THE FLAME | Winter 2020

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ou and I live and move in a world of deep diversity. If we study the definition for diversity, we can find words like variety, mixture and assortment. Here in the great state of Texas, our diversity becomes more notable each day. In our churches, one glance around the room will readily reveal differences of gender, age, ethnic background, appearance and personality. These differences may make us uncomfortable, so let’s be clear: bigotry in any shape or fashion is ungodly and debilitates God’s work. Whatever doesn’t unite the people of God tears them apart! We all come from the same beginning: creation. The Bible says that when God had finished creating mankind with all its potential for variety, He declared it “very good!” Genesis 1:31. Ephesians 4:3 focuses on “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The word endeavoring implies effort. Com-


Winter 2020

mitment. Dedication. Adaptability. The church today is in the throes of rapid change according to Christian researcher George Barna. He points out that in the year 2000, 65 to 70 percent of Americans attributed their spiritual experience to the local church. But by 2025 that number will likely be drastically reduced to as little as 30 percent. He thus prognosticates that by then there will be an even greater diversity of church and religious experiences throughout America. Barna implies that this change is not a withdrawal from Christianity but a shift in how people assimilate it. If that is the case, perhaps the variety in our Seventh-day Adventist Church in Texas makes us better positioned than we thought to reach the society around us. Our diversity could be one of our greatest tools! How vital it is that we foster and develop our unique spiritual gifts! As we face these changes, we have a choice of whether




THE FUTURE IS NOW | Edyn-Mae Stevenson

I like the lyrics of a song by the Newsboys titled “God’s Not Dead.” It says:


PRAYER WORKS | Donna E. Starr

Let love explode and bring the dead to life




FINDING HIS PLACE | Darren D. Joseph




ON FIRE FOR CHRIST | Marlon Wallace


ORDAINED TO SERVE | Submitted by Families


FILLING THE VOID | Becky St. Clair




YOU MATTER | Kenn L. Dixon

to become spiritual morticians trying to maintain appearances or spiritual mentors using our God-given gifts to transform the society around us. It may be time for a spiritual revolution.

A love so bold To bring a revolution somehow Now I’m lost in Your freedom In this world I’ll overcome My God’s not dead He’s surely alive He’s living on the inside Roaring like a lion1 So here we stand, diverse yet dedicated! Ephesians 4:16 reminds us, “the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies [that’s us], according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Dedicated work has a way of maturing the participant. As we contribute, we stop tearing down and become accustomed to building up. May God’s Spirit be with us as we push forward toward the mark! _________________ Carlos J. Craig is the president of the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Alvarado, Texas. 1

Daniel Bashta, God’s Not Dead, 2001

Cover Info: Diversity. It simply means a variety of something. It could be age, ethnicity, gender, physical abilities, political opinions, race, religious beliefs, socio-economic status or viewpoints, just to name a few. Here in the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, we are embracing our diversity and including everyone as part of the family of God. Photo credit: iStockphoto: FlamingoImages, Jennifer Watson, ValuaVitaly, kitthanes, CoffeeAndMilk, FORGEM


THE FUTURE IS NOW By Edyn-Mae Stevenson


he saying can often be heard: “The youth are the future of our church.” In the Texas Conference of Seventhday Adventists, the rising trend of young adult leaders shows that youth are the present. Over the past few years, more and more young adults have stepped in to leadership roles, especially in their local Pathfinder clubs.

adults like Jose Leyva, former director of the Austin Oltorf Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church whose Pathfinder group is pictured above. “I knew I could handle it,” said the twenty-one-year-old. “I felt prepared and had plenty of ideas!”

Texas Conference Pathfinder Coordinator Marilyn Boismier said this increase in youth leadership is “deliberate in an indirect way,” mostly due to the conference’s promotion of the Teen Leadership Training (TLT) program. “We are hard at work,” Boismier wrote. “We hope to have every club in Texas participating in the program.”

“My leadership position was a huge influence on why I kept coming to church. I felt like I was needed.” Explaining his methods as director, Leyva said, “I heavily encouraged independence, letting them know how to overcome difficult circumstances and that God is present and all things can be done through Him.” After directing for almost three years, Leyva now assists with the Master Guide clubs.

