Deadly Tornado Outbreak Hits the South

Update - March 11, 2019

It has now been over a week since the series of tornadoes struck the states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Michigan. The local conferences continue to be engaged in the Recovery Efforts. Our DR Team from the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, led by Rhonda Haight, is presently operating a Multi-Agency Warehouse in Georgia. In Michigan, the local NGOs have set up Distribution sites to serve the community. We have been in communication with the South Atlantic and Gulf States conferences, discussing efforts focusing on creating a flow of goods that can be distributed to those affected. A church in each of the two conferences has been found viable to serve as a Distribution site or housing for volunteers.

We are also serving in Lee County, Alabama, by providing assistance in the Warehouse that is being run by United Cajun Navy, a local NGO. We informed them of our willingness to work within the structure they desired and of the resources at our disposal like workers, facilities, and knowledge. They were extremely appreciative and requested if we would assess the functionality of the Warehouse. ACS Directors Ray Elsberry of Gulf States and Derrick Lane of South Central were identified as the contact people for these efforts.

Each of these efforts is being managed by local ACS DR teams. The NAD offers support and stays in communication as much as possible. Sometimes we are able to work onsite directly with our teams and other times we contact them via phone calls. In either case, our intent is to encourage their tremendous efforts. This fact was highlighted by South Central holding a new pilot class at Oakwood University in Collections and Emergency Distribution Sites, led by Lillie Buckingham and Barbara Barnes. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS DR Director, joined them to co-teach this new course to over 200 people from four different conferences (Kentucky Tennessee, Georgia Cumberland, Southeastern, and South Central). The session ended with a gala on Sabbath evening where Derrick expressed his gratitude and deep appreciation for the effective work of our local ACS DR teams in serving their community.


A tornado that touched down in Alabama this past Sunday, March 3, has been declared as the deadliest one in the State since 2013. Georgia, the Panhandle area in Florida, and parts of South Carolina were also affected by this violent storm. At least 23 deaths have been reported in Lee County, Alabama.

We have reached out to our local Conferences, South Central and Gulf States, to discuss ways on how we can collaborate to serve the needs of the survivors. The North American Division stands at the ready to help as appropriate and both Conferences have indicated a willingness to work together for the good of the community. The South Central and Gulf States conferences currently have their Disaster Response Teams on the ground conducting field assessments to ascertain how much damage has taken place. Based on these initial reports, we will determine how ACS DR can be of assistance.

Blessings on Christmas Day

The Community Services Team of New Life Adventist Church in Chicago met early Christmas morning at the church to set up to feed people from the community. Upon arrival, they noticed that some guests had already showed up. The Team, led by Dollie Williams, hurried and prayerfully took on the tasks of the activity. Sister Williams said, "It brought tears to my eyes to see so many people coming seeking a meal so early in the morning on Christmas!"

The Team was ready for action! They had prepared a full Christmas meal, "Soul food" accented with "Mississippi sweet potato pies". The food was already hot as it was freshly prepared, so they rushed and started serving. The faster they served the more people came until the room filled up to overflowing. However, the people didn't complain. They took chairs and set them up in the hallways to rest their plates while they ate. They were even allowed carryouts. The Team also had a nurse on duty throughout the event.

What a blessing it was for the guests, as well as for the volunteers. Sister Williams is grateful for all the members that gave donations to help with the meal. She also appreciates the efforts of those that helped to prepare the meal and those that helped to serve the meal. The youth of the church also took part in this event. They usually go out on the streets to serve the homeless people once they are done serving meals at the church, but due to the request of the guests to take meals to homebound people, they refrained from going to the streets. However, they gave gifts to all the guests, both adults and children. At the end of the day, there were over 100 carryout meals!

Emotional & Spiritual Care Session at NAD

The first ACS Emotional & Spiritual Care session at the North American Division headquarters was held on December 11-12, 2018. It was conducted by W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS Disaster Response Director. Twenty-six pastors, lay members, and community service leaders took advantage of this opportunity which provided participants needed practical skills for critical incident response. The majority of participants were from the Chesapeake, Allegheny East, and Allegheny West conferences.

