I’ve grown accustomed to moving over the years.
Hither, thither, and . . . .
When I was an Adventist pastor’s kid in the 80s and 90s, almost everyone thought my parents must have been in the military, because we moved so often. 

Then I grew up and embraced the call to Adventist ministry. And with that call came the obligatory move from one district to the other. With every change came a new home. And with every new home came the desire to downsize. 

PACKING = DOWNSIZING? 

Packing a home and looking through boxes always leads to a desire to declutter and purge. My philosophy was always “If I haven’t seen it in two years, I don’t need it.” And most of the time that was true. I was making space for the new life that was a result of the change. 

Change of any kind can be disorienting, especially when it’s unexpected. The past two years of pandemic have been an unwelcome upheaval, but some good has come from it as well. In a sense the change has caused many of us to downsize. We’ve had to declutter our homes and our lives so that we can focus on the things that matter. It’s been a lifestyle change. 

The modern church has had to downsize as well, and not just in the sense of smaller numbers gathering on Sabbath mornings. We had to downsize ministry—cut the less extraneous significant elements, so to speak. We now have to redefine our vision and our methods. The church is downsizing to make room for the new ideas and practices that will be birthed from its response to a pandemic that literally turned the whole landscape of ministry on its head. And as churches slowly go back to gathering in greater numbers, the question we ask ourselves is “Where do we go from here?” 

That’s a tough question to answer, because the church finds itself nestled between the blissful nostalgia of pre-pandemic church, with its programs and ceaseless meetings, and looking forward with prophetic urgency to an uncertain future. 

What comes next? 

Today we face hurdles that we never imagined. But the church has also shown extraordinary grit as well. 

So what does the post-pandemic church look like? To be quite honest, I’m not entirely sure. I’m still taking it a day at a time, like the rest of you. 

What I do know is that as a remnant people we should look something like the church at its inception. 

If prayer is central to post-pandemic ministry, the evidence of God’s power will follow.

Acts 2 masterfully summarizes the characteristics of the early church: 

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (verses 42-47, NIV). 

The characteristics of the early church are the same that the modern church will have to embody in order to move with confidence into the great, wide-open spaces of the will of God. 

The early church of Acts 2, and the church we will have to be in a new post-pandemic world, can be synthesized in five characteristics. 

1 A Learning Church: The church of Acts 2 was dedicated to listening to sound teaching, and was always learning. It was a loving community of believers ever improving, ever growing, and ever evolving. God’s people cannot be so comfortable as to believe that there is nothing left for us to learn. There is a progressive dynamic to our understanding as Seventh-day Adventists. Our understanding theologically, sociologically, and certainly methodologically will be ever growing and evolving. Knowledge—and its application in our lives and in the church—is not static but dynamic. 

There is a danger in always looking back and never forward. Often we rest on what we know, or our last great idea, or the last great ministry initiative. When we focus only on what God has done in the past, we leave no time to see or be on board with what God is doing in the present. 

I was 15 when my father taught me to drive. He told me to focus on the road because I needed to be able to navigate the challenges of highway driving. “Pay attention to the road,” he said. “Use your rearview mirror only for a point of reference.” The same principle applies to post-pandemic ministry. The new world seen through the windshield of ministry is where our focus must be. We can’t properly move forward while concentrating on the rearview mirror. If we have a rearview mirror ministry—always celebrating the past—we will miss out on the windshield of the will of God. And the result is catastrophic, for we will never see or understand what God is doing, how God is leading, or who we can become in the present. We will have to be an ever-learning people. 

A Community: The early church was a close knit group, an intentional togetherness, a unity. The early believers knew that they were responsible for each other. There was this sense that “we are only as strong as we are together.” The accountability was deliberate. These new Christians understood that if there was a weak believer, they weren’t to leave them behind in an “every-Christian-for-themself ” mindset seen too often in present-day congregations. The early church believed that if any brother or sister was weak, then the community of believers had a responsibility to carry them. 

The book of Acts sees the church establish itself in two locations: the Temple court and the home. There was the grand gathering of corporate worship in the Temple court, but also the intimate meaningful setting of the home group. The fellowship was genuine, and they knew how to make the large assembly feel small. The home was an extension of the work of the church. 

Today’s congregations will have to adopt the same practice of making the big feel small. Gone may be the days of packed sanctuaries. But the church that has discovered the ability to make the large feel small through small intentional communities of faith (small groups) will see sustained growth spiritually and numerically. 

The church truly becomes a community when there is loving togetherness. Post-pandemic church ministry will need to be a ministry built on a structure of loving accountability. The stresses of social distancing and the resulting feelings of detachment and spiritual fatigue will linger well past the days of quarantine. And the church that emphasizes the health of the community of believers over programs and cathedral gatherings will be more relevant to believer and nonbeliever alike. 