The new Adventist Youth Ministries Training, or AYMT, certification is also at play in creating young leaders who are wellequipped and feel confident that they can do the job. This confidence shows in young


Winter 2020

Twenty-year-old Robyn Foley took over directorship of the J.C. Wranglers for the

Joshua Crossroads Fellowship Seventh-day Adventist Church this past year. “I was never a TLT, but I was very involved with the church,” Foley said. “It definitely gave me what I needed to be a leader.” San Antonio Scenic Hills Seventh-day Adventist Church “Jaguars” director, Sayd Villalvazo, gathers courage from more personal sources. “I have always been involved with club ministries for as long as I can remember,” he recalled. “My father, mother and sister have been directors in the past. When I was younger and saw them lead, I told God that someday I would like to become a Pathfinder club director just like them. My parents were very excited and proud when I was asked to lead. Fortunately, they offered their support and guidance.” Daisy Hernandez, director of The Colony Spanish Roca de Salvacion Church Pathfinder club, put the matter of her directorship to prayer. “We just moved to the area this past September, and my kids (ages 12 and 14) wanted to continue in Pathfinders.” Unfortunately, the church they joined had not had a Pathfinder club in recent years. She was asked whether she would like to lead one. Knowing the young people in the church and community needed this positive influence, she prayerfully accepted. The trend in young adult directors may also be having a positive effect on Pathfinder members. Foley explained, “Young leaders like me are a wonderful thing for Pathfinders. We know

more about what they are going through; we know how to help them and make them feel more comfortable, and, more importantly, we give them inspiration. We show them that they can make a difference.” Foley shared a story about a particular Pathfinder who “is very shy, but he likes to help out.” During the 2019 International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, “he opened up. He was telling me how he felt lost in the church, and I knew I was in the right place. We were going to get him on the right path again.” Irving Spanish Emanuel Seventh-day Adventist Church Pathfinder Club Director Diana Mejia has been directing Pathfinder clubs since she was sixteen. She finds purpose in teaching her Pathfinders to be grateful for God’s work in their lives. “One of the most important things in this life is to show my kids how to love Jesus,” she said. “Everything we learn, we need to pass to the next generation.” The Pathfinder members aren’t the only ones receiving benefits from the new leadership. Travis Irish from the Hurst Seventh-day Adventist Church found a home in his Pathfinder directorship after leaving the Army. “I grew up the son of a Pathfinder director who also lead the Medical Cadet Core and started Youth Emergency Services.” After a few years following Irish’s military service, he saw a place where he could help out.

sisters, Sanique, left, and Suzan South, co-directors at Denton First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pilot Point, Texas. “We were both involved in Pathfinders when we were young. We love working with the youth, and this is an avenue to be of service to the Lord.” Their involvement is aimed at fulfilling God’s mission while encouraging other young adults to be involved. Eduardo Castro, director of the Keene Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church Soul Savers, called his Pathfinder involvement “an answered prayer. Little did I know how big of a blessing it would turn out to be. The club directors at the time had such a positive impact on my life that I consider them family.” Robyn Foley summed it up nicely when she said, “I would be lost without my involvement in the church.” _________________ Edyn-Mae Stevenson is a senior music major at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, who fondly remembers her Pathfinder campouts.

“The rewarding experiences bring joy to our hearts,” shared




ashley starr

PRAYER WORKS By Donna E. Starr


his past fall, I found out my rent was going up by $200. My budget did not allow for an extra $200, so I began to pray.

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:28

I loved the area that I was in, so I started looking for a new place there. Unfortunately, the place I liked did not have any availability, so I did something I had never done before. After praying, I told my complex I would be moving even though I did not know where. I think some of my friends thought I was crazy when I told them about my leap of faith. I kept checking with the more reasonably priced complex for openings, but there never were any. I decided to stop by one last time—still nothing. I knew God had answered prayers before. I didn’t understand why He hadn’t opened a door for me at that complex. I cried all the way home. It was a very long night. I never stopped praying, but I felt defeated. I didn’t feel like God was hearing my prayers.

The next day, I noticed some apartment specials on Facebook. One of them was directly beside mine. After work, in the pouring rain, I visited the complex’s office. To my surprise, they had an open apartment and the rent was less than I was currently paying. When I signed the lease, the rent was even lower than quoted. None of this would have happened if I had not placed my situation in His hands. Prayer works. Sometimes God does answer instantly, but other times, when it seems like prayers are not going higher than the ceiling, God is trying to remind us that we need to lean on Him, that there is nothing we can do ourselves. We must have faith, even if it is as small as “a mustard seed,” Matthew 17:20. _________________ Donna E. Starr is a member of the Arlington Seventh-day Adventist Church in Arlington, Texas. She felt impressed to share her story in hopes it would inspire others.




nd Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen,” Matthew 28:18-20.


