieve it, according to the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Spending time in God’s presence by the places He leads us to is how we are restored and made whole. Jon Dybdahl shares that “The Greek words for restore/heal (iatria) and soul (psyche) combine together to form the word ‘psychiatry.’ God, the divine Psychiatrist, brings restoration to the soul.”

Psalm 23 beautifully illustrates the concept of being led and restored by the divine Shepherd, which doesn’t happen simply by getting away or going on vacation, but rather in the understanding that in Jesus, we have everything we need. His presence enables us to be restored and face the valleys of darkness and death. Knowing

that He cares for our spiritual, emotional and physical well-being gives us the confidence that He is the best one to lead us through this life.

As we cultivate an unhurried life, we may not always have access to a beach or a natural landscape, but we can cultivate moments of stillness and simplicity by asking the Lord to lead us. With intentional thought to our surroundings, such as talking with God on a walk in nature, thanking Him for the beauty of a sunrise and a new day of life or to an undistracted devotional hour with Him, He actively revives our souls.

Creating a habit of slowing down and being fully present requires a deliberate shift in mindset and lifestyle. It means setting aside time each day to disconnect from the noises around us to reconnect with our Creator. Just as the disciples found solace in the presence of Jesus, we, too, can find refuge and renewal by seeking moments of stillness and connection with Him.

As we embark on a journey towards intentional living and learn to appreciate the beauty of each passing moment, may the burdens of the world feel lighter with the knowledge that Jesus is eager to guide us and restore our weary souls. a

Jesus, we have everything we need. His presence enables us to be restored and face the valleys of darkness and death. Knowing that He cares for our spiritual, emotional and physical well-being gives us the confidence that He is the best one to lead us through this life.

CultivatingHeaven at Home

Dr. Carlos Japas and his wife, Graciela, both grew up in the kind of homes we all want for our children and families: homes where they were taught to align their priorities with Heaven. Before the two “pastors’ kids” were even married nearly 50 years ago, they knew they wanted to recreate the same heaven-minded home they had inherited for their own children. As Carlos explains, “We observed in our parents a commitment to work for the Lord … we didn’t know anything else. It was ingrained in us that the purpose of life was to serve others.” What they didn’t know was how many lives they would touch over the next five decades.

Over the years, Carlos and Gracie, as she is known to friends, have become spiritual parents to hundreds. Through Carlos’ conversations in his medical practice and Gracie’s hospitality at home, they have led these individuals to Bible studies, Christ and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In the words of their pastor, Adam Keating, “The Japas family lives out their mission to serve others, both inside and outside their home, as they eagerly anticipate our eternal home.”

Now in their seventies, they are as mission-minded as ever. Carlos and Gracie continue to use the medical practice and their home as mission out-

posts. Carlos fills his office with Christian literature, prescribes the eight natural remedies as outlined in Ellen G. Whites’ Ministry of Healing , prays with patients every day, invites them over for Sabbath lunch and gives Bible studies in his spare time. Gracie continues to fill her home with families, couples and individuals who need a place to stay. Every Friday night, they hold a worship service at their home, and every Sabbath they host large groups for lunch. “We have always enjoyed having others in our home,” says Gracie. “It brings us great joy to serve.”

Together they have housed numerous international students while sup -


porting them through school at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU), and thereby helped launch the careers of many pastors, doctors and missionaries.

In particular, Gracie tells the story of Stella, a single mother who needed a place to stay while her 10-year-old daughter, Ivonne, finished the school year. Gracie and Carlos invited Stella and Ivonne into their home and continued studying the Bible with them. Stella was grateful for the opportunity, especially because she learned firsthand about the Christian family experience. They were both baptized and actually stayed with the Japas family for 10 years! During that time, Ivonne earned her degree from SWAU and then went on to study at Andrews University. Today, Ivonne, her husband and children are missionaries with Adventist Frontier Missions in Thailand.

Keating shares, among other things, how Carlos was instrumental in starting a Spanish Sabbath school class at the Crowley Seventh-day Adventist Church where he pastors. Carlos and his Sabbath school class partnered with SWAU to run a Spanish evangelism series, which resulted in multiple baptisms and a Spanish worship service that can draw upwards of 100 people a month, including several of Carlos’s patients.

These are just a few examples of how the Japas family has aligned their priorities with Heaven and led others to do the same. But what if someone did not grow up in a heaven-minded home like Carlos and Gracie? Where should a person start?

Carlos advises, “Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to develop your talents and use them, allowing God to direct you on every opportunity, and then don’t miss that opportunity.” Gracie adds, “Everyone has talents, and they can use them to serve Jesus. The key is to pray and ask God to show you what to do, and He will.”

The couple maintains that prayer has always guided their steps related to family, work and ministry. It was prayer, in fact, that guided their very decision

to get married. As Gracie remembers, “When we were dating long distance, we made sure we prayed together at the same time every day, even from different time zones. We had no telephone, so prayer was the best connection between us.”

Because Carlos and Gracie have always personally aligned their priorities with Heaven, they have always aligned well as a team. For his part, Carlos credits Gracie for being the “driving force” behind their far-reaching influence. “My training is just for the medical field, but she can see the daily activities of the family, mothers and kids,

and what they need. She’s the one who says, ‘We need to help this person, we need to help these children,’ so I say, ‘Let’s go do it.’”

For her part, Gracie says she could not fulfill her ministry without Carlos’s support. “The people who live with us always see Carlos early in the morning having his own worship time. He faithfully studies the Bible every day, and then he shares with us what he’s learning. When our kids were little, every evening for supper, he would tell stories from the office. He would mention what he learned with his patients.” He would then take over parenting duties,

A Consecrated Life Feature

giving Gracie a break after homeschooling all day.

Indeed, Claudio, Melissa and Daniel Japas grew up seeing their parents live out the mission they always spoke of. “In many ways,” says Gracie, “they have grown up to do the same thing. They learned the importance of worship in the morning and in the evening at home, and it’s such a joy to see my children now doing that with their own children.”

The Japas children have also carried on the family’s legacy of missions and medical work. Claudio earned a Doctorate in Public Health and worked for the General Conference serving local communities in Central Asia for nearly

three years before returning to Texas to work at Carlos’s practice. Melissa is a nurse practitioner in California, and Daniel is a hospitalist at Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South. In addition, they are all active in their local churches and have spent at least one year overseas doing mission work, these trips undoubtedly influenced by the many mission trips the family took during their tenure as Pathfinder leaders during the kids’ teenage years.

When asked what has led all three children to such lives of service, Gracie answers, “The secret is they have to see their parents live the same inside as they live outside. We always need to do something for the Lord. Our time is

used to serve others.” Beyond this, if they could give one piece of advice to parents, or anyone else, for that matter, it would be this: “Above all, the most important thing is to teach your children to love Jesus. When you love Jesus, everything else follows.” a

Gendke is an associate professor in the English department at Southwestern Adventist University. Carlos and Graciela Japas are members of the Crowley Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Texas Conference.

A Consecrated Life Feature
“ Children have to see their parents live the same inside as they live outside... Our time is used to serve others. ”

Small Groups Bring People Together

A recent small group Bible study initiative continues to bring the El Paso Central and El Paso Northeast Seventh-day Adventist Churches congregations together in prayer and discipleship. At the start of the year, the churches launched eight small groups and two church-based groups that read Steps to Christ in a 13-week time frame. The small groups have continued to meet and have even led a 40-Day Prayer Partner Challenge.

Art Camacho, small group leader for the El Paso Central church, shared, “Being a small group leader is a responsibility and a privilege. The people coming to small group meetings are looking for your guidance. As a non-clerical person, we are not used to this type of responsibility. It’s an honor and a little bit daunting. At the same time, you will find it very rewarding to know that, as you are leading, people will bring other ideas to the topic that you hadn’t even considered.”

Once a week, the small groups met to study the Bible. They also strengthened each other in friendship and prayer. The 40-Day Prayer Partner Challenge participants supported each other with a daily phone call, prayed for one another and were accountable to one another while fasting from social media and other distractions.

Although participants did not always see the daily changes that took place in each other, they developed friendships that encouraged personal growth.

“The ultimate goal of this initiative was to bring people together that would normally not forge such a prayer-oriented friendship,” said Ray House, pastor of El Paso Central and the Northeast churches. “With yet another emphasis on discipleship, we hope to help our members become more relationally oriented and outward focused.”

According to House, the meetings adopted the South Pacific Division model for small groups, which uses the acronym GIFT to encourage discussion.

“[GIFT represents] the following questions,” said House. “G: What did I discover about God from this passage?

I: What did I discover about myself or other people from this passage? F: What will I follow or believe as a result of this passage? T: What will I tell or share with someone else from this passage?”

As these small groups continue to study, the goal is for members, with the support of like-minded friends, to forge

a more personal relationship with God that will manifest in daily life. The 40Day Prayer Partner Challenge is complete, but Camacho plans to continue leading his small group and encourages others throughout the Southwestern Union to participate in small groups.

“You will love it,” said Camacho. “In a small group, compared to a larger worship setting, people are much more comfortable speaking their mind and offering their own ideas on a topic. It’s a very welcoming and non-judgemental space. Small group members will feel like this is another part of their family.” a

is a writer based in North Texas. The El Paso Central and El Paso Northeast Seventh-day Adventist Churches are a part of the Texico Conference.
9 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 A Consecrated Life Feature

Seeking the Wisdom of Solomon

The story of King Solomon, renowned for his wisdom and his humble plea to God for guidance, is a narrative that carries a profound message. It is one that teaches us not only the significance of seeking wisdom but also teaches us how to pray for God’s will to shape our lives.

1 Kings 3:5-15 tells the story of Solomon having ascended to the throne of Israel following the reign of his father, David. Despite inheriting vast riches and power, Solomon realized the weighty responsibility that came with ruling a nation. Recognizing his own limitations, he approached God in prayer, acknowledging his need for wisdom to govern justly and wisely. Pleased with Solomon’s selfless request, God promised him not only wisdom but also wealth, honor and longevity. Solomon’s prayer serves as a blueprint for us to seek wisdom in our own lives.

Humility. Surrender.

wisdom and seek clarity in our prayers. Whether in relationships, career choices or ethical dilemmas, articulating our needs before God brings focus to our supplications.

First, we see that true humility is essential. Solomon humbly acknowledged his limitations and his dependence on God’s guidance. Likewise, when we approach God in prayer, it is crucial to recognize our need for divine wisdom and to humble ourselves before His greatness.

Second, clarity in our request is also important. Solomon specifically asked for wisdom to discern right from wrong, to make just decisions and to lead with righteousness. Similarly, we should identify the areas where we require

Third, beyond asking for wisdom, Solomon’s story emphasizes the importance of seeking God’s will in our lives. This requires surrendering our own agendas and trusting in His divine wisdom. By seeking His will, we invite God to shape our lives with His purpose. One way to pray for God’s will is through a surrendered heart. As we surrender our ambitions, dreams and decisions to Him, we open ourselves to His guidance. In doing so, we acknowledge that His wisdom surpasses our own, and we allow Him to work in and through us.

Seeking God’s will requires patience and discernment. While we may desire immediate answers, sometimes God’s timing differs from ours. Trusting in His wisdom, we must patiently wait for His guidance and remain attentive to the signs and promptings He provides along the way.

By cultivating humility, clarity and a surrendered heart, we open ourselves to God’s wisdom and invite His will to shape our lives. As we emulate Solomon’s example, may we find solace in the knowledge that God delights in granting wisdom to those who seek it, and may His guidance illuminate our path as we navigate the complexities of life. a


Safeguarding the Mind

ety, strengthen the heart and improve cognition, among other favorable outcomes. God, in His divine wisdom, curated the masterpiece of nature to bless us in innumerable ways. As the psalmist affirms in Psalm 19:1, “the Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” When we let our minds dwell on nature, the glory and character of God unfold before our eyes so that as we behold we are transformed.

( Nap time. )

Financial resources, time and… neural pathways? As believers, we are often reminded of the importance of stewardship within the context of finances and time as responsible administration of these is a biblical principle (ex: Matthew 25:14-30, Proverbs 13:22, Romans 13:11, 12), and it becomes increasingly relevant in light of the imminent return of Christ. However, there is one more stewardship principle we ought to consider: cognitive stewardship.