The session started out with the 2-hour ‘Special Issues in Emotional & Spiritual Care’ class which was followed by the 13-hour ‘Assisting Individuals in Crisis’ class forming a joint 2-day intensive program. Derrick presented useful tools and techniques on how to assess and reach people in various critical situations to meet their immediate needs. The session consisted of interactive lectures, group activities, videos, and role-play scenarios. Participants also shared stories and experiences of their encounters with individuals in crisis, and how they addressed their concerns. The session ended with the participants receiving their certificates, followed by a brief speech by Elder Debra Brill, NAD Vice President for Ministries, who addressed the attendees and also appreciated them for their dedicated service and efforts in community outreach.

The classes were well received. The participants found them to be extremely helpful in enhancing their crisis management skills to respond to individuals affected by a disaster or trauma by providing emotional and spiritual care. One pastor stated, “It is helping prepare me as a community pastor to minister to those who encounter emotional crisis." Another participant said, "These classes provided invaluable information that helps me better to be equipped to serve." The participants are now eligible to become a credentialed ACS Emotional & Spiritual Care Provider I.

Hurricane Harvey Rebuild in Refugio

On December 8-9, a group of 30 young people and adults from Austin and San Antonio traveled to Refugio to assist with a Rebuild Project in response to Hurricane Harvey that had devastated several areas in Texas last year. Under the leadership of Marshall Gonzales, Texas ACS Director, they had planned on repairing eleven houses. However, due to the rains on Saturday, they mainly focused on those that needed interior work. The Team ended up working on four houses and the Community Center in Bayside.

In the first house, they painted a room and made a frame for a window. They also made a step for the resident and replaced the soffit outside on Sunday. For the second house, our Disaster Response Team drywalled a room after which they did the tape and float. The next house had two rooms and the bathroom cleaned by fumigation. It was in very bad condition. While the young people were cleaning, roaches would fall on them, but they just kept on working until they got it all done. For the last house, they drywalled the living room, ceiling, two bedrooms, and two closets. The homeowners were extremely happy and grateful with all that was done to their homes. One owner was so overwhelmed with emotions that he said it gave him hope.

Since Sunday was a very sunny day, they painted the exterior walls of the Community Center of the city of Bayside. They bought the material there in Refugio, and the workers of the building supply company was so thankful that the materials were purchased there and not brought in from somewhere else. They were also very appreciative of our Team for their services to the affected community.

Marshall Gonzales said, “I was glad to see the young people who came out to help. We specifically are targeting Master Guides and young adults to help in the recovery work.” He added, “We look forward to doing more projects in Refugio.” Besides Austin and San Antonio, youth from the Dallas, Houston, and Valley areas will also be participating in the Rebuild work.

Urban Ministry D.Min. Scholarship

The North American Division Adventist Community Services is offering scholarships to doctoral students who are interested in the 2019 Urban Ministry D.Min. Program at Andrews University. We will provide a scholarship in the amount of $1,000 per year for four years to ten participants of this cohort. We are thankful to the NAD ACS Board for their support; and also to Dr. Skip Bell, Coordinator and Lead teacher for the D.Min. Urban Ministry concentration, for his vision in urban mission and ministry.

Our mission is to empower pastors with the passion and skills necessary to further the Kingdom of God in the 21st century. The D.Min. in Urban Ministry Program will help us move towards our mission by equipping and developing pastors with Theological/Biblical concepts of urban ministry, strategies, and professional skills to successfully minister.

Dr. Sung Kwon, Executive Director of NAD ACS, stated, “I am privileged to have participated in the 2015 Cohort, and I can testify to its invaluable tremendous learning opportunity. I have been enlightened with a broad understanding of the complexity of the urban mission and ministry. Field-based learning opportunities will increase your knowledge, enhance your competencies, and influence your outlook on urban ministry in real life settings.”

The application deadline to secure a place in the new Urban Ministry cohort is January 31, 2019. Don’t miss this tremendous opportunity!

If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Skip Bell directly at sjbell@andrews.edu or 269-471-3306.