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command to make disciples, the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Hispanic Ministries and Spanish Evangelism department organized the Adventist Institute of Discipleship, with the acronym ID (in Spanish it means “Go”) in order to develop a rich learning environment that would help fulfill the Great Commission.

According to the Great Commission, discipleship includes both baptizing and teaching. Baptism is essentially the beginning of the journey of discipleship, not its end.

Formally known as the School of Laity, ID operates in seven areas of the Texas Conference: Austin, Dallas, East Texas, Houston, Keene/Fort Worth, San Antonio and the Valley. Each area is led by local pastors who are responsible for promotion and logistics.

Committed to following the

During 2019, Small Group

EAST TEXAS AREA Leadership was taught using the curriculum from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. To graduate, students had to complete a total of 40 hours of instruction through eight modules during the year and 60 hours of practice. Each student received a workbook that had to be signed by the instructor teaching the module. The workbook had space for students to report on the assigned readings, which were verified by the local pastor. We praise God for having excellent pastors who have taken the lead in their areas, verifying that each student meets the curriculum requirements. By the grace of God, during 2019, nearly 400 of our members participated, and more than 300 of them graduated.


To formalize the achievement, each area organized a graduation program. Graduates dressed in gowns, caps and tassels. They marched and received a certificate signed by both the representatives of the Texas Conference and a representative from Andrews University. Graduates shared the satisfaction felt in completing the course and participating in the graduation ceremony. They also appreciated receiving the tools to share our mission as the remnant “for such as time as this,� Esther 4:14. The 2020 course is Ecclesiastical Leadership. It has the same requirements: 40 hours of instruction and 60 hours of practice. The assigned reading is Principles for Christian Leaders by Ellen G. White. _________________ Ismael Castillo, associate director for Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Hispanic Ministries and Spanish Evangelism, pioneered this program. For more information, email




t the age of 26, Tendai Dete had to embark on one of the biggest changes of his life. After rising through the ranks as an accountant for seven years, the global accounting firm he worked for decided to transfer him from his home country of Zimbabwe to Houston, Texas.

p Tendai Dete, center, with young adults from the Houston West Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Three months into his internship in Houston, Tendai’s superiors noticed his strong work ethic and made the transfer permanent. In the summer of 2015, Tendai moved halfway around the world to a place where he had no family, no friends and no cultural attachment, which left him feeling lonely and overwhelmed. “I had to deal with an extreme amount of culture shock,” says Tendai. “When I came to Texas I didn’t know anyone and felt very out of place.” While growing up in Zimbabwe, Tendai regularly attended church with his mother. He loved the feeling of community he expe-

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rienced from being involved in church activities and participating in Pathfinders. Tendai longed to find that same sense of community again, which led to his discovery of the Houston West Seventh-day Adventist Church. He began attending the church regularly and was instantly attracted to the church’s vibrant young adult community. He was able to meet other young Adventist professionals and share some of the challenges that he faced as a Christian working in a secular environment. “There are times when work is highly demanding and very stressful,” says Tendai. “My faith is the anchor that holds me down.” As Tendai became more comfortable at his new church, he started getting more involved in young adult Bible studies, Friday night vespers and Sabbath school. Tendai naturally started to become a well-connected piece of the church. In the same year Tendai

q Tendai Dete, below, and with his mom, left, during his younger years.

“Many young adults are wanting to be involved in church leadership. However, they are still waiting to be given the keys to leadership. It is the responsibility of church

arrived in Houston, he became the main young adult Sabbath school teacher and began teaching weekly Sabbath school lessons and even preaching a few sermons during the main service. The church eventually asked Tendai to take over the young adult leader position in 2016 following his nomination by the previous young adult leader who had been mentoring him. Being the young adult leader meant Tendai had to attend church board meetings to discuss young adult events and activities with other board members. During one of these meetings in 2017, just after he had received his CPA, Tendai was approached by the church’s treasurer who noticed his skill in accounting. Tendai was invited to be a part of the church’s finance committee and within a year was made assistant treasurer. After one year of mentorship, Tendai was made the full-time treasurer of the Houston West church and is currently working in that position. “I owe a lot of my successes to those who came before me,” says Tendai. “Without the mentorship I received from my church leaders, I wouldn’t be the leader I am today.” Although Tendai is no longer in a young adult leadership position,

leaders to allow their young adults to be groomed into leadership positions. It is he is still very involved in many young adult programs at Houston West church, especially the church’s contemporary service which is primarily led by young adults. In Tendai’s native tongue his name means “be thankful to God.” He hopes to continue showing God his gratitude through his excellent work ethic, and he is open to go wherever the Lord leads him.

