In Italy, Emilia-Romagna region president Stefano Bonaccini recently visited Casa Mia, an Adventist retirement home in Forlì, in response to an invitation from the director of the facility.
“You are a piece of a welfare system with many faces,” Bonaccini said. “We must keep the quality of services high precisely because they cater to people who need the quality of care not to be lowered.”
He emphasized the role of facilities such as Casa Mia. “Nursing homes do not repair cars or dishwashers; they deal with people, who are helped with their weaknesses and fragility, with their feelings, their suffering, and, often, their hopes.”
For this reason, Bonaccini said, “you are a very important presence and, from what you told me, you are even thinking of increasing your investments, of adding space to care for more people.”
Bonaccini closed by thanking Adventist leaders for their work and support of the Forlì facility.
“Thank you very much for what you do,” he said. “We want to have the best relationship with everyone. Instead of raising walls, we must build bridges. So, regardless of your skin color, your religion, your language, we seek harmony, friendship, and solidarity.”
Stefano Paris, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Italy, welcomed Bonaccini and other local and regional officials.
“It is an important moment; it is a piece of our history,” Paris said, referring to Bonaccini’s visit. In 1999, Casa Mia had welcomed the visit of Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, then president of Italy.
"This is a story,” he said, “that you want to make available to citizens because a church is such when it manages to enter the social fabric with the aim of doing good.And the good today is not easy to do.”
The Adventist community, however, has always focused on this element of seeking good in society, Paris said. “I want to thank especially the nurses of this nursing home, who make it all possible,” he added.
He concluded with a proverb from Solomon recorded in Proverbs 27:7. “As iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another,” Paris quoted. “In the same way, working together and in close connection for the common good, we can become a strength, especially in difficult moments like the ones we are living in," he said.
At the end of the tour of the facilities, Paris presented Bonaccini with a plaque signed by the employees and guests of Casa Mia in recognition of his work and service. “To President Bonaccini, for his great commitment, admirable dedication and constant challenges in the role of governor in Emilia-Romagna. The guests and employees of the ‘Casa Mia’ retirement home,” the plaque reads.
By Lina Ferrara, Hope Media Italia, and Adventist Review
A few days before Thanksgiving 2021, Dollie Williams received a phone call from a school social worker with an urgent request to prepare a Thanksgiving meal for an indigent family. The unexpected plea could not be ignored.
Although Williams is no longer in charge of community services at New Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Chicago, Illinois, United States, she immediately started rounding up a sisterhood of cooks to help rescue the family’s holiday.
At 85, Williams, a vibrant grandmother with a throaty laugh, has not slowed down. In June 2021, after 66 years of serving in one capacity or another, she officially retired from leading the church’s Adventist Community Services (ACS). Yet, months later, as she bustles around her home filled with photos of the people and memories she cherishes most, you can’t help wondering how she finds the energy to keep going.
Her life represents one of heeding Jesus’ marching orders to “go” — and as she went, she became a living embodiment of the verse, “ Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NASB).
The call to go and serve the poor started very early in Williams’s life. The first of nine children, she was born June 7, 1936, in Belzoni, Mississippi, living on a plantation surrounded by cotton fields, cornfields, and dirt roads. Raised in the Jim Crow era, a time when African Americans were relegated to second-class status, she remembers the indignities such as the expectation of addressing White children as “sir” and “ma’am.”
Thus, the twin experiences of growing up poor and enduring the shattering wounds of racism are what pushed Williams to help those in need.
Her mother’s dream for her daughter to receive a proper education came when Williams went to Huntsville, Alabama, to attend Oakwood Academy.
After graduation, Williams took the opportunity to earn scholarship money and attend Oakwood University by selling Message magazine subscriptions. While in college, she continued a life of service by joining the prison ministry.
After a year in college, 1954 to 1955, William’s Oakwood experience ended abruptly. Her mother fell ill, and she was needed at home. Later, with her mother’s health restored, Williams wanted to return to Oakwood, but there was no work on campus for her to pay for her tuition.
In 1955, Williams joined the six million Black Americans moving from the south to midwestern states to escape poor economic conditions and racial segregation, a time marked as the largest movement of people in American history. While living with an aunt in Chicago, the then 19-year-old quickly joined the nearby West Side Seventh-day Adventist Church, today known as the Independence Boulevard church.
At the time, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had a community outreach program called the Dorcas Society (now Adventist Community Services), and Williams found her niche when the leader, Irene Turner, suggested that she follow up with the people who came to the church for help, visiting them in their homes to assess their needs.
What Williams experienced on these home visits turned into the catalyst for a lifelong commitment to service. “I started seeing conditions that were a flashback for me of my [own] condition, growing up as a young child,” she explained. “I thought I had it hard when I was growing up. Even though I had to share my bed with my four sisters, we still had a bed. But when I went to houses where they had no chairs to sit in, they had no stove to cook on, they had no refrigerator to store anything, and they were sleeping on floors, and when I say sleeping on floors, I mean sleeping on the floor, no cover, or anything — that did something to me. From that point on, I wanted to do something about it.”
Williams enrolled at Malcolm X College and later completed a bachelor’s degree in sociology at the Daniel Hale Williams University. She set out on a career to help “the least of these.”
“All my jobs have been human service type jobs, trying to help someone,” she noted.
