On Tuesday, October 20, Ontario Conference administrators, directors and support staff gathered virtually to say goodbye to three individuals who have contributed significantly to our conference over the years. With 81 combined years of ministry in Ontario, Ada Nichols, former administrative secretary to the executive secretary, Fernando Norte, property custodian, and Daniel Carley, most recently interim Superintendent of Schools, will surely be missed.
The 20th was a time to reminisce on their presence around the office and contributions to the conference, play a “how well do you know…?” game, watch hilarious “music videos” featuring retirees’ faces on animated bodies, share some smiles as close colleagues paid tribute and wish them well in the next phase of life. Each retiree got their moment in the sun, resulting in the following insights:
Eduviges Adalgisa (Ada) Nichols, a native of the Dominican Republic, served in the Ontario Conference office for 31 years. Ada was described as gracious, well-organized, humble, humorous, committed and loving. Human resources officer, Lila Oliveira, recounted that Ada had given her the good news of getting a job at the conference, then kindly oriented and encouraged her in her early days. Pastor Jakov thanked Ada and her husband, Pastor Derrick Nichols, then-conference president, for embracing him and his wife when he began pastoring in Ontario. Pastor Jakov also thanked her for keeping her promise to “make him look good” when he first entered the executive secretary’s office. President Mansfield Edwards further highlighted Ada’s caring nature by describing a happening at a meeting they both attended before he came into the conference. A woman there grew emotional, and Ada immediately went over to her (a virtual stranger), wiped her tears and stayed by her side. Showcasing her lighthearted, mischievous side, Alvin Ram, Trust Services director, who first met her as a university summer student, brought on much laughter, particularly Ada’s, as he shared some of their inside jokes. Edwards concluded, “We thank you, Ada. We’ll remember your warm personality. You always had a joke and a way to put the sunshine in a day that was overcast.”
Fernando Norte came into the Conference 10 years ago, as the new building was being constructed. Having contributed to its construction, he was honoured to become the property custodian of the new building. His boss, Kevin Benta, Property and Risk Management director, and Gillian Pitt, secretary for Property and Risk Management, remembered his cheerful nature, love of sharing his many adventures, including purportedly being a world-class gymnast, resourcefulness, tenacity, words of faith and commitment to the Lord’s work, including helping plant the Faith Filipino Church. “Through his trials [including falling off a conference ladder], he always had a smile on his face and a praise in his heart,” said Gillian. From Kevin, we also learned that Fernando prayed over members’ tithe envelopes whenever he took them upstairs. In his tribute, Alvin Ram remembered a quote from a stewardship sermon Fernando told him he was going to give—“Make sure you invest in Jesus. Because Jesus saves.” Pastor Edwards thanked him for his commitment to the Lord’s work, noting, “Fernando, you’re a talented person. You saved the conference a lot of money by applying your skills (e.g., plumbing, drywalling). We appreciate what you have done.”
Dan Carley began his Ontario Conference career in Ontario Conference as a theology teacher at Crawford Adventist. He was the teacher with long hair, who hated wearing a tie but was highly effective and beloved by students, including student-turned-coworker Alvin Ram, who once chose him as the subject of a paper on someone he admired. After some time in BC, he returned as vice principal at Crawford (high school division), also doing guidance and counselling. Dan moved on to be principal at College Park Elementary School. In 2016, he began as our assistant superintendent of schools. Shortly before the COVID-19 shutdown, he stepped in as interim superintendent of schools, steadying the ship in a storm. Among his achievements in 41 years in Ontario, he served as a resource person for educational technology, including being Maplewood Administrator for our schools. He was described as gifted, caring, creative, a deep thinker and a storyteller. Don McIntyre, former superintendent of schools, expressed his gratitude for Dan’s support and resourcefulness. Donna Brkic, the Office of Education’s administrative secretary, shared a PowerPoint with heartfelt thanks from teacher colleagues. “I have always admired you for your calm, caring and professional interaction with students and colleagues. You demonstrated a Christ-like attitude as an Adventist Christian educator, teacher, principal, superintendent and mega computer whiz. I will miss you! Good health, peace and joy be yours,” wrote Audrey James, a resource teacher at Crawford.