very important for them to develop new leaders who can take the church to the next level and on to a brighter future.” —Justin Yang, Texas Conference Young Adult Director

_________________ Darren D. Joseph is a senior communications major at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas.

u Texas Conference Young Adult Director Justin Yang, left, Ashwin Somasundram, Houston West Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor, and Tendai Dete.

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hector perez

NURTURING NATURE Information provided by Hector Perez


ake Whitney Ranch (LWR) in Clifton, Texas, has undergone many changes in the past four months.

especially by Deborah Gendke and Madilyn Gonzalez,” Carlos J. Craig, Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists president, stated.

It started with new entrance signs to make it easier to find the ranch. Next, the office was relocated to the front gate and renovated to better serve guests. Bathrooms were added to the multipurpose building along with other projects to make a better guest experience. Donations of animals and a chuck wagon by John and Maggie Belew from Woodville, Texas, kept the excitement going.

The latest project in the works is a nature center. A building was transformed to display naturerelated items. LWR just needs display cases.

The most exciting news was confirmation that LWR had received the American Camp Association® (ACA) accreditation. The ACA accreditation puts LWR in an elite group of diverse camps accredited nationally by ACA. “This is a significant achievement for our organization, and we are extremely proud of the hard work it took for this recognition,

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If you or someone you know has something you think would be a wonderful addition to LWR, please call 254.622.2194 or email For more information, visit or follow Lake Whitney Ranch on Facebook. _________________ Hector Perez and his wife, Anabel, Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists camp director and manager respectfully, want to personally invite you to visit Lake Whitney Ranch to see the improvements.



ALEXIS RIVERA Children’s Ministries Director | 817.790.2255 x2214


VALLEY AREA VBS TRAINING Mission Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm Register at


ENGAGING YOUNG HEARTS SWUC RETREAT Camp Hoblitzelle 8:00 am - 12:00 pm Register at


HOUSTON AREA VBS TRAINING Robertson Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church 12:00 pm - 3:00 pm Register at

| THE FLAME | 13

ON FIRE FOR CHRIST By Marlon Wallace

p Brownsville Seventh-day Adventist Church outreach team. q Adalberto Mendez, left, chose to be baptized by Marlon Wallace, Brownsville Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor, after hearing about the church from Ivan Guajardo.


was at the door greeting people following the worship service at the Brownsville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brownsville, Texas, a few months ago when this young man asked, “Are you the pastor?” After confirming I was, the young man asked permission to attend the worship service. “Of course!” I replied. What he didn’t know was that the church had been praying for more young people to start attending. Seeing that he was alone, I asked whether someone had invited him. “No, sir,” he replied. “I was just reading my Bible,

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found out about the Sabbath and wanted to start keeping it.” Continuing the conversation, I learned that Ivan Guajardo had been reading his Bible for a couple of years on his own, trying to find meaning for his life. He grew up in a loving, traditional Catholic home but had many questions about religion and especially about the Sabbath. We started studying the Bible together. Guajardo was thrilled with everything that he was learning and soon decided to be baptized. Unfortunately, before his baptism he faced some challenges. His mother, who is a wonderful person, was afraid that her son would lose his salvation if he left the Catholic faith. She tried many times to convince Guajardo to quit his efforts of going to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. She even set up a meeting between Guajardo and the local priest. They exhausted their arguments

but still could not change Guajardo’s mind to be baptized. As a last resort, they asked Guajardo to bring me to talk with the priest in an attempt to prove that the Catholic theology was the truth. I agreed to the visit, taking my church elder, Skariah Perakathu, with me to meet with the priest. After a few hours of friendly and respectful debate, Guajardo turned to me and said, “Pastor, I’m more confident now that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has the truth.” Without the presence of his parents, Guajardo was “adopted” by the church family and baptized with a beautiful celebration. Since Guajardo’s baptism, he has been on fire for Jesus and invited everyone he knows to learn about the truth that changed the course of his life. One of the managers at his job, Adalberto Mendez, took notice of the change. He was in his early twenties with a very successful career but felt something was missing. After a few Bible studies, Mendez was so in love with Jesus and the truth that he decided to be baptized.

