Finley Returns to Chicago
For Last Major Campaign

Before retiring from the GC, evangelist leads area-wide effort

BY MARK A. KELLNER, news editor

vangelist Mark Finley, slated to retire as a general vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in late June, returned to Chicago, where he worked for six years as a public evangelist, to hold an area-wide outreach. Nearly 200 people have been baptized, with an additional 300 people taking Bible studies in preparation for baptism.

CHICAGOLAND CAMPAIGN: Mark Finley opens meetings in Hinsdale, Illinois, April 23, marking his last campaign as a general vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Thirty years ago, Finley started the Lake Union Soul-Winning Institute, headquartered in Hinsdale, and spent six years establishing the venture. It later moved to Berrien Springs, Michigan, where it became the North America Division Soul-Winning Institute. He later went on to major evangelistic work in Europe and across the globe, before succeeding the late George Vandeman as speaker/director of It Is Written, the pioneering Adventist television ministry. He was elected a general vice president of the world church in 2005.

Finley saw the Chicago series as a capstone: “Now, coming back at this phase in my ministry, 25 years later, has just been an amazing experience. It’s just been amazing,” he told Adventist Review in an interview. “The Holy Spirit moved in so many, many ways.”

The event was centered at the Hinsdale, Illinois, Seventh-day Adventist Church, but it wasn’t limited to that campus. Meetings were held at numerous area churches, with not only the Illinois Conference but also the Lake Region Conference participating. Along with Finley, other evangelists included Armando Miranda, another world church general vice president; Ron Clouzet, North American Division ministerial secretary; as well as pastors Charles Buursma, Mike Sady, Ron Schultz, Emanuel Baek, Chad Kreuzer, and Lawrence Dorsey.

Opening night attendance was reported at 4,600, while the total number of non-member guests for the series was counted at 2,700. There were more than 30 locations where “live” evangelists conducted meetings, including five or six in the Lake Region Conference.

“I have never seen our Chicagoland members as charged up for evangelism as they are right now in the ‘Hope Can Be Yours’ campaign,” said Kenneth Denslow, Illinois Conference president. “This project has been an exciting opportunity for the Illinois Conference and the Lake Region Conference to work together in a very meaningful way.”

FINAL APPEAL: One month later, on May 21, Finley makes a final appeal to the congregation.
After the initial meetings ended, seven locations held follow-up meetings with students from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary giving presentations. One such location is in Elmhurst, Illinois, where Daniel Yim is the speaker. He is using material produced by Derek Morris called “The Radical Teachings of Jesus.” Yim changed the title to “The Amazing Teachings of Jesus,” in order to match Finley’s series title, “Amazing Discoveries.”

There were many poignant and personal stories found in the evangelistic results of the effort, including a story that reached back into Finley’s campaigns in Russia held shortly after the fall of Communism there.

Mark Finley had stayed with Dorin Chudin’s parents—the young man’s father was a businessman—in Moscow while preaching there many years earlier. At that time, Dorin attended school in the United States.

Though Dorin had been raised in an Adventist home, he did not personally choose to join the church. He did not give much thought to his faith and attended worship services only occasionally.

When he was 28 years old, Dorin began dating a Roman Catholic woman named Andrea Villalpando. As they were dating, they discussed their religious backgrounds. In the process, they each became interested in exploring truth. Dorin remembered hearing about Mark Finley staying with his parents in Moscow. He looked on the Internet and found some archived meetings from Finley’s “Discoveries 2008” series. The pair viewed three or four episodes of these meetings. Then, to his amazement, he heard that Mark Finley was in the Chicago area. In fact, the meetings would begin in about five days. Dorin and Andrea eagerly attended the meetings.

SOME CAME FORWARD: Three of these people were baptized as a result of Finley’s campaign; the others were joyful witnesses. From left, Maria and Simon Chudin, who flew from Moscow the day before to see son Dorin baptized. At the center is Hinsdale church Pastor Ron Schultz; to his right, Andrea Villalpando, Dorin’s girlfriend, and Luzimar Loganbill, the mother-in-law of Dorin’s sister.
Dorin prayed and continued attending. He used to read the Bible occasionally. Now he reads it often. In the past his parents had wanted him to be baptized, but he did not want to be baptized at someone else’s prompting. He decided to be baptized at the end of the series of meetings. He phoned his parents in Moscow on a Tuesday. They immediately bought tickets and flew to Chicago just three days later, and were present for the baptism.

Another new Adventist is a former evangelical Pente-costal pastor, Wilfredo Obando. Invited to the Finley meetings by a friend, Obando, who had studied for the Catholic priesthood in his native Philippines, became convicted about the truth of the Sabbath and joined the Adventist Church, even though it meant the end of his full-time pastorate.

The stories from Chicago continue. As conference president Denslow said, “I had the privilege of being a seminary student working with Mark Finley in his early years in Chicago. What more fitting way for him and [his wife] Teenie to approach retirement than through a major series in the city where they founded the North American Division Evangelism Institute.”

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