Stories & Commentaries

Nearly 10 Million People Invited to Feel Whole

Nearly 10 Million People Invited to Feel Whole AdventHealth stock photo for the Feel Whole Challenge launched in 2019

The clock strikes 6:15 a.m. and the alarm goes off. It’s time to get going. The infectious music picks up as you see different individuals kickstart their days: a woman heading into a farm at sunrise, a man adjusting a bicycle, another woman with a volunteer t-shirt feeding and caring for animals. And then you see it. A hand checks off a day on a calendar. But not because the date has passed. Because the day’s activity, “volunteer,” has been completed. It’s one of 21 total.  

That’s how one of the commercials for AdventHealth’s Feel Whole Challenge campaign begins. The words at the end deliver the powerful call to action: “You have the power to change your life. Prove it.”

It’s been said that it takes 21 days to form or break a habit. Throughout the course of this year, participants across the country have put this concept to the test, answering AdventHealth’s call to action to improve their physical, mental, and spiritual health. In nine media markets throughout the Midwestern, Southwestern, and Southeastern United States, 9.7 million consumers have heard this same message.

While it may seem counterproductive for a health system to challenge consumers to make changes that will keep them awayfrom its facilities, helping people feel whole is the center of AdventHealth’s health care approach. In fact, “feel whole” is its brand promise.  

Benecia Holder, a 24-year-old Tampa Bay-area resident, wrote encouraging notes to her friends as part of the Feel Whole Challenge, and then invited them to complete the challenge themselves.

Benecia Holder, a 24-year-old Tampa Bay-area resident, wrote encouraging notes to her friends as part of the Feel Whole Challenge, and then invited them to complete the challenge themselves. Photo provided by AdventHealth

Feel Whole Pioneers

Although launched in 2019, the feel whole brand promise and the Feel Whole Challenge have roots dating back 150 years when Seventh-day Adventists pioneered whole-person care. 

“Whole-person care was the conviction of our founding fathers, and it is ours as well,” said Terry Shaw, AdventHealth president and CEO. “They deeply believed in the idea of wholeness.” 

The health principles those early church leaders revolutionized in their time are still relevant today and are currently expressed within AdventHealth’s CREATION Life program. The acronym in CREATION Life stands for Choice, Rest, Environment, Activity, Trust in God, Interpersonal Relationships, Outlook and Nutrition. These same eight principles were used to shape the 21 activities of the Feel Whole Challenge, including:

  • “Pray for someone every day of the challenge.”
  • “Think of someone you’re grateful for and tell them.”
  • “Do something you’ve always wanted to try.”

“More than 150 years later, we have the years of experience and the research that has enhanced our understanding and given us a broader view of those fundamental principles Ellen White and other church leaders originally espoused,” said Ted Hamilton, M.D., senior vice president and chief mission integration officer for AdventHealth. “Those principles of whole-person care impact how we live, how we care for each other and how we spend our time. In the long run, it’s these kinds of activities that make a huge difference.”

Participants both in and outside of the national AdventHealth system, which operates 50 hospitals across nine states and in four different Adventist union conferences, answered the call and committed to the challenge. Among the group were Joy Block-Gonzalez, executive director of internal audit and reconciliation services for AdventHealth; Benecia Holder, a Tampa Bay-area resident; and Terry Shaw himself, the president and CEO for AdventHealth.

Volunteering your time in service to others is one of the 21 activities in the Feel Whole Challenge.

Volunteering your time in service to others is one of the 21 activities in the Feel Whole Challenge.

The ABCs of Prayer

Block-Gonzalez looked down at her calendar and read her “Day 4” activity — one that would need to be repeated for the rest of the challenge: pray for someone. Prayer is not an unfamiliar activity for her. It’s part of her personal routine to pray for her kids, family, close friends and coworkers. Yet she wanted this particular experience to be different.

“I reflected on the task, wondering what I could do to make it special,” she said. “That’s when I landed on the alphabet. I took a couple letters each day, from A through Z, and prayed for individuals I knew whose names started with those letters.”