According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, cognition is defined as “all conscious and unconscious processes by which knowledge is accumulated, such as perceiving, recognizing, conceiving and reasoning.” The information we gather from our surroundings informs our perception of reality and ultimately our decision-making. In other words, what the mind dwells on is closely linked to what it will in turn produce. It is no wonder that our theme for this current issue urges us to look upward to set our minds on things above, to be renewed in knowledge after the image of Christ (Colossians 3:2,10). For the Christian, cognitive stewardship is at the foundation of safeguarding the mind, the very instrument by which divinity communes with humanity.

As evidenced by the current Information Age, the Bible does not err when it assures us that just before the second coming, knowledge would increase (Daniel 12:4). Smart devices have become such an integral part of the human experience. Scientists have published numerous articles on the effects of screen time (social media, video games, TV) on the mind, including profound negative effects on mental health, behavioral disorders, brain connectivity and, yes, cognition. However, there is hope.

Various studies have elucidated the positive impact of daytime naps on the brain. An early-afternoon nap can promote brain health by restoring memory and alertness. While most of us do not schedule sleep into our work day, we should note that even a 15-minute nap can significantly improve cognition. For example, one study reported an association between short daily naps and enhanced motor and procedural memory.

( Social time. )

Close friendships and social interconnectedness have proven to have neuroprotective effects for both young and old. People who experienced strong childhood friendships are more likely to preserve their cognitive function in advanced age. Conversely, social isolation in older adults is associated with depression, which in turn may result in cognitive decline.

( Green time. )

Scientific literature abounds with evidence of the benefits of “green time,” or time spent in outdoor activities. Activities like hiking can reduce anxi-

Practicing cognitive stewardship by unplugging from excessive screen time and substituting with green time, nap time and social time will give us clarity of mind as we set our sights on things above and strive to live with eternity in mind. a

View article with references at

Small Groups with a Big Vision

“The formation of small companies as a basis of Christian effort is a plan that has been presented before me by One who can not err,” wrote Ellen G. White in the August 15, 1902, issue of the Australasian Union Conference Record. “If there is a large number in the church, let the members be formed into small companies, to work not only for the church members, but for unbelievers also.”

This small group model is being encouraged in the Southwestern Union under the leadership of Tony Anobile, vice president for church ministries, and Osvaldo Rigacci, vice president for multicultural ministries. Both believe that small groups are at the core of a

church’s success for growth and survival. “We want every member to be involved in making a difference,” says Anobile. “A small group allows you to do that.”

Rigacci says he can see the difference that involvement makes in a member’s church commitment and spiritual life. “You can see the energy that transpires in the experience of the small group,” says Rigacci. “They feel like they have a purpose, a goal.”

Small groups done right provide spiritual and social support and serve as an avenue for outreach. “Small groups are a tool for evangelism,” says Rigacci, “because participants invite friends, neighbors and family to group meet-

ings.” The small group vision is that, as the group grows, it divides into two groups that continue to grow until they, too, divide. Some small groups have been so successful they have even resulted in church plants.

“The beauty of a small group is that some people who are hesitant to come to church will come to their neighbor’s home,” says Anobile. Another advantage is that the less-structured format is appealing to young adults and others who aren’t comfortable with formality.

The small group model has been used in South and Central America for years. In part, this has been out of necessity, as many communities have one pastor for multiple churches. The results, however, have been hard to ignore. The South American Division had 175,855 baptisms in 2021. The Inter-American Division had 124,047. The North American Division had 20,266.

Perhaps due to the familiarity of the small group model of ministry in Central and South America, the vast majority of the churches that operate small groups within the Southwestern Union are Spanish-speaking churches.

To encourage an increased focus on small groups in both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking churches, the Southwestern Union has put together free kits on how to start a small group. The kit for Spanish speakers is called VIDA GPS, and the kit for English Speakers is called LIFE HSG. To request a kit, contact the Church Ministries office at 817.295.0476. a

* There was a misprint in the Ministries column of the July/ August issue of the Record magazine. In the article, "I Was in Prison, and You Visited Me," the following sentence should have been written: During his years working in prison ministries and previously as chief of chaplains for the Florida Department of Corrections, Tyrone Boyd has seen the positive impact that ministry has on prisoners.

Navigating Back-to-School

With the leisurely days of summer coming to an end, families have begun a new chapter as the school season begins. The calendar is quickly filling with school projects, extracurricular activities and other commitments. And yet, it’s a crucial time for families to maintain a strong foundation of faith and prioritize spiritual growth. Here are six tips for families to successfully transition into the back-to-school routine while cultivating a deeper connection with each other and with God.

1. Prep for Success

One of the keys to a successful school week is advanced preparation. Each evening, take time to prepare for the next day. Have your children help lay out backpacks, pack lunches and select outfits to minimize morning chaos and encourage responsibility.

2. Worship on Wheels

Transform the daily commute into a family bonding opportunity by incorporating a devotional session. Select a devotional that resonates with your family and engage in meaningful discussion on the way to school. This sets a godly focus for the day ahead and helps deepen your family’s faith.

3. Heavenly Goals

Amidst all of these school activities, keep your family's priorities aligned with heavenly goals. Dedicate time for prayer and reflection as a family, discussing how your faith plays into your daily lives. By setting intentions grounded in faith, you'll cultivate a sense of purpose and direction that extends beyond academic and extracurricular pursuits.

4. Daily Priorities

Empower your family members to establish their daily priorities. Develop the habit of creating a list of tasks and goals for the day, nurturing a sense of responsibility and time management. Encourage open conversations about how each family member plans to achieve their objectives. This will encourage accountability and an atmosphere of mutual support.

Here’s an example of what this may look like:

Mom’s Priorities:

- Drop off Noah at school.

- Work presentation at 11 am.

- Leave work early to pick up Grandma from the airport

-Dad’s birthday dinnertonight!

Noah's Priorities:

- Ask the teacher about the math assignment.

- Remember to bring home backpack.

- Clarinet lesson after school.

- Help with Dad’s birthday dinner celebration

5. Tame the Busyness Beast

In a world of constant busyness, let’s assess the value of our various commitments. Encourage your children to strike a balance between academic, extracurricular and spiritual pursuits.

Lead by example by prioritizing quality over quantity, emphasizing the importance of genuine connections and time spent in communion with God.

6. Time to Listen

Time in the car after school pick-up provides a great opportunity to connect with your children. Create a safe space for them to decompress from their day, whether it involves sharing stories, singing along to songs or simply enjoying moments of quiet reflection. Be an attentive listener, ready to engage and offer guidance when they are ready to open up.

7. Embrace Grace

While we strive for excellence, it's important to acknowledge that not every day will go as planned. Misplaced lunchboxes, tardiness, illnesses and unforeseen challenges at school are inevitable. Practice extending grace to yourself and your children during these moments. Remember that God's love and understanding are boundless. Challenge yourself to offer this same understanding during times of imperfection. a





Spanish Family Camp Camp Yorktown Bay



Single’s Ministries Retreat Lone Star Camp



Growing the Kingdom Houston, Tex.



Pathfinder/Adventurer Senior Leadership Camp Yorktown Bay



Youth Leadership Training

Wewoka Woods Adventist Center



ARISE Intensive

Southwestern Adventist University



Retiro Espiritual de Mujeres

Courtyard by Marriott South Padre Island;



Evangelism Training

Central Texas Area



Women’s Ministries and English

Evangelism Conference

Houston Central Seventh-day Adventist Church



Evangelism Training Central & Valley Area



Master Guide Camporee Lake Whitney Ranch



Constituency Meeting

Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church

29-Oct. 1


Cowboy & Biker Camp Camp Yorktown Bay

October 1


Adventist Community Services Training in English and Spanish Valley Area;



Springtown Fall Round-Up

Springtown Seventh-day Adventist Church;



Evangelism Training

Dallas/Fort Worth Area



Men’s Ministry Retreat Camp Yorktown Bay



MAS San Antonio




Church Leader Retreat in English Lake Whitney Ranch



Teen Prayer Conference Camp Yorktown Bay




Church Leader Retreat in Spanish Lake Whitney Ranch



Adventist Community Services Training in English and Spanish East Texas Area

RECORD MAGAZINE 14 Southwestern Union News Happenings

Annual Robotics Tournament Held at Lone Star Camp

ATHENS, TEX. – The 2nd Annual Robotics Tournament in the Southwestern Union territory was held from March 17-19, 2023, at Lone Star Camp. Eleven teams from across the Southwestern Union came and enjoyed a spirited and funfilled weekend, which culminated in the FIRST LEGO Tournament on Sunday.

This year’s robotics tournament’s theme was “Energy.” In the SuperPowered Challenge, teams were tasked to explore where energy comes from and how it is distributed, stored and used, and then put their superpowered creativity to work to innovate for a better energy future.

This qualifying tournament, hosted by the Southwest Region Conference, is unique because it is the only tournament that lasts an entire weekend. It is planned so that different teams can interact with each other, worship together on Sabbath and enjoy the different amenities that Lone Star Camp has to offer. Many robotics tournaments take place on Saturday, but this tournament allows Adventist schools to participate without any Sabbath conflicts. Teams and visitors were involved in Sabbath services, where Jason North, Southwest Region Conference executive secretary, was the worship speaker. After lunch, the attendees were able to hike, feed the horses and canoe on the Lone Star Camp lake. The day was capped off with a fun, riveting vespers service, where Carlton Byrd, Southwest Region Conference president, gave relevant challenges to the teams and visitors.

On tournament Sunday, teams showcased their projects to a panel of judges from around the country and then had their robots complete several different missions. The objective was to see how many of the 15 missions the robots could complete in a short amount of time. Of the 11 teams, three teams advanced to the national tournament, which was held in May at Forest Lake Academy in Apopka, Fla. In our tour-

nament, the defending champions, the Ozark SkyHawks from Ozark Adventist Academy in Gentry, Ark., secured their first place title again. The other teams that advanced were the North Dallas Sentinels from North Dallas Adventist Academy in Richardson, Tex., and the Tranquility STEM Stars, a group of Adventist students from San Antonio. Incidentally, the Tranquility STEM Stars became the national champions of the FIRST LEGO Tournament in Florida. Everyone enjoyed the tournament

and all that the weekend had to offer. We credit and thank our team, the Southwest Region Conference administration and the many volunteers that traveled from around the country to make this event a success.

15 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Southwestern Union News

A r k a n s a s - L o u i s i a n a C o n f e r e n c e :

J o y M a n g a s i n

O k l a h o m a C o n f e r e n c e : D a n i e l S p o o n e r

S o u t h w e s t R e g i o n C o n f e r e n c e : S h e r e e K e l l y

T e x a s C o n f e r e n c e : A i m e e ( E i m e l i z ) G a r c i a K i m H u t c h i n s o n

T e x i c o C o n f e r e n c e : M e l a n i e C a n o A c a d e m y : J a c e l i n C a d e t B u r t o n A d v e n t i s t A c a d e m y

B r i a n H a c k S o u t h T e x a s C h r i s t i a n A c a d e m y

RECORD MAGAZINE 16 Southwestern Union News
C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s t o t h e C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s t o t h e 2 0 2 2 - 2 0 2 3 2 0 2 2 - 2 0 2 3 E c e l l e n c e i n T e a c h i n g E x c e l l e n c e i n T e a c h i n g w a r d W i n n e r s A w a r d W i n n e r s Student Health
26 SEP 2023
28 NOV 2023 Getting a Grip: Understanding Children's
30 JAN 2024 26 MAR 2024
in the Home Travis
2023-2024 7:00-7:30 p.m.
Randy Phillips, DO Health Ministries Coordinator
Renee Whiting Associate Education Director
Emotions Carlos Craig, President Southwestern Union
for Children and
Keene Seventh-day
Parent Parent Webinars Webinars

Inspiring Messages and Training for Church Board Members and Church Ministries Leaders

Friday, September 8 | 7:00 pm

Central Spanish Regional Seventh-day Adventist Church

8526 Northern St Houston, TX 7701

Sabbath, September 9 | 4:00 pm

West Houston Seventh-day Adventist Church

2390 W Sam Houston PKWY N. Houston, TX 77043


D e v e l o p c h u r c h l e a d e r s h i p w i t h a f o c u s o n m i s s i o n t o g r o w t h e K i n g d o m o f H e a v e n w i t h i n t h e i r c o m m u n i t i e s

T r a i n , e q u i p a n d e m p o w e r l e a d e r s t o w o r k t o g e t h e r t o g r o w s p i r i t u a l l y , a s i n d i v i d u a l s a n d a s a c o n g r e g a t i o n

S h a r e t h e S o u t h w e s t e r n U n i o n v i s i o n t o m o t i v a t e m e m b e r s a n d l e a d e r s t o f o s t e r

t h e e x p a n s i o n o f t h e S e v e n t h - d a y

A d v e n t i s t C h u r c h i n o u r t e r r i t o r y


Vice President for Education


Vice President for Multicultural Ministries


Vice President for Church Ministries


Vice President for Diversity Southwest Region Conference


Director for Young Adult and Youth Ministries


Director for Sabbath School and Children's Ministries

17 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Southwestern Union News
T O G E T H E R W E W I L L : T O G E T H E R W E W I L L : CARLOS CRAIG President STEPHEN BROOKS Executive Secretary
H O U S T O N | S E P T E M B E R 8 - 9

A Positive Impact Through the Everyday Things

I was privileged to serve in a church once where our church family had the vision to serve their community on a daily basis. They were finding ways to meet people’s needs, love them dearly and then encourage them to be a part of God’s remnant family. It was exciting to see their enthusiasm, their dedication and their willingness to think outside the box.