3 A Prayer-prioritized Church: Early Christians knew that they could not navigate life without prayer. They understood that no good could come of the efforts of the church without the power of prayer. It was a church inspired, motivated, and empowered by prayer.

The present church will face the challenges of a new world as we slowly emerge from these past two years. We will have to realize the truth that we can’t meet the challenges of life and ministry if we have not first met God in prayer. No amount of learning , planning , money, or vision casting will sustain the church of God if prayer is not deliberate, permeating, and sincere. 

Prayer requires bold, unapologetic belief in the power and character of God. We have to ask ourselves the probing question “Do we truly believe God will do what He says He will do?” We will have to be believers in the impossible, looking to the heavens for miracles and wonders. Prayer will be more than liturgical practice: it will be the supernatural collision between divinity and humanity. 

Prayer is reliant more upon faith than budgets. It is predicated more on bold, childlike belief than on practical methods. Prayer will need to be the first response of the church rather than its last resort. 

4 A God-powered Church: If prayer is central to post-pandemic ministry, the evidence of God’s power will follow. When I was a child, the Bible was the book of the miraculous. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost that sense of wonder. But miracles are still happening, and God is still a beautiful mystery. 

The miraculous can become commonplace again. The early church saw signs and wonders. Things were happening! Are those same things happening now? Are miracles still possible? Today’s church, when given to prayer, can still be filled with wonder in an age of skepticism. We will have to be a community of faith that under stands that the impossible is only the beginning when we are unified with God and each other. 

5 A Happy Church: The book of Acts reminds the church of 2022 that it should be a happy church. There has to be a joyful winsomeness that fills the church. In fact, the idea of an unhappy Christian is a contradiction in terms. We can’t be both Christian and miserable. 

But the joy should also be visible, unlike the generally hidden joy of knowing Jesus and being in fellowship with like believers. There will have to be an attractiveness about us. For so many stone-faced, somber Christians there is a line of granite running through them. Our Adventist Christianity will have to be more than simply being good. We will need to look, act, and sound joyous from the heart. 

This kind of contagious joyfulness will be evidence of the abundant life that we profess as children of a loving God. It’s the joy that will bring favor with the world around us and draw them in to want to know their Savior. 

AND THEN?
Where do we land?
It goes without saying that much of what we 

will need to be is countercultural. Like the early church, the endemic church, the church that must now live with and manage the virus and its longterm effects, will have to be less concerned with building larger cathedrals and more focused on building loving communities. 

Many of us learned, when the pandemic began, that we were more dependent on the building and in-person gatherings for our spiritual vitality then we realized. The thought was sobering. But now God has downsized us. He has stripped away the artificial supports of meetings and buildings and presented to us the question “What do you have left?” The answer comes back: “We have God, and we have community.” That is the church! And that is who the church will need to be. A church divinely downsized. A denomination decluttered and focused on what matters most. I’d like to be a part of that church. My hope, my faith, is that there are many who will join me on this journey of rediscovery. 


Melvyn W. Warfield II is lead pastor of Community Praise Seventh-day Adventist Church, Alexandria, Virginia, United States.

It’s hard to believe that we are still living through a pandemic. Despite all human effort, this virus is relentless and unwilling to relinquish its global grip and march of pain. When you consider the lives lost — more than 5 million worldwide — the families devastated, and the economic impact, it's easy to wonder, What’s next?”

In the fall of 2021, as uncertain days dragged on, God set up a divine appointment to buoy my spirits. I visited with a colleague to see how he was doing and what kept him going.

Without hesitation, he pulled out a little book called Keep Calm and Trust God (Jake and Keith Provance, 2014) and began telling me about its contents. The book is a compilation of inspiring quotes, poems, Bible texts, and prayers on many issues we face today: anxiety, fear, frustration, pressure, depression, crises, etc. No matter what is going on, he shared, we can keep calm and trust God.

His testimony encouraged my heart, and that very day I ordered a copy. In the introduction, I learned the origin of the now-famous slogan, “Keep calm and carry on.” In 1939, as the threat of World War II loomed, the British government coined the phrase and created posters to galvanize resistance against Hitler's evil aggression and provide much-needed encouragement. The introduction to the book notes that “the future of the free world teetered in the balance. And in those dark times, believers everywhere prayed fervently.”

Once again, we are living in dark times. Our world is rife with war, pestilence, natural disasters, poverty, and political strife. In addition to this mutating virus, we are challenged on every side with family, financial, mental health, and personal crises.

