Wednesday, May 18, 2011

TRIBUTE TO DR. RUSSELL YOUNGBERG

The following was shared with the family of Dr. Russell Youngberg at a memorial service conducted for him in the Hamburg Seventh-day Adventist Church, Sabbath afternoon:

May 14, 2011

Regrettably, I am away and unable to share this tribute in person.

Dr. Youngberg was one of those unique individuals that combined 3 traits in abundance.
A love of learning.
A love of teaching.
A love of service for God.

His life will not be measured by what we say today, or by what we even know of him. For only in eternity can the results of his dedication to his love of learning, his love of teaching and his love for serving God be known.

Many know that he was a teacher in the Adventist medical school in Mexico. I found out a few years ago, that my brother-in-law, Bill Hamilton had been one of his students, and he very fondly remembers the life and teaching of Dr. Youngberg.

Yet just as a teacher influences the life of his students, what will not be known until the history of eternity is laid open, will be the lifes of countless others throughout the Americas and beyond that have been uplifted and made better because of the influence of this teacher upon the lifes of his students, and those students in turn went forward, bringing health, education, life changes and ultimately, inspiration in the kingdom of heaven.

I always enjoyed talking with Dr. Youngberg and listening to him teach the Sabbath School lesson here in the Hamburg Church. You could tell that he was constantly picking up new ideas, concepts and information. He was a learner. Continually seeking ways to put things together, seeking new ways to present things, seeking new ways to serve mankind. He would read widely and from that study, bring forth items of interest.

His contributions in the Pennsylvania Conference have been many. Foremost would be his leadership along with Dr. Jones in establishing the Reading Rehabilitation Hospital, which for years was a premier rehab hospital in this area. When the Reading Rehabilitation Hospital was sold in the 1990’s and transitioned into a health and wellness ministry, Dr. Youngberg continued to serve on the board of the new organization as an enthusiastic proponent of health education. What was most striking was his Christian spirit and attitude throughout the transition process. After pouring heart, soul and personal resources into the establishing of the Reading Rehabilitation Hospital, and then watching the day come when the ministry transitioned from the hospital to a smaller health education organization, some founders might have become bitter or antagonistic. But Dr. Youngberg continued to champion the new organization and sought ways to help it to thrive. Even now, his example through this process continues to teach us who carry on, of a godly way to handle change with grace and support.

We have recently lost a family member, ministry founder, a teacher, a doctor, a church member, a visionary and a friend.

But we have gained so much having been associated with him. Even though today he is gone, resting until the resurrection of the sleeping saints when Jesus comes, we are the richer. And like Dr. Youngberg, may we who carry on, make the world the better for having lived in it.

 Ray Hartwell, Pennsylvania Conference president

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A DOG GOES TO SCHOOL




Blue Mountain Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School has a history of offering a good Adventist Church School environment for children Kindergarten up through grade 8. Ellen Siregar invited me to come and conduct the worship service on Friday, May 6.

I took our dog, a West Highland White Terrier named Nessie along with me to help the students visualize part of the worship service.




The worship service devotional opened with the story of Greyfriar’s Bobby, a small Skye Terrier, which looks somewhat like our Nessie but is a little smaller and a dusky color. John Grey was a policeman in Edinburgh Scotland and was a night patrolman. He got his little Skye Terrier in 1856 and Bobby was a faithful companion. IN 1858 John Grey died and was buried in the Greyfriar’s Church cemetery. Jeanne and I have been to that cemetery in Scotland.
Just outside, a monument has been erected in memory of Bobby.
For the next 14 years the little Skye Terrier named Bobby would go every day and stay at the graveside of his master, John Grey, never leaving except for food and water. This was observed by inhabitants of Edinburgh of high position as well as common people. When Bobby died, he was buried just outside the edge of the same cemetery (since church cemeteries were considered consecrated ground, dogs could not be buried inside them ) as his master John Grey, and today there is a substantial granite marker for this faithful dog’s burial spot.
In Revelation 2:10, God’s word says, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee the crown of life.” For 14 years this little Skye Terrier was faithful to the memory of his master and stayed at the last spot he knew his master to be.

What a lesson to you and me, to be faithful to stay at the side of Jesus all through our life, no matter what happens, even if our death should come. Little Bobby had a large gravestone erected over his grave because of his faithfulness. But Jesus promises something even better than receiving world-wide acclaim for our faithfulness. Jesus promises a crown of life.

