Canadian Teen Killed While Attending
Funeral at Adventist Church

during a funeral service at the Toronto West Adventist Church on Saturday, November 19, 18-year-old Amon Beckles was shot and killed on the steps of the church. Beckles was attending the funeral of his 17-year old friend Jamal Hemmings, the grandson of a church member and himself a victim of a gunshot slaying a few days earlier. Services were being conducted by the church’s associate pastor, Andrew King.

Neither Hemmings nor Beckles was a member of the Adventist Church. Because the grandmother of Hemmings is a member, however, the church facility was being used for Hemmings’ funeral.

At the sound of gunshots, panic erupted among the congregation, and King, who had yet to deliver the homily, attempted to halt the panic. He called for everyone to lie down quietly and not to move. He recognized that the gunshots had come from outside the church, but at least two bullets had also entered the building, leaving holes in the glass doors.

“The recent shooting and loss of life at the very door of one of our churches reveals in a marked way the desperation of individuals without a Savior,” said Ontario Conference president Derrick Nichols, who is also a former pastor of the Toronto West Church congregation. “This should move us in a more compelling way to accomplish our mission of reaching lost people in the name of Jesus.”

Gun violence is not new to the community surrounding the church. There has been a number of gun-related deaths in the neighborhood in the past few years, and the Toronto West Church has been making significant steps to becoming a valuable asset to the troubled community by providing numerous programs for youth. Church leaders and members see themselves as a community church.

Nichols attended worship services held the Sabbath following the shooting to support the family of the victim and the members of the Toronto West Church.

To the grieving family he said, “We want you to know that your grief is shared by our entire church family across Ontario, and we extend our deepest sympathy.”

Toronto mayor David Miller, along with other civic leaders, local police officers, and pastors of other denominations in the region, also attended the services to share in the church’s grief and to show their support for the church members.              --Halsey Peat, Ontario Conference Communication Department/AR.

: Adventist University Church
Uses Innovative Evangelism Methods
Levon Maksoudian, chaplain of the Adventist Middle East University Church in Beirut, is introducing initiatives to strengthen the spiritual experience of its members, who are living in a country still recuperating from a decades-long civil war. According to church leaders, citizens of the region are struggling to endure economic recession, political instability, and a potentially volatile spate of bombings, seemingly targeting the Christian quarters of the capital, Beirut.

The new initiatives include a café-style praise service; community service programs such as ministries to orphans, the elderly, or others in need; weekly discussion times with young adults; and movie evenings, during which films with religious themes are shown in the university’s auditorium.

“We have delegated responsibilities [of the new initiatives] to the youth, and they are completely involved in planning the programs,” says Maksoudian. “We want to have something happening almost every day, and thus invite and attract all according to their interests, providing an atmosphere where they can contribute talents with which the Lord has blessed them.”

--Middle East Union Communication Department/Middle East University Campus Chaplaincy/AR.

Embassy Awards Grant to AU Archaeological Project
Andrews University’s (AU) archaeological project at Hesban, Jordan, recently received a $45,750 grant from the United States Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. Andrews was one of two archaeological sites in Jordan to receive the award at a special signing ceremony on September 29 at Tal Hesban, the site of a town that is believed to date to the Bronze Age.

The U.S. Embassy of Jordan Charge d’Affairs David Hale (second from left) signs the $45,750 award at a ceremony during which Randall Younker (second from right), director of AU’s Institute of Archaeology, spoke on the university’s behalf.
The U.S. Embassy of Jordan Charge d’Affairs David Hale signed the award at the afternoon celebration. Randall Younker, director of AU’s Institute of Archaeology, attended the ceremony and presented a speech by AU anthropology professor and Hesban senior director Øystein LaBianca. Also attending the ceremony were Hesban mayor Khalil Dabbas and Hesban provincial governor Ahmad Khatatbeh.

The Ambassador’s Fund awards projects that protect sites and artifacts of historical or cultural importance in countries in need of assistance. Since it’s inception in 2001, the Fund has given money to projects in 106 nations.

