ASI Event Draws Record Crowds, Missionary Offering
3,100 join in worship on Sabbath morning
BY EDWIN MANUEL GARCIA, Adventist News Network, reporting from Sacramento, California
The 2011 international gathering of Adventist-Laymen’s Services & Industries drew an especially large attendance of generous participants who reached deep into their pockets to surpass the organization’s fundraising goal.

More than 3,100 people packed into the Sacramento Convention Center on Sabbath morning, August 6, the final day of the 2011 ASI International Convention. They worshipped with sacred orchestral music, listened to member and ministry testimonies, and chorused “amens” during a sermon by General Conference president Pastor Ted N.C. Wilson, who highlighted the convention’s theme, “Inspired to Finish Strong!”

The audience was clearly inspired to give: Approximately $2.1 million was collected in the special offering to fund 47 mission projects – surpassing the goal of $1.5 million.

“The crowd and the offering exceeded our expectations,” said ASI General Vice President Donna McNeilus, beaming at the conclusion of the four-day event. “I think people realize the times we’re living in, and even though the economic situation is extremely volatile, people really are serious about wanting to give their all for Jesus, and it showed here.”

ASI, which traces its roots back to 1947, is an organization of lay ministries, professionals, business leaders and other laypeople committed to actively participating in the worldwide mission of the Adventist Church.

NETWORKING: From left: David Lopez, from Maranatha, Sacaramento, Calif.; Elden Lopez, from Guatamala, and Rueben Diaz, president of ASI in Portugal, compare ministry ideas at the 2011 ASI convention in Sacramento, Calif., August 3-6. [Photo: Gerry Chudleigh]
The convention in Sacramento featured general sessions led by numerous speakers, including Ivor Myers, David Kulakov, Doug Batchelor, Lyndi Schwartz and Matt Parra.

Upward of 2,000 people registered for the full convention, and many attended some of the 20 seminars in five tracks: evangelism, spiritual growth, health, nonprofit and business, and “Finishing Strong.”

At a Friday health seminar, Diana Fleming, co-author of The Full Plate Diet, explained the top reason why people fail to lose weight. “They don’t know how,” said Fleming, whose book promotes weight loss by eating more natural fiber-rich foods.
Children and youth participated in daylong, age-appropriate programming that included community service and evangelism in the local region.

At the exhibit hall, some 340 organizations from around the world – a wide variety of independent and church-sponsored ministries ranging from 1000 Missionary Movement North America to Your Story Hour – showed their wares, promoted their programs and offered their services.

The exhibit hall at ASI conventions is well known for connecting laypeople with ministries, which provides opportunities for unique and otherwise unlikely collaborations.

That’s what Paul Karmy of suburban Dallas, Texas, experienced.

Karmy, president of Liquid-Stone Concrete, attended his first ASI convention in 2004, when he visited the Adventist World Aviation booth. A pilot himself, he joined the group and helped raise money for a mission plane, and eventually served on the organization’s board of directors.

At another ASI convention, while staffing the Adventist World Aviation booth, Karmy became interested in learning more about a television ministry being promoted from a nearby exhibit. That interest led to his next venture: Karmy and his church in Crowley, Texas, now run two Good News TV stations for the Dallas-Forth Worth area, one in English, one in Spanish.

“Paul Karmy’s story is a great example of the ministry-minded networking that goes on at every ASI gathering,” said Conna Bond, communication director for ASI.

HANDWRITTEN BIBLE: Session speaker David Kulakov, a businessman and consultant living in Moscow, displays the Bible he wrote by hand in order to become more intimately familiar with the Scriptures. It took Kulakov 800 hours within a time period of two and a half years to copy the Bible by hand. “I don’t need a Bible on my shelf; I need a Bible in my mind,” he says.  [Sandra Blackmer/Adventist Review]
“Some people come with money, some people come with ideas or expertise. Everyone comes with vision. ASI conventions are great places for people to pool their resources together and really make big things happen,” Bond added. “God’s hand is in all of it.”

A major highlight of the convention was the Sabbath offering designated for 47 projects from around the world that were vetted by ASI and promoted in the convention magazine and from the stage.

Some projects enjoy long-established links to the church, such as the Ellen G. White Estate, which sought $200,000 to produce downloadable versions of White’s books in languages other than English.

About half the projects are in the United States, and one is in South America, a medical mission called Amazon Lifesavers Ministry, which needs a faster boat to reach remote fishing villages in Brazil.

Tennessee nurse practitioner Brad Mills and his wife, Lina, a registered nurse, and Brazilian locals started the ministry. Mills had dreamed of becoming a missionary and doctor since age 3. He was further inspired by three mission trips with Maranatha Volunteers International while attending Madison Academy near Nashville.

In 2007, God called the couple to provide health services, lectures, evangelism and church construction in remote areas along the Amazon River.

ASI is helping to expand their mission field.

The $20,000 ASI grant will allow the ministry to build an aluminum boat with outboard motor that can transport volunteer doctors to faraway destinations in one day, as opposed to the three days it now takes on slower boats.

“I am very excited by the donation,” Mills said. “We truly are thankful to everyone who made this possible, and to God, who is still working in miraculous ways to financially provide for His work to advance.”

Because convention donors met the $1.5 million offering goal, every project was fully funded, and then some. As was previously arranged, three ministries will divide the “overflow” offering, which is more than $400,000. The beneficiaries are: The Ellen G. White Estate; New Beginnings, a DVD evangelism training project; and The One-Day Structure Project, a joint effort between Maranatha and ASI.

Norman Reitz, ASI president for the 2009-2011 term, summed up the mission of ASI in one word: “Inspiration.”

“Whether people are here [at the ASI convention] or in the 3ABN or Hope Channel audience, the mission of ASI is to inspire others,” Reitz told the Adventist Review. “The best example I know of this is the Fjarli family.”

Reitz explained that about a decade ago Bruce Fjarli and his dad, Merlin, in Medford, Oregon, both happened to watch a program on 3ABN about evangelistic meetings that ASI members Garwin McNeilus and Bob Paulsen were holding in Ongole, Andhra Pradesh, India. That series of meetings resulted in thousands of baptisms. Merlin later called his son and said, “If they can do it, so can we.”

“And they did,” Reitz says. “So far they’ve built 800 churches in India as part of 50 church projects—a few churches at a time—and they’re still doing it. Bruce and his wife, Jacki, travel to India twice a year to share the gospel message and build churches.”

These endeavors are being accomplished with the assistance of Maranatha Volunteers International.

Reitz adds, “Our mission is to inspire people by what other people do—and we’re successful at that.”

ASI members also elected and re-elected officers.

The officers are: Frank Fournier, president; Donna McNeilus, general vice president; Terry Anderson, vice president for evangelism; Steve Dickman, vice president for membership; Stan Smith, vice president for finance; Ramon Chow, secretary-treasurer; and Harold Lance, president of ASI Missions Inc.

Next year’s ASI international convention will be Aug. 8-11 in Dallas, Texas.

                             -- With additional reporting by Sandra Blackmer, Adventist Review assistant editor, in Sacramento


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