It certainly wasn’t easy, especially toward the end of the alphabet.

“The activity allowed me to think about the people who’ve minimally touched my life,” she continued. “I had to dig deep into my past interactions for people whose names started with X and Z, but I was able to pray for those whom I would have never thought to pray for otherwise. It helped me pause every day and spend time talking to God. I know the experience has helped strengthen my relationship with Him.” 

Tag, You’re It

For Holder, the Feel Whole Challenge turned her positive activities into habits. Trying a new exercise turned into daily morning stretches, examining her sleep routine translated into limited screen time at night, and praying daily led her to a new faith community. She already wanted to get back to a church. The challenge just gave her the push she needed.

“The Feel Whole Challenge led me to pick up my Bible again,” she said. “I thought about how I’d like to find community again. Not just a church, but a community of like-minded people around my age.”

The challenge nudged Holder to claim a new home church this summer, and she in turn nudged three of her friends to also complete the 21 days. The women were already top-of-mind, as Holder has written them notes as part of the activity, “Think of someone you’re grateful for and tell them.”

“I’ve definitely been advocating for this,” she said. “I think being well-rounded is important for everyone. Personally, it’s made me more mindful when it comes to all aspects – physical, mental and spiritual.”

Feel Whole Challenge with Tommy, man in boat

The Power of Balance

The life of a CEO is usually described as hectic, pressured or jam-packed. And while all those things may be true at certain times, Shaw has introduced a new word — “balanced.”

“One thing I learned from the Feel Whole Challenge is the power of balance,” he said. “Throughout the 21 days, I spent a lot of time thinking about ways I could bring more balance to my life. I will be using the new skills I learned through this experience to help make that happen.”

Shaw led by example, completing the challenge himself and personally inviting his leadership team, and then all other team members at every level, to commit to it as well.

“The Feel Whole Challenge is AdventHealth’s invitation to everyone — team members, families, consumers, community and church members — to begin their own journeys to wholeness,” he said. “Christ’s desire for us is to live life abundantly until the day when He returns and restores us to whole beings.”  

To get started on your 21-day journey to wholeness, visit You can post about your participation on social media using the hashtags, #feelwholechallenge and #feelingwhole. 

kmaran Wed, 11/13/2019 - 13:03

Love in Any Language

Love in Any Language
Tony Anobile

Tony Anobile, vice president of Multilingual Ministries for the North American Division; photo by Pieter Damsteegt/NAD Office of Communication

Tony Anobile works with 15 different language groups — and counting. But he wasn’t always in multilingual ministry. In fact, the majority of his time serving the church, almost 34 years, has been in youth ministry.This interview is the fourth of a six-part series that will introduce the officers and directors of the North American Division who have begun settling in to their newly elected positions.

Kimberly Maran: Let’s start with your early years in ministry.

Tony Anobile: I started as a Pathfinder director for the Southern California Conference. From there, I was the associate youth director and then associate pastor. In between, I was the first young adult director in the division for the Southern California Conference for three years back in 1994. From there, I was a senior pastor and then assistant to the president. When we moved to Arizona, I was the youth director — youth and family life. Two months later, I became the first secretary of the Arizona Conference; and I was also the first Hispanic. Later, I served as president.

We left Arizona, and after a short time serving as a church pastor in Tennessee, we moved back to California, where I was Pacific Union Conference vice president (that included all the union’s volunteer ministries), until I took the NAD position. I’ve been here almost two years.

What led you and your family to take the call to vice president of multilingual ministries at the NAD?

My wife, Lisa, and I have three children. Both of our boys are at Andrews Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary getting their M.Div. degrees. Our daughter is a speech pathologist. 

Lisa usually bails me out by saying, “I don't want to move. We're not going anywhere.” When this call came along, she responded by letting me know that she thought God was telling me to consider it. And all three kids were under conviction that this is where I needed to be, at the NAD.

This was in October 2017. I met with the Dan Jackson, NAD president, the day of the election. We had a very open and honest discussion about my family and caring for our parents back on the West Coast. I remember I called Lisa two or three hours before it was going to be brought to the nominating committee and then the executive committee. I said, “The Lord answered.”

