Sarah Singalla never planned on being a stay-at-home mom. The mother of two—7-year-old daughter Anna and 4-year-old son Abel—trained to be an occupational therapist. But like many women when they eventually have a child, Sarah felt strongly that being home with baby Anna was the right choice. “I thought about how going back to work with the amount of commuting and the hours I’d be working full-time, I would be gone so much at such an early time for her. And I felt strongly about it.”
Those busy days with her little girl became even fuller when Abel was born. But as most parents know, time is a thief, and Anna was soon ready for full-time school. While she took to school life well, the pandemic in 2020 derailed everything. The Singallas, who had firmly embraced school life outside of the home, found themselves forced into homeschooling, which wasn’t the greatest fit for Anna.
“I got tired of Zoom school,” Sarah remembers. “I felt it was much more work trying to keep up with teachers and making sure Anna stayed on top of it.” After slogging through this challenge for a bit, Sarah had an epiphany. “I couldn’t justify her doing online school when I was at home and could teach her. So I thought I would just try it out and see how it went,” she says. “It was hard at first, because I think I was harder on myself than Anna was on me.”
What is a typical day like? Sarah gave us a peek: “During the school year I wake up before the kids and get myself ready. I get breakfast ready—sometimes they’ll help because they like to help out. And then we’ll start our homeschooling stuff with Anna, which also includes some basic things for Abel.”
Piano is usually next on the agenda, followed by worship time together. “That’s a work in progress,” says Sarah. “Sometimes it doesn’t always work out, but I try.” Anna’s curriculum takes her through math, language arts, history, and science. “Depending on the day and how prepared I am, it can take a long time. But if I’m on point and prepared well, we can get through it pretty quickly,” adds Sarah.
After school time Sarah and the children will hang out and play—sometimes at the park or just at home. They might go to the library as well. By evening both kids—who have outgrown napping—are tuckered out by 7:00 p.m., so bedtime by 7:30 p.m. is key. “ With active children who usually rise with the sun, Sarah’s day lasts sometimes longer than 12 hours, and bedtime is welcomed.
While Abel isn’t doing a formal homeschool curriculum yet, Sarah has been challenged by the fact that Anna’s school time naturally directs a lot more attention to her. “I felt bad because even though I wasn’t neglecting my son, juggling between the two was hard to do at first,” says Sarah. So for now Abel joins in the “fun” of school life with activities and lessons that are perfectly suited for him.
While staying at home and homeschooling was a choice, the days aren’t always full of sun-shine and rainbows. As parents know, while the years seem short, some days are very, very long.
“The first year was stressful,” says Sarah. “But I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to do things the way I thought they needed to be done. And then there was another kid there. So some days I would feel so bad. As if I were neglecting one kid or not paying enough attention to one. At the same time, they’re kids. They aren’t going to be perfectly sitting there the whole day just listening to me.”
“I learned that sometimes we needed breaks from each other,” Sarah says. “So that I wouldn’t push them too hard or they wouldn’t drive me crazy,” But Sarah also learned that that is more than OK. That going with the flow sometimes is the sanest, safest path forward. “When I say ‘Go with the flow,’ I mean asking myself, ‘How are they responding to what I’m doing? Do they need to just run around and burn some energy? Do they feel discouraged right now? How do I feel about today?’” For this busy young mother who also suffers from migraines, these are questions well worth asking.
Migraines are horrible by themselves, often requiring medication and a solitary, noiseless environment to overcome. This isn’t always possible for a stay-at-home parent. Thus staying ahead of migraine triggers, which for Sarah include stress and lack of rest, is very important. Enter the valuable practice of self-care.
“Oh, that’s so important. So important,” Sarah affirms. “That has to be a priority. Whatever that may be—if you need more rest, make sure you get enough rest. If you need time away from the kids, figure out a babysitter. Figure out what you need to do and how to do that consistently. If you don’t have your cup at least half full, you can’t help other people.”
Even in the busyness of raising and educating children and keeping yourself at your peak, a person needs support. And the greatest support one can have when in the business of caring for others comes from God. Thus the spiritual lessons that come from parenthood and daily caregiving are profound. “I feel good when I pray,” says Sarah. “I feel that if I say ‘Dear God, I need patience’ when I pour out my heart about what I’m feeling at that moment or what I’m having a hard time with, I’m able to move on from that emotion and move forward in my day.”
And especially in those moments when little ones (or big ones) aren’t listening, Sarah remembers that she has a God who loves her as she leans on Him more—a God who cares for her as she cares for her children.
Ty-Ron Douglas is the University of California, Berkeley’s inaugural associate athletic director for diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice (DEIBJ). The development of such roles at NCAA Division 1 campuses across the United States has grown as much of the country has become convinced of the need for these programs on college campuses. So how did Douglas find himself spearheading this new initiative at one of the top public universities in America and the world?
“I was born and raised in Bermuda,” Douglas says. “I think about my story, and when I think about my life, I think about DEIBJ. I think it’s important to ground it there because I believe how we begin matters. I just know that God has always had His hand on me, and as I lean into that reality of how I began, I think it’s etched deep within my soul— this knowledge that my life has a purpose, and I’m here by design to influence other lives.”
Douglas was born on a Sabbath to a mother determined to bring her baby into a world where she would love and raise him to be something wonderful. “So when my mom had me on that Sabbath morning, she lifted me to God and said, ‘Lord, I need You to give me wisdom. I need You to give me a village to raise my son.’ And that’s been my experience. When I think about DEIBJ, when I think about my journey, my educational journey, and the experiences I’ve had in my community, God gave her that.”
The circumstances surrounding his birth to a young single mother led to her being estranged from her local Adventist church. Ty-Ron’s baby dedication did not occur during the divine worship service. Church leaders chose to do that after the service so members of the congregation could choose to leave. Douglas’s mother couldn’t continue her education at Oakwood.* Naturally, she soon withdrew from that Adventist community and initially chose to raise her son away from it.