I am thankful for the dedicated teachers we have here in the Pennsylvania Conference, who day in and day out are directing our children to the soon-coming Savior who has promised a crown of life. Teachers like Frank Stahl, Rachel Wardecke and Ellen Siregar are making a difference that will be seen in eternity.
If you have school aged children, make every effort to have them in an Adventist Church school this coming Fall.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"He is Risen Indeed," is Not Enough

There is a tradition among some Christians today, to greet one another on this day when most of the Christian world celebrates the resurrection of our Savior, with words such as this:
“He is risen!” one Christian will declare to another Christian.
The second Christian will respond, “He is risen indeed!”

I had a good Protestant friend in South Carolina who loved to greet me and Jeanne with this phrase on Resurrection Sunday every year.

But I was convicted to say more than just, “He is risen indeed!” in response.
I used to respond, “He is risen indeed. He ascended to the right hand of the throne of God, is now interceding in the Heavenly Sanctuary for us, and is coming soon in the clouds of Glory!”

She always smiled at me with a look that seemed to say, “You aren’t following ‘the script’ but I can’t fault you for saying that.”

You see, as an Adventist, I rejoice in the resurrection of Christ. “ If Christ be not raised, then our hope is in vain…”God’s word says (1 Corinthians 15). And yet, the resurrection of Christ is only part of the marvelous story. His work and intercession for us in the Sanctuary as our High Priest is assuring. His soon coming, where the Lord Himself will descend, with all the angels, with the trumpet call of God that raises the righteous dead, and we are all caught up to meet the Lord in the air and ever be with Him is the fulfillment of the blessed hope that I look forward to. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Not only do I look back to the surety of Christ’s resurrection, but I look upward to His priestly intercession, and I look forward to His personal appearing for my gathering into the presence of His glory.

I am an Adventist! I can’t just say, “He is risen indeed”—as magnificent as that is. I must declare, “He is risen indeed. And He ascended to the right hand of the throne of God, is now interceding in the Heavenly Sanctuary for us, and is coming soon in the clouds of Glory!”

How about you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

LOOKING DOWN, LOOKING AROUND, LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING UP

There are times when ministries and organizations must adapt or adjust to circumstances or conditions around them. Several Adventist ministries and conferences have needed to reduce staff in the last 2 years. Greater New York is currently reducing 43 employees. ADRA has recently announced a significant reduction of employees. Here in our Conference we have needed to carefully work by faith and at the same time structure within good stewardship. And this has necessitated some reductions in staff during the present times.

So how is your morale?

If that is all we focused on, we could start to look down and start to feel that things are getting pretty bad. And as we look around to other Conferences in the NAD and the recent moves by ADRA, we could again be concerned that God has not been at work. Or that somehow things aren’t going right.

Yet as we look forward, we remember that God’s work is going to be triumphant, and that God has promised exceedingly great and precious promises. These promises have not failed. They have not been withdrawn. God has not been taken off guard by the challenges or adjustments that have come. His work, while having to be structured differently as conditions change in our Conference or on earth, is still being carried forward.

Our current call is to be looking up. No matter what the conditions are, no matter what the challenges are, no matter how things may change from time to time, we are called to lift up our hearts and voices in prayer and petition. As we do that, we will find that,
“…prayer is the key in the hand of faith to unlock heaven's storehouse, where are treasured the boundless resources of Omnipotence?” Steps to Christ page 95.

Those resources have not fallen short. Prayer is our avenue to practice dependence upon God and that is where our dependence is to be placed.

I believe God is at work in a mighty way across Pennsylvania. Yes we have some challenges and adjustments right now, but at the same time, there are countless blessings also taking place right now. As we look around, we see many members seeking a genuine revival in Jesus and seeking Christ’s transformation of life. We see in some churches people walking in off the street, convicted of keeping the Sabbath holy. We are seeing youth and young adults taking up the mission of Jesus and reaching out to those around them—one young lady in the Reading Spanish church has been reaching out to her high school classmates and several of them have been baptized and some of their family members are starting to attend. We see more lay persons willing to become spiritual leaders.

Where are you and I looking during these times? Are we looking down? Are we looking around? Or are we looking forward and looking upward?