We also learned about these beloved workers’ future plans. Fernando plans to spend his retirement doting over his young granddaughter and serving his local church. Ada noted that she is still busy; only now she is more focused on the home, including spending time with the love of her life, Pastor Nichols, her children and grandchildren. As for Dan, he is indulging in a career he long dreamed of—horse farmer—in his new home outside of Ottawa and enjoying more time with his family.
All three exemplified this verse, “Thank you, Ada, Dan and Fernando for exemplifying this verse—
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25, NIV
Thank you for all you have done for God’s work in Ontario. Wishing you good health, happiness and success in all your future endeavours!
This Thanksgiving, Ontario Conference has a lot to be thankful for despite a challenging 2020. One of our biggest blessings is that the Cessna 185 aircraft we obtained in 2017, in collaboration with Adventist World Aviation (AWA), is now ready for use. The Cessna represents a new chapter in Ontario Conference history. By God’s grace, it will serve the health and humanitarian needs of remote/isolated Indigenous communities in Northwestern Ontario and pave the way for ministry in a yet unreached population.
On Friday, the 9th, we dedicated the Cessna in a special ceremony at Oshawa Airport. Participants included President Mansfield Edwards, Executive Secretary Jakov Bibulovic, Seventh-day Adventist Church of Canada President Mark Johnson, Ray Young, AWA’s Canada project manager/global operations manager and Brian Koldyk, the Cessna’s pilot/manager. A small gathering of Ontario Conference directors, support staff, some of their family members and a few other supporters were present, adhering to health and safety protocols. The program was also livestreamed onto the Conference’s Facebook and YouTube platforms.
Edwards highlighted that Ontario Conference leaders became aware of the dismal public health records for Indigenous communities in the North six or seven years ago. Their rates of suicide, circulatory diseases, cancer and other diseases far exceeded the average in Ontario; their life spans were also four to five years shorter than the average. Conference leaders realized they had to do something, as Jesus had a heart for the marginalized, and this initiative took root. After a journey in which God prevailed over funding, maintenance and other issues, the Cessna is fully operational. It will facilitate health training, agricultural projects, transport of individuals for health services and more.
Ray instructed all attendees to put their hands on the plane while Edwards prayed a prayer of dedication, an AWA practice. Koldyk, who’d flown the plane from the AWA headquarters in North Carolina, was especially touched by this show of support.
“The prayer of dedication of this aircraft, in my mind, was paramount to its success. It’s comforting to know that you have that support of a congregation and a church behind what is happening on the field. When you go out there, it’s remote, sometimes lonely, and it’s nice to know that there are people out there behind the operation praying,” he said.
We ask for all of your prayers—that this mission will bring uplift to the people of Northwestern Ontario and for local church members, who’ll be supporting and driving this mission in their territories. Finally, we ask you to pray for the Conference, that this project will usher in a new era of relevance as we reach our communities through Christ’s method.
Look for more information, videos and photos in upcoming publications.
At a typical, in-person workers’ meeting, Ontario Conference workers from across the province gather to worship, glean best practices for ministry and receive administrative updates. This year, due to COVID-19, our workers’ meeting was virtual, but that didn’t prevent it from being an amazing time of fellowship and growth for our pastors, teachers, support staff, directors and administrators. In many ways, this workers’ meeting, held Monday, Sept. 28 to Wednesday, Sept. 30, was revolutionary. The virtual platform broke down walls, as workers from all regions, cultural and language backgrounds worshipped, shared their burdens, prayed and learned together. With dedicated times for open discussion, this workers’ meeting surpassed others by kick-starting the critical conversation on moving our conference forward in an ever-changing context.