Yet during Douglas’s adolescent years, even as Adventism wasn’t pressed upon him, he chose to attend church with extended family. In school Douglas showed great talent not only in academics but athletics. Cricket—a game regarded with great passion among Bermudans—was one in which he excelled. “At that age I was one of the best, if not the best, cricketer in my age group. I remember thinking at a young age—even though Adventism wasn’t forced on me and I attended church by choice—that I wanted to be so good in cricket that I would be chosen to play Cup Match in Bermuda and not have to compromise the Sabbath.” That match—a national event—extended over a two-day period, which included tryout matches on Sabbath.
An injury negatively impacted the trajectory of his progress in cricket, which led to frustration. Douglas played soccer as well, but it wasn’t what he wanted it to be. “I played a high level of soccer in Bermuda, but even in that space I never really thrived. I played for the top team on the island. We won a championship, but my playing time wasn’t the best. I never scored a goal in a game for that team. I scored for some other teams, but I never scored for the top team, and I prayed for a goal! Who does that? I was annoyed at God.” Douglas’s love of sport began to wane.
After a stint at community college, Douglas transitioned to Oakwood University and enjoyed campus life and involvement, singing in the choir and the acclaimed group Dynamic Praise, and getting back into team sports. He even coached the women’s soccer team and was instrumental in creating a tournament league. “I had this passion for sport as a young person, so I just did what I could in college to use whatever gifts I had and connect people.”
Following Oakwood, Douglas earned a master’s degree and returned to Bermuda to teach. “After five years I wanted to try to address some of the issues I was seeing in our community. At the time there was a proliferation of gang violence and shootings of Black men, and I just felt as though I wanted to find solutions to problems beyond my classroom and address them,” Douglas says.
Douglas soon applied to doctoral programs, in particular to two in North Carolina, one at UNC Greensboro (UNCG) and the other at UNC at Chapel Hill—the latter being the more acclaimed institution. Naturally, Chapel Hill was quite a draw for Douglas. But plans were ordered in ways he couldn’t see. “It was some God stuff. I had full-ride scholarships from Bermudan entities, so I could have gone anywhere I wanted based on money, resources, and scholarships I had access to. But my acceptance letter from UNC at Chapel Hill got sent to Malaysia, and in the interim I accepted UNCG’s offer. I’m a loyal guy, even when Chapel Hill reached out, asking, ‘Hey, what are you going to do?’ Because they’re thinking like, yeah, you got into Chapel Hill. Surely you’re coming here.”
But that’s not how it went. “I went to UNCG, and I had an amazing experience. I earned dissertation awards. I had many publications, etc. And from UNCG I got a job as a tenure track faculty member at the University of Missouri,” he adds. While at Missouri, Douglas wasn’t only busy with teaching, writing (Border Crossing Brothas and Campus Uprising), and speaking; he also managed to plant a church—Salt City church in Columbia—and earn a second master’s degree in pastoral ministry from Andrews University.
The murder of George Floyd in 2020 served as the impetus for academic institutions nationwide to make serious changes in their approach to caring for their students of color. UC Berkeley’s creation of a new role for DEIBJ in athletics was one such major change on campus. How did Douglas find his way to California’s Bay Area in the middle of all he was accomplishing at the University of Missouri?
“Most people are either academics or practitioners. I’m a border crosser; so, I’m an academic, I’m a scholar, I’m an author, but I’m also a practitioner, and Berkeley is the space for all that,” says Douglas.
The interview process was wrought with unforeseen issues. A miscommunication led to Douglas missing the first interview altogether. When Berkeley came back to him for a new interview, the audio would not work during the Zoom appointment. But through all that, Douglas felt the hand of God leading him, and when the position was offered, he knew it was the right move. “I got the job in part because I believe preparation met opportunity. I’ve had some pretty blessed moments when God has allowed me to go where people get a glimpse of what I believe God has called me to do.”
The acronym DEIBJ is the crux of the difference Douglas is making in Berkeley’s athletics as well as throughout the entire campus. “I tell my student athletes: ‘You have all the rights and privileges whether you hit the home run or not, whether you hit the game-winning shot or not, whether you run your best time or not—you belong, and you are valued.’ I believe that this work—the diversity and inclusion work—is the work of Christianity.”
Adventism and competitive athletics have always had a contentious relationship. Douglas asserts there is a place for the athletic talent that exists within this faith movement, and that the presence of believers in these spaces can lead to positive change. “Some people wonder: ‘How do you do that as a Christian?’ And I ask them, ‘How do you not do that as a Christian?’ It’s so easy for me because I see the intersections. It’s amazing to be able to live authentically and to love all people. That’s where I’m at in my journey; so when you ask what it is I do, I respond, ‘I love people. I build systems of healing. I help to influence policy, procedures, sensitivities, and understanding. I get to teach and pursue justice. And I get to do all that as a denominationally-endorsed chaplain and scholar administrator serving in Division 1 and professional athletic spaces that have been historically underserved missionally by the Adventist community.’ ”
To learn more about Ty-Ron Douglas and his passion for people, love for Christ, and commitment to the athletic talents of all God’s children, visit his website at https://drtydouglas.com, or find him on social media @DrTyDouglas.
* Oakwood, then Oakwood College, is now Oakwood University. Notably, Douglas’s mother is now a licensed counselor and doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri.
Wilona Karimabadi is assistant editor for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines.
Fitness is often thought of in the physical sense. We work for lean, conditioned muscles, better cardiorespiratory endurance and stamina, and flexibility, which makes our bodies less likely to become injured. But true fitness encompasses much more than the physical, especially for Christians. Looking at it from a whole-person standpoint, a healthy person is one who is on point in the physical, mental, and spiritual arenas.