God will lead us through these challenging times. He is at work right now. Let us continue to put our faith and trust in His leading.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

LAUREL LAKE CHURCH ORDAINS AN ELDER


An Elder ordination service is evidence of a church family that has recognized God’s gift for spiritual leadership within an individual in the church. Elders are the backbone of the work of Christ through His visible church here today. In one Union in Africa, there are over 22,000 members and hundreds of churches. Only one or two years ago, did this field of 22,000 members have a second pastor added. That’s right! Only 2 pastors with 22,000 members and hundreds of churches. How is this possible? By following the Biblical instruction of Paul to ordain elders in every church. Elder’s are to be the spiritual leaders of a local church. Pastors are to be the mission leaders of churches and regions. Jeanne and I had the joy of attending Sabbath School and Church at the Laurel Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sabbath, April 9. While there, I was asked to share the Sabbath morning worship message, which I had entitled, “Men Wanted.” This message is taken from the text in Isaiah 6:8, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying: ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I!, Send me.” (NKJV) Also a key part of this message is the Ellen White quote, “The greatest want of the world is the want of men,--men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”--Education, p. 57. At the end of that sermon message, the Church Elders came forward and we invited Randy Mallory and his wife Cindy to come to the front.


Randy had been elected by the Laurel Lake Church as an Elder, and we had the privilege of laying hands on him and ordaining him to serve as a local Church elder as his wife knelt by his side.



I am thankful for each local church elder in the Pennsylvania Conference who is faithfully serving the Lord and leading the spiritual work in our Churches. And our Church families have much to be grateful for, with the men and women who have answered God’s call and like Isaiah have said when the church needed a spiritual man or woman to lead out in God’s work, “Here am I, send me.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

A DEDICATED LAY PASTOR IN SENECA


Friday early afternoon, Jeanne and I visited with Russ Mullins at the Seneca Church.



Russ was one of the early lay pastor students in Elder Jim Wibberding’s lay pastor class here in the Pennsylvania Conference. Although Russ is semi-retired from being a nuclear plant inspector, he has earnestly dedicated himself to applying himself to let the Lord develop him in ministry and pastoral leadership.

I had the opportunity to review the many materials that Russ has been learning and drawing from to better lead our church in ministry and outreach. He shared with me the ways he has been leading the church family to approach Christian witness and outreach by gaining an understanding of the postmodern way of thinking, and how to share a personal testimony of what Jesus has done in their own life. He has also led the members to understand that postmodern influences are felt even in our small rural towns, where people may not naturally respond initially to a prophecy seminar, but they will respond to friendship evangelism, and then come to grow in the Lord. Right now, the Seneca church has begun to have a few new families with children starting to come to church as a result of taking this approach of meeting people where they are, entering into a friendship and inviting them to experience for themselves what a church family can be like. The Seneca church has also worked on their building and appearance to make it more, “user friendly” by installing a better entrance, making the interior more attractive and enhancing the appearance of the inside front of the church sanctuary.



They have also done something that is so smart, and yet something that many churches take for granted! They have taken great pains to make the bathrooms as attractive and bright and pleasant as possible.



While we members may just accept the appearance of a bathroom, that is one of the first things that visitors notice, and they tend to gauge their opinion of a church by the bathroom appearance—its cleanness, smell and d├ęcor.


Russ is one of several dedicated lay pastors here in the Pennsylvania Conference who is committed to the Adventist message and to leading his church to fulfill the gospel commission. We appreciate our dedicated lay pastors here in Pennsylvania.

ERIE PASTOR, CHURCH AND CHURCH SCHOOL

April 7 and 8 Jeanne and I spent time in Erie with Pastor Preston Monterrey and his wife Valerie.







We spent quite some time sharing the joys and progress of the Erie church.



Preston has brought a calm and positive spirit into the 3 churches that he leads—Erie, Lowville and Cory. He also oversees the ministry of Russ Mullins at the Seneca Church.


Preston gave me a demonstration of the SDA radio station that broadcasts from the Erie Church.



The equipment is in two rooms of the Erie Church School. A small closet contains the broadcast equipment, computers and recording equipment.

A nearby room which is a storeroom for school books and other supplies, contains the transmission equipment that takes the program up through the antenna and out over the air waves. The Erie church broadcasts much programming from 3ABN, but the church also records and broadcasts local materials and programming. After visiting with Elder Monterrey, I visited the Adventist School of Erie. Steve Laubach is our teacher there and the school students have a very attractive school room for class.


Recently a very generous donation has been made and the second school room has been outfitted as a learning center with very up-to-date computer stations.



While I was there, I observed how the students had been making Christian bookmarks to give to the church members and friends, using the computer graphics software and then printing them off on one of the two new color laser printers.



The church school students have also provided the church service at each of the 4 churches in the district this Spring. Tomorrow, they will be providing the 4th of their services by leading out the worship service in the Erie Church. The Church School is preparing for next school year already.



Church members have donated for these signs to be placed around town as this is the time of year community people begin to be interested in a Christian school. Also, the School is planning an open house in the next few weeks.