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.

The Rules

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!

The Plan:

Warm-up

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?

Best wishes!

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.

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To watch the inspiring story of Emily Piazza, one of Coach Lyons’ team members, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vh5S4rAZ0cE.

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?

You don’t.

Praxis

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.

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An open, inviting space provides the best backdrop for well-attended Praxis gatherings.

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.”

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Service is a prime component of the Praxis Ministry.

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.”

Connections

Kuh-nek-shuh-ns: the act or state of connecting.2

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Connections hikers on a favorite outing—Oak Glen, California!

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.

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Connections Bible Study is an integral part of the ministry.

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.

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Nearby Mt. Rubidoux provides a great photo op.

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.”


  1. dictionary.com
  2. Ibid.

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.

Elegy from ARtv on Vimeo.

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.”

A Way to Ask Questions

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.

Poetry

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.

Making the Rounds

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.

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Beyond Death

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 .


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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.


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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.

Happier Days

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.

It Begins

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.

Exodus

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.

Restored

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.


Elmshaven

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125 Glass Mountain Road
St. Helena, California 94574
www.elmshaven.org

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.


Joseph Bates Home

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191 Main Street
Fairhaven, Massachusetts 02719
[email protected]

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.


William Miller Farm

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1614 County Route 11
Whitehall, New York 12887
[email protected]

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!


Hiram Edson Farm

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780 Field Street
Clifton Springs, New York 14432
[email protected]

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.


Historic Adventist Village

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480 West Van Buren Street
Battle Creek, Michigan 49037
269-965-3000

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.


There was a time when families gathered together to listen.

They listened to music. They listened to stories. They listened to news. And suddenly, with this new thing called radio, people were connected to and through people they couldn’t see. Through the radio came the stories of war and of victory or defeat. Through it came tunes that mothers and fathers would hum to themselves long after the box was switched off. And through these radios came messages that would inspire, educate, and change hearts.

For the times, radio was revolutionary, and Adventism recognized an immense opportunity. This new media (as it was then) provided a way for the gospel to travel as it never could have before. Years after that, television entered in, again changing the world: now the Word could go out with a face attached to the message. Later still, the Internet has now forever linked the world and the church’s ability to reach even more with programming available on devices as small as the size of a hand, available anytime, anywhere.

Potential

Not all programming available on radio and television in those early days was appropriate. That certainly has not changed today. Many faithful Adventists, both leaders and lay members, struggled against using the same modes of communication that may have provided questionable content to then deliver the good news of Christ and His second coming. But the reach of this type of media was unquestionable. So yes, perhaps the “devil’s box,” as my grandmother used to call it, caused many a family to lock it out of their homes altogether. But think about it: Where would we be today without Faith for Today, Voice of Prophecy (VOP), Breath of Life, 3ABN, Hope Channel, and others? Could Adventism have made such strides during the past century without embracing the media of the day?

James Aitken, secretary of the Radio-Television Department of the General Conference, said this back in 1968: “When I say that television is a God-given instrument to bring a message of hope to the multitudes, I am speaking of the individual or family which needs help. How can they be reached behind the fortress walls of the high-rise apartments and the sprawling residential districts and across the vast and mighty plains, where individuals and families often live isolated?”1 Those words ring true even today, nearly 50 years later.

Roots to Growth

Once the church harnessed this technology, radio and television became a huge game changer. This era in church history saw remarkable inroads into previously difficult-to-reach groups because of it, and it caused growth—both in membership and in the church’s ability to produce quality programming for these modes. Faith for Today, for example, as the church’s first televised media ministry, continues now with what it started then. “Faith for Today is a ‘first contact’ ministry,” says Mike Tucker, speaker/director. “Few people today will be baptized without first forming a relationship with people in the church. Faith for Today helps form these relationships by creating television that focuses on areas that matter to secular people, such as relationships and health.”

While not owned or operated by the Church, 3ABN is a supporting ministry whose humble roots have grown into something much greater, providing a platform for other media ministries as well. “The world has greatly changed since 3ABN began broadcasting on satellite television more than 30 years ago,” says Danny Shelton, founder and president. “I thank the Lord that He has used 3ABN as the catalyst for many other Seventh-day Adventist television networks and media groups. In 2016 there is no way we could fulfill the gospel commission without using the avenue of media and broadcasting. Praise God for what He’s doing through each one!”