As per the theme of modelling how Jesus lived and led, this workers’ meeting inspired attendees to take their ministry to the next level. The first challenge was to love like Jesus. Monday’s worship began with a clip on the woman at the wall from The Chosen TV series. Then, we heard the story of Jessie, a young, modern-day “woman at the well,” who’d fallen into prostitution after years of sexual abuse and exploitation. One day, a woman in a parking lot gave her a Bible tract, told her God loved her, then walked away. These words rang hollow. She’d heard them before—from her abusive father and her mother, who didn’t protect her. It wasn’t until someone met her practical needs—for food, clothing, stability and love—that she wanted to know the Jesus she saw in them. Eventually, she got baptized. Jessie asserted, “Telling people that God loves them is good theology, but showing people that God loves them—no strings attached—transforms the world.”
The second challenge was to take a strategic, yet flexible, approach to ministry. First, Pastor Bonita Shields emphasized that we must be still to receive clarity from God on what He’s calling us to do. Dr. Fredrick Russell, immediate past president of the Allegheny West Conference, then introduced the U.S. military term VUCA, which stands for volatility, complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. In today’s VUCA environment, we must be ready for anything, which begins with intensive prayer and Bible study. Other success factors include agile thinking—“the ability to consciously shift your thinking when and how the situation requires” and grit—“perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”[i] Finally, on the pastors’ side, Dr. Philip Baptiste, secretary-treasurer of Adventist-Laymen Services and Industries (ASI), stressed the need for a clear, inspiring purpose driving all facets of ministry [click here for some strategic planning exercises].
The program for our teachers also covered strategies for excellence in their sphere of ministry. They were also inspired by the stories of the biblical and modern-day women at the well on Monday and by Pastor Shields’ session, titled “How Jesus Lived.” In separate programming on Tuesday, they engaged in Powerschool Training—Ontario Conference’s online education platform of choice—with newly retired interim Superintendent of Schools Daniel Carley. Then, they gained some tools for mental wellness and resilience with Michael Cox, a licensed professional counsellor. Overall, the takeaway for Ontario Conference workers was that God does not call us to exhaust our resources in aimless activity. Rather, He calls us to fulfill the great commission one mindful, purposeful step at a time.
Finally, the Ontario Conference administration set the groundwork for a new era of ministry. Executive Secretary Jakov Bibulovic first presented an eye-opening state of the conference report. The Ontario Conference Evangelism and Church Growth committee studied North American Division’s suggested indicators of four kinds of churches—multiplying, growing, plateauing and declining—to define our conference’s reality. As per these indicators, 33.1% of our churches are plateauing, 31.4% growing, 29.1% declining and 1.1% multiplying. At workers’ meeting, he noted how many churches fell into each category, then gave a regional snapshot.
Overall, some churches and regions are doing well, but the fact that most of our churches are plateauing is unacceptable. Once the Conference’s baseline was established, administration made it clear that we cannot be satisfied to stay there. At the close of workers’ meeting, Pastor Edwards cast an inspiring vision for our conference to shift from mostly plateauing to growing and multiplying churches. He then announced that 2020-2025 would be years of multiplication.
“I want all of us to feel challenged to move strategically from here to make the future brighter than the past. We have to intervene now,” Edwards stated.
In these challenging times for ministry, Ontario Conference has already started intervention measures. One was having several directors oversee churches, with Edwards and Bibulovic willing to step in as needed. Another was re-districting pastors to spread resources more effectively. Yet another was opening the floor for different groups to discuss challenges in ministry and brainstorm possible solutions. Such discussion began at workers’ meeting, with conversations to continue at regional ministerial meetings and other forums. Finally, Edwards mentioned creating two think tanks among Conference directors, tackling 1) reversing declining and reducing plateauing churches and 2) moving churches from growing to multiplying.
Workers responded positively to the report and strategic direction set by administrators. “AMEN! Do a biopsy now, and don’t wait for the autopsy,” said Pastor Alex Golovenko, Windsor Church. In an extended sharing time, workers’ suggestions and concerns included increasing ministry in downtown Toronto, planting churches in high-visibility areas, creating online churches, reimagining directors’ roles as consultants for churches, reaching the Canadian-born population, including immigrant members’ children and much more.