To be physically fit, move more, lift heavy things, and stretch. To be mentally healthy, manage your stress, address your emotional needs, and pursue things that encourage happiness. But for spiritual health, exercise that most mighty of organs—your brain—to tune in to a deeper relationship with your Creator that, in turn, will easily enhance your mental and physical pursuits. So if you are up for 30-day challenge of the sort, read on.
Do not neglect the things that enhance physical fitness. Sleep enough, eat to nourish your body, move, and drink lots of water. Every day.
Commit to the entire 30 days. Studies have shown that good habits can be set for the long haul if you can successfully change a behavior for 21 days. We’re giving you 30 here, so make the most of them!
Remember the P’s: progress—not perfection—and positivity.
Divide up these activities throughout the course of your day as you see fit.
Follow this plan and post your feedback on Facebook. We’d love to hear from you, and encourage you too!
Start your morning with prayer, then set three spiritual goals of your choosing for the day,(i.e., encouraging someone, sharing a favorite text on social media, praying at specific times of day, etc.).
Challenge 1 Prayer Walk
Take a short walk or walks throughout the day during which you specifically pray about something. While walking is a great form of exercise that can be meditative in nature (especially if done outside), pay special attention to making these walks focused on prayers about specific things.
Challenge 2 Mentally Wrestle
If there are books of the Bible, or even spiritual topic books that you’ve found challenging in the past, commit to going through them in the next 30 days. Set aside 15-20 minutes (or more if you wish) of reading and reflection. Journal your thoughts and questions, and if anything really perplexes you, think on them in your prayer walk times.
Stretch and Soothe Psalms
The book of Psalms is a particularly emotional one with which many people may resonate. Choose 30 passages from the book to read and maybe commit to memory on a daily basis (it’s entirely up to you which ones and how to master them).
If it helps, create a checklist of these activities and mark your progress daily. At the end of the 30 days, where will you be?
Can a team of highly driven young female basketball players and their equally dedicated coach find a heightened sense of spirituality from their sport? For Washington Adventist University’s basketball team, that seems to be exactly what happened. I sat down with Coach Jered Lyons to talk about it.
Coach Lyons, you coached basketball outside of the Adventist system before coming to Washington Adventist University a few years ago, and you say that your work passion meets your faith here. Tell me about that.
I’ve been fortunate enough, in the places where I’ve worked, to be able to share about my faith, particularly the Sabbath. So I’ve been blessed to have had bosses who have been very understanding and allowed me not to have had to participate in certain areas. But now, to be at a place where you can pray freely, you can talk about Jesus and having a relationship with Him—well, that’s invaluable. It is really hard to describe, because I’ve been places where we have been told not to pray with the team, so to be able to speak freely and openly about my life experiences and share Christ [with my players] is amazing.
I’ve heard you have a unique approach to coaching, bringing your work passion and your passion for Christ together. You also bring a very spiritual sense of guidance to these young women. Talk about that.
Up until this point, I’ve coached on the men’s side. So this was definitely a leap of faith. On the outside looking in, it seems like it’s different. But I think there are a lot of similarities in the fact that a lot of players have come from broken homes and maybe do not have a positive male figure around. There are a lot of things that happen in society that happen, and oftentimes we don’t talk about it. So we try, as those issues come up, to talk about it. There are many issues of racial tension, religious liberty, etc. And for me, at WAU, which is a mission field inside of a mission field, most of my team are not Adventists. So when they come to the school, not only are they learning about what it means to have a relationship with Christ, but they are learning about the Adventist faith as well.
How are these athletes who are not from Adventist backgrounds finding their way to WAU?
We recruit; we recruit year-round. Basically, my philosophy is about being upfront with our recruits and saying, “Hey, this is a Christian environment. [Washington Adventist University] is a Christian university, welcoming all faiths. I’m a Christian coach, so we’re going to share Christian values with you. We’re not going to force you, because at the end of the day Christ wants us to choose to have a relationship with Him.” So I think by being upfront and honest about that during the recruitment process kind of opens their eyes, because it is not something everybody is talking about. It’s unique and different in that sense, and I know some are looking for that. They might not say it, they might not know it, but they’re looking for it.
You’re a Christian coach. What is your coaching style like?
I’m very passionate. I believe Colossians 3:23, which says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” I’m also very relational, so I want to give them freedom. But I’m passionate, so I do raise my voice. I wouldn’t say I’m any different from any other coach, except in that I’m a little more laid-back. But when the time calls for energy or passion, I do provide that.
How do you encourage your players to come talk with you about issues on and off the court? What are some of the issues they face?
My door is always open. My team members are always hanging around the office, and that’s encouraging, because [it means] they are comfortable. I do feel that God is using me to allow certain conversations, so they come in freely and talk about whatever. One of the themes I’ve been seeing for the past few years is the issues of forgiveness and mending families. We talk about that and God’s desires for families. Because of sin and how it touches everything, including families, we know that God wants to restore families and that that can’t happen without forgiveness. We’ve certainly seen some answered prayers there in regard to that, and I can see some of the young women internalizing that and really thinking about it and taking steps.
How does prayer fit into your practices, before games, with pep talks, etc.?
It’s huge, actually, especially after games, no matter what the result is. This past year, as far as wins and losses, we had a disappointing year, because we set the goals and standards high for ourselves. But I tell the women, “At the end of the day it’s just a game, and you have to leave it at that. You can’t have your identity wrapped up in what you do, because once it’s over, your identity will still be in that, and that’s when depression, and questions about your self-value, can enter in. So a big thing for us is just praying for God’s will, and for Him to help us to understand that it’s just a game, and to utilize it as a tool to build camaraderie and character.
Wilona Karimabadi with Jered Lyons
One thing I really enjoy about General Conference sessions is the opportunity to be around so many of my “own.”
If you’ve been to one, you’ve likely picked up on the special feeling in the area, a palpable vibe that comes only from being among like-minded people in the same place, for the same purpose.
Human nature supports the saying “Birds of a feather flock together,” which rings so true where Adventists are concerned. We definitely feel most comfortable around our own.