The New Media of the Day

While the power of television and radio have not been diminished with new media developments, they have certainly increased in strength—just think of satellite radio and Internet-based streaming services. Everything televised can now easily be found on the Internet through Web sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, among so many others. Adventist media ministries would be inadequate without a solid Web presence, as that is the primary way Western society goes about finding information these days. It is now a significant part of their operations.

Broadcast content, whether through television or radio, is often archived on ministry Web sites, making it easy to stream or download programming for sharing. Web sites increasingly generate traffic through the use of social media in a variety of platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. A strong social media presence is a crucial part of any reputable organization seeking to make a mark in the world, and it is no different for ministry. The ability for anyone, regardless of who they are or where they are, to create video and post it instantaneously with nothing more than a smartphone has created an unparalleled explosion of information accessibility.

What does this mean for the church? Everything, because the message now goes faster and farther than ever before, only building as time goes on.

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An Enduring Legacy

Radio and television in the early days of its influence were undoubtedly cutting edge. And if you think about what is said in Matthew 24:14—“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (KJV)—media evangelism is a natural progression.

“Every day our Hope Channel team is reminded of the global impact of our media ministries,” says Derek Morris, Hope Channel president. “The words of Jesus are true: the harvest truly is great.” Today we can Snapchat stories out to the world in seconds. We can build Pinterest boards focused on so many aspects of the Adventist message. We develop and post short videos available to download within minutes of release that are then shared through any number of social media outlets. What was started all those years ago has endured and become something much greater than anyone could have foreseen. And it’s a mind-boggling fulfillment of prophecy.

“I personally believe we now have the technology in place to take the story, the saving, life-transforming story of Jesus to the entire world,” says Connie Vandeman Jeffery, daughter of It Is Written founder George Vandeman and former associate manager of the Adventist Media Center. “Through the Internet; through mobile phone technology; through traditional media of radio and television; through social networking. And through traditional evangelism. We need every tool—traditional and new—to tell the story.

“That’s the enduring legacy of all Adventist media ministries.”


To better understand what God has done and continues to do, just consider the following timeline of Adventist media ministry:2

1929
H.M.S. Richards begins a radio ministry with other Adventist ministers in the Los Angeles, California, area.

1937
The first broadcast of the Voice of Prophecy radio program debuts. J. L. Tucker begins a daily devotional radio program out of Portland, Oregon. Called Quiet Hour, it is now based in Redlands, California.

1942
VOP launches its first national Adventist Bible correspondence school and Braulio Perez Marcio started La Voz de la Esperanza (“Voice of Hope”) in Spanish.

1950
William Fagal begins broadcasting Faith for Today in New York City on May 21. By December it has become the first national religious telecast.

1956
George Vandeman founds It Is Written. It is the first televised religious program to broadcast in full color.

1965
Amazing Facts is started by Joe Crews in Baltimore, Maryland, as a radio idea to attract new listeners from all backgrounds. It expands to television programming in the mid-1980s. Now based in Sacramento, California, it features Doug Batchelor.

1971
The church leases shortwave airtime in Portugal, and Adventist World Radio is born. AWR now operates a comprehensive podcasting service. Today all programs in more than 100 languages are available online to listeners worldwide.

1972
The General Conference establishes the Seventh-day Adventist Radio Television and Film Center in Newbury Park, California (north of Los Angeles). Faith for Today and It is Written relocates there. Voice of Prophecy joins them in 1978.

1975
Breath of Life joins the new media center, with Walter Arties as director and C. D. Brooks as speaker.

1984
A carpenter by trade, Danny Shelton founds Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a 24-hour television and radio network. Today it has expanded to include several networks.

1994
The church forays into satellite ministry with Mark Finley preaching out of the Home Shopping Network studio in Los Angeles to five churches.

1995
With Mark Finley speaking, the first national NET event is broadcast from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to 650 churches in the United States and Canada. More national and international NET events follow.