“This is the right kind of dialogue. It should be a continuing dialogue. Thank you to the administration for this,” said Pastor Ron Teranski, St. Thomas and Woodstock Churches. Feedback from Teranski and others both during and after the workers’ meeting showed that the Conference and workers are finally speaking the same language.
In his final charge, Edwards used the story of Jonah to illustrate that God often sends storms to redirect us when we forget our assignment to reach those, like Jessie, whom we might consider unreachable. He again urged workers to aim for a higher standard of ministry, concluding, “Let’s pray that we do not drift into the corner of recalcitrance so that God has to send a storm just to bring us back to our senses and back to our assignment. God calls us [in all circumstances] to lead like Jesus—with kindness, compassion, patience and humility.”
When Ralph and Patricia (Pat) Page and Charles Thomas began a small group for the visually impaired 10 years ago, they hardly dreamed that their vision of a church for the blind would become a reality.
The Pages and Charles worked for Christian Record Services (CRS) Canada, an organization dedicated to empowering the visually impaired. Each year, CRS and National Camps for the Blind sponsored a camp at Camp Frenda, the Adventist summer camp in Ontario.
Feeling a need to continue nurturing relationships with campers who attended each summer, several CRS Canada staff created a monthly gathering called Hope Vision Fellowship. The Pages invested heavily in the group by renting a conference room at a hotel in Scarborough, an eastern district of Toronto. Charles was the point person, and Kevin Avery, a blind camper who had recently been converted, organized the activities. Their goal was to eventually establish a church for the visually impaired. When the CRS Canada program ended in 2008, Hope Vision Fellowship continued meeting.
Unacquainted with the work of Hope Vision Fellowship, Theodore Sargeant, director of Compassion Ministries and Services for the Ontario Conference, and Mansfield Edwards, Ontario Conference president, sat down to discuss the needs of various groups in their territory. It became clear that those with special needs or different abilities weren’t being served the best that they could be.
During a routine visit to one of the churches in the conference, Elder Edwards learned of the small group meeting in Scarborough. He was invited to speak for their monthly Sabbath worship service and, after visiting with them, was so impressed with the concept that he commissioned Theodore to serve as group pastor, providing oversight and guidance.
In 2016, the conference was satisfied that the group had enough stability to be formally organized as a congregation and, on October 26, Hope Vision Fellowship was recognized as the first church for the visually impaired in the North American Division (NAD). This special project received startup funding through sacrificial mission offerings, including your support of Global Mission, and the NAD’s church planting initiative, Plant 1000.
Theodore shares that the church really is for the blind. He gives them as much time and opportunity as possible to influence what happens at Hope Vision Fellowship, from planning strategies to programming. Their disability doesn’t define them; they all have a very important part to play.
“Hope Vision Fellowship has been a tremendous blessing to the blind in that they see it as their church. They regularly express how comfortable they feel when they’re there,” says Pat.
Two long-time members, Judy Leung and Earl Zwicker, say that their lives have been changed by attending Hope Vision Fellowship. Judy was a charter member of the original group that began meeting in 2008. She says, “I feel really blessed to be part of this group. I’m able to continue to learn the Bible and ask questions on my own time. I feel safe being able to share my thoughts, being able to meet other Christians, and have discussions about God and the Bible. I love worshiping with others and, most importantly, am privileged to have volunteers who dedicate their time to help people like me grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.”
Earl began attending the small group in 2009 before it was formally recognized. His daughter, his girlfriend, and her son now join him when he comes to church. “Hope Vision Fellowship really is a place where my entire family feels comfortable,” he says. “The encouragement and support I’ve received from everyone mean more to me than I could ever hope to express here.”
It’s not only the blind in the little group who’ve been blessed; Pat, too, has continually been inspired by the people of Hope Vision Fellowship. “I love our group and all my blind friends across Canada. I come away refreshed from every meeting we have, and I know all the volunteers feel the same way. We all love ‘helping the blind see Jesus.’”