Out of their ministries, the church grew. All age groups were coming to be a part of the family of God. I remember a group of young adults who were baptized; they were sincere and learning. These special young adults had come from various backgrounds of adversity and challenges. They loved the Lord and were zealous for Him.

In their desire to share Jesus, they decided to have a car show on the church grounds that would have a spiritual theme to all the activities involved. There was face painting for the kids that was designed around a Bible character, opportunity for sharing literature and live Christian music. More than 100

show cars came, some as far as 200 miles away.

All day, people in the community kept coming to see the cars and the other activities. The community seemed excited at the spiritual flavor they saw. There were smiles and laughter. Questions and affirmation. Sharing and joy. What a great day!

I distinctly remember from that experience that there were many in the community who were impressed enough to ask if they could come to our church, and they were assured they were welcome to join us. I also recall that the new young adults shared with me an important truth. They said, “Pastor, we have learned that you can have a lot of fun and still be a follower of Christ.” Literally, you could live every day for Jesus in the real world and make a positive impact.

I am reminded of what Paul says in three places. First, in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Second, Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed,

do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” And finally, Titus 1:15, “To the pure, all things are pure…”

As I heard long ago, there is no sacred/secular distinction for the believer. Instead, to the follower of God, everything we do is our sacred walk with God. All of our life is to be an offering to Him, even in, and perhaps especially in, the everyday and fun things of life.

Arkansas-Louisiana Conference

Two Long-Time Teachers Retire

SHREVEPORT, LA. – Both Joyce Fortner and Jan Ray are going into retirement this year. These teachers have been with us for a very long time and will be greatly missed for the care they have put into the training of our children over a combined 70 years of service.

Jan Ray grew up in North Louisiana, in the Vivian area, or more specifically, in a little place called “Dixie.” It was a peaceful environment and a great place to live as a young girl, riding horseback on country roads lined with cotton fields. So, although she and her husband, Ron, moved around a bit in their earlier years of marriage, living in at least three other states besides Louisiana, the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference is “home.”

She and Ron were glad to settle down and serve in familiar territory for the past 30 years. Ray has been teaching for 20 years, 15 of which she has served in the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference and the children of the Hot Springs Adventist School. The first five years of teaching were at Ozark Adventist School, where she worked part time, while she had a little one at home. Ray has three grown children, so she was a stay-at-home mom for several years, and when the youngest one was in school, she received her degree from Southwestern Adventist University and started teaching.

She has always been interested in children’s ministries, participating in

Sabbath school and VBS even before teaching. Most recently, she has taught K-4 grades at Hot Springs Adventist School. Always interested in music, she has frequently participated at camps and in Sabbath school playing the guitar. For several years, both in Hot Springs and Gentry, she taught hand chimes to the fifth and eighth grades.

It makes her heart happy to see young people in her church participating in the singing and music, and she plans to continue her involvement with the children and youth, even though she is retiring from her school duties. Ray has cleaned out her classroom for the last time and has packed away her teaching tools. Although it was a bit sad, she is excited to be able to visit her grandkids on occasions other than school holidays and to spend more time with her husband, who also recently retired. Ray was celebrated by her church members and the conference education department in a special ceremony on May 25 in Hot Springs.

Joyce Fortner has been teaching for 50 years, and 23 of those have been in our school at Little Rock, Ark. If you ever get a chance to talk to Fortner, you will be amazed by her story. From an orphanage to being adopted into a home that fostered and cared for many, she has been devoted to children since her own childhood. Mother to six children and wife to a pastor for many years, Fortner has a passion for

children and the Gospel. She says she would love for all kids to have the opportunity to say “Yes” to Jesus, regardless of how much it costs. She is very supportive of the Adventist high school in Little Rock. A former co-worker who is now teaching in Taiwan gave three points that describe Fortner’s level of dedication: 1. Sick, dead or alive, you report. 2. It’s never too early to come to work (she can easily be at the school by 6 a.m.) and 3. There is nothing that prayer cannot handle. Fortner herself says that once you are called, you are always called. The Holy Spirit called her at age 14, and she has not looked back! Fortner is not necessarily excited about retirement, but it is time for her to move on in her calling to a different mission, focusing on home and family.

Fortner was recognized for her more than 50 years of service in children’s ministries at the North American Division Children’s Ministries Convention in Greensboro, N.C., in January 2023, and was given a short farewell ceremony at the South Louisiana Camp Meeting, which she was also involved with as children’s ministries director. She will remain the active children’s ministries director for the conference, even in retirement.

19 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Arkansas-Louisiana Conference News

Baton Rouge Invests Master Guides

BATON ROUGE, LA. – On April 29, 2023, the Baton Rouge Master Guide Club Exploradores had the privilege to invest the first group of Master Guides from a Master Guide club in the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference. The theme,“Sigue Adelante,”or “Press on Forward,” was chosen for this special occasion. The ceremony was officiated by Brenda C. Perez, conference Master Guide coordinator, and the Pathfinder area coordinator, Regina Wilson. The club is working hard to reach its many goals this year and was able to finish with a fantastic investiture. Seven men and

women were invested with the purpose of helping to train others to serve God. They pledged: “Loving the Lord Jesus, I promise to take an active part in Adventurers, Pathfinders and Youth Ministries, doing what I can to finish the work of the gospel in all the world.”

Led by Nimrod Acosta, pastor and club director, the club has reached out to the community with many different avenues, such as supporting various ministries and praying in different parts of Baton Rouge. The club prioritizes bringing souls to Christ, and many are being baptized through the Holy Spirit

and the Master Guides’ willingness to be used by God. The clubs of the Baton Rouge Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church are blooming under the leadership and help of this dedicated group. The church is growing in every area. Seven men and women are ready to fulfill their call, and many more are preparing for next year’s investiture. Praise God for giving us the privilege and honor to work for Him and with Him through club ministries.

Mena Church Celebrates Young People with Dedication

MENA, ARK. – The Mena Seventh-day Adventist Church held a special celebration on April 8, 2023, when Tommy Blount had a baby dedication and consecrated three young lives. Elizabeth Rene Fulgencio, daughter of Rolando and Jeanelle, was dedicated. Also consecrated were her cousins, Janessa, Jeremiah and James, the daughter and sons of Alex and Eva Fulgencio.

Arkansas-Louisiana Conference News

Showers of Blessings in Fort Smith District

FORT SMITH, ARK. – The first few months of 2023 were filled with blessings for the Fort Smith district.

On Feb. 11, four people were baptized into the Fort Smith Seventh-day Adventist Church: Nana Amoah, Ted Johnston, Kathleen Langston and Donna Troxel. Burnham Rand, who had been pastor of the Fort Smith district from 2013 until his retirement in 2022, officiated at the baptism. All of heaven rejoices when decisions are made for Christ, and existing congregation members joined in this rejoicing.

Two weeks later, on Feb. 25, parents Jonathan and Hannah Brain dedicated their precious daughters, Adeline and Finley, to the Lord. Lenton Butler, former member and elder of the Fort Smith church, officiated at the dedication. What a joy to see this young couple committed to bringing up these children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The blessings continued on April 15 when the head elder received news that our prayers for a new pastor had been answered, effective immediately. Franklin Allen, who had been doing

colporteur ministry in the area prior to his call to the pastorate, had been attending church in Fort Smith for several weeks before his appointment. A recent graduate of Southwestern Adventist University, he comes to Arkansas from Allen, Tex. Please join us in thanks and prayers for our new pastor.

On June 17, blessings continued as two new members, Kimberly Ohanesian and Derek Coronel, were baptized into the fellowship of the Fort Smith church by Franklin Allen. For this high Sabbath, the pastor based his message on Zephaniah 3:17, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” What an amazing promise! We have a God who loves us so much that He sings over us! Befitting this theme, several musicians lent their voices and instrumental talents to celebrate this special occasion. May the Lord continue to bless as this year unfolds.

Texarkana Honors 2023 Graduates

TEXARKANA, TEX. – Texarkana Seventh-day Adventist Church Social Committee, led by Karla Settlemoir, honored three of their graduates for 2023. The Texarkana church knows these fantastic young people and expects great things from their future.

Jeremiah Hardeman graduated from New Boston High School with a fouryear letter in football and basketball, where he made first team all-district and was the only player selected on the Greater Texarkana all-area football team. Hardeman took dual college credit classes through Texarkana College in nursing while maintaining a 3.7 grade point average in his high school studies. Hardeman has been accepted in a summer work/study internship where he will pursue his dream of serving in the U.S. Air Force.

After graduating from Ozark Adventist Academy, Anna Merritt Peterson began her studies at John Brown Uni-

versity and graduated with a bachelor of science in biochemistry and will attend the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Pharmacy for her pharmacy degree.

Madeline Haak completed her master’s degree in communication studies. Her goal is to broaden her horizons in the fields of advertising, marketing and possibly academia. Haak is confident that the Lord holds her future in His hands and will guide her. Haak has already devoted her talent to the local and grateful Texarkana communication department leader.

21 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Arkansas-Louisiana Conference News

Nothing Else Matters: Outdoor School and Bible Camp

Camp Yorktown Bay (CYB) staff. These classes were titled End Time Events (Tara Bailey), Sanctuary (Chris Bailey), Parables of Jesus (Fernando Villegas), Iconic Biblical Artifacts (Marcos Cruz Arellano) and Animal Tracking (Renee Otts). The CYB staff assisted with the pamper pole and giant swing, and the State Park staff gave a tour of the lake on their barge.

MOUNTAIN PINE, ARK. – The Arkansas-Louisiana Conference Outdoor School, May 1-4, 2023, included Jr. High Bible Camp. The theme of the camp was “Jesus—Nothing Else Matters,” and the focus text was Philippians 3:8, “Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ.” (CEV).

We had 80 students, along with 50 chaperones, teachers and guest speakers. Our guest speakers for fifth and sixth grades were Ben Roy and Debra Rivera. During their worship talks, they used science experiments and animals to teach about the days of creation. The guest speaker for seventh through tenth grades was Chris Bailey. He spoke about what God revealed to Paul,

Teacher of the Year

BATON ROUGE, LA. – Joy Mangasin, head teacher at Jones Creek Adventist Academy in Baton Rouge, La., received the Southwestern Union Excellence in Teaching Award for the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference.

Mangasin was nominated by our conference along with others who meet the criteria. During the nomination process, the superintendent is asked to submit three nominations. The teachers who were recognized for their excellence in 2023 were awarded $500 by the union and $500 from the conference and received a clock in the form of an award trophy.

through Christ, that made him willing to do what he talked about in Philippians 3:8. The brief devotional thoughts reminded students that they must choose Jesus daily for themselves.