1996
Loma Linda Broadcasting Network (LLBN) launches. Based in Loma Linda, California, the network is 100 percent viewer-supported and features programming in multiple languages via seven networks.

2003
Hope Channel North America is officially established specifically for the United States and Canada. Esperanza TV also launches, aimed at North and Central America.

2013
The board of the Adventist Media Center votes to sell the facility and calls for its six media ministries to relocate.

Present
While no longer based in California, Adventist media ministries such as Faith for Today, Voice of Prophecy, ItIs Written, Breath of Life,and La Voz de la Esperanza, along with newer ministries LifeTalk Radio and Jesus 101, continue on.


  1. Columbia Union Visitor, Jan. 11, 1968.
  2. Time line adapted from http://www.adventistmediacenter.com/article/22/about-us/history as well as other mentioned ministry Web sites.

Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review. She also edits KidsView.

While a traditional college educational experience involves a physical presence on a campus and all that that entails, today degrees can be earned without ever leaving your home. Distance education, or online learning, makes it possible for students to pursue an entire degree virtually, or add a few classes here and there in a way that suits varied life situations perfectly. Most colleges and universities nationwide offer some form of distance education, and several Adventist campuses are no exception. The following listing is a snapshot of what is available for virtual learners from North America’s Adventist higher education campuses.

ANDREWS UNIVERSITY | www.andrews.edu/distance/online
Andrews offers several undergraduate and graduate programs through both online and on-campus courses. Please refer to the above site for detailed information on exactly what is available and how it works.

ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY OF HEALTH SCIENCES | online.adu.edu
ADU currently offers five faith-based programs (three undergraduate and two graduate) that are 100 percent online, with no campus visits required.

KETTERING COLLEGE OF MEDICAL ARTS | kc.edu/academics/health-sciences
Kettering offers a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences online program. It is best suited for students who have already obtained an associate degree in health care and wish to pursue advanced study. It is a blend of online and on-campus courses.

LA SIERRA UNIVERSITY | lasierra.edu/online-programs
La Sierra’s School of Education offers online graduate courses leading to a master’s degree, which includes the Master of Arts in Teaching degree that allows students to earn teaching credentials. Most classes can be taken online, with just a few to be taken on campus.

LOMA LINDA UNIVERSITY | www.llu.edu/explore/step1.html (Search keyword “online.”)
Catering to working professionals and distance education students, LLU offers about 15 educational programs completely online, ranging from the certificate level to doctoral, as well as several hybrid (partly online) degrees. The university offers these programs in 18 states.

OAKWOOD UNIVERSITY | www.oakwood.edu/academics/oakwood-online-university
Oakwood offers three fully online degree completion programs through the adult education department. Additionally, there are two six-week summer terms offering a limited number of high-demand general and specialty courses. Oakwood also offers an online certification in Adventist-Muslim relations, taken by students from across the globe.

PACIFIC UNION COLLEGE | onlinecourses.puc.edu or e-mail [email protected]
PUC offers a fully online R.N. to B.S.N. in Nursing. This Western Association of Schools and Colleges-approved program is designed for registered nurses licensed to practice in California. PUC also offers online course options during its summer session.

SOUTHERN ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY | www1.southern.edu/academics/academic-sites/online-campus/index.html
Southern offers several online undergraduate courses including an A.S. to B.S. in Nursing with the option of online completion. Additionally, several graduate programs are available that function largely online combined with a short on-campus intensive or rotations in international field settings, depending on the program.

SOUTHWESTERN ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY | www.swau.edu/distance-education
Southwestern offers nine undergraduate programs through its distance education department. Courses are also available for traditional, on-campus undergraduate students during the summer. Post-baccalaureate students interested in completing the requirements for teacher certification may also do so through distance education.

WALLA WALLA UNIVERSITY | wallawalla.edu/academics/distance-learning
Walla Walla offers certain courses as part of normal degree requirements for specific majors. Consult the link above and click on “FAQ” to learn more about how it works.

WASHINGTON ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY | online.wau.edu
WAU offers two graduate degrees in an online setting: the Master of Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Public Administration.