by: R. Rennae Elliot, NAD ASAM Committee Member
The theme embodied a challenge: Go Deeper! To almost 300 single adults, the second North American Division Adventist Single Adult Ministries (ASAM) Convention held answers, fellowship and fun. Ranging in age from 25 to 86, they gathered in Newport Beach, California, from 36 of the 58 NAD conferences, Australia, and the British Virgin Islands. For many, the group's diversity, in both age and ethnicity, was among the most positive aspects of the weekend.
The attendees came for a variety of reasons. Some came because after experiencing 2007’s “Pursue Your Passion,” the first NAD ASAM convention, they knew what blessings were in store. Rob Dummett from Southampton, Bermuda, noted that because the speakers and seminars were great in Orlando, he knew as soon as this year’s convention was announced that he would attend.
Zsa-Nai Long, an Assistant ASAM leader from Houston, Texas, said she learned the true focus of ASAM at the first convention. She explained that she, like many others, had believed that the goal of such conventions and of single adult ministries was to try and “hook up” with someone, and because of that perception, she did not want to go. “But once I got there, I was so happy.”
Others came for personal reasons. For Carmen Torres of Orange County California, it was “to get out of my shell, socialize with others, and do something for myself.”
Joy Villegas of Colton, California, said, “It gave me a chance to make friends with people in the same situation as me.” As a recent divorcee, she simply wanted to make more single friends. Jean-Paul Heldt, a native of France who now resides in Redlands, California, said that it was good to come and reconnect, explaining that he had spent a little over six years in China with no organized Seventh Day Adventist church in the city where he lived.
Whatever the reason for coming, all were pushed to Go Deeper! NAD ASAM Coordinator Andrea D. Hicks, explained, “In the first convention, we asked people to pursue their passions. Now it is time for them to go even deeper. They need to assess how their passions are helping with their relationships with the Lord and with other people.”
The planners, Hicks continued, wanted people to explore what it would take to move them to the next level of their experiences spiritually, socially, personally – in all aspects of life.
The easiest places to discuss going deeper spiritually were the main sessions. Four powerful keynote speakers challenged singles to focus on their relationships with God. Jose Rojas, Director of the Office of Volunteer Ministries for the North American Division, gave the opening night keynote address, detailing various aspects of light from a scientific perspective and relating those to God.
Jesse Bevel, Jr., Family Ministries Director of Northeastern Conference, spoke Friday morning with the intent of helping “God’s people to make appropriate choices.” Entitling his message “Dating and Communicating with a Clean Sinner,” he detailed three types of people who influence our lives, making clear the importance of relationship decisions.
Hyveth Williams, Senior Pastor of Campus Hill Church in Loma Linda, California, Friday evening’s speaker, pointed out the church doesn’t discuss singleness enough. She commented that the traditional view is of “singleness as an evil” and then expounded on both the blessings and burdens of singleness.
The final speaker, John McVay, President of Walla Walla University, spoke for the two Sabbath services. For divine worship, McVay detailed what happens when Jesus calls your name. In the evening service he continued, challenging all present to be courageous and vocal for the Lord, claiming His promise never to leave nor forsake.
The music also enhanced the spiritual aspect. At each service, a dynamic praise team set the tone for worship. Musical guests included, among others, Jaime Jorge and Adrian Pressley.
Even so, it wasn’t just the speakers and musicians who promoted the spiritual aspect. The whole experience was bathed in prayer. “I prayed with so many people,” said Fredericka Duggan of Miami, Fla., “and with each one, I got more strength, more power.”
This focus on prayer was intentional. Terri Leen, a NAD ASAM committee member from the North Pacific Union Conference, led out in the promotion of the prayer wall, a place where singles could post prayer requests. At each prayer time, the petitioner read and prayed for one request specifically. On Sabbath, all of the requests were passed out, and singles were given time to pray for the request given to them. In addition, people were asked to take the requests home and continue in prayer.
The spiritual lessons that people received were varied. According to Marce Williams of Salem Oregon, “the convention was “Christ-centered and applicable to life.” She explained that she learned “how important it is to take a spiritual journey and go deeper with God – to spend more time and be able to draw upon his wisdom through His word.”
Grayson Sorrels, a member of the Christian Missionary Alliance church in Paradise, California, commenting on the theme and spiritual aspect, said, “it’s easy to fall into a rut of just playing church, but when you think outside the box and realize that being a Christian is an adventure and you go deeper with God, he will surprise you.” He noted that the planners did a good job of creating an atmosphere where it was possible to go deeper in a spiritual way.
Going deeper socially was addressed in two ways; the first was through social interaction. The opportunities for social interaction abounded, but were most evident at meal times and during speed networking. During meals, the more extroverted singles went from table to table introducing themselves. Others simply sat with people they didn’t know.
Speed Networking, according to NAD ASAM committee member Barbara Babcock of the Pacific Union Conference, allowed everyone to meet several new people in a structured, non-threatening environment. Participants were paired, provided with suggested questions, and given five minutes to talk, but could not ask “what do you do for a living?”
Over half of the attendees participated. Some reported being apprehensive at first, concerned about the perception of dating, but in the words of Kareen Brown of Patterson, NJ, the activity was an “awesome experience.” The biggest complaint, voiced by several, was that five minutes went by too quickly. While finding a mate was not the idea behind speed networking, that possibility did exist. Trevor Schluter of Flint, Michigan, and Jennifer Hicks from Trenton, New Jersey met in the second session of speed networking in 2007; this year, in September, they will be married.
The second way going deeper was addressed socially, as well as personally, was through 17 different seminars, all of which NAD ASAM committee member Delores Richardson said were “highly relevant and acceptable to the conference attendees.” For example, Cheryl Simpson, Professor of Counseling and Family Sciences at Loma Linda University, spoke about wholeness, realities and challenges, and relational health for singles. Linda Hyder Ferry, Mihran Ask, and Ricardo J. Whyte, physicians, gave singles a glimpse into hidden addictions in the Adventist communities. Willie Oliver, NAD Director of Family Ministries, informed the group on “Why Men Won’t Commit” and “10 Things U Need to Know B4 U Get Married.”
Richardson, who is from the Atlantic Union Conference, is in a position to know what is relevant for single adults. She has been involved with NAD ASAM for many years and this year received the NAD Distinguished Service Award for her dedication and hard work.
Anyone who missed this convention, according to those who were there, also missed a great opportunity for spiritual and social blessings, not to mention a fabulous location with “a first class facility,” the combination of which, Sorrels said “made you feel like you were in a special place.” Rob Dummet had a message for those who were not in attendance. “Unless your life is one thousand percent awesome and can’t be improved,” he said, “you should have been there.”
Perhaps some who did not attend have not yet learned what Chris Burrows of Flint, Michigan, did: “how vast singleness was.” For Burrows, it was a process of “realizing that you’re a part of a much bigger thing, and people are still being supportive of the church and doing a lot of things in their communities,” a fact of which church leadership is well aware.
According to Oliver, “single adults are a growing population integral to the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church today.” He further stated, “The body of Christ needs every organ utilized in synergy to help disciple people for the kingdom of God.” Oliver went on to explain that in holding conventions such as the one in Newport Beach, church leadership is sending a clear message “that every member is valued in the family and encouraged to take their rightful place at the table.”
This message is not a one time deal. Throughout the year, local conferences and churches plan singles events, and the next NAD gathering is already being planned for 2011. Start making plans now. Embrace your passion for life. Go deeper into your relationship with God. And don’t miss the next ASAM convention. For details on Adventist Single Adult Ministries, visit our website at http://www.adventistsingleadultministries.org.