News and information from around the Ohio Conference
Worthington Church Fuels Warm Community
Keychain Leadership; Empathy Today; Jesus’ Message; Warm Relationships; Prioritize Everywhere; Best Neighbors. These are the six core commitments at the center of building a Jesus-centered community, and at the heart of the Growing Young Adventists (GYA) initiative within the Ohio Conference.

Introduced one year ago under the leadership of GYA certified presenter and Ohio Conference youth director, Edward Marton, Growing Young is going strong in more than ten churches across the state. “This is not the next ‘new’ program or fad; we are not starting a new church,” shared Marton. “This becomes part of the church’s own culture.”

The Worthington Adventist church in Worthington, Ohio chose the “Warm Relationships” commitment, where they aim for peer and intergenerational friendships rather than cool worship or programs. 

Many years prior to embarking upon the GYA journey, senior pastor Yuliyan Filipov worked with church leadership in casting a new vision for the Worthington church. Recognizing a disconnect between the generations, he found ways to encourage mentorship, discipleship, and love for others within his congregation. Understanding many churches were at risk of being “one generation away from extinction,” he began a journey to build a “lasting spiritual legacy” at Worthington.

This journey was strengthened in recent years with the addition of youth pastor, Jeremy Wong and his chaplain spouse, Brooke Wong to Worthington’s leadership team. Filipov and Wong empowered youth in the church, making them a priority in the church budget. It took time, but along with local church leadership, the team invested in their youth, listening to them and creating a place where young people wanted to belong. 

According to Wong, youth programs such as Vacation Bible School, are strongly supported by the church. Last year, 15 young people ages 12 to 19, were baptized as a direct result of Worthington’s emphasis on growing younger and fostering intergenerational relationships.

Their hard work is paying off. Many young adults have shared with Wong that “this is home,” acknowledging the Worthington church is their family. Socials are structured to build relationships, through the context of having fun together organically, yet intentionally. Games encourage the interaction of multiple generations, while building relationships.

On February 1, 2020, Filipov and his team took relationship building to the next level. After sharing a series of sermons about the importance of creating a warm community, the church modified their Sabbath routine. Sabbath mornings now begin at 9:00 AM with a prayer breakfast open to all members. This is followed by Sabbath School, then a combined worship service at 11:00 AM. During the first week of this new schedule, more than 300 people attended the worship service (more than attended both first and second services in recent weeks). Filipov also noticed new faces among those in attendance, and several who returned to the church after hearing about the new changes.

The journey continues at Worthington. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions impacting social gatherings, Wong observed church leadership and parents adopting and sharing the shared legacy vision, working together to create a space for people of all ages to grow and thrive. During the pandemic crisis, he has transitioned this work to virtual platforms, and has been successful retaining those relationships.

On September 12, 2020, Worthington will celebrate 100 years with a centennial celebration. Their lasting spiritual legacy will continue, sharing hope with all ages for the future.
Adventist Education During the COVID-19 Crisis
What does Adventist Christian education look like amidst the COVID-19 pandemic crisis? No one could have imagined during the Christmas holiday break that classrooms nationwide would have only days to transition to an entirely online platform by Spring break. Adventist Education continues to focus on maintaining the safety and well-being of students and those working with students. But what is happening in our schools, specifically here in Ohio?

"I am proud of how the Ohio Conference educators and administrators have stepped up to the plate to meet this unforeseeable challenge that has befallen our country and in this specific case, our education system," said Richard Bianco, education superintendent. 

"Even in the likely event that our buildings remain off limits until after the school year ends, rest assured “school” is going strong in our communities. Students have been interfacing with their teachers through a variety of methods, which include, but are not exhausted by the following list: Zoom, Facebook, Facetime, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, Class Dojo, Khan Academy, IXL, Moby Max, and so much more."

Bianco elaborates, "The creativity of our educators has assured that our students will not only get a quality education to finish the school year, but have fun doing so, even under anxiety-filled circumstances."

This week Spring Valley Academy continued their "Spirit Days at SVA," though through a videoconferencing system called Zoom. According to Jennifer Bianco, first and second grade teacher at the school, Wednesday was "maker day." Children shared their "maker" items (left photo), followed by a special afternoon guest - retired SVA kindergarten aide, Mrs. Oberer, who read to them (right photo).

"I continue to ask the Ohio Conference members to pray for our educators and administrators as they maneuver through the final months of this school year and ask God to give them the capacity to not only be successful, but to have an abundance of energy, wisdom, and joy while this endures," said Bianco.  "As usual, I want to thank the Ohio Conference for their unbelievable support of our education team. It is greatly appreciated."
Adventism's Greatest Small Groups
By Michael Stough II, Pastor Springfield First, Delaware, New Carlisle District
In our discussion of small groups, it is clear they are something which are not only biblical, but fundamentally Adventist. But, instead of reinventing the wheel, does small groups structure already exist in the Seventh-day Adventist church of today even if it is terribly underutilized?

