December 20, 2016

NEWS BRIEFS: Church for Blind in Canada; San Bernardino Documentary at LLU; It Is Written Aids Fire Victims

Ontario Conference Opens Church for Visually Impaired; Believed First in North America

On November 26, 2016, Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (OC) inaugurated what is believed to be the first congregation for visually impaired worshippers in the North American Division.

Pastor Mark Johnson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada (SDACC), and Pastor Mansfield Edwards, Ontario Conference president, joined the 25 charter members and other guests for the service held at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Scarborough, a district in eastern Toronto.

Hope Vision Fellowship, as the new congregation is called, fulfills the dream of Charles Thomas, Pat Page, and her husband Ralph, who previously worked for the visually impaired at Christian Record Services, to see a church for the visually impaired in Ontario. With the support of Pastor Theodore Sargeant, who has responsibility for disability ministries, and Pastor Jakov Bibulovic, church growth director, plans were made to inaugurate the church.

Pastor Daniel Jackson, North American Division president and a strong supporter of disability ministries, was happy to learn of the new church and sent a congratulatory letter that was read at the inaugural service.

“I’m simply blown away by their love for God, and for their trust and faith in Him”

“Like no other time in history Christians need to recognize their call to God to be heralds of His soon coming,” Jackson wrote. “I am grateful that you have heard His call and that you see His vision for you. I believe that the inauguration of the Hope Vision congregation is a hallmark for Canada for the North American Division.”

Both Johnson and Edwards offered their congratulations. Edwards spoke of his appreciation to Charles Thomas, Pat and Ralph Page, Pastor Theodore Sargeant, and others who worked to make the church a reality.

Sargeant is enthusiastic about the new congregation. “I’m simply blown away by their love for God, and for their trust and faith in Him,” he said. “They are so relaxed with each other, and they do not express any self-pity. They are together as one and want to see others experience what they have found in God. I get the sense that they are not simply content to simply form a new congregation. Their purpose is to lead other visually impaired people and sighted people to Jesus.”

The congregation will meet on the last Sabbath of each month at the Holiday Inn until a more suitable location is found.

— by Halsey Peat, Ontario Conference Communication Director

900 Community Members View “San Bernardino Strong,” LLUH Documentary About 2015 Shootings

Emotions were high as the eyes — some dry, others misty — of roughly 900 community members were glued to the screen at Loma Linda University (LLU) church where the film “San Bernardino Strong” was shown on December 5, 2016.

A documentary about a community wanting to find hope in a time of tragedy, “San Bernardino Strong” takes filmgoers back to that dreaded day just over a year ago when terror struck San Bernardino, California. Fourteen lives were lost, 22 were injured, and countless lives were forever changed.

One survivor, Julie Swann-Paez, a 51-year-old wife and mother of three, chose to share her story with the Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) advancement films team.

After being shot multiple times, Swann-Paez was rushed to Loma Linda University Medical Center where she nearly lost her life. After 29 days in the hospital she returned home. She has since had four surgeries, and physical therapy sessions, and still, she will never be 100 percent.

Through this entire experience, Swann-Paez doesn’t want to be considered a victim or a survivor. “I’m a prevailer,” she said after the film during a Q&A session with Randy Roberts, senior pastor at LLU church.

Swann-Paez agreed to be a part of the documentary in hopes of bringing something good out of such a horrific event.

She welcomed the LLUH advancement films team into her life for six months as she went through the physical and emotional recovery process.

Following the film, guests were invited to sign banners of hope that would be sent to those agencies that first responded to the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2. Additionally, guests had the opportunity to paint "stars of hope," which would be sent to other victims of tragedy — a practice that Swann-Paez participates in regularly as part of the healing process.

The It Is Written staff and partners who attended the relocated annual event wanted to help the Park Vista staff affected by the fire.

“It’s cathartic,” she said as she painted stars of hope with her family in the film. “I’m in a good place now, and it’s because of gratitude. There are 14 people that never came home from work that day, and I am living in honor of them.”

— by Briana Pastorino, Loma Linda University Health

Adventist Media Ministry Responds to Gatlinburg Fires

On Nov. 28, 2016, wildfires ravaged Gatlinburg, Tennessee, four days before It Is Written's Partnership weekend event at the Park Vista Hotel in Gatlinburg. The North American media ministry was unable to hold the event there, but those who attended at the new location felt impressed to "do something" for the hotel and its team.

Ellen Metcalf, It Is Written (IIW) development director, explained that IIW has held Partnership weekend events at the Park Vista hotel for more than 20 years, so changing the location at the last minute was unexpected. But "God provided a great alternate location right here in our hometown of Chattanooga,” she said. "Our partners very quickly changed their travel plans. We were blessed with a great, inspiring weekend."

The It Is Written staff and partners who attended the relocated annual event wanted to help the Park Vista staff affected by the fire. The hotel itself sustained only smoke and equipment damage, but many members of the hotel staff lost everything. One member of hotel management shared that the hotel management was purchasing hygiene and clothing necessities. "We have many employees who lost homes and vehicles," she explained.

From left to right: Charles Reel, It Is Written treasurer; John Bradshaw, speaker/director; and Jesse Johnson, It Is Written general manager;  hold the check of donated funds for the Park Vista Hotel employees who were affected by the recent fires in Gatlinburg, Tenn. (Photo: It Is Written)

At the event, partners generously filled offering baskets with cash and checks. IIW made its own contribution while others contributed online. "Our partners were very generous," reported Charles Reel, IIW treasurer.

After the initial check was written, even more funds came in. It Is Written is working with the hotel management and using the funds to provide gift cards for the Park Vista employees. "We missed seeing our friends at the Park Vista this December," Metcalf said. "We hope this gift helps them rebuild their lives a little quicker."

— by Annalyse Hasty, editor/social media coordinator for It Is Written.

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