In Prophets and Kings, Ellen White sheds light on why: “We fight in a warfare, not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, and against spiritual wickedness in high places. . . . Our hope is not in man, but in the living God. With full assurance of faith we may expect that He will unite His omnipotence with the efforts of human instrumentalities, for the glory of His name” (Prophets and Kings, 1917, p. 111).

As we commence this new year, no matter what each day brings, let us remember to keep calm and trust God, keep calm and pray, keep calm and carry on. God’s got this world, He’s got us, and He will see us through!

Celeste Ryan Blyden is executive secretary of the Columbia Union Conference.

The original version of this commentary was posted by the Columbia Union Conference.

Since June 2021, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Nepal has collaborated with hospitals dedicated to combatting COVID-19. The agency is also rolling out vaccine campaigns in four districts, including Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, and Rautahat.

Nepal, one of the first countries in the southern region of Asia to start a mass COVID-19 vaccination drive, intended to inoculate 72 percent of its eligible population above 18 years of age. Still, the first phase witnessed a moderate turnout of 12 percent of targeted persons.

“Vaccine hesitancy and the fear of contracting the virus has kept many people at home,” Leighton Fletcher, ADRA’s country director in Nepal, said.

One such person was a 25-year-old mother with a 16-month-old baby girl. The infant needed her first dose of the measles vaccine, but the fear of encountering the COVID-19 virus at the medical facility stopped the mother from taking the baby to the doctor.

Laxmi Ghimire, a nurse who works with ADRA, personally visited the family in their home and convinced them that the health facility took precautions to prevent the spread of the virus. As a direct result of nurse Ghimire’s personal interest, the young mother found the courage to go to the hospital, where the baby received the necessary vaccines.

ADRA staff and volunteers were able to assist many people in this way as they began conducting awareness activities, such as the distribution of COVID-19-related pamphlets and live phone-in radio programs.

“Earlier in the year, ADRA undertook a rapid needs assessment aimed at learning to prioritize the needs of the communities and health facilities,” Fletcher said. “Data collection methods included key informant interviews with selective government representatives, social leaders, and journalists of four districts.”

The findings enabled ADRA to respond to the community’s needs and effectively assist the structure of the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. These activities include micro-planning for making vaccines easily accessible and prioritizing people. They also include training and providing orientation to health workers, community volunteers, and journalists.

“We didn’t forget the young people,” Fletcher added. “ADRA staff and volunteers implemented safe school protocols in 50 schools.”

In addition, ADRA supplied medical equipment, personal protective equipment, and other commodities to hospitals in Koshi, Janakpur, Bheri, and Scheer Memorial Adventist Hospital in Banepa.

The original version of this story was posted by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.


As the oldest publishing platform of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Adventist Review (est. 1849) provides inspiration and information to the global church through a variety of media, including print, websites, apps, and audio and video platforms.Content appearing on any of the Adventist Review platforms has been selected because it is deemed useful to the purposes and mission of the journal to inform, educate, and inspire the denomination it serves.Unless identified as created by “Adventist Review” or a designated member of the Adventist Review staff, content is assumed to express the viewpoints of the author or creator of the content.

Inside the simple house with mud walls someone lit the flame on the stove. Damiana Soares dos Santos, of the Solidarity Hands Project coordinated by the Federation of Adventist Entrepreneurs in Bahia, Brazil, arrived unannounced to visit the humble home of one of the families benefited by a food-distribution initiative in 2021.

The Adventist volunteer noticed that only one egg was cooking in the pan and found that the food would be divided among four people. Scenes like this are not uncommon, volunteers said. In moments like this, the Adventist-driven NGO is stepping up to assist families in need and alleviate suffering.

The Solidarity Hands Project includes five social programs, and among them is Solidarity Food Baskets.

In northern Brazil, the Metropolitan Region in Salvador is known for its world-famous beaches. Despite being a tourist destination, however, part of the population suffers from poverty and hunger. The Solidarity Food Baskets program gained more strength during the COVID-19 pandemic. The board of the Federation of Adventist Entrepreneurs in Bahia decided to invest more in purchasing basic food baskets because it became aware of how much some families needed the food.

According to Antônio Miguel de Almeida Silva, vice president of the organization in Bahia, volunteers have distributed 16,734 basic food baskets, for a total of about 233 tons (513,677 pounds) of food. Coordinators said that the initiative benefited 67,000 people living in Bahia and surrounding communities. The program required getting scores of volunteers on board.

From Estimates to the Table

The initiative involves much more than just purchasing the food baskets and delivering them. Silva said that sometimes he spends up to three days getting the best possible price. Then he has to buy the food, get a truck to pick it up, assemble the baskets, and finally reach the homes of those in need.

