Laymen’s Convention Raises $1 Million
for Missions in Single Offering
BY MARK A. KELLNER, Adventist Review News Editor, reporting from Louisville, Kentucky
s 3,000 Seventh-day Adventists gathered at the Kentucky International Convention Center on Aug. 4, their Sabbath morning offering and pledges hit seven figures. The as the Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries convention audience ramped up its fervor for evangelism and service: in just one offering, U.S. $1,000,067.24 was raised, a spokeswoman said.
The ASI group, formed under the auspices of Madison College in 1947 and now affiliated with the church’s North American region, will fund 40 different evangelistic outreaches worldwide with the proceeds of that offering, officials said: “Since 1993, we have, taken, in this offering, multiple millions of dollars for God’s cause,” noted Hart Research Institute president Dan Houghton, who asked for the morning donations.
APPRECIATION: Donna McNeilus, new president of ASI, presents gift of appreciation to outgoing president, Debbie Young, at the 2007 ASI convention in Louisville, Kentucky. [Photo: G. Chudleigh/ASI]
In Louisville, an eight-month outreach culminated July 31 with the baptism of 77 news church members, with another 12 due to be baptized on Aug. 11. Churches in Louisville, as well as Kentucky and Indiana suburbs, participated in the program, which involved having dozens of young students – dubbed “Youth for Jesus” – in canvassing areas, holding Bible studies and presenting evangelistic messages.
Church members caught the excitement as well. Sixteen-year-old Olivia Weber said that at her church, which had experienced difficulties earlier, members were so busy with evangelism “they forgot to fight.” The church she attends is now unified, and growing, Weber said.
Andy Haub, a 23-year-old elementary education student at Indiana University Southwest, was baptized July 31 at the New Albany, Indiana, Seventh-day Adventist Church. The support of Adventists who prayed for his healing from a paralyzing 2004 car accident played a role in his conversion.
“I had legs that were literally dead to the world,” Haub, who’d suffered a broken back in the accident, explained. “The church prayed that I would walk.”
ASI youth vice president Leasa Hodges, from Dodge Center, Minnesota, told the convention audience that the youth who worked in Louisville and the suburbs are encouraged “to take home” their passion for witnessing.
Just before the convention, a culmination of another ASI-supported effort was highlighted during the four-day convention. noted. World church vice presidents Michael L. Ryan and Ella Smith Simmons told about a recent series of meetings in Jakarta, Indonesia, a “megalopolis” of 22 million people, where months of intensive training led to 687 small group Bible studies now in place. On July 28, some 1,638 people were baptized; Ryan said he expects the majority of the other 9,000 who are attending the Bible studies now to be baptized later this year.
Simmons, who is a native of Louisville and joined the church through a public evangelism series, participated in the final outreach in Jakarta and told her hometown audience on Aug. 4 that “the small group experience is key to it all.” ASI had provided the funding for the DVD players and recorded materials used in the Bible studies, Ryan added.
Outgoing ASI president Debbie Young, from Ypsilanti, Michigan, summed up the impact of the organization that for six decades has been devoted to “sharing Christ in the marketplace” during her Aug. 1 keynote address.
PRAYER HELPED HIM STAND: Andy Haub tells how he was brought back to God through the ministry of the ASI Youth for Jesus team at the 2007 ASI convention. [Photo: G. Chudleigh/ASI]
“The global impact and influence of ASI is unprecedented when one considers its humble beginnings with what the world might define as a band of misfits – old, young, rich, poor, black, white, supporting ministries, businesses and professionals – all co-laborers with the church,” Young said. She added that she knew of “no other organization with [a] similar composition [that] has affected the kind of world-wide movement to realize one goal – hasten the second coming of Jesus.”
Judy Thomsen, ASI communication director, noted that the annual event offered fellowship and exposure to various strategies for evangelism, as varied as programs targeted at kids and literature distribution at NASCAR auto racing events.
“It’s all about people,” Thomsen said. “They get the inspiration to do the same [kind of outreach] or start something new.”
The group will hold evangelistic outreaches in Tampa, Florida, before its 2008 convention there. For the next year, Donna McNeilus, also from Dodge Center, Minnestoa, will lead the organization as president. Chester Clark III of Amity, Arkansas, is general vice president, while Stan Smith, Barbara Taylor, and Danny Houghton will join Hodges as vice presidents of the organization.