The fifth and sixth grades were divided into four groups that went through eight different STEAM-related classes. Students were taught about the water cycle (Tina Miller), art (Mary Womack), physical education (Cole Hagele), engineering (Joyce Fortner), dissecting (Joyce Fortner), First Aid (Crystal Beierle) and a class with Ben Roy. They also saw some exotic animals which were brought by Debra Rivera.

The seventh through tenth grades were also divided into four groups that rotated through four Bible-related classes and four activities provided by

During free time, students swam in the lake, played soccer and basketball, shopped at the camp store, played chess or other card games or just relaxed. We would like to thank the CYB staff for hosting this year’s Outdoor School/Bible Camp. We would like to thank all the teachers and parent chaperones that took time to assist in making camp a success. We couldn’t have done it without all of you! Twelve students asked for Bible studies to prepare for baptism. We pray that after Outdoor School/Bible Camp, each student realizes that without Jesus, “nothing else matters.”

Some of the other criteria for this award include integrating and communicating their faith into the daily curriculum, planning and preparation that aligns with and focuses on a connection to God, instruction and assessment, communicating effectively with learners and monitoring their progress, creating an environment of respect and rapport and participating in the professional community to learn and implement data from multiple sources to build a schoolwide vision and develop goals for student learning.

Mangasin has proven herself worthy of this recognition by her accomplish -

ments, and we are happy to see the award go to her this year. She was recognized at the South Louisiana Camp Meeting and presented with the trophy and certificate of achievement.

RECORD MAGAZINE 22 Arkansas-Louisiana Conference News

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Recently, I heard a story about a family bringing their newborn baby girl home from the hospital. As soon as they arrived home, their five-year-old son asked if he could question his little sister in secret. Understandably, mom and dad were suspicious, but hesitantly agreed to the unusual request. As they walked away, they kept their ears on high alert toward the crib. They then heard their son say to his little sister, “Tell me about God. I’m starting to forget what He’s like.”

Beginning at a very early age, chronic distractions are all around us. These distractions compete for our attention from the time we wake up in the morning until the time we go to bed. Distractions are one of the main reasons many people struggle with focusing on God. Our lives are too loud, and our schedules are way too busy, which often results in us forgetting about God; friends, we have got to slow down. Hurry is the death of our spiritual life. Unrealistic schedules, emails, text messages, phone calls, social media and Zoom calls can eat up the day. My “smart phone” is so smart that it keeps me busy all day!

How can we keep our hearts pure and devoted to God while living in this

hectic, fast-paced world? Jesus! He is the answer. He is our example! Was Jesus busy? Did He have a deadline? Yes, He did—Calvary! Do you remember the following scene at Gethsemane? “Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” Matthew 26:38 (NKJV).

Have you ever been so stressed out and your heart so heavy that you felt like you were dying on the inside? I’ve definitely felt that way before. Jesus’ example to us during times like these is to pray. Think about what Jesus went through. How did He prepare His head? How did He prepare His heart? He prayed! He spent time with His Father.

To put it simply, for times “like these,” the most important thing we can do is pray. There are times when it is best practice to say no to all the demands and spend time with God in prayer and studying His Word. Doing this every morning is especially beneficial as it helps us tune into His voice more clearly.

God reveals Himself to us in many ways, but the clearest revelation of His thoughts and plans for our life is found in His Word. Stop waiting on a miracle and start looking for a verse. Connect

to a miracle-working, life-changing God who loves you and has an eternal plan for your life.

Again, how do we keep our hearts and minds free from defilement with the bombardment of exposure from multiple media outlets? Paul gives some good advice: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2 (NKJV).

Keep your eyes on the prize—Jesus is coming again!

Oklahoma Conference 23 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023

Evangelism Caravan Baptizes 38 and Plants Church

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. – Under the motto “Oklahoma for Christ,” Hispanic Ministries launched its mission plan for the year 2023 in Oklahoma. We wanted to involve all Hispanic pastors, churches, leaders and, if possible, all the members.

Earlier this year, we celebrated small group evangelistic campaigns in preparation for our highly anticipated Oklahoma Statewide Evangelistic Caravan.

Then, the long-awaited day finally arrived and the inaugural ceremony opened with the entrance of the “torch” as a symbol of the light that we would spread for nine days around the state. With the participation of all the Hispanic pastors, the Oklahoma Conference Hispanic coordinator and the Hispanic coordinator of the Southwestern Union, we began a tour that involved 12 churches and eight groups. From June 2-10 we held small group parades, baptisms, concerts and preached the message at every location, including large rallies in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

We visited with and encouraged church members to work together to

Big Day at Choctaw

CHOCTAW, OKLA. – Treva Ragland has attended the Choctaw Seventh-day Adventist Church for several years. She has always been so involved that many people didn’t realize she wasn’t a member. Ragland is related to former Oklahoma pastor, O. J. Jackson, and

finish God’s work in our territory. By the grace of God, we baptized 38 people and had many interests for Bible studies. The most outstanding experience we had in our caravan was the meeting in a small town where there are no Seventh-day Adventists. Incredibly, we had 40 visitors there, and due to the great interest, the district pastor decided to start a group in that place for the honor and glory of our God.

The testimony of a family that was baptized on June 10 was also extraordi-

nary: through their own study of the Bible, they found truths such as the tithe, the Sabbath and the state of the dead. God led them to our church, and they are very happy to be part of it.

We continue to pray and work for the salvation of all those around us in Oklahoma.

has had connections with the Adventist church for quite some time. She is a breath of fresh air, a delight to all who know her and a true disciple of Jesus!

Ragland volunteers at the Choctaw Senior Center. A while back, Teresa, another volunteer, was discussing the possibility of visiting area churches with others at the senior center. Ragland suggested that they visit the Choctaw Seventh-day Adventist Church and Teresa soon began attending regularly; quietly, but faithfully.

Recently our pastor, Anthony Adams, made a call at the end of a sermon and both Ragland and Teresa responded. Teresa was a bit worried about “crashing” Ragland’s big day, but Ragland

was thrilled that the two of them could become members of our church family on the same day.

On Sabbath, May 20, many of Ragland and Teresa’s family members and friends gathered to watch these two sisters in Christ be baptized and join our church. It was a wonderful day! Ragland gave a beautiful and enthusiastic testimony before her baptism.

We are thrilled to have these two new members who add so much to our church family. Welcome, Treva and Teresa!

RECORD MAGAZINE 24 Oklahoma Conference News

Jesus the Master Teacher and Example

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA. – When Jesus began His ministry, He called some disciples to follow Him. They followed Him closely, watching what He said and did. They saw how He lived. Eventually, they realized He had come from God and was showing them the way to God.

They listened to His teaching and observed His life carefully. They noticed that He spent a lot of time with His Father in prayer and that He knew the scriptures very well. He often replied to questions, “It is written,” or asked the person who questioned Him, “What does the scripture say?” They made the connection that His life was built around a relationship with His Father in prayer and knowledge of the scriptures.

He then told the disciples as He was leaving them to go back to His Father in Heaven to go to all the world and make disciples. A disciple is a follower, and these were people who followed Jesus, who were taught by Jesus and followed His example of living a life connected to God.

In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul shares that, as we behold the glory of the life and

character of Jesus, we will be changed to become like Him. As we see how He lived and loved we will become assimilated into His likeness or character. Paul lists some character traits that he asks us to put on or internalize. He mentions mercy, kindness, humility, meekness and patience or long-suffering. He then said for us to bear with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against someone, forgive them. He then tells us why we should: because Christ forgave us and we must pass it on. Forgive as you have been forgiven.

In reading that list we realize these qualities are all found in Christ. He is merciful to us. He is kind to us; He is humble and meek and lowly in heart. He is also patient with us and forgiving to us. Jesus, our teacher was also our example. He modeled a life of connection to His Father through prayer and treating people with redemptive grace. He loved us while we were undeserving and unlovely. And as we realized His unconditional love, it brought a response of repentance and love to Him, along with a desire to follow Him and become

like Him, treating people like He treated us. When this happens in us, His work for us is complete, and His image is reproduced in us.

Baptized at Women’s Correctional Center

this momentous occasion was palpable, and it moved those who witnessed it to express their own desire to prepare for the next baptism. For more than three decades, members from the Muskogee church have faithfully ministered to the women at this facility, guiding them toward truth and spiritual transformation through the sacred act of baptism.

MUSKOGEE, OKLA. – Recently, a remarkable event took place at the Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Okla. Twelve inmates were baptized through the compassionate efforts of the dedicated prison ministry crew from the Muskogee Seventh-day Adventist Church. The joy that filled the air during

Jack Stout, Judy Paden, Judi Stout and Tom Sullivan are the steadfast members of the ministry team. Unwavering commitment has played a pivotal role in bringing about this meaningful and life-changing event. They have taken the powerful verse in Matthew 25 to heart, “I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

For more than 31 years, many lives have been changed through this effort, including the lives of those of the volunteers. One of the team members says, “Being involved in the prison ministry has changed my life. It has made me more compassionate toward people from every walk of life, and I’m so grateful that God has given me this opportunity to witness in this way!” Please keep this ministry in your prayers. We pray that God will bless us with many more lives changed!

25 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Oklahoma Conference News

Yard Sale Raises Funds and Meets Community Needs

BARTLESVILLE, OKLA. – The Bartlesville Seventh-day Adventist Church held a yard sale on Sunday, June 11, 2023, to raise funds for various renovation projects. While the purpose was to raise funds, many of the volunteers discovered something else entirely. The hope was to use the proceeds to repair the parking lot and make the church more accessible to everyone so we could minister to our community more effectively. What we soon realized was that the yard sale was not a means to fund ministry, it was ministry. Mothers, grandparents and people with either little or much came to see what was available. The Bartlesville church was able to provide clothes for single mothers, tools and grills for fathers, free children’s and adult Bibles and even a bunk bed for a family who had just moved to town.

The yard sale was such a hit that the church continued its operations on Thursday of that same week, and finished with a free giveaway for anything left. When we opened the giveaway on Friday, the parking lot was flooded with cars. We had six tables of clothes at the start and by closing time we had only enough to cover one table! People were thoughtful about what they were taking and shared so much gratitude for us giving away the clothes and house items.

In The Ministry of Healing , we read, “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”

I’ve found that often the hard part of ministry for most people is not giving a Bible study and inviting a person to accept Jesus into their heart, but rather just getting started: mingling with people, desiring their good, becoming their friend and meeting their needs. The first step is sometimes difficult, but once people get started interact-

ing with others, they soon discover that God has blessed them with the ability and resources to share those blessings with others.

What has God given you that could be a blessing to others? Could you use your home to impact the people around you for eternity? What about your food or talents? Even your very presence? Ministry does not have to look like sacrificing thousands of dollars or preaching an impressive and moving sermon. It can be done using exactly what God has given you, like an old shovel or some shoes that do not fit you anymore donated to a yard sale.

The yard sale surprised many church members, not because of the amount

of money that was made, but because of how ministry can be done in many unexpected ways. Who knew that selling used and old items could lead people to the church? Who knew a yard sale could motivate church members for ministry? Of course, God knew. We ventured to raise funds so we could do ministry, and on the way, we discovered that the yard sale was ministry.

RECORD MAGAZINE 26 Oklahoma Conference News

Camp Meeting Brings Revival and Conversions

WEWOKA, OKLA. – This year’s camp meeting kicked off with a week of prayer with close to 80 members praying together every day through Zoom for a special blessing and God delivered! More than 40 people made decisions for baptism

during the camp meeting, people were breaking free from addictions and we were all inspired and equipped to have a closer walk with Jesus. Check out @OkAdventist on YouTube and Facebook to catch the recordings of the

messages and see how amazing this year’s camp meeting was.

27 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Oklahoma Conference News
Photos by Wes Via and Bailley Schmidt
Refresh L I V E L I F E G R A T E F U L A P R A Y E R R E T R E A T N O V E M B E R 3 - 5 , 2 0 2 3 W E W O K A W O O D S A D V E N T I S T C E N T E R S P E A K E R : E L D E R S T E P H E N B R O O K S M U S I C I A N S : N E W D A W N
"My prayer for this retreat is that God would prepare our hearts to offer gratitude and equip us for the work He has planned for us!"
Cindy Mercer, Prayer Ministries Coordinator for Oklahoma Conference

Jesus to the Rescue

“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It's Superman!” As a child, these words were etched in my mind every time I would eagerly watch “The Adventures of Superman!”

