Coming to the Washington D.C. area for Year End Meetings allows opportunity for me to visit a little of my family who are still left in this area. I had a chance to visit with my Mother and nephew who live outside Richmond, VA and I spent a little time singing old hymns with my Mom, something we both enjoyed!
Each year Year End Meetings adopts a theme, and this year's is "The Great Collaboration," focusing on the wonderful plan of God to partner with humans for the purpose of building the Kingdom.
The Thursday afternoon agenda included some analysis of current NAD employees/pastors who, according to present 'stats,' one-half of all NAD pastors, meaning over 2,000, are eligible for retirement within the next 10 years. That is important for a couple of reasons: One, the work force is of course aging, and, tending to work longer than in the past, and second, we're facing the possibility of having "too few" eligible, trained workers to enter pastoral ministry in the coming decade.
The NAD leadership suggested that one initiative is to continue to identify and hire more women who presently make up no more than around 2% of the pastoral work force in North America. The NAD is putting additional resources into incentivizing and promoting the hiring of qualified women and hope to double the present number (just over 100) in the next five years.
Friday included a number of interesting reports including that of Dr. Les Pollard,(below left) President of Oakwood University's who highlighted the schools "StandUp" program which represents a comprehensive health and lifestyle strategy that embraces all facets of University life. Students at Oakwood are required to participate on some level with the initiatives which includes health screening, programs to assist in managing factors which impact health risk, particularly in the African American Community (diabetes, etc.,). The plan has gotten major media exposure and is a one-of-a-kind comprehensive/campus wide effort to champion the SDA Health Message for students, faculty, and the greater Huntsville Community. The picture below is one student given testimony of the positive impact of the program for her personally.
Another fascinating report was presented by Chris Holland, Speaker/Director of It Is Written Canada, who told of the mission and outreach of the Canadian Union to reach the unreached Indian people groups of the newest Canadian Province, Nunavut.
Formerly part of the N.W. Territories of Canada, Nunavut comprises a major portion of Northern Canada, and most of the Canadian Arctic. It's huge territory makes it the 5th largest country/ geographic area in the world, as well as the 2nd largest in North America (after Greenland).
The picture below right, is of a group who traveled all the way from Alberta, Canada, and are from the Mamawi Atosketan Native School, in Ponoka, Alberta. The school has an enrollment of over 200 students in grades K thru 12, and serves the population of four Indian tribes. The students are of course almost completely non-SDA, but stories of baptisms, lives being changed, and the impact on the greater population of native Indians who face huge challenges socially etc., was amazing. If interested in knowing more, here is the schools web-site. http://www.mamawiatosketan.ca
One of the great highlights of these meetings is the Sabbath worship, and today was no exception. The brother and sister violinists are from here in the community and were absolutely incredible!
The next picture is of my friends Andrew and Sheila LaPierre (Andrew with the beard, and just a "little" part of Sheila's face beside him) who once worked for Georgia Cumberland Conference, and who I had the privilege of marrying about five years ago. Sheila is from the Manchester, KY area and has recently accepted a position with the NAD.
\This final picture is of our worship speaker, which is traditionally Elder Dan Jackson. His sermon, in keeping with this years theme was "The Grand Collaboration." His sermon began with the illustration depicted in the famous picture behind him. It is called "The Helping Hand," painted in the late 19th century by a French artist, and it depicts a little girl, with her hands on the enormous oars of a fisherman's rowboat. To the right of her is likely her grandfather, with a kindly smile on his face, is actually the one giving the strength and power to the oar, though the little girl is doing her small part.
The spiritual application to we who serve in ministry is clear: our small part, and God's great strength gives success to our endeavors!