To accomplish all this, he enlists the help of other volunteers such as Damiana. In addition to visiting homes, she helps distribute food baskets and offers Bible studies to families. “It’s a wonderful project because there are a lot of people starving. One example is the family that is studying the Bible with me. They were the ones frying one egg for four people,” she said.

The basic food baskets include 14 kilograms (31 pounds) of rice, beans, flour, pasta, milk, vegetable protein, oil, and oats. “Only those who need such a basic food basket know its real value,” Silva said.

Silva has been a volunteer for more than 20 years. “I find it very gratifying to help people who are socially vulnerable,” he said. 

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division news site.


As the oldest publishing platform of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Adventist Review (est. 1849) provides inspiration and information to the global church through a variety of media, including print, websites, apps, and audio and video platforms.Content appearing on any of the Adventist Review platforms has been selected because it is deemed useful to the purposes and mission of the journal to inform, educate, and inspire the denomination it serves.Unless identified as created by “Adventist Review” or a designated member of the Adventist Review staff, content is assumed to express the viewpoints of the author or creator of the content.

With the goal of providing comprehensive training to people who serve as volunteers in emergency response initiatives, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in the South American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church launched a free training course on November 17, 2021.

“When a disaster strikes and our humanitarian agency is called upon to respond, there are a number of procedures that we must follow to facilitate and make the aid we plan to offer effective,” Eric Leichner, ADRA South American emergency response manager, said. “As we expect volunteers to follow those procedures, ADRA has decided to begin training its workers and volunteers so they are ready to be deployed in events that may be cataloged as global emergencies.” Leichner himself has been involved with this type of training in the past.

In years past, this training had been led mainly by country emergency coordinators, Leichner explained. “But we were overlooking an important segment of people,” he acknowledged, referencing the close to 3,000 enlisted volunteers ADRA has across the eight South American countries in that church region. “Volunteers are our invaluable asset,” Leichner added. “They help us assemble food baskets, hygiene kits, and they assist us in the distribution to those who need it. Volunteers visit the affected areas, talk with the victims to learn about their needs, and offer psycho-social support. We found it was essential they knew the procedures the agency follows in cases like this.”

The initial training session held last November sought to get volunteers acquainted with the essential aspects that govern humanitarian aid around the world and find out what ADRA’s role is in that context. “It is a course designed for people who already serve as ADRA volunteers, and even for people who would like to be part of our team in the future,” Silvia Tapia, ADRA South America communication director, said. “We hope that in the coming months, at least 5,000 people complete the first session.”

The training course is expected to include two more sessions to be launched later in 2022, ADRA leaders said.

The original version of this story was posted on the South American Division Spanish-language news site.


As the oldest publishing platform of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Adventist Review (est. 1849) provides inspiration and information to the global church through a variety of media, including print, websites, apps, and audio and video platforms. Content appearing on any of the Adventist Review platforms has been selected because it is deemed useful to the purposes and mission of the journal to inform, educate, and inspire the denomination it serves.Unless identified as created by “Adventist Review” or a designated member of the Adventist Review staff, content is assumed to express the viewpoints of the author or creator of the content.

One of the most respected professions a human can possess is that of a physician. Other people depend on a physician’s knowledge often for their very life. It’s hard work and an output of great expense and sacrifice to attain that station in life.

When Mark Ringwelski, a physician at the time, received an invitation to audition for the beloved King’s Heralds quartet, it came as a total surprise. Yet he felt the Holy Spirit’s nudging to accept the audition, and in response, he changed careers.

Mark’s music career, however, is now expanding into an extended calling to enter the arena of solo vocal ministry. Herein is his story of a career change — and yet more change — with the hope of being an encouragement to others who may be reading his story of faith to answer God’s call.

The Beginning of the Journey

Mark returns to the time of his youth to explain his interest in music, giving credit to Violet Krueger, a member of the Merrill Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wisconsin, United States. She encouraged his interest in developing his voice, and he started singing for church and special programs. At Wisconsin Academy he sang in the choir, ensembles, “and in my first quartet,” all under Louise Larmon, another mentor he appreciates for her encouragement.

“I loved singing, but at that time I didn't consider it a practical vocation choice,” he admits. Attending Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, he continued with the Men’s Chorale, the University Singers, and a touring gospel group, Preparation.

While in graduate studies, Mark and his wife, Susan, sang with a group who performed high church and classical music. He continued with solos and special music performances during medical school. Then he sang with a quartet in Michigan, His Way. When they moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, another quartet was formed at the Green Bay Seventh-day Adventist Church: 4 His Glory. In 2008, he began his participation in Doctors in Recital, an annual benefit concert, performing gospel music in an otherwise secular program.