Eyes glued to the television, I watched how Superman would battle crooked businessmen and politicians, take on injustices and inequalities by fighting and standing for social justice, and have X-ray vision to see through walls, doors and buildings. And always, just in the nick of time, Superman would come to the aid and rescue of men, women, boys and girls who were being tattered, torn and troubled. Superman was my hero! Superman was stronger than anybody! Superman could do no wrong! Yet, Superman was fictitious. Superman wasn’t real. Superman was an actor who was seen on television.

Nevertheless, Jesus is no actor! He’s the real thing! Humanity had sinned, and God was faced with a dilemma to either excuse sin or destroy all and start over. God’s solution, however, was to send the real Superman, Jesus Christ, to save His people from sin (Matthew

1:21). In His earthly ministry, Jesus restored sight to the blind, defeated demon-possessed men, calmed boisterous ocean waters, raised the dead, fed the hungry, clothed the naked and sacrificed His life on Calvary enabling us to obtain eternal salvation (John 3:16; Acts 4:12). Jesus is the real Superman!

Fast forward nearly 2,000 years to our present day. God’s people are distressed and distraught, and need rescue and redemption from this sinful world. The solution once again is Jesus, the real Superman! Jesus has promised that He is coming back, but this time, He’s coming to get His people. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3 (KJV).

In preparation for the real “Superman’s” imminent return, keep your eyes on Jesus and align your priorities with His, placing your will in harmony with His. Paul said it best, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on

the earth.” Colossians 3:2 (KJV). Hence, prayer, Bible study, worship and sharing your faith with others are spiritual disciplines which are conducive to one’s growth in Christ. And when these practices are employed, Heaven is our ultimate goal. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:4 (KJV).

May we be encouraged in knowing that troubles don’t always last, and Jesus, the real Superman, is coming to the rescue!

Southwest Region Conference

Relevant: 2023 Camp Meeting

ATHENS, TEX. – Exhilarating, inspiring and spirit-filled is how we describe the 2023 Southwest Region Conference Camp Meeting held June 7-10, 2023 at Lone Star Camp in Athens, Tex. From the sermons, music, workshops, food, fellowship, recreation and prayer emphasis, all age groups were blessed by camp meeting as intentional ministry and social opportunities were provided for attendees. The theme for this year’s encampment was “Relevant: Mission, Mindset and Ministry,” with those present being challenged to pursue the mission of the church with a relevant mindset in order to practice relevant ministry.

Guest preachers for the four-day spiritual feast included Wintley Phipps, a pastor, singer and songwriter, MyRon Edmonds, D.Min., and Andrea Trusty King, D.Min. Special musical guests included Ricky Dillard and New Generation, Gale Jones Murphy, MyRon Butler and the Southwest Region Conference Mass Choir. Additionally, there was a special presentation by television judge, Greg Mathis, who challenged attendees, with specificity to the youth, to make correct life choices as he referenced his own journey through sundries of experiences. Another camp meeting feature was the ministerial ordination of Emmanuel Kumah, pastor

of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Ghanaian Seventh-day Adventist Church, who was ordained to the gospel ministry.

Most importantly, 42 persons were baptized at camp meeting! These individuals were in addition to the newly baptized members from New Orleans (2023 Good News Revival Spring Evangelistic Meeting) who boarded two chartered buses to attend camp meeting for the very first time!

We look forward to seeing everyone next year, June 12-15, 2024, for camp meeting at Lone Star Camp in Athens, Tex.!

29 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Southwest Region Conference News

Healthy Bodies, Healthy Finances, Healthy Church

ARLINGTON, TEX. – We live in a world that is a bit turbulent, and we tend to forget about our physical and emotional well-being, and many times even our spiritual well-being. Yet these are important to live a full and whole life in Jesus Christ. For that reason, the Ebenezer Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church in Arlington, Tex., saw the need to hold a health fair and provide the community with knowledge, tools and resources to help improve their quality of life.

One of the main objectives was to promote physical health and self-care. The health fair provided exams such as vitals, glucose, medical and dental consultations, nutrition talks, healthy cooking presentations and a healthy finances presentation, all free of charge. Laboratory exams were offered at a

minimum cost. Awareness was created of the importance of taking care of our bodies as we emphasized that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we are created in the image and likeness of God.

Our children’s ministries department was actively involved as they taught children the eight natural remedies through activities, arts and crafts, minitalks, interesting facts and storytelling. These encouraged them to seek a good physical, mental and spiritual balance and achieve a healthy and whole life.

We also enjoyed enrichment talks on healthy finances which helped us realize that many times we live only to spend money and forget about tomorrow. The finance talks, which started on the day of the health fair and contin -

ued through the week, taught us how to have a stable personal economy, our savings potential and how to prepare for the future in the best way possible—free of debt! It is hard work that requires discipline, but with Jesus, everything is possible!

The event was a one-of-a-kind experience. We are grateful to God for the opportunity to reach and learn with the community and thank all the members who gave of themselves and their time.

RECORD MAGAZINE 30 Southwest Region Conference News

A Modern-Day Andrew and Peter

BATON ROUGE, LA. – Like the biblical Andrew, who upon learning of Jesus ran to his brother Peter to tell him about his newfound friend, the Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church of Baton Rouge is proud of its own Andrew in member David Howard (pictured on the left, center image). Howard’s “brother” was one of his own roommates, Dennis Caston (pictured on the right, center image). They met two years ago when they both became residents of a group home.

Howard became a member of the Berean church and like the biblical Andrew, he refused to be content with being silent as to why he now awakened each Saturday, got dressed and headed down his own street to the Berean church. Noticing the look of curiosity on his friend’s face one day, Howard posed the question to his roommate and friend, “Would you like to go to church with me this coming Saturday?” Without a moment’s hesitation, Caston accepted his invitation.

“He loved church so much that it was just a matter of time before he responded to the pastor of the Berean church, T. Ron Weegar’s invitation to learn more about the church and to be baptized,” reports Howard. He then continued with sharing Caston’s excitement. When asked why he was joining the Berean church, Caston’s reply included “I just love the friendly people, the fellowship and the way the pastor preaches.”

It was a glorious Sabbath as Howard stood in place of his friend’s family


and watched his entrance to Berean’s own “Pool of Bethesda.” Weegar (pictured on the right, right image) and others are convinced that the mission for our modern-day Andrew is not over and wouldn’t be surprised if Howard and Caston’s love for Jesus results in the conversion of the remaining three roommates in their group home. Join us in praying to this end.


Notice is hereby given that the Fifth Quadrennial Session of the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists will convene Sept. 23-24, 2023, at the Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church in Keene, Tex. Registration for the session is scheduled to begin at 7:45 p.m. Saturday night, Sept. 23, 2023. The purpose of the session is to elect officers and departmental personnel for the ensuing quadrennial term, and to transact such business as may properly come before the session. Each church is entitled to one (1) delegate for the organization and one (1) additional delegate for each forty-five (45) members or major fraction thereof and who holds membership in the local church or company, which accredits them.


Notice is hereby given that the Fifth Quadrennial Session of the Southwest Region Conference Association of Seventhday Adventists will convene Sept. 23-24, 2023, at the Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church in Keene, Tex. Registration for the session is scheduled to begin at 7:45 p.m. Saturday night, Sept. 23, 2023. The purpose of the session is to elect officers and departmental personnel for the ensuing quadrennial term, to consider revisions to the constitution and bylaws, and to transact such business as may properly come before the session. Delegates to the Southwest Region Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Fourth Quadrennial Session are also delegates to the Southwest Region Conference Association.

31 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Southwest Region Conference News
RECORD MAGAZINE 32 Southwest Region Conference News

The Importance of Consecration

Romans 11:33-35 shares, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?’”

Those verses remind us of the awesomeness of God. It is also a reminder that no matter how long we study God, we will never figure Him out. And that’s okay. We don’t have to know His mind or be His counselor, but we need to accept that what He has given us is far more than we can ever give Him.

Romans 11:36 ends the chapter with, “For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Continuing in Romans 12:1, Paul emphasizes what an awesome God we have and shares the importance of what we should do. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God …”

Paul reminds us that in view of His grace in our lives; in view of a bloodstained cross; in view of the fact that He’s given us His Spirit; in view of the fact that he’s promised us Heaven; in

view of the fact that He’s made us a part of a fantastic community; in view of His mercy, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice.

Those who stay engaged in serving as volunteers with joy instead of burning out understand this. They are motivated by the right fuel, inspired by the right thing. They offer themselves as living sacrifices because God’s mercy is indescribable. The ultimate thing that fuels them is not how good it makes them feel, though it does feel good to serve. They live daily with awareness, as the psalmist expressed in Psalm 116:12, “What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?” How do I repay Him?

Friends, there’s only one true longterm motivation for sacrificial serving, which only comes from a blood-stained cross. As we accept how Christ served us there, we can offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, to honor the one who died on the cross as a living sacrifice and rose again for each one of us. This is the importance of consecration. Every day, we must say, I set myself apart for you, God. I consecrate myself to you, God.

Paul echoes that sentiment in Romans 12. In view of God’s mercy, re-

serve yourself. Consecrate yourself for God’s use. The longer we serve, the closer we get to the finish line, the more inviting the goal looks.

Peter wondered if living a life beyond himself would be worth it. Jesus responded that not only will He make it worth our while in this world, but an even greater reward is waiting for each of us in Heaven.

Friend, will you accept the call to serve? Join me in consecrating ourselves daily to serve with the right motivation.

33 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Texas Conference

Texas Conference Elects Office Staff

KILLEEN, TEX. – The Texas Conference held its Quadrennial Constituency Session on Sunday, June 11, 2023, at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. Over 1,000 delegates met to elect executive officers, vice presidents, departmental directors and associates for the 2023-2027 quadrennial term. Delegates also discussed and voted on business affecting the Texas Conference.

Texas Conference President Elton DeMoraes started the day with a devotional before sharing the president’s report. Texas Conference Executive Secretary David Montoya and Texas Conference Treasurer Randy Terry then shared their reports.

Before lunch, delegates voted for the executive officers, individually electing Elton DeMoraes, president, center with his wife, Alessandra; David Montoya, executive secretary, right with his wife, Mary Ann; Randy Terry, treasurer, with his wife, Tamara.

Vice presidents elected included Kenn L. Dixon, communication and public relations; Kisha R. Norris, education; Ismael Castillo, Hispanic ministries

and Spanish evangelism and Nathan L. Krause, ministry and evangelism. Along with vice presidents, department directors and associates were voted in one block. The complete list is on the Texas Conference website.

“It is an honor and privilege to serve the Texas Conference as president,” DeMoraes said. “I am proud of our conference office team and delighted that we can continue serving our constituents.”

During the secretariat’s report, delegates voted and welcomed the following churches into the sisterhood of churches: Longview Spanish (Dec. 7, 2019) and Benbrook Seventh-day Adventist Churches (Oct. 16, 2021). Two churches united: Katy Central Spanish and Bear Creek Spanish Company (Nov. 26, 2022). They are now known as Katy Bear Creek Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church.

With sadness, delegates had to vote to accept the dissolution of the following churches: Del Rio San Felipe Spanish (Dec. 5, 2019), Eastland Cross Timbers (June 27, 2019) and San Antonio Adventist Christian Fellowship (Oct. 28, 2021).

Church revitalization was recently added to the church planting and volunteer lay pastor title held by Robin Lopez, director. “We need to be intentional about revitalizing our churches so that we will never have a vote for another church dissolution,” DeMoraes added. “Together as one, we must embrace our fellow members and encourage our community to find hope in Jesus Christ.”