She said, “OK, We're in.”

It's an assuring moment when you know your family is not just “OK, whatever, Dad.” They were convinced this is where I needed to be. This is where the Lord wanted us to be. There was conviction. I use that word on purpose. So I accepted and I haven't looked back.

You took a leap of faith, so to speak. What keeps you going? 

My favorite Bible text is Jeremiah 29:11. God knows the plans He has for me, to prosper me, not to hurt me, to give me hope in the future. That's true for everyone. God has a plan and it's not to harm us. It's to love us. We can't ever change that.

I’ve cherished that text throughout my life. I don't see how I could ever get to the point where I'd deny God, or not trust Him. He's just been way too good to me. That verse reminds me of that no matter what — even though it may not be until the end when we're together — He will complete His plan. I passed that on to my kids and when I sign Bibles. It's a great verse, a reminder that God loves you. He wants to help you, not hurt you.

You earned your Master of Arts at La Sierra University in California, attended Montemorelos University in Mexico, and grew up in the church. What’s that been like for you?

Being bilingual is a big help. Going to Montemorelos was helpful in that I was more able to understand the culture. Then, of course, working in the Pacific Union, one of the most diverse unions in the division, and Southern California, one of the most diverse conferences, was a tremendous blessing. I grew up in Southern California — I grew up with everybody. I love everybody. 

My mom has said that, at 2 years old, I was preaching and wanted to be a pastor. I didn't have a Damascus experience. I never really waivered from that. 

And I’ve always loved youth ministry. I was in Pathfinders, summer camps, and all the rest. Grew up attending followed by coordinating. I loved it. I really thought I'd be a career youth person, but the Lord had other plans. I love my journey; I've enjoyed every aspect of it.

My dad is the first Adventist on his side of the family and, really, the only one. I'm a fifth generation Seventh-day Adventist on my mom's side. My great-great-grandfather was the first Adventist in Argentina.

What was his name? 

Julio Dupertuis and his wife, Ida Arn, were devout Baptists in Felicia, Santa Fe Province in Argentina. We're in volume 10 of the SDA Bible Commentary. It’s an exciting story. 

J. N. Andrews went to Switzerland and translated Signs of the Timesinto French, Adventist Les Signes des Temps. My great-great-grandfather got a copy and read it and became convicted of the Sabbath. Further study led them to adopt Adventism in 1885. The Dupertuises were the core of the French-speaking, Sabbath-keeping group in their community.

You bring a unique perspective to ministry with your rich Adventist heritage, your passion for people, and your awareness of culture.

I am certified as a cultural intelligence trainer. Going through both tracks has been a blessing. All that helped me to be a lot more sensitive and in tune with cultural diversity. 

I’ve given seminars on cultural intelligence, which is not only ethnic, but generational and everything else. A lot of us don't realize the biases that we bring. We don't think we are, but the test [that is part of the course work] tells you exactly where you are personality wise, etc. 

Working with 15 different language groups is amazing and so rewarding. I just attended the Zimbabwean camp meeting and loved it. I've been to Yugoslavian, Romanian, and Samoan camp meetings this past summer. I went to the Myanmar and Karen camp meetings. If nothing else, I have an appreciation for the culture. I've dealt with people. 

Some have gone to [camp meetings] and conventions where the music style is a little different than what they're used to. They’re shocked.

But I recognize that we're visitors and guests in their worship. I'm comfortable with that. I can stand still behind the pulpit or I can wave my arms and move all around the place. I'm used to all of that diversity.

For sure, the person in this role has to be open to appreciating God's goodness through all His kids. If you're not, you shouldn't be in this position.

With so many groups but limited funds, how do you operate?

Everyone that I work with, all these directors, are passionate about growing their ministry. The reality is the minority groups are going to keep growing in this division. That's never going to stop. We're actually in a growth mode and looking at policies to implement what qualifies you now to be an officially recognized group. We're growing so fast. We need to structure a policy similar to being a group accompanying a church for what qualifies you to be a recognized minority group in North America. We're getting more and more requests.