That same year, the latter quartet sang along with The King’s Heralds when they were invited to the Green Bay church, marking Mark’s first interactions with the quartet. His path crossed again with The King’s Heralds in 2013. Five years later, the unexpected happened — a call to audition for them — and he accepted the invitation to join. Yet he adds, “I really didn’t aspire to sing professionally, either secular or religious. It wasn’t even on my bucket list.”

A Paradigm Shift

Then COVID-19 arrived with frustration and disruption for all, which ultimately led Mark and Susan to the decision to leave the quartet and go solo with His Call Ministries.

It seems that all aspects of Mark’s life have contributed to his present status as a solo vocalist, including his medical experience. “My work as a medical director for occupational health as well as having the opportunity to function as a physician leader, leading teams and being a member of the health system board, gave me good experience with presenting and interacting with people.” He also notes that powers of observation are developed in medical practice that, along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instill in him a sense for song choices that will reach the hearts of an audience.

Mark stresses that music is a powerful medium in any genre. “It seems to be able to move through and past barriers in the listener. The message in gospel music, therefore, can bring comfort and healing, while the message of some other genres can be deceiving and destructive.” He says he wants the music he shares to bless and uplift those listening. “It is an honor to share God's love through music by singing His praises.”

Mark is wise to consider the effect music provides to the hearers. We know from Bible accounts how David's harp soothed the disturbed King Saul, and the teenage virgin Mary sang and danced before God for her privilege to be carrying God’s Son within her. And with the current scourge of COVID still raging throughout the world, all humans need to be comforted.

“One of our goals is in this ministry is to be able to partner with all types of outreach, to use music to help open hearts to better hear God’s Word and the message the Holy Spirit is speaking to them. To that end, knowing God is in charge of every aspect of this ministry — from the invitations to the dollars and cents of it — we’ve decided to make our ministry available at no cost to any outreach, large or small. If an individual, audience, or organization would like to contribute to our expenses, take up an offering, or donate to this ministry, we welcome it and will gladly put those funds to work to sing more. But if that doesn’t happen, we will continue our efforts to share God's message through music.”

Both he and Susan say there was no defining moment when they determined how their ministry might occur; but rather, it’s been a culmination of many factors. All this background reveals, however, that the Holy Spirit was grooming him and Susan, the ministry coordinator, for his solo vocal ministry. He notes that they have always worked as a team, with her aptitudes as a writer/editor and endowed with multifaceted organizational skills.

Susan shares that Scripture and prayer are the glue that prepares them to plan each concert or venue, even if the audience is just one person. She notes, “Psalm 47:6 entreats us to sing praises; the psalms are replete with this admonition.” Another verse Susan urges attention to is 1 Timothy 1:12, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who hath enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.” Thus, she says, “In the light of Scripture, we believe God uses the vehicle of music to allow the Holy Spirit to do His work.”

Reflecting back to Mark’s singing with Doctors in Recital in 2008, Susan also shares, “That specific opportunity — and decision — proved to be a turning point in Mark’s life to use his voice to only sing songs about God and His love. It was a specific moment in time, and I am humbled every time I remember it.”

An infectious enthusiasm fills almost every word that Mark and Susan utter about their ministry, and although he speaks these following words, she reiterates them as well, “It is an honor to share God’s love through music. I believe He blesses every one of us as we work for Him to serve others. The primary mission of our ministry is to help finish the Lord’s work in these last days of earth’s history.

“Susan and I believe that Jesus is coming very soon. The window of opportunity to spread the gospel is narrowing quickly and will soon close. It is our prayer that our music will lead others to a saving relationship with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

“We use as our commission the fitting verse in Mark 16:15: ‘He said unto them, “Go.”’ No mention of distance, destination, or specifically determined design, just, ‘Go.’ We choose to take the command literally, whenever He calls and wherever He leads.”

The original version of this story was posted on Lake Union Herald.

friend of mine whispered to me the other day his conviction that the eventual downfall of the U.S. democracy will be traced to January 6, 2021, and the mob attack on Capitol Hill. My eyebrows arched, considering the bright mind and respected scholarship behind the whisper. But then everybody has an opinion these days, have you noticed?

Nevertheless, with the one-year anniversary upon us, it is prudent we pause and reflect on this new year’s “new normal.” On the health front, the COVID-19 pandemic surges with the Omicron variant — we all know — but there is hope its surge will not reflect a sharp rise in mortality rates as well. And on the political front, there’s no need to even review its landscape — we’ve already formed our own conclusions about all of that, irrespective of what news outlets may tell us to the contrary. But then, welcome to life in the U.S. today.

My concern for us is on the spiritual front. How is it with your soul and mine? Are we closer to the Savior this New Year than last New Year? Is the Spirit of God finding fuller access to our private lives and personal decisions, our practice behind closed doors? 