The constituency session full report with departmental video reports can be found on the Texas Conference website at

This was the first time the session was streamed live. It can be viewed on the TexasAdventist (English) and Adventistas Hispanos de Texas (Spanish) YouTube channels. The YouTube links and Flickr photo link are also on the conference website. Join the conversation on the TXSDA App and TexasAdventist social channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

RECORD MAGAZINE 34 Texas Conference News

Falfurrias Centennial Celebration

FALFURRIAS, TEX. – May 6, 2023, was a blessed Sabbath day in Falfurrias, Tex. This small south Texas town had a centennial celebration at the Falfurrias Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church that gave its attendants a foretaste of the heavenly reunion we will have with our Lord. From its humble beginnings in Espiridion and Macedonia Lara’s home, the first Sabbath School was officiated in April 1923 at a ranch known as El Laurel just east of Falfurrias in the community of La Parrita. Upon hearing the Gospel truth, Macedonia told Espiridion to throw her idols into the deepest part of the creek. Over time, all nine of their children were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In 1946, the members of the young Adventist church dedicated a church structure in La Copita (Southern Duval) on a half-acre track at 11369 FM 1329 donated by Jose Lara, one of Lara’s sons. They worshiped for many years in this humble church until June 22, 1974, when the present-day church, at 1728

SH 285, was built on land donated by Eva Adair.

The Falfurrias Spanish church celebrated its centennial, a privilege few churches have commemorated, with many members, visitors and guests, including Texas Conference President Elton DeMoraes and Texas Conference Vice President for Hispanic Ministries and Spanish Evangelism Ismael Castillo. Others joined the special service from Rio Grande Valley, Alice, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth and even as far away as California.

Texas Conference Executive Secretary David Montoya was the keynote speaker. The Falfurrias Spanish church was his first church district in the Texas Conference. His keynote address kindled the hearts of all in attendance with an acronym in Spanish using the word FALFURRIAS. F was for Fiel (faithful), A was for Altísimo (highest), L was for Luz (light), F was for Fortaleza (strength), U was for Único (unique), R was for Redentor (redeemer), R was for Rey (king), I was for Inmortal (immortal), A was for

Amor (love) and S was for Santo (saint). He also reminded everyone that Falfurrias means “the land of heart’s delight.” With these words, Montoya encouraged all to remain faithful until the soon coming of our Lord.

The celebration continued with a fabulous fellowship meal where others shared their testimonies. Almost everyone in attendance was directly related to our forefathers or had a special connection to the church’s founding. The day ended with many hugs, pictures and promises of reconnection.

A special appreciation is extended to all who contributed to the centennial celebration, who selflessly prepared the food and assisted in serving, and the church members who will continue shining a light in the Falfurrias community.

You can find more information about the centennial celebration in the news section of

35 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Texas Conference News

A Dream to Debt Free

FLORESVILLE, TEX. – The Floresville Wilson County Seventh-day Adventist Church had a day of celebration on April 29, 2023, when the mortgage note was ceremonially burned to signify being debt free.

The Wilson County church began in 2004 with core members Don and Judi Dedman, Joe and Mercy Garcia, Pattie and Eddie Talbot, Linda Winn and Lovenna Cicle. Ruber Leal, currently Texas Conference family ministries director and associate pastor for the Richardson Seventh-day Adventist Church, was instrumental in helping this church plant formalize.

Meeting originally in the Dedman’s home, it wasn’t long before they needed a larger place to grow in membership. Joe Garcia found a house renovated into a church on FM 775 and arranged to rent it each Sabbath for $100 monthly. The group met there from January 2005 to January 2007. Outgrowing that church, they began meeting at the Floresville United Methodist Church right in town, again for $100 monthly. Three years later, in May 2010, they moved into a metal building on FM 1303 that they renovated into a

church. A year later, the contract was extended another six months as they searched for a building visible to the community.

On June 23, 2011, the group became a recognized company in the Texas Conference and found property to purchase. Formerly a bar and grill known as Juniors, it seemed like a strange place for a church, but it was the perfect location with a paved parking lot, a large, fenced backyard and a 4,000-squarefoot building.

The owner left many furnishings the members sold, but they kept the tables and chairs to use during events and services. “Now, this was our chance to right a wrong,” Don Dedman said. “We would turn a den of iniquity into a sanctuary of God for the people of Wilson County.”

They gutted the building, adding new flooring to create the sanctuary, Sabbath school classes and a fellowship hall. In November 2011, they held their first church service.

“We have had memorial services for loved members, baby dedications, baby showers, Bible studies, cooking classes and Revelation seminars,” Judi

Dedman said, proudly sharing how they have enjoyed their new facility.

Reading the history during the special April 2023 service before burning the mortgage, Judi, Wilson County church treasurer, shared that they purchased the property for $300,000, borrowing $220,000 from the Texas Conference.

On July 15, 2022, she received a statement showing the loan was paid off. She couldn’t believe it. Excited to have the loan paid off, she felt it was providential that it arrived that day, as they had purchased the property on July 15, 2011.

“It is always a wonderful Sabbath when I can join a church family for their mortgage burning,” Randy Terry, Texas Conference treasurer, shared. “It shows their dedication and faithfulness to God and His holy place.

Texas Conference Executive Secretary David Montoya was also in attendance, giving the message. Read more about this special day in the news section of

RECORD MAGAZINE 36 Texas Conference News

Young Adult Tour in Arlington

ARLINGTON, TEX. – “The Young Adult LIFE Tour was a great reminder of the power we have as young adults through God,” lauded Madeline Small, Adventist Young Professionals’ Dallas Chapter coordinator. “The tour presenters showed us how we can use that God-given influence to affect change in the lives of those around us for the better.”

Meeting the call of local churches for training and guidance in developing young adult ministry, Young Adult Life, the official young adult ministry movement of the North American Division, created the tour to equip and empower local churches across the North American Division. The first stop was hosted by the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church.

“It was enlightening and useful to know the many ways young adults can and should be reached,” shared Kyle Barrow, associate pastor of Auburn City Seventh-day Adventist Church in Auburn, Wash., and recent graduate of Southwestern Adventist University.

The Dallas/Fort Worth tour stop featured presentations by Danielle Quaye, teaching assistant and linguistics doctoral student at the University of Texas at Arlington; Justin Yang, Texas Conference young adult ministries director and Steven Argue, pastor, author and advocate for young people.

“I was challenged by Argue’s sermon which highlighted that we ought to do

life with people; not just cheer them on from the sidelines, but run the race with them,” reflected Quaye. “That’s what Christ has done for us. He came down to Earth and ran the race and showed us His love in human flesh. I was inspired to do the same.”

“The DFW Young Adult LIFE Tour was one of the most practical and resourceful events to date with Dr. Steven Argue presenting the latest research on the 18-30 age bracket,” raved Yang. “It opened up much-needed and long overdue conversations with young adults on their stages of development along with their relationship with the church and leadership.”

Nearly a dozen churches from across the Southwestern Union were represented at the tour stop. The afternoon training intensive had over 15 different ministries represented with over 40 church leaders in attendance, including Elton DeMoraes, Texas Conference president.

“My family and I were blessed by the Young Adult LIFE Tour DFW. The presenters shared many valuable insights and best practices to start and sustain young adult ministries in a local church,” affirmed DeMoraes. “The fresh and meaningful content and the conversations around the table challenged us to think outside the box to reach this important age group.”

“Argue’s workshop opened the ta -

ble for a much-needed discussion on how to connect with young adults,” endorsed Kellany Freitas, a worship leader at Comunidad Aliento in Fort Worth. “The tour helped us feel seen in the midst of a church culture that sometimes neglects our needs.”

“What I loved about the tour was the wide range of leaders who gathered: senior leaders, youth pastors and young adults, themselves,” reflected Argue. “Young adult ministry impacts us all, and these gatherings are providing hopeful, informative and supportive ways forward for our churches and faith communities.”

“Young Adult Life Tour provided an opportunity for church leaders, members and families to come together and share, with vulnerability, all their experiences with church which strengthened our sense of belonging,” summarized Jazzmine Bankston, a pastor of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church. “I appreciated the discussions on ways we can become better listeners with each other and close the generational gaps that silo us demographically, and instead, bring us closer together as a church community.”

For more information about Young Adult LIFE, visit

37 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Texas Conference News

Aligning Our Priorities with Heaven

Aligning our priorities with heaven is essential for consecrating our lives to Jesus. By focusing on heavenly priorities, we direct our attention away from worldly distractions and pursue a life that honors God. Colossians 3:1-15 and Philippians 4:4-9 can help us understand this concept and guide us in aligning our priorities with Heaven.

Colossians 3:1-15 teaches us to set our minds on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. This verse encourages us to shift our focus away from earthly concerns and fix our attention on heavenly values. When our minds are oriented towards heavenly things, it becomes easier to consecrate our lives to Jesus. We will see the world from God’s perspective, valuing eternal things over temporary desires. This mindset helps us prioritize our relationship with Jesus and live to reflect His teachings and character.

Philippians 4:4-9 complements this idea by emphasizing the importance of rejoicing in the Lord and focusing on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. By cultivating a mindset of gratitude and joy, we align our thoughts with heaven. This passage encourages us to replace anxiety and worry with prayer and thanksgiving, trusting that God is in control. When our minds are fixed on heavenly principles, we naturally seek

to align our priorities with God’s will.

Living like our minds are focused on things above means consistently evaluating our choices and actions in light of God’s Word and principles. It involves seeking His guidance through prayer, studying the Scriptures and cultivating a personal relationship with Him. As our connection deepens with God, our desires align with His and our priorities shift to reflect His values.

To align our priorities with Heaven while honoring God on earth, we must first surrender our lives to Jesus. This involves acknowledging Him as our Lord and Savior and inviting Him to lead us in all areas of life. As we daily seek His presence, we grow in understanding and wisdom. We can then discern between the temporary allure of worldly pursuits and the eternal significance of heavenly priorities.

Practical steps to align our priorities with heaven include:

1. Regularly studying and meditating on the Scriptures to gain insight into God’s priorities; 2. Developing a consistent prayer life to seek God’s guidance and surrendering our plans to Him;

3. Surrounding ourselves with a community of believers who encourage and challenge us in our walk with Christ;

4. Engaging in acts of service and selflessness that reflect God’s love and compassion;

5. Being mindful of the choices we make, ensur-

ing they align with our heavenly values; 6. Cultivating a heart of gratitude and praise, finding joy in the Lord’s presence and provision; 7. Guarding our minds against negative influences and filling them with things that are true, noble and praiseworthy; 8. Practicing forgiveness, reconciliation and love to others, mirroring Christ’s example.

By aligning our priorities with heaven, we honor God on earth and become instruments of His grace and love. Our lives become a testimony of His transformative power, drawing others to experience the joy and peace that come from living in alignment with God’s purposes.

RECORD MAGAZINE 38 Texico Conference

“Camp Texico on the Go” Kicks Off Summer

CORRALES, N.M. – Running, jumping, endless laughter and squeals of joy are just some of the wonderful sights and sounds of summer camp! On June 12, the Texico Conference was happy to officially kick off its newly-revamped summer program, “Camp Texico on the Go.” The traveling camp model involved a group of directors and camp staff hitting the road to five different locations throughout the conference. Offering many great activities for kids ages 7-13, the summer camp debuted in Lubbock, Tex. Twenty kids initially signed up, and by mid-week, 30 kids were participating.

“That might seem small for the first week of a summer program, but seeing that growth mid-week was a huge success,” said Eric Chavez, Youth, Young Adults and Club Ministries director. “The first stop in Lubbock was filled with blessings and activities which included using remote-controlled cars, rockets, kites, making tie-dye shirts and so much more.”

Each week proved to be a blessing. Camp Texico on the Go stopped in

Lubbock, Amarillo, Albuquerque, N.M., El Paso and Midland, Tex.

“The week in Lubbock came and went faster than we could process, then we were onto Amarillo. Amarillo was a great experience, and it was such a joy to see the church excited and ready for us. The doors were opened, the grass was mowed and ready for the kiddos to run, play and worship,” said Chavez. “After Amarillo, we were off to Sandia View Academy in Albuquerque, then on to El Paso and Midland. The weeks were full of great fun, singing silly songs and calling young people to a life of following Jesus and seeing Him in everything that we do.”

This is the first year the Texico Conference has opted to travel with its camp program on the road rather than having it at a fixed location. However, camp organizers are optimistic that it is a great way to reach and include kids that may not be able to travel to a summer camp otherwise.

“The traveling camp model is a great way to take Jesus and new experiences to young people where they may not

have the opportunity to join a summer camp,” said Chavez. “It is also an endeavor that will return a hundredfold when we get to heaven and see that one young person that had that one special experience with the staff of Camp Texico on the Go.”