Another friend of theirs is now studying the Bible and is very intrigued with what he is learning. God is working amazing things among His people! He is actively calling people of all ages and different walks of life to hear His call: “Come out of her, My people,” Revelation 18:4. _________________ Marlon Wallace pastors the Brownsville and San Benito Seventh-day Adventist Churches in southern Texas. He is grateful for God’s answered prayer for young people to join the church.

t Jonas Vergara is now studying to be baptized after learning about the church from his best friend, Adalberto Mendez. q Ivan Guajardo, left, was baptized by Marlon Wallace, Brownsville Seventhday Adventist Church pastor. Guajardo found the church after learning about the Sabbath through personal Bible studies.

Mendez is now active in bringing others to study the Bible. Among them is his best friend, Jonas Vergara. Now Vergara, who is also on fire, calls me every day to ask to study the Bible. He is scheduled to be baptized at the end of February 2020. All three young men are very involved with many activities in our church and have begun a basketball ministry called “MENistry.” Mendez and Vergara are determined to become pastors of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

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ORDAINED TO SERVE Submitted by Families


hirteen pastors and one chaplain were ordained during 2019 in the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Ordinations are typically held twice a year. In 2019, the ordination ceremonies were held September 28, 2019, at the Edinburg Seventh-day Adventist Church in Edinburg, Texas, and October 12, 2019, at the Dallas First Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dallas, Texas.

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I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1, 2, 5



Ordination Date | September 28, 2019

Ordination Date | September 28, 2019

Entity | San Antonio Spanish North

Entity | McAllen All Nations


San Antonio Spanish Northeast

Family | Spouse: Heidy

Family | Spouse: Rhonitta

Son: Haziel

Son: Joel




Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Ordination Date | September 28, 2019

Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Entity | College Station

Entity | Houston West

Entity | Temple

Family | Spouse: Gabriela

Family | Spouse: Sandra

Prairie View Group

Family | Spouse: Cali

Daughter: Marissa

Round Rock Lightbearers

Daughters: Angela, Natalia,

Sofia, Eva




Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Ordination Date | September 28, 2019

Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Entity | Fort Worth Korean

Entity | Hidalgo Spanish

Entity | Corrigan, Lufkin, Nacogdoches

Family | Spouse: Ye Lim Seo (Rachel)

Family | Spouse: Amy

Family | Spouse: Vivian

Children: Caleb, Joshua,

Abigail, Elizabeth

Son: Noah

Mission Spanish Sons: Elian, Ennio, Orion

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Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Ordination Date | September 28, 2019

Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Entity | Denton Spanish

Entity | McAllen Valley Central Spanish

Entity* | Atascosa

Family | Spouse: Marileny

Family | Spouse: Aleta

Irving Spanish Emanuel

Family | Spouse: Nelly

Son: Eli

Children: Noe, Julian, Jaime, Jr.

San Antonio Philadelphia

Children: David II, Kilah,

Alani, Mical *Runnels is currently a field secretary for the Texas Conference.




Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Ordination Date | October 12, 2019

Entity | AdventHealth Central Texas

Entity | Groves Spanish

Entity | Dallas First


Family | Spouse: Alyssa

Family | Spouse: Cedilia


Family | Spouse: Margie

Children: Matt, Gabriel

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Groves Community

Children: Melanie, Mark II

Son: Mateo

Partners with God “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples.” – 1 Chronicles 16:24

God has called us to be His partners, His disciples, His missionaries in the

sharing and spreading of the Gospel. Texas Conference Evangelism is passionate about training and equipping our pastors and members for soul-winning. Here are just a few ways you can help support this vital area of ministry. You can help take the Seventh-day Adventist message to all Texas and beyond! •

$7.50 provides baptismal preparation materials for 1 person

$10 provides a new Seventh-day Adventist with mentoring materials

$150 provides one Texas pastor with baptismal preparation materials for 20 people

$1,000 pays for a small evangelistic campaign

$5,000 pays for a medium-scale evangelistic campaign

$30,000 pays for a large-scale evangelistic campaign or provides each Texas pastor with baptismal preparation materials for 200 people

If you would like more information on how to support this ministry not only now, but through planned (future) gifts, contact a Texas Conference Planned Giving & Trust Services representative by phone at 817.790.2255 ext. 2105, by email at or by visiting Texas Conference Planned Giving & Trust Services | | 817.790.2255 ext. 2105

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avid Montoya, Texas Conference of Seventhday Adventists executive secretary, never imagined he’d be a church administrator. In fact, he never imagined he’d be a church ... well, anything!