If you answered, “Yes.” You are correct.

Visit any church around 9:30 AM on Sabbath morning at it becomes clear many are absent for the most important gathering on Sabbath morning, Sabbath School. Visit sometime during the week, usually on a Wednesday at 7:00 PM, and maybe there is no one present at all for prayer meeting, the most important meeting of the week.

Now it could be some of the nomenclature being used today is less than ideal, because even Ellen White discusses that prayer meeting is more than just prayer. She actually states at regular prayer meetings, “there should not be prayer of more than ten minutes’ duration.” [1] Now this is not to say only ten minutes is ever given to prayer, for she then goes on to mention how after singing or testimonies, those whole feel a burden to pray should pray. Maybe a better view of prayer meeting is a time intermingled throughout with prayer, testimonies, study and singing. Prayer meeting is, however, a great indicator of the spiritual condition of a local congregation. Writing in 1897, Ellen White says “prayer-meeting will always tell the true interest of the church-members in spiritual and eternal things. The prayer-meeting is as the pulse to the body; it denotes the true spiritual condition of the church.” A church without prayer meeting or one little attended denotes a “lifeless, backslidden church,” because the people “prefer to pass the time…pleasing and gratifying the feelings of the natural heart.” [2]

One Sabbath morning, Sabbath School naturally lends itself to a small group setting. I remember the time when the Sabbath School Quarterly listed not just the membership statistics for whatever Division of the church was being highlighted for the quarter, but for Sabbath School members as well. That number was always bigger than the number of baptized members, for it was through the weekly small group meeting of Sabbath School people became members of the church.

Why then can Sabbath School be such an effective tool in growing not just members, but non-members, spiritually? I think of Jesus when He was rejected in Nazareth. On that Sabbath day, as Luke 4 records, Jesus stood up, read from Isaiah 61:1-2, sat down, stated how the Scripture was fulfilled, and then the fireworks lit off. Although our Sabbath School discussions should stay away from the fevered pitch of that Sabbath, engaging in a deep study of word is also another critical part of Sabbath, even more important for spiritual growth than the sermon.

Next time we will look more specifically at specifics for how Sabbath School should function as a small group.

[1] Ellen White,  Testimonies for the Church vol. 2 , 578.
[2] Ellen White,  Pastoral Ministry , 183.
A Look Inside an Adventist Community Center During a COVID-19 Pandemic
Photos, Information from Dean Cinquemani, Pastor, Christ Our Righteousness
I wanted to "share a quick update on what our little group continues to do throughout this pandemic lockdown in the Olmsted Falls community," wrote Dean Cinquemani , pastor of Christ Our Righteousness Adventist church and affiliated Community for Better Living education center and community center .

"For many years now we have been partnered with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank (GCFB) and Feeding America network, and typically we have what is called a choice pantry distribution where our clients come in, check in (the FDA tracks our numbers) and then get a cart and an assistant and shop for themselves like you would at a grocery store. This is preferred as it cuts down on wasted food and gives our clients the ability to plan meals and shop for what they need," explained Cinquemani. "For the time being we have been asked to pre-pack bags and do “contact minimal” distribution to protect our volunteers and clients. We have found this less engaging as our typical distribution evenings are very touching as volunteers and clients have become friends, there are always lots of hugs and prayers going around as we become close with the community. However, it is most important now to keep everyone healthy."

"We typically distribute one to two weeks of food for a family, with numbers ranging between 50 families (at this time of year) and 60-70 families in the warmer months. Our group is very good about not coming if they are not in need, knowing that our little group is providing food for around 120-150 families each month (around 300 people per month)," said Cinquemani.

"This is a much larger undertaking than our little group could possibly do, but from the field come the workers and God has brought us about 30 community volunteers, 20 of whom are so faithful that they are with us two to three times each week, 5-10 of whom also meet with us regularly on Sabbath mornings for Bible study, to talk about life and challenges and to pray with us." 

Cinquemani and his team have noticed their distribution numbers rise as a result of the pandemic and subsequent "stay at home" order, and during their last three services they have "checked in around 80 families, providing food for another 10 on top of those. With more on the way as our phone continues to ring," he said.

What does a typical week look like during the COVID-19 pandemic at their Better Living center?

On Sunday, a group of 10-15 gather. Under normal circumstances they would stock shelves and sort products; with the COVID compliance they are now loading around 100 bags or boxes with canned and shelf-stable products. After taking Monday off, one or two team members come in on Tuesday to ensure everything is prepped and ready for Thursday's distribution. By Wednesday, a small team arrives to load another 20 bags or boxes; pre-COVID one of the coordinators would have simply checked in.

