More than 200 people, including one from Indonesia, attended the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD) Adventist Community Service (ACS) convention, held at the Hilton Garden Hotel Inn DFW North-Grapevine in Grapevine, Texas on 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.”
Lea added: “The topics and the stream of speakers were impressive. FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] the representatives even asked to see the presentations. He shared that the media team is working to release the presentations soon so others can see them.
“The speakers were fantastic,” said 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 last fall, were previously involved in club ministries and summer camps, so they have a strong connection to young people and a passion to see them 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 Patty Marsh, UCC ACS, Director of Children’s and Women’s Ministries, was also a first attendee. During COVID-19, 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,” she shared. “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 AEC convention on the AEC and its future. “COVID shut down many churches for several months,” Marsh recalled. “However, most of our Adventist community services, within a week or even hours—using creativity, daring, and using young volunteers—have remained open, touching the lives of individuals and communities. But there’s no doubt it was tough. She 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 first-day devotional question with Jaime Kowlessar, senior pastor of the Dallas City Temple Seventh-day Adventist Church: “Is a Chick-Fil -Will serve your neighborhood better than your church?
Other Dallas highlights include NAD President G. Alexander Bryant, who shared, “We must replicate the ministry of Jesus. So, if our churches close, they will realize that we are an “essential service” for our communities!
Additionally, Calvin Watkins, NAD Vice President for Evangelism, shared, “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. She leaves the event with many more quotes, ideas and inspirations in her nearly 35 pages of convention notes.
A life of service
Dollie Williams, of the Lake Region Conference in Mokena, Illinois, was recognized at the convention for her 66 years of community service. “I was honored to introduce Dollie when Lea presented her with the NAD ACS Lifetime Achievement Award,” said Debra Davis-Moody, Lake Area Conference ACS Director and ACS DR (Disaster Response) Trainer/Director. “His endless energy has enabled him to serve in a variety of ministry areas.”
In 2019, Williams received the Prisons Ministry Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois Adventist Prisons Ministry Organization for her areas of ministry in community service and prison and church ministries. . [Read more of her story in the Lake Union Herald.]
Masters in Leadership
Sung Kwon, former executive director of NAD ACS, honored at the convention for his more than 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 Columbia Union College (now Washington Adventist University) in Takoma Park, Maryland. Just before graduating in 1993, Monte Sahlin, then working at NAD, contacted him to start a new ACS agency in Dayton, Ohio, known as Good Neighbor House. Kwon still remembers the first question he asked Sahlin: “What is ACS, sir?”
This began the journey of serving over eight years in Ohio, which also included the start of the Dayton Korean Seventh-day Adventist Church, before moving 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 tell you what we owe our former general manager,” says Lea. Kwon called Lea to work for NAD ACS six years ago. “He was instrumental in getting 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. [Click here for more information about the new program.]
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,” shared Wynelle Stevens, associate director. from NAD ACS. “ACS is an extension of Adventist humanitarian service, beginning with our founders.” [You can read more about its history here.]
“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 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.