Seeing its success, Camp Texico on the Go plans to continue using the traveling camp method until circumstances indicate otherwise. Campers had a wonderful time and are looking forward to doing it again next summer.

“Despite not having enough time to include more fun, each week brought its joys, challenges and overall victories,” said Chavez. “It is the small moments like singing songs, explaining how the strength of paracord is like the strength of the Lord in our lives or comparing lava lamps to the integration of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds that made the summer special. The Holy Spirit was always moving and filled our campers’ hearts and minds. He knew exactly what they needed!”

39 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Texico Conference News

Volunteers at Largest Powwow in North America

ALBUQUERQUE – With an expansive reach across the globe, Seventh-day Adventist churches, entities and members continue to spread the message of Revelation 14 to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every nation, tongue, tribe and people. The Texico Conference is committed to doing its part and recently sponsored an outreach effort at the Gathering of Nations.

Every year on the last weekend of April, Native American tribes from every corner of North America converge in Albuquerque, N.M., to participate in the Gathering of Nations, the largest Powwow event in North America. Tribes include Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Oneida, Dakota, Hopi, Iroquois, Pawnee, Shawnee, Navajo, Acoma and a host of others. Indian dances, a Miss Indian World pageant and an Indian Traders Market are just some of the attractions that take place over the three-day event.

This year, church members from

several Texico churches distributed literature by the hundreds to attendees at this massive event. A specially-designed Steps to Christ , in both English and Navajo, was included in the distribution. In addition, DVDs on Bible prophecy, free Bibles and educational literature promoting physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health were given away.

Church volunteers also made noteworthy contacts, including talking to the local Veteran Affairs (VA) Chaplain of Albuquerque. He requested and was given a case of The Desire of Ages and The Great Controversy for him to distribute to patients at the VA hospital.

Volunteers included Randy Smith, Reuben Estrada, Robert and Kimone Gardner, Marva Dennis-Drigo, Kristy LaFrance and Josephine Allsop. Each of them interacted lovingly and tactfully with each visitor. They also offered prayers, encouragement and received several Bible Study requests.

Taking Care of Our Temples

could be the person to do it. Although I am not an expert, I was willing, and that is all God asks for.

Native Americans are traditionally a people with deep spiritual beliefs. Please pray for our Native American friends and neighbors. May the Holy Spirit move powerfully to draw them to Jesus.

ALBUQUERQUE – About a year ago, it struck me that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was commissioned with the health message and that many of us are not practicing these lifesaving health principles. At first, I felt discouraged and wished that someone would step up and start a health ministry in my church, the Albuquerque Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. However, as I began learning more about nutrition, I felt convicted and realized that I

It was terrifying to kick off the ministry because I had no idea what to do. However, I soon decided to create a survey to ask church members what their health interests were and what type of health counsel they felt the church needed. There was an overwhelming response and interest in plant-based cooking. In a short time, I conducted a presentation on plant-based nutrition, and together we learned how to cook several healthy dishes. Since then, I began an “Eight Laws of Health” series where we discuss health principles and then gather for fellowship and nutritious food. The series is ongoing, and I am excited to see where God will lead us! My goal for this ministry is to inspire

people to take care of the “temples” that God gave us so that we can be healthy and able to do His work.

The Albuquerque Central church encourages anyone in the Albuquerque area who is interested in improving their health to join us. For those outside the area, I encourage you to start your own health ministry in your church. It is important that we share the principles of health with the world, and the best way to do that is by first being examples in our own churches. You do not have to have certain qualifications or abilities, I certainly did not. God will use anyone who is willing to be used and if you have concerns, take them to God. He is more than willing to hear your prayers and worries.

RECORD MAGAZINE 40 Texico Conference News

CORRALES, N.M. – “I Will Go,” to Odessa, El Paso and Albuquerque! On April 9, the Texico Conference Club Ministries team participated in the Adventurer Fun Day which took place simultaneously in three different cities with a focus on the theme, I Will Go! I Will Go has been the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s strategic focus for the 20202025 quinquennium. The experience is meant to involve all church members

(including young members) around the world in reaching the world. More than 300 people from around the conference participated in the Adventurer Fun Day for one purpose, emphasizing the Lord’s calling in our lives regardless of age or talent.

The Texico Area Club Coordinator team was a great asset in planning and working together to ensure that the event at each location ran smoothly.

Adventurer Fun Day in Texico Teacher Recognized for Her Excellence in Teaching

CORRALES, N.M. – Each year, the Southwestern Union recognizes excellence among its educators from the elementary and secondary levels and honors their outstanding contributions with the Excellence in Teaching Award. To qualify for this award, a teacher must demonstrate proficiency in several criteria related to teaching and learning.

This year, the Southwestern Union Education Department named the recipients of the Excellence in Teaching Award for the 2022-2023 school year,

and among the Elementary Awards was Melanie Cano from the Texico Conference.

Cano has over 10 years of education experience and has been teaching at Sandia View Christian School (SVCS) since 2020. She most recently took on the role of interim principal and will officially serve as principal for the 20232024 school year.

Prior to moving to New Mexico, Cano taught in the Central California Conference and came to New Mexico not fully knowing what God had planned for her and her family. However, her family now truly believes that God placed them exactly where He wanted them.

“Melanie has always been open to new ideas and very conscientious of how her approach will affect those she works with in the long run,” said Sandra Patterson, Texico Conference superintendent of education. “She is a great team player

They made sure clubs did the same activities, played many of the same games and offered the same Adventurer awards. Church members from each location were also helpful and donated bounce houses, craft supplies and animals, and the Dog Award was among the major hits of the day.

Many local pastors also joined in and participated with their Pathfinder clubs. Supporting pastors from Midland, Odessa, Amarillo Spanish, Dalhart, Albuquerque and El Paso were present. It was a great day to celebrate and enjoy all that the Adventurer Club stands for and to empower our young people to do big things for Jesus through practical activities!

and has a desire to share the love of Jesus with her students and their families.”

According to those who have worked with Cano, her willingness to help in whatever capacity is needed has endeared her to the staff. Her creative teaching style allows students to explore the many aspects of their studies. She has built wonderful relationships with her students who both love and respect her. She is always ready to share her experience and knowledge in technology with her colleagues.

In appreciation for her outstanding work in teaching and demonstrated dedication to helping students learn, Cano was awarded $500 from the Southwestern Union and $500 from the Texico Conference. She was also awarded a certificate and a plaque during the eighth-grade graduation ceremony at SVCS last May.

41 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Texico Conference News

El Paso Graduate Doing Big Things!

CORRALES, N.M. – This past spring, the Texico Conference had a mass exercise of graduations. Whether you graduate from kindergarten, eighth grade, high school or college, graduation is always a time to celebrate hard work, effort and success.

This year, I had the opportunity to attend a special graduation of one of our Texico members from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Emma Carrillo.

Carrillo is a member of the El Paso Central Seventh-day Adventist Church and deputy director of their Pathfinder club, the El Paso Central Eagles. She is also the leader of their FWRD Youth program. Carrillo is an outstanding young person who loves Jesus and demonstrates it in all that she does. Post-graduation, Carrillo is transferring to Texas Christian University and has received a full-ride scholarship for her post-graduate studies in criminal justice.

This summer, Carrillo decided that before she stepped into the world of

adulthood and graduate studies, she would serve at the Arizona Conference’s summer camp, Yava Pines, as activities director. There are many other jobs that Carrillo could have accepted with her bachelor's degree fully earned and awarded. However, because she loves Jesus so much, she preferred sacrificing her summer of higher pay and professional status to serve the Lord through summer evangelism in youth ministry.

At her graduation celebration, I was asked to use one word to describe Carrillo, and the one word I used was “wise.” She has often called my wife, Shanna, and me to seek advice and counsel for her next steps in life. We do not consider ourselves the keepers of wisdom, but the times she has called have shown us that Carrillo seeks to follow Jesus more than her own wants and desires. Here in the Texico Youth Department, it is not our goal to boast about one young person. However, it is our purpose to talk about the amaz-

ingly talented young people we have in the Texico Conference. We are extremely blessed to have many young people who work hard not just in life, but for the sake of Heaven! If you see Emma or ever have the opportunity to meet her, you will see why she is one of the Texico Conference superstars that will draw many to Heaven and show others Jesus wherever she goes. Let us continue to encourage and pray for all our Texico young people as they do big things for Jesus!

RECORD MAGAZINE 42 Texico Conference News

Meeting Their Needs While Focusing on Our Mission Above

pus tours to better acquaint expectant mothers with the facilities.

“I want these young moms to have the opportunity to ask questions in a safe environment where they aren’t lumped in with married couples,” said Griswell. “That way, we can speak their language and ease any nerves. I want to meet them where they are and let them know they are loved.”

BURLESON, TEX. – The mission of the women’s services team at Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South is to provide young expectant mothers with guidance and hope so they feel loved and supported throughout their pregnancy. With an increasing number of teen pregnancies, the women’s team took the initiative to create a program focused on providing teenage pregnancy education.

“We have found that some of these young women are afraid and less inclined to attend childbirth education or

prenatal classes,” said Jennifer Flores, MSN, administrative director of nursing. “We saw this as an opportunity to build that bridge of stewardship in our neighborhood to help provide resources for these young women. We want them to know that they are not alone.”

The Pregnancy Education Program is spearheaded by Kari Griswell, childbirth/community educator; Rhonda Fuselier, director of women’s services; and Flores. The program provides resources and classes on healthy nutrition, access to care and hospital cam -

Focusing Hearts on Above

MANSFIELD, TEX. – Like the strong military family that came before her, Andrea Whitted served in the Army for ten years before making a career change to the medical field. “I come from a strong Hispanic background. The values my father learned from my grandfather are instilled in me, and I do my best to instill those same values in my children,” said Whitted, now the cardiac catheterization laboratory manager at Texas Health Hospital Mansfield.

Whitted joined the hospital team shortly after its opening in 2020. She knew it was an opportunity to make a difference in her community. With her extensive background working in the cath lab at two AdventHealth facilities, she was ready to make an impact. Her focus was to introduce a new program to deal with a particularly severe and

dangerous type of heart attack called ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), which has a greater risk of serious complications and death. With her team, Whitted worked diligently to ensure the hospital was equipped to serve patients who came to them with chest pain and active heart attacks.

Over the last two years, the STEMI program has already saved countless lives in the Mansfield community. With an average of 30 cases per month, the program has continued to grow. “Our mission is Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ, and the fact that we can do that openly and freely is everything to me,” Whitted said.

“To be given the opportunity to help calm my STEMI patients with prayer is huge. They are experiencing one of the scariest moments of their lives, and

Griswell has worked tirelessly with a local school to establish this program and make it easier for teen moms to get access through monthly campus visits where Griswell teaches the class.

“If we as health care providers can help minimize the fear of judgment and provide support and encouragement to these young moms and their families, then we are doing what we have been called to do,” said Flores. “Extending the Healing Ministry of Christ.”

we can offer them prayer, a calm within the storm. I have been on that side as a scared family member more than I would like to count, and prayer truly means everything in those moments.”

43 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 AdventHealth News

SWAU Senior Presents Revelation of Hope Series

KEENE, TEX. – Abigail Minett, 21, spent May 31 to June 9, 2023, presenting an Amazing Prophecies series called “Revelation of Hope.” She shared Bible truth with community and church members in the chapel of the Keene Seventh-day Church in Keene, Tex. Minett is a senior theology major across the street at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) and a pastoral intern on the Keene church staff. As Minett worked to present the series, fulfilling the requirements for her summer field evangelism class, the Holy Spirit worked too. Each night Minett revealed Jesus to an average of 40 attendees, most attending each evening for the entirety of the series.

Minett is no stranger to pastoral work, she grew up as a pastor’s kid. Then she attended Jefferson Christian Academy in Jefferson, Tex., where she had the opportunity to participate in an evangelism training event for young people called Glad Reapers. “During that event, I learned how to connect with others and do basic evangelism,” explained Minett. “This past year at SWAU, I took Biblical Preaching 1 and 2, which gave me the tools I needed for future preaching engagements.”

Minett spent about six hours preparing each evening’s lecture, and then she put all her preaching training into practice.