Montoya was born to hardworking migrant agricultural workers who split their time between eastern Washington state, where they worked the fields, and Eagle Pass, Texas, where Montoya’s father was a furniture salesman. Though they attended a church of a different denomination, the family was not at all religious. The one Bible the family eventually owned was nothing more than decor atop the coffee table. “I filled my days with movies, rock music, comic books and friends,” Montoya recalls. “I was enjoying my life, but something didn’t feel right. There was a void—an emptiness—inside me that I couldn’t explain.” Trying to ignore, stifle or crowd out the feeling, Montoya began

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attending a martial arts class. One day, the instructor brought his sister, Mary Ann Garza, to class. They began chatting after class, and Montoya quickly realized that Garza was smart, thoughtful and respectful, too. Soon, Montoya and Garza were a couple. About a year after they started dating, Montoya attended a junior college about an hour away. He was gone for most of the week but came home on weekends to see his family and Garza. “We had a routine,” he says. “I’d come home on Fridays, pick her up and we’d go out to dinner.” One Friday, two years later, however, instead of being ready for a night out, Garza invited Montoya in for singing and praying. He knew she and her parents had been attending a Revelation seminar at a local Seventh-day Adventist church. Montoya had previously heard some of the things they were learning, but he wasn’t interested.

“I thought religion was just for older people with nothing else to do,” Montoya says with a chuckle. “I found out later how untrue that statement is.” When Garza and her family were baptized and began keeping Saturday as the Sabbath, the change in lifestyle was difficult for the relationship, so they broke up. “I was heartbroken,” he says. “We’d talked about marriage, and I couldn’t imagine life without her.”

“I had been trying to fill that void in my life with all sorts of things,” he recalls, “and I’d finally found what actually removed it: Christ. I was wholeheartedly convicted. In the Bible, I found truth, purpose and meaning from the promises of peace and hope. But, more importantly, I found a God who loved me unconditionally. The void was finally filled, not by things, but an experience with the Lord.” His newfound faith and changed lifestyle brought him close to Garza again, and eventually, about a year later, they were married. Feeling impressed by God, and encouraged by his pastor and mother-in-law, along with the support of his wife, Montoya enrolled at Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) in Keene, Texas, and graduated with a degree in religion and theology. “I truly believe it’s what God wanted for my life,” Montoya proclaims. “My relationship with

Montoya spent a year as a pastor before continuing his education and receiving his Master of Divinity at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He and his family then moved back to Texas, where they spent the next several years in various parts of the state, pastoring several churches at a time. They even ended up back in the Eagle Pass area as pastor of a four-church district. His parents faithfully attended church the week he preached in their area, even though they were not members. Montoya found that the part he loved most about being a pastor was spending time with people in Bible studies, outreach and home visits. When the call came asking him to accept the nomination of executive secretary, Montoya hesitated. He wasn’t sure he wanted to give up his boots-onthe-ground situation. “I spent a lot of time talking to God about it,” he says. “I would not have accepted if I wasn’t absolutely sure it was God’s calling. I never aspired to this administrative ministry, but God works in loving, mysterious ways. It’s a privilege to serve God and my church in this capacity.” Montoya especially enjoys joining

jvl expressions

Feeling lost, he decided to talk to David Contreras, who was the pastor of the Eagle Pass Spanish Seventh-day Adventist church at that time. (Contreras is currently pastoring the Fort Worth Spanish East Handley and Forth Worth Spanish South churches.) Contreras suggested Bible studies, and Montoya agreed. Within a week, he completed all 26 lessons, and, shortly thereafter, was baptized.

