Community services

Adventist Community Services Celebrates 50 Years of Service in North America

More than 200 people, including one from Indonesia, participated in North American Division Adventist Community Services [NAD ACS] convention held at the Hilton Garden Inn DFW North-Grapevine in Grapevine, Texas, USA, April 5-9, 2022.

“It was the first time that a hybrid [in person and virtual] option was offered,” said W. Derrick Lea, executive director of NAD ACS. “It was hard to know what to do, but it was such a highlight to see how much people loved being together after two years.”

“The topics and the stream of speakers were impressive,” added Lea. “FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] the representatives even asked to see the presentations. Lea shared that the media team is working to release the presentations soon so others can see them.

“The speakers were fantastic,” agreed Bo Gendke, Texas Conference ACS director and first-time attendee. “I especially liked the discussions involving young people, because that’s what we focus on in Texas.” Gendke and his wife, Deborah, who became directors in the fall of 2021, were previously involved in club ministries and summer camp, so they have a strong connection and passion for seeing young people serve in their communities.

One of the reasons the Dallas location was chosen was to allow ACS executives to visit the Texas ACS depot in Keene. The warehouse-like setting allows volunteers to sort clothes and create hygiene kits and cleaning buckets on the spot. School classes and clubs come regularly to volunteer at the depot.

Wendy Urbin of the Upper Columbia Conference (UCC) in Spokane, Wash., who assists UCC ACS Director Patty Marsh, was also a first-time attendee. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Urbin ran the UCC Urban Ministries food bank in downtown Spokane. “It was nice to meet people in person at the convention that I had only seen on Zoom before,” Urbin said. “I was really impressed with the filing and am looking to adopt some of the promotional items for UCC.”

Marsh has been with ACS for nearly two decades. She participated in a panel discussion at the convention to talk about The CSA and its future. “COVID shut down many churches for several months,” Marsh recalled. “However, most of our Adventist community services in a week – or even a few hours – using creativity, daring and involving young volunteers, have remained open, touching the lives of individuals and communities. But it no doubt it was tough. Marsh called the convention “the proverbial cup of cold water in the middle of a long desert crossing, bringing refreshment to our souls!”

Impressed by all the speakers, Marsh noted an important question from the first-day devotional talk by Jaime Kowlessar, senior pastor of the Dallas City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dallas, Texas. “Is a chick-fil-A [restaurant] serve your neighborhood better than your church? he asked in reference to a well-known fast food chain.

Other Dallas highlights included a speech from NAD President G. Alexander Bryant. “We need to replicate the ministry of Jesus,” Bryant stressed. “So if our churches close, they will realize that we are an ‘essential service’ to our communities!”

NAD Vice President for Evangelism Calvin Watkins added, “You are the heartbeat of the church in North America! You are the heroes of this Adventist Church! Marsh, along with other attendees, felt the appreciation, saying she leaves the event with many more quotes, ideas and inspirations in her nearly 35-page convention notes.

A life of service

Dollie Williams of the Lake Region Conference based in Mokena, Illinois, was recognized at the convention for her 66 years of community service. “I was honored to introduce Dollie when [Derrick] Lea presented him with the NAD ACS Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Debra Davis-Moody, ACS Director of the Lake Area Conference and Trainer/Director of Disaster Response (DR). “His endless energy has enabled him to serve in a variety of ministry areas.”

In 2019, Williams received the Prison Ministry Excellence Award from the Illinois Adventist Prison Ministry Organization for her areas of ministry in community service, prison, and church ministries.

Masters in Leadership

Former NAD ACS Executive Director Sung Kwon, honored at the convention for his 20+ years of service, reflected on how the Lord led his journey. He and his wife, Mr. Young, were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1991. They felt convinced that God was calling them to ministry. Soon after, Kwon studied theology at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. Just before Kwon graduated in 1993, Monte Sahlin, who was working at NAD at the time, contacted him to start a new ACS agency in Dayton, Ohio, known as Good Neighbor House. He still remembers the first question he asked Sahlin: “What is ACS, sir?”

This began Kwon’s journey of serving more than eight years in Ohio, which also included the start of the Dayton Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church, before he transferred to NAD ACS.

“It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve God and his people,” Kwon said. “The most rewarding experience wasn’t the title or the position — it was the ACS family. They have mentored me and embraced me as a friend over the years. It is the most precious treasure that I will carry with me until the return of the Lord.

“I can’t even quantify to you what we owe our former executive director,” Lea said. Kwon called Lea to work for NAD ACS six years ago. “He [Kwon] helped bring NAD ACS to where we are today. I have never met a person who could show up every day with as much passion for that number of years as he did. I know he will take that passion with him to Andrews University.

Kwon will lead a new concentration in Social Innovation for the Master of Arts (MA) in Leadership degree at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

Adventist Humanitarian Service

“Even though we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Adventist community service with this convention, we know from its history that humanitarian service in the Adventist Church did not begin 50 years ago,” said Wynelle Stevens, associate director. from NAD ACS. “ACS is an extension of Adventist humanitarian service, beginning with our founders.”

The NAD ACS convention is usually held every three years. The current NAD ACS convention committee includes Dora Baker, Luis Biazotto, Lillie Buckingham, Ignacio Goya, Cathy Kissner, Gabriele Laub, James Lim, Chellie Ringstaff, Charlene Sargent, Theodore Sargeant and Carolyn Webb.

“We would like to thank our host union, the Southwestern Union Conference in Burleson, Texas, and the conferences, the Southwest Region Conference in Dallas and the Texas Conference in Alvarado,” added Lea. “They did a phenomenal job of making us feel at home.”

the original version of this story was published on the North American Division news sites.