But if we spend our lives ensconced in only Adventist bubbles, I think we are actually flying in the face of the gospel commission.
That commission is all about going out. Going forth. Leaving where we are. Moving outward. Yet so many of us seem to prefer waiting for those we are meant to reach to come to us only when they are ready to change to our ways.
if the music has too much of a beat for your taste, just know it’s designed to raise your heart rate. Smile and go with it.
How fiercely do we cling to our “safe zones,” shunning the “nons” because we don’t understand them, or worse, fear their influence on our way of thinking. When we do that, how exactly are we spreading the gospel?
One of the first and easiest places to start is within your community, deliberately seeking out opportunities to be among people who are not Adventist.
So if you comfortably exist within Adventist campuses of your own making, get out of them. Don’t fear the corruption of your values and beliefs from sheer exposure to the world. Instead, operate with the confidence that that which is true will surely stand. Right?
Join exercise classes or studios where you might befriend someone that you might have the opportunity to serve one day. And if the music has too much of a beat for your taste, just know it’s designed to raise your heart rate. Smile and go with it.
If your new friend invites you to hang out at a certain café with worldwide locations, enjoy your herbal tea or juice, maybe split a lemon cake slice, and be a listening and laughing friend who loves unconditionally.
Are your neighbors having a picnic as you are returning from church? Don’t be afraid to join them. Go enjoy the picnic lunch; make more friends; or strengthen neighborhood friendships as the Holy Spirit guides you in discovering more and more ways to bless and be blessed in service and joy.
Is there is a concert, charity drive, or other opportunity to be involved stemming from your local public school? Go and learn more about the things going on in your community, and see how you might be a better fellow citizen, ready to serve.
We have to go. We have to find. We have to serve. And we have to love.
None of that will happen if we live like we have to be isolated, because Jesus never asked us to.
While a good part of the United States experiences the highs and lows of seasonal weather, southern California has always been known as a mecca for nearly year-round warm temperatures, sunny skies, and a relaxed vibe. This is certainly a draw for students from around the world who attend Loma Linda University (LLU).
But they don’t come just for its 45-minute proximity to the beach. It is, after all, a world-renowned health sciences university and medical center that happens to be very important to the overall mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It’s also a major employer for southern California’s Inland Empire—to scores of Adventists and non-Adventists alike. As such, it’s a special place with a huge potential for witness. And that is not lost on the spiritual leaders who minister to it.
With LLU’s students and employees coming from an immense diversity of ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds, how do you create one single, homogenous, familiar spiritual home for all?
Prak-sis: practice, as distinguished from theory; application or use, as of knowledge or skills. A set of examples for practice.1
Tyler Stewart ministers to young adults for the Loma Linda University church. If you are a student or working in the medical center, you see the church, or will pass it, in your daily crisscrossing of the campus. That makes it ideal for Stewart’s mission to young adult students and working professionals who spend time on this campus.
As part of a campus-wide renovation effort, a courtyard—just adjacent to the entrance to the church, and a short walk from the medical center and its parking garages—now provides a special opportunity for the community Stewart seeks to engage. There is patio furniture, tables, and a classroom with a garage door that opens up on nice days to create a more open space. “The idea was just that when I step outside of my church office, I like to be within arm’s reach of the varied population and demographic that I’m responsible for ministering to on this campus,” says Stewart.
Stewart’s young adult ministry has also taken advantage of a new and innovative way to open itself to the university community. Loma Linda’s Boba Tea House (boba are tapioca balls included in iced fruit-flavored teas that one slurps through a large straw) was invited to set up a little shop in the courtyard. During the week, as students and professionals pass through, they can pick up a refreshing drink, relax in the space, and get acquainted with the church in the most informal way.
“It was the opportunity for ministry to happen here, and for the entire church to feel more welcoming,” says Stewart. “I think some students used to walk by the church and they didn’t even know much about it. ‘Is that a place I’m allowed to be? Is the church kind of off limits?’ And now, by adding this and putting signage out there, it’s spreading the word. I get to be up at chapel and let them know about what’s happening [here], and they go, ‘Oh. This space is for us!’ ”
And that is key for what the space is used for come Sabbath. A key piece of Stewart’s ministry is Praxis. When he first came to University church, the church ran a young adult service called ReLive, which took the second service of the three offered every Sabbath morning. Sensing a need for a new and different missional community, Stewart and a few leaders began meeting on the rooftop of the parking garage adjacent to the church on Friday evenings for dialogue, sundown singing, and worship. “We began discussing the felt needs of our spiritual experience, being on this campus and as young professionals. What are we missing? What are we craving?” says Stewart. It started with personal invites and word of mouth to the rooftop gathering.
The crux of Praxis, which now meets in the courtyard area of the church, is this: “The impetus behind the gathering of our community has always been ‘How are we coming together to push ourselves to say we’re not just navel-gazing over our theology or theorizing about how practical Christianity should look?’ ” says Stewart. “But how are we pushing ourselves and providing accountability to put into practice what we talk about, speak about, hear preaching about, sing about—all that kind of stuff. This is what drives our community.”
Praxis gathers more than 100 LLU young adults on Friday night to welcome in the Sabbath in a way that is very accepting and open for people who may not even know what the Sabbath is. That’s how the weekday tea shop/courtyard helps. After being in that space informally during the week, anyone interested would be comfortable with an invitation from a fellow student or peer to come back on Friday night to discuss faith, culture, careers, spirituality, etc.
But it’s not over on Friday night. “Scripture is usually a part of Friday nights,” says Stewart. “But we never assume that everyone coming is Adventist, let alone Christian. So we want to keep it open-ended enough for it to be engaging and to empower people to dialog.” Then there is Sabbath morning Praxis Bible study. Friday nights involve the introduction of a topic that attendees are encouraged to dialog about and share thoughts on. Then it goes further.