At the end of the day, that's really where you want to be. And you want to be sensitive to everyone, and respectful, and still be able to say no legitimately.

You’re looking to the future. What do you see for the division in terms multilingual ministry — how it may shift, grow, change?

Minority groups are always going to be a part in growing. The immigrant populations continue to grow. The majority is going to be the minority. We need to find a way to continue to help them.

The interesting thing is we always have first generation because they're always coming, but then they have second, third, and now soon fourth generations that grew up and live here. There are a lot of issues we need to address with people understanding even within their own cultures.

At the Zimbabwean camp meeting, for example, they had a Q&A with the parents and the kids. It was very good. They were very honest. The kids were asking for understanding. A lot of it is generational. But some of it is because people are coming from other countries that are first generation. Even their view of evangelism is so different.

In some cases, it’s aggressive, go-getter evangelism, whereas, the second and third generations are in different places for a lot of reasons. Working to have us communicate with each other within this context is just one issue.

To me, the biggest issue is going to be funding. For example, I've only got so much pie but I'm having suddenly a lot more people that want to eat. I can only slice it so much.

Each advisory group that we bring in requires travel for the director and funding. Administration, in the meetings we've had, recognizes probably one of the largest areas of concern with growth and finding funding is immigrant and refugee ministries. This is the most diverse division of the Adventist Church.

The translation of materials is another huge thing. It takes time. It takes funding. As we continue to grow, because we're always going to have the first generation coming, we have to have material for them in their language, but then we also have to be relevant to the second and third generation. 

It includes Esperanza TV and other programming that we do. We need to have programs that are geared towards that demographic, not a program that tries to reach everyone but different programs throughout the day to reach different demographics. We're working on some pretty exciting things from kids, to early teens, and teens, and young adults, as well as adults. 

Just to give you an example: South America produces about 30 hours of new television a week. We haven't produced very much here in about four years. That's a challenge for us. It's expensive.

The beauty of this ministry — and this was already before I got here — is that the directors of the different ethnic groups are qualified people. Take Terri Saelee, for example. Refugee ministries is huge and probably shares the biggest workforce of volunteers and some stipend people. Terri is very good about who she recruits in preparing, and training, and all the rest. That's the only way it can get done. 

Each coordinator works within their group. We need to establish tighter guidelines, however. We need to provide structure and more training for our language groups. New directors are being vetted. But we need to shore that process up for everyone. Anyone that comes on, they represent the church. We have to be really careful. We have to do a good job of continuing to vet people because they're representing us.

What is the largest language group you work with?

Hispanic ministries is by far the largest with more than 230,000. The next is the Asian Pacific group with about 113,000.

We’ve set out to establish up to 15,000 Hispanic small groups in this quinquennium. This year alone, with the small groups; VIDAgps (GPS, in Spanish, stands for “Healthy Small Groups”) resource kit*; new website; Caravan of Training (37 days, 31 cities, 21 states, and six unions across the NAD); and major, recorded series with evangelist Alejandro Bullón viewed online, we're targeting 30,000 baptisms. That's a high goal, but we’ve got to aim high.

The VIDAgps website is one of the resources the NAD has developed for Hispanic ministries free of charge.

The VIDAgps website is one of the resources the NAD has developed for Hispanic ministries. The kit for small groups is free of charge.

Other than what we’ve already talked about, what would you want to tell church members about multilingual ministries? 

The first thing I would say is: be aware that there is a lot of cultural diversity. Number two: don't believe hearsay.

We are the most culturally diverse country. Even if we weren't, in Heaven, we will be.

We need to learn to work and live with each other instead of being afraid of each other. As much as that sounds ridiculous in 2019, it's very real. I learned a song when I was a little kid with lyrics that went like this: “Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight.” It's true. I long for the day when we can all worship together.

How do you see God leading now? Where do you see God in what you're doing, in what you're trying to achieve?