Thursday is a big day. At 7:00 AM Cinquemani meets with another driver and a large trailer at GCFB on the east side of Cleveland, where they load their trucks and trailer with 4-8,000 pounds of food (fresh produce, frozen goods and shelf stock) then head back to their center. Also at 7:00 AM, a team meets at the center and prepares it for the incoming stock. By 8:00 AM they arrive at the center as another team arrives to help unload and the food as it is all moved into the building where it will be sorted and stored or, for fresh produce, loaded into bags for distribution. That group usually finishes by noon; but these days,
additional loading teams return at 3:30 PM and load an additional 100 boxes with fresh and frozen goods for distribution. Finally, at 5:00 PM, distribution volunteers arrive and receive their assignments; new volunteers review compliance and sign in. At 5:25 PM Cinquemani and his volunteers have a prayer together (around 5-10 from the church and another 15-20 from the community), before opening their doors (under normal circumstances), but under COVID protocols, they head outside to check in and load client cars with food.

The process begins anew on Friday. This is one more way Ohio churches serve as the hands and feet of Jesus, ensuring #MinistryDoesNotStop.
Returning Tithes & Offerings During a Pandemic
Did you know it's easy to return your Tithe and Offerings? 

The Ohio Conference suggests three ways: online, US Mail (to your church treasurer) and drop off at your local church. When utilizing the online AdventistGiving, please visit https://adventistgiving.org/  then select your church.

Even though our members are not meeting in our church buildings, we can continue to support God's work in our local churches, the Ohio Conference and our world-wide Church by returning tithe and offerings. Some congregations have small family-based groups who have collected envelopes and sent these monies to their treasurer. Others have offered a "pick-up service" for members at their homes and bring those tithe envelopes to the treasurer (respecting social distancing of course).

" We want to work together to make sure that even though church buildings are closed ministry doesn’t stop, and people are still worshiping through online services, connecting with others, praying and receiving the blessing of returning their tithes and offerings," shared Roy Simpson, Ohio Conference treasurer. "We want to make sure to provide all possible means to our members to continue being faithful and supporting our local churches."

The Ohio Conference team thanks you for your continued faithfulness and prayers during this coronavirus pandemic.

#MinistryDoesNotStop
Educators Go the Distance on Visitor News Live
Earlier this month, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Columbia Union Visitor launched a conversation series called "Coping in the Time of COVID-19." The series is broadcast live on Thursday evenings at 7:30pm on Visitor's Facebook page .

This week the topic of conversation is "Educators Go the Distance," and one of the panel guests will be our own Rick Bianco, Ohio Conference education superintendent. "We'll talk to educators and students from around the union and learn about more creative ways members are lending a helping hand during this tough time," shared Visitor staff on a recent Facebook post.

Join the broadcast and share your experiences and questions in the comments section.
Truth Matters: Facing the Crisis with Confidence
We've been informed that Pacific Press and Signs of the Times magazine have teamed up with Mark Finley to create a 16-page Signs of the Times “Truth Matters” series publication designed for sharing hope in these strange times. It’s available on a small scale, such as singles (starting at $0.49 each) and regular volume quantities (as low as $0.25 each), but also for entire zip code mailings straight from the Press ($0.65 per piece delivered).



Photo of the Week
Bianco Food Pantry
Ohio Conference Education Superintendent Rick Bianco and Youth Director Edward Marton were among the team of volunteers who assembled last Friday to help serve more than 80 families, over 420 people in all. 

The team project was a collaborative effort between  Spring Valley Academy  and  Good Neighbor House in Dayton . Together they delivered food and supplies to those with food insecurities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In our car alone, we had 225 lbs of rice, 200 lbs of sweet potatoes, 60 lbs of onions, 80 lbs of flour, and 250 lbs of red lentils,” said Bianco. “We got to deliver food, have prayer with families, and make an impact in a world that's hurting. I encourage all of us to make a difference each day. As Jesus says: "love one another as I have loved you."”

Among the other volunteers were Trevor Ross, Don Schull, Darren Wilkins, Jennifer Bianco, Chris Staats, and a number of SVA familes.

We thank everyone involved for being the hands and feet of Jesus.

Verse of the Week
Inspirational Quote of the Week
Read the Current Issue of Mission Ohio in the Columbia Union Visitor
Highlights of this issue include new Ohio Conference treasurer, Roy M. Simpson and his wife Melissa; Ohio Conference high school students being "ReCharged," and how a growing church plant changes lives in Massillon.

Read these articles and more in the current issue of Mission Ohio in Visitor magazine.
Heidi A. Shoemaker, Communication Director
Ohio Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
1251 E Dorothy Ln, Dayton, OH 45419