“So we do a follow-up,” he adds. “We use the same topic for a discussion base, but say, ‘OK, for those of you who want to come back Saturday morning to look specifically at what Scripture says about, say, revenge or whatever we’re talking about, or to look to a specific passage on what Jesus had to say about this, that presents a great opportunity to tackle something from a biblical, verse-by-verse approach.” Praxis groups round out another component of the ministry, where individuals connect with others for daily/weekly interaction on varying topics, ideas, etc.
“With the younger generation, there’s this real sense that we need to actively engage, dialog, discuss, and not just plop down to listen to a 25-minute didactic teaching, get up, and leave,” says Stewart. “They want to be able to explore, interact, participate. So that became the core part of our identity and is kind of our calling card. The literal definition of praxis is practice over theory.”
Kuh-nek-shuh-ns: the act or state of connecting.2
We felt a strong desire to reach out to young adults of various faiths, especially since, on this campus, the majority of students are of other faiths, even though this is an Adventist campus,” says Doug Plata, leader of the Connections ministry at LLU.
It’s true that LLU is filled with students from many faith backgrounds, even those who don’t subscribe to any at all. Thus Plata, who served as Student Association president during his time there, understood the unique spiritual needs and opportunities that presented themselves on campus. “We have people here from all over the world. In fact, we have people who come to our campus who are from countries where it’s illegal to send Christian missionaries there. Yet they send their sons and daughters here. It would be sort of sinful to not take advantage of that situation,” he says.
Connections as an outreach ministry goes about things in a practical and fun way, given the students it attempts to engage. While it started out traditionally with a vespers and Bible study model, it has evolved over time. One of the methods that has proved very effective with students is staging activities. “Because our mission is to reach out to friends of other faiths,” says Plata, “we have different sorts of levels of activity. Really easy entry activities, which include hikes.” Plata grew up in the area and professes to know the best hiking locations around. Especially for LLU’s many international students, the opportunity to see the best of southern California’s natural beauty with someone who knows where to find it is not one to pass up. These informal activities and fellowship opportunities naturally segue into places for witness.
“Basically, we were doing experimental religion, and when we found out what worked, we sort of doubled down on that. And our hikes are definitely that sort of thing. We have identified the 11 best hikes in the area, and we schedule these every two weeks,” says Plata. Additionally, there are also occasional Saturday night socials, trips to places such as the Getty Museum or Griffith Observatory, Fourth of July fireworks at the University of Redlands, and even a four-day spring break excursion through the Southwest. One favorite is a hike to nearby Oak Glen, which always includes a visit to LLU president Richard Hart’s home and his pet llamas!
The Sabbath hikes provide a springboard to Connections’ Friday night Bible studies, which have proved to be a great setting for giving interested students the opportunity to go deeper. Dinner is usually offered before the group transitions to a Bible study that is often young adult-led. “We do want to make these Bible studies a place where it’s not just Adventists talking to Adventists, but a place where all can feel comfortable,” says Plata. For non-Adventist students seeking to understand what Adventists are about through Connections activities, these studies can be a catalyst.
Brittany Juergens, a recent graduate of the School of Nursing, wasn’t a church member when she started coming to Connections activities. But when she became intrigued enough to ask questions, Connections Bible study helped her delve into what the Word of God had to say, something she found herself deeply craving. “I really think Connections is a great ministry to reach out to different people of different faiths because I feel as though people from different faiths can appreciate Bible-based studies. You can prove things through the Bible and ask questions,” she says. Juergens was baptized a day after she graduated from nursing school.
While a relatively small ministry, Plata really believes in the mission of Connections and its potential. “I want to introduce people to Christ, share with them the beliefs for the end-times, and the truths the Lord has given to us,” says Plata. “This is very much experiential religion, and it is about asking, ‘Lord, how can we better reach students of various faiths?’ I’m open to where the Lord would lead us.”
Ardent Californian Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review. She is deeply involved in the young adult ministry of her local church, Southern Asian Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Every academic year at Southern Adventist University ends with a showcase of the best work from students in the School of Visual Art and Design (SVAD). To open the multimedia show of fine art, graphic design, film, and animation, faculty members create a top-secret introductory film. When finally revealed, this piece sets the tone and builds anticipation for the evening to come.
In 2015 that film was Elegy, and it served a bigger purpose than being an opener for the end-of-year show, at least for Nicholas Livanos, as director and SVAD professor. “I got the news of my father’s death in January of 2015 and processed my grief, in part, through making the film,” he says.
The loss left him with a lot of questions. His father, Jason Livanos, had been a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, but had broken his vow of noncombatancy by taking the lives of Vietcong in order to rescue American captives.
Late in life, when Livanos asked him about how he dealt with the trauma of the incident, his father said this: “I just don’t think about it.” Through tears, he wondered out loud if God could forgive what he had done.
“I still don’t know if my father ever reconciled his guilt with God’s loving forgiveness,” says Livanos. “But I do know that art often provides a path for asking questions that language struggles to articulate.”
Livanos’ personal goal for the project was to wrestle with some of those hard questions, rather than just arrive at conclusions. He recalled Job’s desire to question God in the midst of his suffering, but in the Bible, God does not provide Job with direct answers.
As a result, the film is especially poetic and symbolic. There are elements left intentionally ambiguous enough for personal interpretation. For Livanos, the girl’s coin represents those things we must let go of in order to be reconciled with God. God takes our burdens on Himself, if we let him. He doesn’t force grace on us.
An elegy is a sort of funeral poem, but the inspiration for this short piece doesn’t begin and end with death. The imagery also evokes Elijah’s encounter with God from 1 Kings 19, when God was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in a still small voice.
At the end of the film, a whispering Hebrew voice asks the same question God asks Elijah in the cave, “What are you doing here?” “I think there is a connection between this moment and my father’s story: Elijah ended up hiding in a cave because he was afraid of Jezebel, even though he had recently called down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel. He had experienced God’s greatness, but had lost sight of it,” says Livanos. His dad grew up an Adventist believer, but doubted God’s ability to forgive his actions in war. He had experienced God’s greatness, but had lost sight of it.