What I have enjoyed and appreciated is who God has brought into my life to be a part of the vision. When a pastor leaves and the church falls apart, the pastor has failed. He hasn't prepared, equipped, trained, and delegated.

Where do I see it now? I got thrown in the deep end, like we all do sometimes. I think I'm finally above water, with people who are helping me to swim. That has been an exciting thing because there is so much talent in this division and a lot of passion from people who want to see mission accomplished.

Again, to see the level of engagement, even with the small groups ministry, we took a lot of risks, financial risks, and all the rest. I'm grateful to the division for their support. This could have tanked pretty quickly but it didn't. You use those markers that God is showing you that you're going in the right direction.

I’m working with some creative people. We're preparing some exciting initiatives. We're working together on church planting. I think the next five years are going to be incredible growth for the church in North America. 

We all come with myths and preconceptions. I’ve heard people say, In the division, nothing ever happens. Let me tell you, I have so much respect for everyone in this office. The Lord is at work in and through the North American Division. That’s exciting to see. It's fun to come into this office. People are in a good mood. They're excited about what they're doing.

It’s exciting to see how God is expanding the effectiveness of the division; it's exciting to be a part of it. It's an honor to be a part of the team. It really is.

Nothing lasts forever. So, this is my time for however long the Lord wants me here. I can say to my kids — and grandkids at some point — I had the privilege of working at the national level of the church and impacting the church. I don't take that lightly. It's a privilege every day to serve. No matter what level it is, it's a privilege to serve. We should never, ever take that for granted. 

* Wanting to convey the notion of living life abundantly through Jesus, the Multilingual Ministries created the VIDAgps resource kit for use with small groups. VIDAgps, in which VIDA as a word means “life” in Spanish, stands for vision, identity, development, and acceptance. The kit operates in tandem with the website. Said Anobile: “The minute you're registered, a light goes on and you're connected to everybody. You can see you're not alone. You're part of a family.”



kmaran Wed, 10/30/2019 - 14:36

Elijah Cummings: Thoughts from Washington Adventist University's President on the congressman and civil rights leader's life and legacy

Elijah Cummings: Thoughts from Washington Adventist University's President on the congressman and civil rights leader's life and legacy
Elijah Cummings with Weymouth Spence

Elijah Cummings was the U.S. House Representative for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District and an honored civil rights leader in Baltimore, Md. Dr. Weymouth Spence is the president of Washington Adventist University, where he took office in 2009. Photo provided by Washington Adventist University

As the nation mourns the recent loss of Elijah Cummings, and celebrates the life and legacy of the U.S. House of Representatives for Maryland's 7th Congressional District and honored civil rights leader, Washington Adventist University's president, Weymouth Spence, shares his thoughts on — and takeaways from — Cummings' leadership and legacy in an interview with Richard Castillo, vice president for Integrated Marketing and Communication for WAU.

Castillo: What aspect of Elijah Cummings' life do you relate to? 

Spence: Elijah Cummings, like other leaders in the civil rights movement, came from meager beginnings. I feel as though I relate to their stories. I came to the United States from Jamaica and learned this country’s history. I learned about the struggle for equality, fairness — and the struggle to get access to education. The non-violent aspect of civil disobedience has motivated me in a couple ways. One: learning how the fight for equality happened and how it has affected the country and my peers. Two: how their struggle has given me opportunity by making my path, and the generations that will follow, smoother.

Is there an inspirational aspect to seeing someone such as Cummings rise in leadership and greatly effect those under his leadership?

His example strongly demonstrates that education is a pathway to success. It’s not necessarily about a degree. It’s about the education you gain from the influence of others. You must recognize that knowledge is power. It isn’t about being in a position, but knowing how to apply your education and wisdom the way that he and many civil rights leaders did. Many of them supported a strong educational pathway, whether from a skill level, a vocation, or higher education. I strongly believe that getting educated and surrounding yourself with people who have strong support for education, from early education through a college education, is a pathway to success.