Him through constant prayer and Scripture reading has been such an important part of getting through the challenges of life.”

the office staff each morning on their knees seeking God’s guidance. And he still gets to do what he loves: preaching at different churches throughout the conference and meeting, fellowshipping and worshipping with people. “I feel so fulfilled and rewarded,” says Montoya, “and have peace in my heart that I’m where God wants me to be. I so appreciate the wonderful wife He provided to journey with me.” _________________ Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer living in the California Bay Area.

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uring 2020, Texas Conference of Seventhday Adventists President Carlos J. Craig, has suspended all conference-wide training events to enable office personnel to visit each of the 300 plus churches around the conference territory. “We pray the visits will be a blessing to your church congregations,” Craig stated. Fourteen conference office leaders plan to join the president in visiting churches. They include: Executive Secretary David Montoya, Treasurer Randy Terry, Vice President for Communication & Public Relations Kenn Dixon, Vice President for Ministerial & Pastoral Development Nathan Krause, Vice President for Education Kisha Norris, Vice President for Hispanic Ministries & Spanish Evangelism Osvaldo Rigacci, Associate Director for Hispanic Ministries & Spanish Evangelism Ismael Castillo, Adventist Community Services Director Marshall Gonzales, Family Ministries Director Ruber Leal, Children’s Ministries Director Alexis Rivera, Field Secretary David Runnels, English Evangelism Director Dan Serns, Youth Director Paulo Tenorio and Young Adult Director Justin Yang. Each one will work with their assigned churches to coordinate services such as Friday night vespers, Sabbath morning services or Sabbath afternoon workshops.

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“We appreciate the churches working with office personnel to schedule these visits for 2020,” Craig added. “Conference-wide training will resume in 2021.” Until then, if you have specific questions regarding your church responsibilities, please contact the appropriate department. Find more information on the Texas Conference website at ________________ Tamara Michalenko Terry is associate director for Communication & Public Relations for the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. To share your church stories, email



ake Whitney Ranch Summer Camp is your home in the heart of Texas. Register your children now, so they can discover who they are in Christ and what God has in store for their future! Cub Week | June 7-14 Junior Week | June 14-21 Tween Week | June 21-28 Teen 1 Week | June 28-July 5 Teen 2 Week | July 5-July 12 Register at

________________ Deborah Gendke is the Summer Camp co-coordinator for the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and administrative assistant for the Young Adult department.


YOU MATTER By Kenn L. Dixon

It is time for some gumbo!” If you understand this statement, then you know it is a spicy dish comprised of assorted meats (in my case, vegetarian), veggies and creole seasoning served over rice. I grew up in New Orleans, so gumbo with cornbread was one of my favorite dishes to enjoy on a cold evening. Served with an ice-cold Barq’s root beer and enough Louisiana Tabasco sauce to make my head sweat, gumbo always reminds me that a great dish needs different ingredients to become a mouthwatering masterpiece. Since 1802, Louisiana’s gumbo has been made with multiple unique ingredients to produce a taste that I can only call “delicious.” I can’t imagine eating gumbo without onions, bell peppers, celery and, of course, roux or filé; this is the flavor of the dish. Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is a place that reflects/ adds to the many richly diverse cultures in the Lone Star State. When we work together to share

the gospel to diverse communities, there is a need for unity in mission and love for one another. You matter to the success of the Texas Conference in accomplishing its mission in the southwestern part of the United States. Everyone is needed, and everyone is valued. Just as gumbo needs multiple ingredients to create something tasty, we need each other to make our churches palatable to those seeking Christ. In John 13:35, the apostle John, exiled on a barren island, said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The world is looking for something to enjoy that is truly satisfying; we are on our way to being tasty gumbo. ________________


THE FLAME is a quarterly publication produced by the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Please direct questions or comments to or by mail to PO Box 800, Alvarado, TX 76009. ADMINISTRATION President: Carlos J. Craig Executive Secretary: David Montoya Treasurer: Randall B. Terry THE FLAME STAFF Editor: Kenn L. Dixon Managing Editor: Tamara Michalenko Terry Proofreader: Janelle Sundin Cover Design: Sora E. Yañez Layout & Design: Tamara Michalenko Terry

Kenn L. Dixon is the vice president for Communication & Public Relations at the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Alvarado, Texas. *If you are looking for a great recipe for vegetarian gumbo, watch and enjoy.

Photo Editing: Madelein Terreros & Sora E. Yañez Printing & Mailing: Pacific Press Publishing Association | Nampa, Idaho Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Winter 2020