The film also contains a poem, in voice-over, that incorporates text from Ecclesiastes. Solomon’s lament on meaningless existence merges with Livanos’ original poetry. Of course, in mourning it becomes easier to feel that life is meaningless. Elegy, however,makes efforts to end on a hopeful note—imagining a dramatic transformation for the lead character. She emerges at the end of the film visibly different because of her sacrifice to self. Livanos shares this same hope for the end of his father’s life.
All these fine details inject an intentionality into the whole film that he hopes will move audiences. No one needs to agree with the meaning, but it is hoped that viewers take some time to think about what it means for themselves. “A lot of people worked extremely hard to make the film a reality, and each of them rose to the occasion, adding their own details and owning a piece of the story,” says Livanos.
Production for Elegy took one and a half days on location with SVAD students and faculty working side by side as crew. In order to capture all the footage on such a short time line, SVAD professor and film program coordinator David George led two camera teams at once. There are a number of stunning special effects visuals, and everything was done practically on set. When you see fire, that’s real fire, every time. Licensed pyrotechnicians helped keep the crew safe and the explosions dazzling. Makeup and wardrobe created unique looks from scratch, including blue glitter for the finale. The lead actor, SVAD graphic design alumnus Rachel Rupert, performed her own stunts—falling backward off a 15-foot tower into a foam pit below. Locations manager Tom Smith (42, Water for Elephants) secured an abandoned steel foundry for the primary shooting venue.
Since its premiere at the 2015 SVAD end-of-year show, Elegy has made the rounds throughout the United States, connecting with Christian and nonbelieving audiences alike. At the International Christian Film Festival, Livanos was nominated for best short film director and won second place for best short film. Elegy earned gold elsewhere, as well as several official film festival selections.
Livanos recently re-edited the source footage into a music video for the song “Omega,” by Swedish band Immanu El. “I don’t know how they heard about it, but I guess they liked it. Seeing the same material take on a different tone and form was an unusual experience, but it was kind of a beautiful thing. Just at the end of its life, this film about death was reborn—you might even say ‘resurrected,’ ” Livanos adds.
He began another collaborative student production in February. The film is still untitled, but revolves around themes of trust, faith, and the notion that we as humans must actively choose what we believe about God’s character. It’s also a sci-fi comedy. Livanos hopes to continue to create stories with spiritual themes that have the ability to connect with nonspiritual audiences. “After all,” he says. “Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds.”
Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor for Adventist Review. Nicholas Livanos is is a professor of film production at Southern Adventist University’s School of Visual Art and Design.
Tackling what is perhaps one of the toughest topics we will ever struggle with—death—this special installment in the Beyond the Search series is a must-watch.
The Beyond the Search documentary series is produced by Hope Channel in Australia in affiliation with the South Pacific Division and features Australian evangelists Geoff Youlden, Danielle Synot, and Johnny Murison.
In this particular episode Youlden, Synot, and Murison examine questions about death through the lens of popular culture, personal experiences, and biblical truth. Youlden travels to Romania to explore the birthplace of Vlad Dracula and society’s current fascination with the undead. Murison visits Alcor, a cryonics foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, to learn about the notion that through scientific discoveries it may be possible for the dead to actually live again—after being preserved in nitrogen, of course. Finally, Synot takes the viewer through her very personal story of losing her baby boy during pregnancy and her search for answers during her recovery. All three bring the viewers right back to the source of all answers to questions regarding death and eternal life—the Bible.
The episode is extremely well done; from on-location settings, music, cinematography, storytelling, and biblical evidence, this video is one to keep on hand for anyone you may encounter who is unfamiliar with the truth and hope about death found only in the Word of God. It’s an excellent witnessing tool.
To learn more about this episode and others in the series, visit www.beyond.info. This series is also available at artv.adventistreview.org .
Come Before Winter: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and His Companions in the Dying Gasps of the Third Reich, Stories That Glow Collectors, 69 minutes, 2017, US$19.95. Reviewed by Stephen Chavez, assistant editor, Adventist Review.
Come Before Winter tells a story with which most of us are familiar: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian and pastor, and the ethical struggle he faced between the claims of Christianity and his desire to end the horrors of Germany’s Third Reich. Other characters in the film, unmentioned in most tellings of Bonhoeffer’s story, show how many people who never saw action on a battlefield still contributed to the demise of the Third Reich.
This film is unique in that it is as much docudrama as documentary. Interspersed with actors who portray real characters in a true story are Bonhoeffer scholars and personal acquaintances who add their insights to this complex story. Faculty and students of Southern Adventist University were instrumental in the production of this film.
Even if you already know Bonhoeffer’s story, Come Before Winter will add to your appreciation of the details of his story, and his attempts to be both a citizen of earth as well as a citizen of heaven.
For information, visit: ComeBeforeWinterMovie.com.
American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, Jon Meacham, Random House, New York, 2007, 421 pages, paperback, US$17. Reviewed by Lael Caesar, associate editor, Adventist Review.
This Jon Meacham work on politics and religiosity in America has particular relevance for the United States of 2017. The book comprises an introduction, six chapters, two worthy appendices, copious source notes and bibliography, author’s acknowledgments, an Afterword that did not appear in the 2006 hardcover, and an index of names and subjects.
The foundational and ample introduction that precedes the six chapters reflects and insists upon the secular-religious equilibrium that has consistently been America’s goal and focus. Appendix A consists of nine documents on religion in America, such as the prayer of a Jewish congregation in New York City during the Revolutionary War; Washington’s farewell address; a treaty between the United States and the Islamic province of Tripoli of Barbary; and Robert Ingersoll’s definition of secularism.
Appendix B lists the presidents’ choices of Bible verses for 34 inaugurations, from Martin Van Buren to George W. Bush. Presidents have most frequently selected passages from the Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah.
