The 2021 Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi) International Convention opened in Orlando, Florida, United States, on Wednesday evening, August 4, 2021. The opening program included music, testimonies from various Adventist supporting ministries, and a keynote address by Amazing Facts ministry speaker and president, Doug Batchelor.
In welcoming those present, ASi leaders celebrated that after the 2020 cancellation of the annual event, they can finally meet in person despite the ongoing pandemic-related restrictions. “Can you believe that we are here together?” ASi president Steve Dickman asked the crowd of 1,750 people who registered for the August 4-7 event. “What a blessing!”
The 2021 convention, held under the theme, “Three Angels’ Messages: Into All the World,” is, in a sense, a different event this year, ASi leaders said. Organizers worked tirelessly to determine how to best follow the local protocols and guidelines to prevent the spread of the unrelenting COVID-19 virus. "Wash your hands often, and don’t get as close as you would like to,” Dickman advised.
ASi general vice-president Andi Hunsaker, a physician, also shared some ideas to keep everyone safe, including maintaining social distance as much as possible and being alert for symptoms of infection. “If you don’t feel well or have a fever, make sure you go and get tested and watch the stream from your room,” she advised.
She also reminded ASi members and guests about the venue mask guidelines. “Let me tell you that as a physician, I don’t like wearing a mask,” she shared. “But if you are not vaccinated, you are expected to wear one.”
Orange County, where the convention venue is located, has been under a state of emergency since July 28 amid rising COVID-19 hospitalizations. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in force recommend that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in areas of “substantial” and “high” transmission of the virus.
The SALT of the Earth
In the first part of the program, several supporting ministries shared how they are “Sharing Christ in the Marketplace,” as ASi’s motto proclaims. Among them is SALT Outreach, an Adventist-youth-led ministry that serves the homeless population of Orlando and central Florida. SALT, which stands for “Service And Love Together,” is changing the streets of Orlando for the better by providing a shower trailer, a laundry trailer, and a clothing trailer to people living in the streets.
“Our trailers include outlets for barbers to cut hair,” Eric Camarillo, who launched the ministry in 2011, said. “We also offer mail services for people with no address, and case management services.”
The non-profit organization has been repeatedly in the news and is receiving increasing support from various entities, including a recent US$250,000 grant from the City of Orlando. On April 15, known as National Laundry Day, SALT held a ribbon-cutting ceremony of its one-of-a-kind laundry trailer with Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer and other officials attending. Also present were several people they have helped to stand on their feet and move away from homelessness.
“As we continue into 2021, we ask for your continued prayers and support as we seek to continue being the light of the world and the SALT of the earth,” Camarillo said.
The Gospel in Flight
After several presentations from independent ministries, Batchelor started his keynote address, titled, “The Gospel in Flight.” Drawing an analogy with the new billionaire space race involving Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk, he reflected on the significance of the messages recorded in Revelation 14 for Seventh-day Adventists.
Batchelor specifically reflected on Elon Musk’s efforts to make it to the International Space Station. “He wants to fly into space to then reach every corner of the world,” Batchelor emphasized. “Just like the messages of the three angels in Revelation 14.”
Importance of the Message
But, “What is so important about this message?” Batchelor asked. “Why is this passage important, and why is it considered present truth?” he asked before answering his own question. “Because after that, you see Jesus coming!”
Batchelor explained that according to the Bible, in the end, every human being will receive one of two marks. “There is no neutral ground,” he emphasized. “The seal of God means eternal life. At the same time, [the messages include] a great warning against those who worship the beast,” which he said exemplifies a false system of worship.
He also reminded listeners that the Bible passage in question describes a message that must go to all the world. “It’s not a literal angel,” Batchelor explained. “When God talks through an angel, it means that He is using angels to empower people to give a message. Satellites have solar panels like wings to share a message to all the world.”
The Most Important Part
Moving away from the space flight analogy, Batchelor reminded his audience that the most important part of the message is what the Bible defines as “the everlasting gospel.” According to him, that gospel can be summarized as follows: “God so loved the world that Jesus came to show us what God is like. He came to show us how to live, how to love each other, how to forgive, and He came as a substitute, to take our sins and give us His righteousness.”
Batchelor added that we must share that Jesus loves us so much, and every one of us must develop a living relationship with Jesus, who is the center of the gospel. “It’s all about Jesus. It is about a personal, daily walk with Jesus,” he emphasized.
God Will Work through Us
In the last part of his message, Batchelor said he believes that as we approach the end of time, God will act with power through His earthly messengers. “God will do for us what He did for the apostles. I believe we are going to see a wave of miracles we haven’t seen since apostolic times. I believe there’s going to be a big revival,” Batchelor said.
He added he believes that God is going to call His people from all faiths into His fold. But there is a part all of us must play. “We need to give the three angels’ messages to the world,” Batchelor said. “This is the present truth for today. There is no more concentrated truth than this one.”