Please remember this remarkable congregation in your prayers as they continue to reach out to the special needs groups in their region, paving the way for others to follow.
When Ontario Conference’s directors and administrators first envisioned July 18’s Virtual Day of Worship, they had modest expectations. It would be nice, they figured, if churches and members from across the province were able to worship together after months of separation. They hoped the program would encourage members in a year in which the quinquennial General Conference Session of Seventh-day Adventists, as well as most major in-person Conference events, had been cancelled or postponed.
Far exceeding expectations, the program’s reach extended to Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, the U.S., Brazil, Canada and more. Within the first ten hours, YouTube views of the morning program reached 22,000, with 6,700 views for the evening program of music and praise, not accounting for families watching from one device, church restreaming on their YouTube channels or groups tuning in via Zoom. That day, God showed up and assisted our feeble human efforts.
Unbeknownst to many, this day almost didn’t happen. A few hours before the morning services were scheduled to stream, the Conference building’s electricity went out for nearly three hours. By God’s grace, the media team, comprised of Fifaliana Rakotoarison, Media manager, and Ashton Blake, IT/web developer, was able to enact a contingency plan. After some tense moments, they and Christelle Agboka, Communications director, breathed a sigh of relief once things were back up and running. All would agree with Sarah Gouda, executive secretary to the president, who assisted in these final moments—“I saw God’s hand first-hand during this weekend. God really came through.”
At the end of June, directors worked together to organize the program and finalize participants. Then, at the beginning of July, the production process began. For the media team, the next few weeks were a flurry of putting the set together, scheduling and recording people and editing the finished product. Blake noted, “Due to the rapidly changing dynamics of the pandemic, we knew we had to [quickly] rise to the challenge of putting together a program that would draw Ontario Conference closer together.” Two weeks of long hours, sleepless nights and prayers later, what seemed impossible became possible.
Reflecting on the day, Ontario Conference president, Mansfield Edwards, said, “This was tremendous. Tremendous. And I’m deeply, deeply grateful.”
The thousands of comments streaming in throughout both services affirmed that viewers were also touched by the Day of Worship. Here are a few of the day’s highlights as noted by viewers:
Also noteworthy was that the entire day was intentionally representative of the diversity we enjoy in our conference, featuring individuals of different ethnicities, ages and locales. “It was a true representation not just of our conference but of what I think heaven will look like,” said Youth director, John Scott. The notion of unity in diversity extended to the audience, as people of all nations, languages and backgrounds viewed the program from Ontario Conference’s YouTube channel.
Most would be surprised to know this was the Conference’s first run at such a program. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a strong first effort, especially given the media team’s unique challenge of balancing their creative vision with social distancing guidelines. Rakotoarison explained, “In all events that you do, there’s a learning curve. We have learned a few things, such as, for example, when you do something outdoors to be ready for the weather, for mosquitos! But we also learned that strong communications and planning were essential to make it happen. We grew as a conference through this event.”
Summing up the beauty of the day, Jennifer Waithe wrote, “Thank you for this service. I look forward to tuning in on Saturdays since the pandemic. Church services were discontinued due to social distancing, but God always finds a way to reach his people.”
Added “Young Ancient,” We must remember—we worship in different places, but we are one family!”
“What a wonderful worship experience. Let’s do it again!” said Lauris Watson-Robinson, echoing the sentiments of many.
When asked if they would do it again, taking what they had learned into consideration, the media team said, “Most definitely!”
On July 9, 2020, the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s General Conference Executive Committee met virtually to receive the name of G. Alexander Bryant, the recommendation for division president, from both the North American Division’s nominating committee and executive committee. Bryant was confirmed in a vote of 153 to 5.
Ted N.C. Wilson, General Conference president and, as policy indicates for the vote of division president, chair of the NAD nominating and executive committees held on July 6 and July 7, said, “I’m looking forward to a renewed focus on the three angels’ messages and I believe that Elder Bryant can help lead in that great adventure, because that is what is entrusted to each of us. [He] is a mission-focused individual. He is someone who is a careful listener to people. He will take [these cares] to the Lord and ask for guidance. … I believe that God can use him in a very, very special way.”