Meacham’s six chapters cover the first colonies; the founding and the Revolution; Lincoln and Darwin; Jim Crow and the Great Depression; Martin Luther King, Jr., through the Reagan years; and a final discussion about how the United States’ past may instruct its future.
His treatment protects the founders from unwarranted beatification, saves the nation’s history from appropriation by zealots who insist that it began as a Christian institution, and preserves America’s public square from the amoral indeterminacy that prohibits any official reference to God and the supernatural.
Rather than any distinctly denominational characteristics, the conspicuous virtues of America’s public religion are tolerance and reverence, and its pervasive atmosphere is “consummately democratic” (p. 23). The remarkable breadth and latitude of Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom offers protection for Jew and Gentile, Christian and Muslim, Hindu and infidel. The founders and the United States’ early presidents expected such diversity to increase.
Their particular genius that has kept the United States sane and strong for centuries was the founders’ stand against a union in which the state might define or finance religion, or religion might qualify or disqualify aspiration to public service. Their continuing legacy is the privilege of free and cordial conversation on matters of religion and politics.
Meacham knows that just now the United States is not exploiting the benefits of this inheritance. One could hope that the insights of this book may lead to better appropriation of the blessings bequeathed to their children by the men (literally) of our national ancestry and better equip us to honor their legacy of respect for God and country—in that order.
It was 5:00 a.m. Ratna Samuel, a young Adventist mother, wife, and nurse was brushing her teeth, preparing for work. Her little girls, ages 9 and 4, were still sleeping, and her husband would soon rouse from his slumber to drive her to work that day.
“I heard thunder,” Ratna said. “[In Kuwait], we never heard anything like that. I said, ‘What is that noise?’ ”
The Samuel family lived in an area called Ahmadi, associated with the Kuwait Oil Company, where both she and her husband, Pushparaj, were employed as nurses. The crime rate there was so low that even the sound of police car sirens was foreign. So even the sound of thunder, at that hour, was very strange.
Driving to work, the pair noticed the large telecommunications tower, so integral to modern Kuwaiti life, had been knocked down.
Ratna began her workday preparing to administer insulin injections to diabetic clients before the formal start of her shift. But she soon noticed something out of the ordinary. “The Kuwaiti patients were coming in for insulin, yet everyone was gossiping in the corners,” she remembers.
At first she didn’t bother with it. “Then I asked someone, ‘What’s going on today? Why are people whispering?’ Then someone told me: Iraq is here already.”
It was August 2, 1990.
In the 1980s Kuwait, a tiny yet wealthy country, provided opportunities for many Indian nationals to come there to live and work, enjoying a comfortable lifestyle supplied by the lifespring of the nation—oil. Pushparaj went first, gaining employment as a nurse with a clinic associated with the Kuwait Oil Company. Ratna joined him a little later, soon after completing her nursing education and securing her necessary certifications. Their little girl, Veena, joined them later, with Tina’s birth completing the family in 1986. By their account, they had a great life. Employees in the oil sector, which was literally surrounded by oil wells, were provided safe and comfortable housing, and the Samuels used their income to build a lovely home for themselves back in India for their eventual return. The family enjoyed trips to Cyprus, Egypt, and the Holy Land with relatives, and they treasured worshipping with the small community of Adventists in the area, many of whom were in Kuwait under the same circumstances. Life was good.
Ratna knew of no real warning that an invasion was imminent—just an ominous threat over oil conflicts from Saddam Hussein on August 1, 1990, saying that the next day (August 2) the Iraqi army would have breakfast in Kuwait.
“Before all this happened, I was just a pastor’s daughter.”
By 2:00 a.m. Iraqi tanks had indeed rolled in.
As soon as she heard the news of the invasion, Ratna called her husband. “We are under siege,” she told him. “Go, go, go! Tell everybody.” Pushparaj “then called his brother, everyone, and they ran to buy supplies, withdraw our money, and all that. There was a big commotion.”
For the next few weeks the family tried to figure out what to do next. Pushparaj continued his night shifts at his clinic, now used to cater to Iraqi soldiers. While he and other male friends worked, the women and children would gather in one home for the night. Tales of Iraqi soldiers forcing their way into random homes, assaulting women, and plundering houses emerged quickly. But the Samuel family and their friends were untouched.
“There was this time we were home and my dad went to work,” recalls daughter Tina. “There were tanks on the street outside, and we could just hear shooting and all kinds of stuff. My mom was praying, just praying. Then someone started banging on the door! It was my dad, but we didn’t know it was he at first. He was trying to get inside because there was shooting. We thought it was soldiers, and my mother was just crying, and praying, and praying.”
Iraq and India had enjoyed peaceful diplomatic relations before the war. As a result, the large Indian community in the country were in a better situation, safety-wise, than their Kuwaiti neighbors. But within two weeks grocery stores were ransacked and it became increasingly difficult to get supplies, especially for families with small children. “We decided it was no longer safe to stay. We didn’t know at what point America was going to come to the rescue, and didn’t know what to do if our safety was no longer there. We needed to leave,” says Ratna.
At first the plan was to drive from Kuwait to Basra, Iraq, to Iran, then to Pakistan and on to India, recalls Pushparaj. Their trek involved a small Toyota Corolla, packed to the roof with as much as they could carry, and two little girls in the back seat. Five families formed the fleeing caravan.
On their first attempt, the border was closed! “They said it was open, but before we reached the place, it was closed. We waited for three days in Basra, on the roadside,” says Pushparaj. The roadside actually bordered the Euphrates River, which served as a place to bathe and, for the kids, to play. There was also a Sheraton hotel across the road that graciously allowed the group to use its bathrooms. There were two more attempts made to cross; then the group realized this option was too risky.
Out of options, they returned to their homes in Kuwait. “What the Iraqi soldiers used to do was occupy whatever homes they wanted,” says Pushparaj. “Our house was wide open for three days, but everything was still there [when we returned]. The food and everything was still there.”
