By the time I got to aisle 800 at the Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries convention exhibit hall on Friday afternoon, I had already spotted such Adventist luminaries as author Cliff Goldstein, Adventist Review Editor Bill Knott, evangelist Mark Finley, and Ministerial Association Secretary Jerry Page. But I was totally surprised when I saw Ellen G. White walking down the aisle in a long black dress with a black net on her hair.
On second look I recognized Rita Hoshino from Angwin, California, and stopped to chat. She had exciting news. She had just received a license from The Ellen G. White Estate, Inc. to be an Ellen White reenactor. She travels the country now visiting schools, Pathfinder camporees, and special events where she pays tribute to the legacy of Ellen G. White. Rita has always had an excellent sense of humor, so if you ask her about her experiences portraying Mrs. White one story that she tells is of the kindergarten student who asked her if she was dead. When she explained that she was just portraying this woman, the little boy walked away with his hands on hips saying, “Oh, man, I am so disappointed.”
But Ellen would not have been disappointed at this ASI meeting. It was an exciting session specifically for Ellen White—not just for her reenactor Rita—because the Ellen G. White Estate received the largest donation from the annual offering. Of the 47 projects listed in the program bulletin, it is due to receive $200,000 plus a third of the overage past the official offering goal of $1,514,200. With the announced offering total of $1,994,931, the White Estate’s portion went up to $360,243.
With these funds, the White Estate plans to digitize all of Ellen White’s books that have been translated and printed in languages other than English, making them freely available to read online or to download in major formats. A CD with all of Ellen White’s published writings was included in the conference registration packets.
Among the other top offering recipients were:
- ASI-NAD Youth Evangelism—$190,000—for ASI’s summer evangelism training school that operates in the city where the ASI convention is held.
- Three Angels Broadcasting Network—$100,000—to convert three low-power stations from analog to digital format, as mandated by the FCC.
- Outpost Centers International—Missionary Assistance Plan—$60,000—for an ASI program that provides supplemental support to lay missionaries allowing them to purchase necessities such as food and clothing, as well as to take periodic furloughs or to relocate when their service is complete.
- Loma Linda University—Earth & Biological Sciences—$58,000—to foster positive approaches to understanding science in a biblical context. Project funds will support onsite examination of unique rock formations in Utah that exhibit evidence of the biblical flood account.
- Fountainview Academy—$50,000—to produce a new 13-episode DVD series entitled God So Loved the World.
- Wildwood Lifestyle Center/LIGHT—$50,000—to train medical missionaries and help them establish new lifestyle centers around the world.
- Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC)—$50,000—to support the upcoming GYC conference to be held this year in Houston, Texas.
On Sabbath morning General Conference President Ted N.C. Wilson addressed a packed Sacramento Convention Center audience. Using the conference theme “Inspired to Finish Strong,” Elder Wilson preached about the Adventist mandate to proclaim the three angels’ message to the world. His words would have brought joy to Ellen White.
“We’re living in the most incredible time,” he said. “We need to know who we are.” He said that the one text that identifies us—gives us our caller ID—is Rev. 12:17 in which the dragon (Satan) goes off to make war against the rest of her (Church) offspring—“those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”
In his review of theses two identifiers he spoke first of those who keep the commandments of God—all of the commandments including the fourth. Belief in a recent literal six day creation is a major part of finding our identify as the remnant, he said.
To which the audience responded with a loud “Amen.”
Next he turned to Selected Messages, Vol. 2, page 97 as he reminded the audience, “We’re a unique people. . . called to be a peculiar treasure.” He said the second characteristic of the remnant is that they hold to the testimony of Jesus—in his words this means the “Spirit of Prophecy.”
“I believe “the Spirit of Prophecy is the greatest gift to the Adventist Church,” he said.
And the audience agreed by giving a hearty “Amen.”
He called for a renewal of spiritual life. “We cannot allow anything to distract us. We need to be telling the three angels’ message." And that was his segue to talk about upcoming church programs such as The Great Controversy Project in which the original goal was to distribute 50 million copies of The Great Controversy around the world. However, the world divisions have already committed to 127 million. Some have asked why The Great Controversy? They note that it is not a politically correct book, and suggest Steps to Christ instead. “But Ellen White wanted The Great Controversy to be distributed more than any other book,” he said.
In other church programming news, he said that an initiative is set to be announced in October that will be the most comprehensive urban ministry program in the history of the church. A new medical missionary council will also be formed and Mark Finley will chair that committee.
“We will finish strong,” he said. In spite of the fact that the devil brings in every idea to trip us up.
“I feel convicted to speak out in a stronger way about certain things,” he said.
- “Guard against mystical beliefs and practices such as spiritual formation and the emergent church movement.” He called attention to the current ASI issue of the Adventist Review that was distributed to all registrants in which the cover story is about spiritual formation. “Read the Review,” he said. “It will bless you spiritually.”
- “Stay away from contemplative prayer, labyrinths, and centering prayer.”
- “Resist worship and music that is self-centered entertainment. Everything that is done should be to the glory of God, and not elevating self. . . If music sounds like it belongs in a night club, it should stay there,” he said to a round of applause.
- “This next one is a little sensitive,” he noted. “Avoid inviting non-SDAs as major speakers for church meetings, large convocations, and retreats. ”Understand what I am saying. Do not ask them to make spiritually themed presentations when they don’t know the Great Controversy message. We can learn from others, but we need to invite our church leaders to speak.” This also received a round of applause.
“Let us focus on Christ,” he said in closing. “How many of you today wish to rededicate your lives to Christ?”
Audience members then prayed with the person next to them. The day’s offering total was announced—$1,994,931—and the service concluded with singing “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”
Afterwards attendees had another opportunity to visit all the booths in the exhibit hall where the organizations that had received grants plus the colleges, universities, publishing houses, ADRA, and Maranatha had representatives waiting to speak with people.
Greeting old friends seemed to be one of the primary reasons that people had for attending the sessions. Richard Osborn, for instance, said that was why he had booked a room and made the trip to Sacramento.
Next year’s session will be August 8-11 in Dallas, Texas.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/3320