Andrews University, located in Berrien Springs, Michigan, sends a team to Jordan nearly every summer to do archaeological research and has a research team studying the civilizations that have affected the Middle East and, specifically, the site of  Hesban.                                                                                                                   --Andrews University Relations/AR.

ADRA Partners With PSI to Assist Genocide Survivors in Rwanda

In honor of National Philanthropy Day on November 15, the General Conference Philanthropic Services for Institutions (PSI) is raising funds for the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International’s food security matching grant programs.

Featuring its food security programs worldwide, and with a special emphasis on its work in Rwanda, which includes many survivors of the 1994 genocide, ADRA launched a campaign for matching grant funds. By leveraging its global partnerships for food-based assistance programs, donations have been worth seven times their original value.

“We’re grateful for the work that PSI [has done] on ADRA’s behalf,” says Tereza Byrne, bureau chief for marketing and development of ADRA International. “Having recently visited our food security projects in Rwanda where we serve 70,000 people, I know how vital these programs are to families that struggle to make ends meet. Rwanda’s recent history is still very much in the forefront of a society that is striving to make peace and reconciliation an integral element of a developing future. ADRA’s food security programs are helping them to rebuild their lives.”

PSI also recently hosted a program at the church’s world headquarters, during which GC employees and PSI donated $7,000 for ADRA’s food security matching grant program, which is running until December 25. Because of the matching grants, the GC investment in the project is nearly $50,000.

To donate, call 1-800-424-2372 (ADRA), or go online at

--Adventist Development and Relief Agency/AR.

: 8,000 Bibles Distributed to Hurricane Evacuees

Three Pacific Press Publishing Association-owned Adventist book centers—in Texas, Northern California, and Pennsylvania—teamed up to distribute free Bibles to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Through a special offer from Thomas Nelson Bible Publishers, the Adventist book centers were able to acquire the Bibles for $1.00 each. In turn, the book centers asked their local constituents and customers to donate $1.00 per Bible to cover the costs. Through the generosity of their constituents, the stores raised enough money to purchase 8,000 Bibles, which were then shipped to a warehouse staffed by the West Houston Adventist Church in Houston, Texas, and distributed to Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

“In addition to water and food, one of the top things that people were asking for was a Bible,” says Jorge Velez, assistant manager of the Texas Adventist book center.

Pacific Press, located in Nampa, Idaho, also donated 10,000 copies of the sharing booklet Does God Care That I’m Hurting, to be distributed with the Bibles.                               --Pacific Press Publishing Association/AR.

Adventist Health System President/CEO
Announces Plans to Retire

Thomas L. Werner, who has served as president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Adventist Health System (AHS) since 1999, has announced his plans to retire, effective January 1, 2007. Werner has more than 37 years of service to Adventist institutional work. He served as president and CEO of Florida Hospital and the Florida Hospital Division from 1984-1999, as well as executive vice president of AHS.
The Board of Directors plans to elect a new president in February.
                                                                                                           --Adventist Health System Communication Department/AR.

News Notes:
Andrea Luxton, associate director of the General Conference Education Department, has recently been elected president of Canadian University College in Lacombe, Alberta. Previously, Luxton was academic dean of the college. She will begin her new responsibilities in July 2006, when current president Reo Ganson retires.                                                                                                                                   

Neal Billof, ministerial director of the Alaska Conference, has been elected Dakota Conference president. He replaces Van Hurst, who is now church ministries director of the Mid-America Union.

Neville Harcombe, president of the Chesapeake Conference, was elected executive secretary of the Columbia Union. Harcombe replaces Edward Motschiedler, who is retiring.

Seth Bardu, treasurer of the Northeastern Conference, was elected Columbia Union treasurer. Bardu replaces Dowell Chow, who is now vice president for finance of Adventist World Radio. “I look forward to working with each of these gentlemen,” said Harold Lee, union president. “They are mission-focused, godly, and dedicated to building up the kingdom of God.”

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