Consider this ancient prayer in the old King James Bible:“My soul followeth hard after thee” (Ps. 63:8).“I cling to you”is the same prayer in our own vernacular (NIV). But do we . . . do you . . . do I . . . follow hard after God . . . cling to Him?

A. W. Tozer, in his long-ago The Pursuit of God, reflected on the psalmist’s prayer and then made this appeal:

“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality of our religious lives results from our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present, or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”

Did you catch that? “He waits to be wanted.” I know you want Him, and so do I. But is it a “My soul followeth hard after Thee” kind of want? How hard do we really want Him?

Maybe our New Year prayer ought to be, “Lord, help me to want to want You.” As Tozer noted, “He waits to be wanted.” As Ellen White often observed, we must be “willing to be made willing.” So why not ask Christ to mentor us into a deeper wanting, a following hard after Him this new year? “Lord, help me to want to want You.”

Given the trajectory of the U.S., it is hardly rocket (let alone political) science to recognize that what we once prized as a country is slipping away and could suddenly be taken away. If ever this secular country needed God — and by that I mean the people we work with and pray for — this would be the right time to personally model to them a deeper devotion to Christ, a following hard after Him. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with such a friend of Jesus? “Lord, help me to want to want You.”

Clearly, this wanting must begin with us — we can’t wait for the country to do it. So, to help answer our own prayer, “Help me to want to want You,” the practice of the ancients (and of those who walk with Jesus today — and you know who they are) must become ours. Begin each day with a less hurried and more deliberate meditating on Holy Scripture verse by verse, joined to an uninterrupted conversation with God through prayer. The books on how to do it are legion. But the prayer to go deeper is ours. 

“Lord, help me to want to want You.”

The original version of this commentary was posted on the New Perceptions Television ministry blog, The Fourth Watch.

1. Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. 

2. A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God (Harrisburg, Pa.: Christian Publications, 1982), p. 17 (emphasis supplied).

3. Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif., Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 482.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has stepped up humanitarian relief operations to aid more than 31,000 Venezuelan refugees and migrants to rebuild their lives in Brazil.

ADRA has launched the ANA Project to provide food and household and hygiene items to families in the cities of Boa Vista, Roraima, Iracema, Amajari, Mucajai, and Caracarai, Rorainopolis, and Manaus. The ANA Project is locally known in Portuguese as the Food and Non-Food Actions for Venezuelan Migrants in Brazil.

The political turmoil, rampant violence, gang warfare, food and medicine shortages, and lack of essential services at home have forced millions of Venezuelans to seek refuge in Brazil and other nations across the South American continent and beyond, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). More than 260,000 Venezuelans have arrived in Brazil this year alone. (Numbers are subject to change daily.)

“Every day, 600 men, women, children, and elderly civilians enter some of the poorest cities in Brazil on foot,” Eric Leichner, regional emergency coordinator for ADRA Brazil, said. “Many families end up on the streets because local jurisdictions are unable to accommodate the growing number of asylum seekers while they wait for documents. It’s extremely difficult for families to survive when they get here. They need food, basic everyday household items, and a roof over their head.

“The ANA Project has been a blessing to thousands of families since it was launched earlier this year. We have distributed more than 63,000 food vouchers, more than 52,000 certificates to purchase hygiene products to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and more than 16,000 coupons for families to buy household goods and kitchen utensils. However, much more is needed to continue to help this community. Keep us in your prayers, and keep supporting ADRA’s work in Brazil.”

ADRA is spearheading the ANA Project in partnership with local authorities and other non-governmental organizations.

Damelis Josefina Mosqueda, a 57-year-old seamstress, arrived in Brazil in 2019 with her three children, two of them severely disabled. Famine and medicine shortages forced her to sell everything she had to make the journey.

“I was afraid of leaving my country, but my health was more important, and so were my children’s lives. We ate once a day, so I had a lot of stomach pains. I was afraid to die. When I arrived in Boa Vista, I weighed 83 pounds,” Mosqueda, an ANA Project beneficiary, said. “They help me with food, our home, my kitchen, and hygiene products. It’s help from God, and it came at a time when I needed it most. I started to gain back my weight thanks to the assistance I received from ADRA.”

ADRA has also launched COVID-19 prevention initiatives, as well as health, nutrition, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) support projects aimed at shelters and homeless occupations.

“ADRA has been analyzing the situation on the ground to better respond to the refugee crises in Brazil. We need to find more ways to assist Venezuelans, especially families with small children living on the streets with poor hygiene. They need access to drinking water, hot meals, baby bottles, and infant formula, as well as medical care,” Fabio Salles, country director of ADRA Brazil, said. “ADRA is looking at expanding emergency operations to improve sanitation by installing water fountains, toilets, and showers. Our humanitarian work is vast, but we are grateful to our partners and donors for helping us to continue to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable people in Brazil and other parts of the world.”