“Pastor Abbi Minett presented Spirit-filled messages of hope from the pages of Scripture,” said Michael Gibson, Keene church senior pastor. “She thoughtfully walked through how we can trust scripture as our guide and what steps we can take to further our relationships with Jesus.” Several church members and visitors told Gibson how encouraged they were by the messages.

During her high school experience, Minett admits becoming jaded by the fearmongering way pastors presented prophecy. “In preparing for this series, I focused on allowing Jesus to be the center of it all, and for everything to point to Him. I think this was healing for me,” she said. “One of my favorite experiences was when someone approached me and told me they were a fifth-generation Adventist, and they had never, in their almost 80 years of life, heard these messages being presented without the fear factor. I believe that this is what I’m called to do, to bring balance and Christ-centered -

ness into places where it has historically been legalistic,” she explained.

“As a result of the meetings, four people made decisions to follow Jesus and be baptized,” reported Gibson. “We didn’t know what to expect going in, but the Holy Spirit had been working on hearts long before we started. I thank God for His use of Minett, and I’m thankful for her faithfulness and dedication in taking on the task of presenting a series of meetings. I’m sure we’ll continue to see the fruit of this series in the months to come. God is still at work in the heart of our community,” he said.

“The baptisms that came as a result of these meetings will forever have an impact on me as well,” Minett said.

Minett is passionate about sharing God’s law in a grace-filled way. If you are looking for a young, willing and mature-beyond-her-years speaker for your next evangelistic event, consider contacting her at

Photos by Jorge Velez

RECORD MAGAZINE 44 Southwestern Adventist University News

Inspiring Graduation Weekend

KEENE, TEX. – From May 5-7, 2023, Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) celebrated its graduation weekend. Departmental ceremonies were held on Friday evening with a commissioning service for the religion and theology majors. Stephen Brooks, Southwestern Union executive secretary, reminded graduates, “Even though we live in a dark world, we need to not adapt to darkness but let the light of Jesus shine through you.”

On Saturday, the Education and Psychology Department held its dedication to Christian service. Keynote speaker Rosibel Ordóñez shared her inspiring journey, which was followed by graduate awards and recognition. The School of Business also held a recognition and ethics oath ceremony. Jonathan Turk, professor, challenged graduates with the importance of values-based leadership, emphasizing that character and integrity are essential on their journey. At the nurses’ pinning ceremony, professor Danielle Sinclair inspired graduates as she spoke about what a calling to nursing truly means.

On Sunday, graduates, parents, relatives, friends, staff and faculty gathered in the Leiske-Pultar Gymnasium to watch 106 graduates receive their diplomas. Ana Patterson, president, remarked, “We gather this morning to recognize the academic achievements of our graduates and to honor the fulfillment of the mission of Southwest-

ern Adventist University, which is to inspire knowledge, faith and service through Christ-centered education.” She thanked all those who played a role in the success of the university and its students, noting that the class of 2023 was, “empathetic, determined and resilient.”

Penny Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Texas Health Huguley Hospital Fort Worth South and AdventHealth’s Southwest Region, shared an inspirational commencement address based on Matthew 7:24-27 titled, “Where Will You Stand?” She encouraged the class of 2023 to trust God with their plans, “God will get you where He wants you, and He will do it in His time and in His way,” she said. She also emphasized the importance of building a solid foundation on the Rock, Jesus Christ, finishing her address with this wisdom: “Our job is to make sure the foundation is on the Rock.” Class President Ashlyn Tyler delivered the senior class response. “No matter what happens in this life, God is watching over us, and I will praise His name,” she began. “No matter the challenges when you look back on your time here, I urge you to focus and remember the good things, the connections, the friendships that were built. Let our praise be because we have gotten to experience something so incredibly special and heartwarming,” Tyler challenged the class of 2023. Donna Berkner, Ed.D., vice president

for Academic Administration, conferred the degrees and congratulated the candidates for reaching this milestone in their lives. Other guest graduates who requested to participate in SWAU’s graduation ceremony rather than their universities included former faculty member, Michael Agee, receiving a doctor of education degree; Men’s Residence Hall Dean William Iverson receiving a master of science in outdoor education; alumna Lindsey Johnson receiving a master of music degree; alumna Van-Dai Ly receiving a doctor of medicine degree; Orland Rosales receiving a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministry; and faculty member, alumna of the year and Texas Conference vice president for education, Kisha Norris, receiving a doctor of education degree in leadership and Management. As the weekend celebrations closed, Tony Reyes, vice president for advancement, thanked parents, friends and donors, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, for making the dream of Adventist education a reality for the class of 2023. The ceremony ended with a welcome from Alumni Department Director Rosy Arizaga to the SWAU Alumni Association as she encouraged the new alums to continue to stay connected and engaged with SWAU. More information and photos are available at

45 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Southwestern Adventist University News

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Wheeler, Frank G., born June 13, 1952, Baton Rouge, La.; died May 13, 2023, Baton Rouge, La. Church membership: Berean Seventh-day Adventist Church. Preceded in death by parents, Freddie Wheeler, Sr. and Julia B. Dowels; brothers, Freddie Wheeler, Jr. and Fritz David Dowels; sister, Margie M. Johnson. Survivors: sons, Frank Smith and Frank Kelley; sisters, Marshall Carter (Ivory) and Penny Dowels; six grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends.


Harold Hubert Bradbury was born on April 27, 1927, to Harold Henry Bradbury and Hazel Frances Cooper, in Lodi, Calif. He died on May 21, 2023, at the age of 96, while living with his daughter, Lynda, at Holly Lake Ranch, Tex. He was preceded in death by his son, Harold Bert Bradbury, and his wife, Ruth Ellen Bradbury. Harold is survived by his daughter, Lynda Louise Culver and his son, Robert William Bradbury; six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Interment Keene, Tex., next to his beloved wife.

Harold, “Bud,” had a tough childhood growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. At 16, he quit school and lived a pretty nomadic existence for the next seven years, taking any kind of job he could find. Bud was enterprising and restless, never staying long in one place. Bud attended Adventist churches in the various towns where he was employed. Once he committed himself to the Adventist Church, he never looked back and was a devoted member until the day he died. He loved his church families and was deeply involved in every one of them, wherever he found himself living.

In 1950, Bud met Ruth Salter and after a whirlwind romance, they were married three months later. They had three children and worked and moved all over Central California, eventually settling in Indio, Calif. Bud started

a very successful construction company and worked in the Coachella Valley for 25 years. They took a yearlong “vacation” across the United States after Ruth was diagnosed with lung disease and not given long to live. However, she recovered after moving away and went on to live a full 85 years.

On their journey around the country, they visited Adventist Churches. In Keene, Tex., they heard of whole counties without an Adventist Church and Bud was asked if he would be interested in helping communities build a small church. The idea took root and Bud and Ruth found their permanent home in Texas.

For the next 30 years Bud built churches all around Texas. He would move their travel trailer to the job site and spend three months getting the structure under way, helping the members do a lot of the work themselves. He could help them build a small chapel and a few classrooms for around $50,000. Eventually, he and Ruth purchased property in Keene as a home base. Of all the experiences of his resourceful life, Bud was most fulfilled and proud of the 35 or so churches and schools he built for his church. His last project was a boy’s dormitory at the Holbrook Indian School in Arizona. He was in his 80’s and still working construction every day.

Bud loved his adventurous life, his family and his church. He had a deep faith in God which never faltered. He was loved and will be missed.

Alvin Lee Castania passed away at his home in Plaquemine, La. on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022 at the age of 91. He was a native and lifelong resident of Plaquemine where he owned and operated Castania’s Salvage for 46 years. He was a veteran of the United States Air Force who had a strong faith and was a member of Jones Creek Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Alvin is survived by his wife, Cecilia Landry Castania; daughter and faithful caregiver, Beryl Castania of Cleburne, Tex.; step-son, Christopher Dupeire and wife Holly of Belle Rose; brother, Kenneth Robert Castania and wife Carolyn of North Carolina; daughter-in-law, Shelly Castania of Cleburne, Tex.; grandchildren, Nicholas Lee Castania (Jennifer), Nathan Royce Castania (Lauren)

Natalie Nichole Castania Johnson (Jonathan), Jonathan Keith Levell (Kira), Hunter Adam Levell, Lana Jo Levell Cornish (Nick) and Ross Joseph Levell (Sarah); stepgrandchildren, Christopher “CJ” Joseph Dupeire (Helen), Dillion Dupeire, and Tabitha Dupeire Bailey (Vance) and numerous great-grandchildren. Alvin was preceded in death by his parents, Robert and Myrtle Lange Castania; three sons, Wesley Reynolds Castania, Alvin Randall Castania and John Robert Castania; siblings, Annie Mae Mott and Lou Ella Hebert.

Visitation and funeral services were held at Wilbert Funeral Home in Plaquemine, La. on Sunday, Feb. 13 and on Monday, Feb. 14 with Reverend Steve Vail officiating. Jonathan Levell, Hunter Levell, Ross Levell, Nick Castania, Nathan Castania and Lana Cornish served as pallbearers. Memorial donations may be made to Jones Creek Seventh-day Adventist School in Baton Rouge.

47 SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2023 Back Pages

Billie Louise Tunnell Stewart, 98, passed away Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023. Funeral services were held on Jan. 28 at the Greenwood Funeral Home Chapel, 3100 White Settlement Road, Fort Worth, Tex. Interment Greenwood Memorial Park.

She was everything we needed her to be, and so much more. The family of Billie Louise Tunnell are heartbroken to announce her passing. Six had the pleasure of calling her Mama, to many more, she was our Mimi. She remained an active participant along every step of our life’s many journeys until her death at 98-years-old on Jan. 1, 2023.

Billie was born in Rural Crosbyton, Tex., on her grandma’s farm, a place now known as Wake. Fifteen years later, she met the man she would love for a lifetime. William Raymond “WR” Tunnell and Billie were married on Sept. 2, 1939. Billie and WR made El Paso their home. She remained active at the El Paso Seventh-day Adventist Church and was always a loving friend and neighbor.

Billie treasured family so the Lord gave her many to love; a total of six children, 12 grandchildren, 21 greatgrandchildren and seven great-great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by WR; her brother, Hal Barney Stewart; daughter, Linda and son-in-law, Clifford Williamson of Pensacola, Fla.; son, and daughter-in-law, Jimmy and Vicki Tunnell of Phoenix, Ariz.; youngest son, Paul David Tunnell of San Francisco, Calif.; and son-in-law, Charles Ice of Fort Worth, Tex.

The many remaining joys of her life are her daughter, Paula Ice of Burleson, Tex.; oldest son, Raymond Dale (Bernita) of Braselton, Georgia; son, Norman (Donna) of Frederick, Md. Also, grandchildren, Todd, Dale Ray, Tori, Bobby, Suzanne, Kimberly, Wade, Tiffany, James, Kristen, Amy and Chase. Also, those 28 great and great-greatgrandchildren plus a host of friends who she considered family. She loved, was loved and will always be in our hearts.

In lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to The Vietnam Center Influence, online at

George, Ruby, born Oct. 6, 1939; died April 16, 2023, Little Rock, Ark. Church membership: Little Rock Seventh-day Adventist Church. Preceded in death by her parents, Joseph Monsegue and Florence Andrew; and daughter, Beverly de Gourville. Survivors: husband, Mervyn George; daughter, Jermine Marle George; three granddaughters; three grandsons; one brother, Sinclair Monsegue; two sisters, Monica Gaston and Irma Chong, and a host of relatives and friends.

Pierre, June Peak, born June 14, 1937, Lansing, Mich.; died July 22, 2023, Loveland, Colo. Church membership: Truth or Consequences

Seventh-day Adventist

Church. Preceded in death by daughter, Jill Peak Nielson. Survivors: sister, Jeanne Upton (Thomas) of Truth or Consequences, N.M.; son, Jeffery Peak of Hollywood, Calif.; daughter, Jeannine Peak Stacey (Robert) of Johnstown, Colo.; son, Jack Peak (Alvina) of Loma Linda, Calif.; and seven grandchildren.


The Record magazine receives submissions from members for obituaries, announcements, milestones and news articles. All submissions will be reviewed by the corresponding conference communication department before being considered for publication in the magazine.

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Email if you have any questions.

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