“I am first indebted to God for His call to ministry and secondly to those who have poured into my life over the years,” said Bryant in response to the vote. “I am deeply humbled by the confidence Elder Wilson, our chair, and the NAD and GC executive committees have placed in me with this assignment. This task is too big for one individual or office. It is abundantly clear to me that it takes all of us working together to advance God’s kingdom and I just deeply covet your prayers.”
He added, “I ask for my wife and for myself — that you would continue to lift us up daily as we will you. … Hopefully, by our efforts together, we can hasten the coming of the Lord through our mission work throughout our territory and beyond; and Jesus will come and we can go home.”
Wilson affirmed the decision for NAD president, saying, “Alex, we will place you in prayer — that God will be with you and Desiree and your family as you take up these new responsibilities in a powerful way. … I know he will have a tremendous evangelistic imprint on North America for the future and it’ll be a privilege to collaborate with him on that.”
All world division executive officers serve as elected officers of the GC and their nomination and election by the region they represent must be approved by the General Conference Executive Committee. The division’s nominating committee is termed a standing committee. It was appointed by the NAD Executive Committee in 2015. During the past five years the nominating committee has recommended the names of individuals to the executive committee for vote in order to fill division vacancies.
Following an outlined process disclosed earlier, the division’s nominating committee met on July 6 and selected the name of Bryant, which was presented and voted on by the NAD Executive Committee on July 7. Bryant’s name was sent as a recommendation to the GC Executive Committee. All meetings were held virtually via Zoom with a previously-used electronic voting process.
Bryant replaces Daniel R. Jackson, who served at the NAD headquarters since his election in June 2010 at the GC Session in Atlanta, Georgia, and reelection in 2015 in San Antonio, Texas, until his retirement on July 1, 2020. The search process for a new executive secretary has begun.
Glenward Alexander (“Alex”) Bryant most recently served as executive secretary of the NAD and associate secretary of the GC, positions he’s held since October 2008 when elected at the GC Annual Council in Manila, Philippines. Bryant was reelected at the 2010 GC Session. While serving as the division’s secretary, Bryant conducted leadership seminars, training and orientation of conference executive officers; organized a division-wide diversity summit; coordinated the digitalization of the NAD Secretariat; and conducted annual evangelistic series.
Before coming to the division, Bryant served as the president of the Central States Conference in Kansas City, Kansas.
Bryant graduated with a double major in Theology and Business Administration from Oakwood College (now Oakwood University) in 1982.
He began his ministry that same year in Springfield, Missouri, and Coffeyville and Independence, Kansas. In 1986, Bryant was ordained, and he continued his education by earning a Master of Divinity degree from Andrews University in 1988. The Central States Conference voted Bryant to serve as Youth/Pathfinders/National Service Organization director, Temperance director, and superintendent of Education in 1990. He became president in 1997.
In addition to pastoring several churches early in his career, Bryant also served as a student missionary to Japan for one year. During his college years, Bryant’s administrative abilities helped him serve as the Adventist Youth director at Oakwood College and the Black Students Association of the Seminary (BSAS) president at Andrews University.
Bryant is the second African American elected to serve as NAD president. Charles E. Bradford, the division’s first president, was also African American. Previous division presidents include Alfred C. McClure, Don C. Schneider, and Daniel R. Jackson.
He is married to the former Desiree Wimbish, who served as associate superintendent of Education for the Potomac Conference, superintendent of Education for Central States Conference, as well as former principal of the V. Lindsay Seventh-day Adventist School in Kansas City, Kansas. Desiree currently serves as assistant director and projects coordinator for Adventist Education in the NAD. The Bryants have three adult children and three grandchildren.
Click here for the video interview with Bryant about his education, early years in ministry, and his hopes for his current role as NAD president.