The original version of this story was posted by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.

It began as a Sabbath morning text message to 50 friends, most of whom were pastors known to Adventist Review editor Bill Knott. Word quickly spread: the text list grew to 600.

Soon tens of thousands around the globe were receiving an email version of the weekly GraceNote—some of them translating it—and forwarding it to friends who needed encouragement, and those with whom they share their faith.

Today hundreds of thousands of people access GraceNotes each week—by text, email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Messenger, and Signal, and at www.moregracenotes.com. Audio versions in English, French, and Mandarin are aired on hundreds of radio stations worldwide, adding millions to the audience. New versions in Spanish and Portuguese are expected within weeks.

Here’s a sampling of GraceNotes from the last seven years, each written for the start of a new year. See the information at the close of this feature for subscribing to these short, inspiring messages that bring hope to you and those you love.

A GRACE-FILLED RESOLUTION

Only a lingering belief in God’s persistent grace explains our optimism that our lives can be happier in the new year.

If there were no such thing as grace—if we were forced to drag the chains of sin and brokenness behind us for all time—we’d see nothing in the first of January beyond another gray-grim calendar page.

But 2019 offers light and hope because the gospel promises that Christ forgets what Christ forgives—that all our foolishness and spite is gently washed away when we believe in Him. Through grace, this new year can become that season of humility, deep peace, and reconciled relationships of which we’re always dreaming.

There’s just one resolution worth making this—and every—New Year’s Eve: “By grace, I’ll stay in grace.”

A COVENANT FOR WANDERERS

60 1 9 4

Make covenants, not resolutions, as you walk into the year, for covenants give us company in keeping what we pledge. A resolution with no witness is too often just a wish, a good intention with nothing but our declining willpower to make the vital difference.

The covenants we really need are bigger than our diets and more urgent than our visits to the gym. We need companions to whom we’ll make the most important promises of all: to tell each other just the truth; to remind each other of how good the gospel is; to continue walking side by side through any guilt or fear the new year brings.

Agree with someone in your life—a spouse, a friend, another sinner saved by grace—with whom you’ll travel in days ahead—by phone, by app, by real steps on real roads. Pledge perseverance, not perfection, for walking with another sinner will reveal how much you both need constant grace.

And when you stumble, as you will, a hand will lift you up, and brush you off, and help you keep on walking.

As this year starts, invite some other to what Jesus now invites you: “Come walk with me: keep covenant.”

That’s how you’ll stay in grace.

RENEWAL IN THE RUINS

60 2 1 4

At every rounding of the year, we realize how much we need renewal.

On New Year’s Eve, we want to slam the door on the departing year, or banish memories of 2020’s pain and grief. But there are—and must be—great ties between the old year and the new.

We live in the same bodies: we inhabit the same homes. We remain related to the same family: we work at the same jobs. We worship with the same believers: we study the same Word.

It’s renewal, then, and not a clean break from the past, that offers us our greatest hope in 2021. How can our bodies be renewed? Will this year be the one when we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds? (Rom. 12:2). How does a weary marriage find new sources of resilience and of laughter? Can dry and broken friendships be restored? We crave the ageless source of all renewal—the grace and mercy of our Lord revealed in the pages of His Word.

Yes, grace renews what grace began.

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor. 4:16-17).

So here’s to growing deeper, stronger, wiser,
kinder in 2021.

Stay in grace.

OPEN DOOR OF GRACE

60 3 5 0

Grace is the gift of Christ that lets us close the door on a year of failures and regrets. We needn’t cringe for fear our sins will be discovered or our reputations tarnished. In Jesus, all is known, and yet all has
been redeemed. 

When we choose Jesus as Substitute and Saviour, we confess the fundamental brokenness of our lives:  we’re freed from constantly defending ourselves. When caught by grace, we stop acting to impress each other, and build the candid, caring relationships for which we were created.

Grace heals the past, and offers us a new year rich with love and joy. So stay in grace.

WALKING ACROSS THE LINE

60 4 3

The waning days of this old year remind us we ought never walk alone. We need three things to end December: forgiveness for the wrongs we’ve done; the healing of our wounded memories; assurances that we will have safe company in days and miles ahead.

The gospel tells us we have all of these in Jesus. His blood alone removes our shame and stains. His reconciliation shields us from hard-earned, high-priced bitterness. His promise to stay with us—in every hour, in every age—gives courage on dark nights, and lifts our hearts when we can’t know the future.

