From left to right: Carmelo Mercado, multicultural ministry vice president; Elden Ramirez, executive secretary; Ken Denslow, president, and Glynn Scott, treasurer. [Photo Credit: Katie Fellows]
On Wednesday, Nov. 15, the Lake Union executive committee convened in Berrien Springs, Michigan for the last of three meetings held annually.
The 37-member committee includes representatives from the five conferences who are tasked with helping to develop and direct the work of the church in the Great Lakes region. Members include local conference administrators, church employees, lay leaders, as well as the presidents of Andrews University and AdventHealth Great Lakes.
As president of the Lake Union, Ken Denslow chairs the meeting, which is focused on the day-to-day work, as well as the long-term strategies for fulfilling the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
North American Division President G. Alexander Bryant was in attendance and reminded the group of the Division’s focus on the “3Ms” – Multiply (growing through baptisms and church plantings); Media (spreading the gospel in the digital/broadcast sphere); and Mentorship (preparing the next generation for leadership
The teacher and pastor shortage are areas the union is looking to address, according to Lake Union President Ken Denslow. Discussions are underway in terms of how the union can further support students who incur debt for these careers which generally don’t pay very well.
Andrews University President John Wesley Taylor V said mission is going forth, as the university gets ready in 2024 to celebrate 150 years of the founding of Battle Creek College.
540 students gather each week in 40 student-led groups to deepen their faith
The number of student missionaries has doubled since the pandemic drop
Some 1,200 students participated in “Change Day” by engaging in 40 service projects across Berrien County.
The seminary is involved in evangelism around the world and also not too far, in South Bend, Indiana.
The International Trauma Care Center is intentionally involved in extending the ministry of Jesus.
The seminary received a Lily endowment grant to train pastors
Andrews in ranked the #1 private university and #1 for student experience
He concluded, “You can go to Andrews and meet the world – 100 countries and 48 states!”
Illinois Conference President John Grys said he is encouraging everyone to follow John 10:10 – live life and live it to the fullest. “As we serve joyfully, we will be a light into our territories.” He pointed to these areas of note:
10 baptisms resulted from lay-led evangelistic meetings in the Peoria area.
Chicago continues to see a significant influx of refugees, in addition to the large numbers already there displaced by the war in Ukraine
Vic Van Schaik, Indiana Conference president, said God continues to work in the state.
Two Haitian congregations were birthed, one with an average of 200 in attendance.
Ghanian church purchased a building.
INspire Academy, a new online school, launched with 14 students in grades 1 thru 8
Last standing Adventist Bookstore Center (ABC) in the Lake Union continues to operate with a parttime supervisor. Randy Griffin had been managing the store but he accepted a call to another position.
Lake Region’s President Garth Gabriel reported many bright spots in the four-state conference, including:
Over 100 baptisms conducted to date; targeting 18-44-year-old demography.
School enrollment is up; continue to upgrade infrastructure.
Setting aside funds for struggling churches
On the heels of Michigan’s constituency session, Jim Micheff said the conference launched a state-wide evangelistic series on Oct. 2, partnering with Voice of Prophecy’s Shawn Boonstra. Seven hundred churches participated and 1,000 non-Adventists attended.
Titus Naftanaila, president of Wisconsin Conference expressed his gratitude to the Lake Union for their support, whether it’s in education or mentorship. “We are here because of you.” He continued by saying he is praising God the conference was able to replace three of four treasurers. “We have great individuals who have joined the team.” He commented on how pleased he is to see a high level of participation around the state: churches feeding people every week, having Bible studies and interacting with the community. For next year, 2024, one focus is lay evangelism training.
In the secretariat’s report, Executive Secretary Elden Ramirez said the Lake Union membership, as of Sept. 30, 2023, stood at 89,446; baptisms to date were 1,167. Going forward, he said, the plan is to begin tracking local church attendance.
More statistics available in these slides:
Three retiring pastors were granted emeritus ministerial credentials, which allows them to keep their credentials current. (Retired ministers sometimes serve as chaplains at a local hospital or prison, and may be asked to provide proof of their church credentials.) The pastors receiving emeritus status are: Robert Joseph from Michigan Conference, and Leeroy Coleman and Felix Hurtado, both from Lake Region Conference.
According to Treasurer Glynn Scott:
Tithe is $66.1 million, up 11.28% over September 2022. This increase is due to strong tithe across all five conferences, plus an extraordinary tithe received by Illinois Conference of $2.6 million.
Total income is $8.7 million; ahead of budget $808,000 due to tithe gain of 11.28% and investment income $105,000 ahead of budget.
Total expenses are $7.5 million; under budget by $733,000 due to program expenses year to date lower than budget.
We have a break-even budget, 12 month ending December 31, 2023.
After a very busy year, Multicultural Ministry Vice President Carmelo Mercado said they’re in the process of planning next year’s events. Save these 2024 dates:
Sunday, March 10 – Michigan and Lake Region Conferences teaming up with Adventist Medical Evangelism Network (AMEN) for a dental services outreach in the Detroit area.
Sabbath, March 2 – Prayer summit in Detroit
April 26-27 – ASI Lake Union Spring Fellowship at the Detroit Metropolitan church, featuring Evangelist Ivor Myers
July 12-14 – Hispanic Women’s Conference at the Blue Gate Inn in Shipshewana, Indiana
Check out more photos from the Year-End Meetings
Debbie Michel is the Lake Union Communication Director and Herald Editor
Photos by Katie Fellows