Elijah Cummings came from Baltimore, Maryland, lived amongst the hardest hit citizens of the inner city and walked, arm-in-arm, singing with the people of Baltimore after Freddy Grey's death in 2015. Describe how is that a motivator for you, as you are on the ground with your students, faculty and staff on a regular basis.

What Cummings did is strong evidence of effective leadership: being among the people you lead. Jesus offered the example of always being in the community, with the people, having passion for the people. That’s what Elijah Cummings demonstrated and that’s what has influenced my style of leadership. I want to be among the students, playing with them on the softball field, at a recital, or with our students at commencement. I want to pat them on the back when they are doing well and support them. I told one young man after a soccer game, “Don’t let them get in your head. You play your game. They’re gonna do what they do. You stay in control.” Being there, among the students has a strong influence as you exemplify good behavior.

What is something that you see in Cummings' legacy that you would want reflected in your own?

He was firm about fairness, integrity, and honesty in his leadership style. He went out of his way recently to use his position wisely as he led a committee in the House of Representatives that provides oversight for the executive branch. He sought justice and used the system to obtain the fairness that we all expect as Americans. I’d like to make sure that every decision I make takes input from all aspects of the community and then allows me to make the right decision, even if it is unpopular. I believe the legacy of the decision will demonstrate that overall it may have been a tough decision, but the right decision.

How are you taking the example of other black leaders in the community and making a difference in your own?

President Obama and I started our presidencies at relatively the same time. I saw the positive and negative reactions to his leadership. His example inspired me to use my leadership to influence and help others to achieve their goals. Not to swing a heavy bat over people, but to use power for the disadvantaged. I want to use my influence to enhance the growth of people I serve; whether it’s students, parents, faculty, or staff. I believe when people succeed, institutions succeed. I believe family is the foundation of the world. The family becomes the society, the society becomes the country, the country becomes the world. These units are areas where we want our university to make a difference as we serve our communities, and fulfill our mission.

What is one aspect of Elijah Cummings' life that you would offer one of your students?

Be level headed, do not retaliate evil for evil, but overcome evil with good (see Rom. 12:21).


The original version of this interview can be found here, on the Washington Adventist University website.

kmaran Thu, 10/24/2019 - 13:13

The Broken Church

The Broken Church
stock photo two women praying in church

Photo from iStock

If your church is not ministering to the broken, you are in a broken church.

Is that too strident? I don’t think so. In every pew sits a broken heart. Even those who look good and smell good. Even those who answer all the questions correctly and can sing the morning hymn without even looking at the hymnal. The enemy is clever and tenacious. And all of us come to worship fresh from the battlefield. All of us.

And then there are those who do not come at all because they feel the sting of defeat. The way seems long and weary and their bleeding feet are sore. Sometimes church makes them feel even more judged and guilty. Why bother? To sit, unmoved, and listen to a listless lecture that makes their personal to-do list even more onerous … who needs it?

Ruthie and I were in a little chapel at a conference center not long ago. We were scheduled to speak there later in the day so beforehand we were scoping out the space. As we were leaving we saw a small poster at the back that said, “If you did not find what you came for today please speak to someone so we can pray with you.” I thought, Now they get it! They understand the battle is real and victories are gained only with spiritual weapons.

I remember thinking, Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that message was on the wall or maybe in the bulletin in every one of our churches! Every week.

When the people in your community think of your church, it would be marvelous if they thought, I’m going to go there today because I know I’ll find hope. And courage. I know they care about me; I know someone will pray for me … It’s been a rough week and I need that right now.

What if, after the closing song, instead of just being dismissed by the deacons and silently sauntering out of the church, everyone was invited to turn and speak to someone they hadn’t come with and ask simply, “How can I pray for you today?”

I know, not everyone is going to feel comfortable with that, but I think most will, and some may even acknowledge, “No one has ever asked me that question before. I really felt like I was ministered to here today.”

Broken people ministering to broken people. Good definition of church.

— This commentary appeared in the Oct. 6, 2019, Hope Heals e-newsletter, part of the North American Division's Prayer Ministries. Click here to learn/read more.

kmaran Tue, 10/15/2019 - 08:51


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