By grace, we walk away from sins—our sins, and those done to us through the pettiness or animus of others. By grace, we lose the need to sanctify our scars, or grimly tell our tales of injury. By grace, we stretch a hand into the as-yet-unknown future—and discover, to our joy, that we are grasped and held and loved and valued by the Lord who walks beside us.

We dare not make this crossing by ourselves, for we will either fall back into what has been, or hide in fear of what may be. The grace of Jesus makes the new year safe for pilgrims walking homeward. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Heb. 13:5) Jesus says to all who journey with Him.

And for this moment, month, or year, our hearts are light, our spirits high. The road ahead is rich with kindness and companions.

So stay in grace.


To access the weekly audio version, visit facebook.com/MoreGraceNotes.

To subscribe to your weekly GraceNote visit gracenotes.adventistreview.tv.

The voices we hear in this issue of the Adventist Review speak of expansive variety: White, Native American, Black, female, male, ancient, contemporary. Why privilege their speech? Ethnicity? Gender? Epoch? Fame? Common theme? Unified perspective on religion, principles of morality or life? Similar genre? All: “No.” Why, then? Because, in common with Adventist Review’s “Beginnings,” they are all January-born.

The combination of their contributions is designed for intellectual satisfaction, including your blessed provocation, as you identify with, are perplexed by, or are even dismayed at one or another of them for thinking and speaking as they do.—Editors.


MEGHAN WAZOUA, twenty-first-century educator. From “Thinking Forward”:

“. . . one word comes to mind, intentional. To decisively purpose your thinking toward a specific action or emotion—an end goal. No resolutions, just honest action: “Walk in wisdom . . . , let your speech always be with grace.”


JOHN ROBINSON JEFFERS, twentieth-century poet, lover of solitude and the past. “Carmel Point”:

The extraordinary patience of things!

This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—

How beautiful when we first beheld it,

Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;

No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,

Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop rockheads—

Now the spoiler has come: does it care?

Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide

That swells and in time will ebb, and all

Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine beauty

Lives in the very grain of the granite,

Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff.—As for us:

We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;

We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident

As the rock and ocean that we were made from.


ZORA NEALE HURSTON, author and anthropologist, classmate of Margaret Mead’s. From How It Feels to Be Colored Me:

“ . . . in the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, . . . old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held—so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly.  A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place—who knows?”


EDGAR ALLAN POE lived a uniquely melodramatic life; poet and compelling literary critic. From “William Wilson. A Tale”:

“Men usually grow base by degrees.”


JOHN WINTHROP, seventeenth-century Puritan preacher and governor.From “A Model of Christian Charity,” sermon preached while at sea:

“God Almighty in His most holy and wise providence hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity; others mean and in subjection.”

JEANNETTE PICCARD, balloonist, scientist, Episcopal priest. From Claudia M. Oakes, United States Women in Aviation: 1930-1939:

“If we do not add something . . .  by our trip to the stratosphere this summer, we had better not go. We had better stay on the ground, be hewers of wood and drawers of water.”


COURTNEY RAY, clergywoman, clinical psychologist. From “Decisions”:

“It’s fine to walk away from things you don’t really want. Many positions, opportunities, and paths that present themselves may sound alluring on paper, or have status/cachet attached, or are things that other people think you should accept, yet they aren’t aligned with your own goals or values. Be clear about where you want to go and what’s most important among your priorities. Protect your peace. Run your own race.”


JUDITH FISHER, psychologist. From “A Thought to Share”:

“Free will gives humans access to limitless possibilities, a bridge to achieving the uncommon, connecting the human mind to the mind of the divine, and accessing the power of omniscient God. Meticulous nurturing of this multidimensional gift empowers us to move mountains in our lives, no matter their size, opening clear pathways to living optimally, while engaging in a most intimate relationship with the supreme being of the universe. Through this amazing gift in Christ, you can truly do ALL things.”


JOHN G. NEIHARDT, reproducing, as best he can, the words, thoughts, and experience of Native American spiritual leader Black Elk. From Black Elk Speaks:

“When the ceremony was over, everybody felt a great deal better, for it had been a day of fun. They were better able now to see the greenness of the world; the wideness of the sacred day, the colors of the earth, and to set these in their minds.”


CARL AUGUST SANDBURG, journalist, poet, Chicagoan who loved Chicago. “Fog”:

The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.


ANONYMOUS, communications director. From “Ordinary Things”:

“I turned 40 in January of 2021. At the time, I was overwhelmed with getting older, . . . and just overall winter blues. My 9-year-old . . . said, “Mom, you should write a book called ‘The Miserable Life of Ordinary Things.’ ” She shook her head and walked away. I realized, after laughing out loud, how ridiculous I must sound to her. I had so many blessings, and I wasn’t being thankful for any of them. This January my book will be called “The Blessed Life of Ordinary Things.”