Moved by the dismal conditions she witnessed, Williams turned to church members for assistance. “We started doing Christmas baskets and Thanksgiving baskets. That’s really the story of my life. I’ve always involved the church in whatever it was.”
Over the years, the “whatever it was” was a lot! Williams served as the executive director of a facility for homeless women and supported the efforts of Jesse Jackson Sr. in what later came to be known as Operation PUSH. She was also acknowledged for her work in Chicago during the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the riots that followed. She was the recipient of numerous humanitarian awards. In the early 2000s, Williams’s name was added to the Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Alabama for her efforts during the Civil Rights movement.
From 1984 to 1998, Williams served as president of Chicagoland ACS Federation. During this time, she helped coordinate several community service initiatives and formulated choirs and singing groups. In 1992, after Hurricane Andrew wreaked devastation on parts of Florida, Williams worked with sister churches in the area and the Lake Region Conference Community Services to adopt families affected by the hurricane. In the weeks that followed, she and her team held a rally in Florida, handing out checks to affected families.
Finishing the Race
Williams is what some might call a “Titan of Industry,” yet, in spite of all her accomplishments, it’s the souls that she’s helped lead to Christ that she cherishes most.
In 2013, Williams was elected for one last term as ACS Federation president. She felt God placing a new mission on her heart to lead two evangelistic meetings.
The first was in Pembroke, Illinois — one of the poorest towns in the Midwest, located 70 miles (about 112 kilometers) from Chicago. She recalls, “We went down and [worked] the field, went door-to-door. We had what we call a community day. We went to one of the schools and had a cookout. We gave out gifts, such as washing machines, brand new deep freezers, microwaves.’’
Partnering with the local pastor, Lawrence Oladini, and the Hopkins Park Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pembroke, they held a three-week revival in the fall of 2015. Timothy Nixon was the speaker, and at the end of the three weeks, four people were baptized.
The following year, ACS Federation linked with the Robbins Seventh-day Adventist Church in Robbins, Illinois, and pastor Philip Willis Sr., to host a revival series. “We did a parade. We had the fire department, the police. Then we had a cookout when we got back to the church.
“Those two experiences I cherish the most. Bringing souls to Christ meant so much to me,” she says, adding, “I feel I’m more rewarded than the people because I just feel so good inside when I have been able to make a difference.”
Williams’s husband passed away three years ago, and she’s now caregiver to Carolyn Palmer, former school principal and Lake Region Education superintendent. She volunteers on the first Sunday of the month at the community service center, dishing out hot meals and dispensing words of encouragement to the homeless in South Chicago.
“I think about Christ, what He went through — no matter what, He kept going, He kept on it. That motivates me to say, ‘If Christ could do that for me. I can do this small stuff He wants me to do.’ ”
In support of the Indonesian government’s call for COVID-19 public vaccination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the West Indonesia Union Mission (WIUM) collaborated with the Jakarta Local Conference (JLC) and the Jakarta Adventist Doctors Association to establish a vaccination center. The center is located at the WIUM head office in the country’s capital city of Jakarta.
Leaders behind the initiative said Adventist church members and the public are the primary beneficiaries of the vaccination program, which started in July 2021 and will finish in August. The program is part of broader efforts to provide immunity for Jakarta residents during the ongoing pandemic.
On July 11, the first day of the vaccinations, WIUM’s secretary, Binsar Sagala, opened the program through a short devotional message for the attending WIUM staff, JLC staff, and health workers. The coordinating team and the health workers then set up the vaccination area and stationed health workers and volunteers in their respective locations.
“We hope all church members in Jakarta and surroundings can make the most out of this vaccination program by coming to the vaccination center here on MT Haryono Street. I will be actively involved in this program until August,” Jimmy Havelaar, WIUM health ministries director, said.
Organizers noted that vaccine recipients were required to bring identification proof (ID card, Temporary Stay Permit Card for foreigners, or Proof of Residence) and must be at least 18 years old. They said recipients are also required to register online before their day of vaccination to identify which health pre-screening steps will be conducted. Online registration is available on the Grab or Good Doctor smartphone applications.
Participants were also told to ensure they are not being registered elsewhere for COVID-19 vaccination, as the government is also conducting vaccination drives. Organizers added that on-site registration is also available but is discouraged, as it consumes more time and lengthens the lines, especially for the pre-screening checks.
At the end of the first day, more than 1,000 individuals had been successfully vaccinated with the first dose of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccine. In the following weeks, it was reported that vaccination will be available for fit individuals aged 12 to 16 years old, as per the government’s current policy.
It’s not called “practicing” for nothing.
On some great future day, the liberating, life-affirming grace we each receive from Jesus will also be the grace we give as freely to those who wound us, irritate our peace, or call out for our love and care.
Between the “now” and “then” there’s a lot of practicing to do—a daily repetition of kind words, forgiving acts, and chosen, holy silences. Like hours we spent as children with pianos, violins, or flutes, we learn the patterns of the Jesus life—not all at once, but with increasing Spirit-skill.
On many days, we get the fingering all wrong: we point unrighteously at those who really need our grasp and our embrace. But just because the grace that saves us keeps on saving us from us, we build up skills in loving, holding, healing, helping.
Great music—gracious music—is never perfect on day one.
Keep practicing. And stay in grace.