The Indian government began an operation to get their nationals out in what became one of the largest airlifts ever accomplished—involving more than 100,000 civilians evacuated. Within this group were the Samuels and six other Indian Adventist families. “We had lost hope,” remembers Ratna. “There was no more going by car, but the Indian embassy gave us another option because we had small children.”
“Jesus, this is Your doing. I know it is.”
The family boarded school buses bound for Basra, Iraq. From there they would travel via Indian Air Force military planes to Bombay. They were instructed to carry just 15 pounds of luggage—for a family of four. So into a small black carryon bag went their money, documentation (including work certifications for India), photos, food for the girls, and gold, which Ratna tucked into pockets of her jeans.
Multiple planes were supposed to be ready to take the evacuees to India, but for some reason, only one plane arrived that day. Throngs of fleeing Indian citizens waited in the airport, which was essentially nonfunctioning, unsure of what to do. Finally, the decision came down that just women and children could go, but everyone refused. So now, in order for the flight to leave with all passengers on board, all luggage had to be left behind.
In the exhaustion of the past several days, Ratna failed to tag that important little bag, and left it on the tarmac. With minutes to go before takeoff, she realized her mistake and sent Pushparaj racing off the tail ramp of the military plane to the piles of luggage for that precious bag.
But he got the wrong one.
“We were sitting in the plane, and it was taking off and I was crying,” says Ratna. “I didn’t know how I’d be able to go home. ‘Jesus,’ I prayed. ‘How can we go home with nothing in hand? At least the certificates, something.’ I was crying and crying and praying, ‘Jesus, please.’ ” But the plane left Iraq and winged its way east, toward India.
Then, one hour into the flight, the pilot announced a technical problem and that they were going right back to Basra! “I said, ‘Jesus, this is Your doing, I know it is,’ ” remembers Ratna. “I was so happy. We could have landed in some other country for this technical fault, but we were going all the way back to Basra, where all our things still were.”
Another miracle awaited them—all the luggage left behind had been placed securely in a room, left unharmed. So the little black bag was secured. This time, more Indian Air Force planes were waiting with enough room for everyone and all their luggage. On landing in Bombay, they learned that the Indian government was providing 5,000 rupees, and free airline tickets to anywhere in the country, for all its citizens fleeing Kuwait.
After about a year in India the Samuel family returned to their Kuwaiti home. Once Iraq was defeated and regular life resumed, Pushparaj was called back (as nurses were needed), and the whole family followed. They stayed in Kuwait for several more years until the girls were older, before emigrating to the United States, where they now reside in Maryland. Veena and Tina are married with children of their own now, making Ratna and Pushparaj, who still work as nurses, the proud grandparents of four.
The experience, while harrowing, will never leave them. But now it serves best as a profound reminder of God’s faithfulness to His children.
“Before all this happened, I was just a pastor’s daughter,” says Ratna. “We did the routine things, such as going to church, etc. But I really, really saw the hand of God during this time. It was God’s protection. We were safe and taken care of. And when we went back, life was normal again.”
Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review. She is also the editor of KidsView.
Spring and summer vacations may seem a long way off, but they are actually much closer than you think. So if you are starting the process of planning a trip within the continental United States anytime soon, why not consider routing your trek close to Adventist Heritage sites?
Honestly, you won’t find pristine beaches or amusement and water parks in the same towns as these sites. But a visit to places such as Elmshaven, Historic Adventist Village in Battle Creek, or the New England homes and farms of our movement’s pioneers is definitely worth it. And if you’ve ever had an interest in seeing points of historical significance to the movement, you will enjoy learning more about the origins of the Adventist movement by walking the same paths as James and Ellen White, Joseph Bates, and William Miller, among others.
Read along and see if your next road trip might include a stop at one of these special places.
For complete information about all these sites, visit AdventistHeritage.org. Contact information for each individual site is included in the respective descriptions.
125 Glass Mountain Road
St. Helena, California 94574
The home, built in 1885, was purchased by Ellen White in 1900. This was the home she purchased after her return from Australia, and she lived there until her death in 1915. It is a National Historic Landmark, still owned and maintained by the Pacific Union Conference. It is open to the public for free tours—walk-ins welcome. If you are planning a trip to California’s beautiful Napa Valley, or maybe to visit nearby Pacific Union College, a stop at Elmshaven makes for a nice Sabbath afternoon activity.
191 Main Street
Fairhaven, Massachusetts 02719
Joseph Bates’ childhood home was built in 1742. At the time of this writing no inside tours are available, because the property is under renovation. But once it’s ready, a visit to the place that once housed this sea captain-turned-champion of the Advent message is sure to prove inspirational. For inquiries about the home and eventual tour opportunities, use the e-mail address provided.
1614 County Route 11
Whitehall, New York 12887
William Miller’s farm and nearby “Ascension Rock” are must-sees if you are in this part of upstate New York that is very close to the Vermont border. It’s a particularly beautiful place during autumn, especially near October 22!
780 Field Street
Clifton Springs, New York 14432
If you’re near Rochester, New York, or the historic Erie Canal, you can visit Hiram Edson’s farm, including 17.5 acres of the original parcel he owned. The original barn is no longer standing, but the barn belonging to his father, Luther Edson, has been restored and placed on Hiram’s farm. This site is often thought of as the theological birthplace of the Seventh-day Adventist movement, particularly the sanctuary truth. For hours, and to arrange your visit, use the e-mail address above.
480 West Van Buren Street
Battle Creek, Michigan 49037
This is an important Michigan stop if you are visiting Chicago or Andrews University. Learn about life in the United States more than 100 years ago by wandering through the picturesque village that features James and Ellen White’s home, the Parkville church, and a traditional schoolhouse, among others. Do not miss nearby Oak Hill Cemetery, which is the final resting place of James and Ellen White, as well as Sojourner Truth and the Kellogg brothers, John Harvey, and Will Keith. Use the phone number above to make your visit reservation.