Over 1,700 Seventh-day Adventist laypeople have gathered in Houston, Texas, United States, for the 2017 Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASi) Convention. The annual event of the organization which turns 70 this year is taking place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. It has brought together historical ASi supporters in their golden years, a thriving under-35 generation of committed Adventist entrepreneur hopefuls, and everything in between.
Hailing mostly from North America, but also from as far as South Africa, Mongolia, and Australia, these church members working in different ministries and businesses have come to share their expertise, promote their products, projects, and ministries, and network with other like-minded professionals.
But whatever their age, home country, or occupation, all of them share a common goal—to use their businesses and ministries to share the good news about Jesus with their customers, clients, and colleagues.
“No matter what we do, our goal is one—to ‘share Christ in the marketplace,’” said ASi President Steve Dickman at a special breakfast for first-time attendees on August 3. “It’s what we live for.”
Dickman believes the ASi annual convention is an outstanding place to find your God-given calling, and find ways of answering to that call.
“This is a powerful place to connect and to find where you can help,” said Dickman. “Also, to find out what you can do what has not yet been done.”
Among first-time attendees, who were identified with a special label stuck to their tags, there are young entrepreneurs but also seasoned benefactors, something that is proving to be an enriching opportunity for everyone.
“I came to find out more about mission opportunities and trips,” said first-time attendee Cindy Brawand, a middle-aged dental hygienist from Portland, Oregon, who went back to school and is now a registered nurse. “Now that I have my degree, I am open to going where the Lord leads.”
Eben de Jager, a South African evangelist and entrepreneur who shared the same table with Brawand, said the event is essential to strengthen his team’s business in evangelism training and free-to-air TV. “Our goal is to explore possibilities of collaboration and funding,” he said, “as we keep promoting our programs, which can be watched in most of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.”
Tara Petersen, Director of Development of Kuda Vana Partnership, a Denver-based ministry funding a children’s home and other projects for vulnerable children in Zimbabwe, said they came to Houston wishing to explore possibilities of enlarging the pool of supporters for their ministry.
“I see there is a lot of competition, but everybody needs help,” Petersen said. “And the needs are growing in such a way that sometimes it is difficult to keep up.”
Young entrepreneurs were also treated to a special breakfast on August 4 by the ASi leaders.
“ASi is very interested in connecting with the young generation,” said Dickman. “We highly value what you bring to the table.”
Dickman encouraged every young business person to connect and stay open to discuss what they have learned so far, as well as some major challenge their businesses are facing. “You never know when a word someone says might be just what you need to move forward,” he told them.
Some of these young entrepreneurs will have an opportunity at pitching their projects as part of Fruition Lab, a concurrent ASi-sponsored event which fosters this kind of creative exchange between experienced innovators and business newcomers.
The goal of Fruition Lab is to “provoke creativity, ideas, actions, and new partnerships,” said organizers. “We believe all were created to create, and believe in making friends, not contacts.”
The worship service message on August 5 will feature Voice of Prophecy speaker/director Shawn Boonstra. In the afternoon, a “compelling” program will review the beginnings of ASi and show how its mission and vision has expanded around the globe. The convention will close that night with evening vespers.
“In this our 70th anniversary, let God talk to your heart,” Dickman told attendees. “Find out your calling, and with God’s help, commit to it.”