An Inside View of the Spokane ASI Convention
Few Spokane Adventists knew anything about ASI, and fewer still knew of the long running successful Youth for Jesus program that gives high school age youth firsthand experience in public evangelism; or anything about the impact that the Your Best Pathway to Health event would create in providing the community with quality free health care to Spokane’s underserved; or that an ASI Convention was held in Spokane in 1995. This past summer, from August 5 through 8, ASI held its annual International Convention at the newly- expanded Spokane Convention Center situated on the banks of the Spokane River. This event brought over 3,000 members and friends together for four days of listening to inspirational speakers, nearly 20 seminars on practical topics for lay people, the opportunity to learn new ways of sharing Jesus in their own marketplace, to hear reports of Members in Action, and to be inspired and challenged.
Beginning in March, ASI Youth for Jesus (YFJ) Bible workers came to Spokane and began knocking on doors looking for Bible study students. They recruited church members who were caught up in the excitement of meeting new friends from the community who were discovering new Bible truths. By the first of July, there were over 20 ASI Youth for Jesus Bible workers and many local church members building friendships and inviting them to attend Bible seminars in five Spokane area Adventist churches.
As July approached, 44 high school-age young people and their leaders came to Spokane for a month-long experience of public evangelism. They brought bright, happy faces, enthusiasm, friendly greetings, musical skill, and well-prepared, talented speakers, typically between 16 and 20 years of age. The YFJ group was housed nearby on the Upper Columbia Conference Academy campus. Each day they came to Spokane to visit their new community friends who were attending the nightly meeting, knocked on doors to invite others, presented nightly health talks, and assisted with the children’s programs. The young speakers used the ASI New Beginningas sermons adapted to fit their presentations. The public meetings ended on the eve of the ASI Convention, when many were baptized in a joint baptismal service at the Convention Center.
The annual Youth for Jesus experience is held each year in the same city where the ASI Convention is held. Except for the employed Bible workers, the staff are unpaid volunteers. The project is supported by the annual ASI project offering and LIFE, a lay evangelism training ministry that provides nearly half of required funding and also operates the YFJ program for ASI, under the capable leadership of Leasa Hodges, whose full time job is Manager of Eden Valley Institute in Loveland, Colorado. The local churches and the Upper Columbia Conference generously contributed to YFJ’s success.
Your best Pathway to Health, an innovative ASI ministry, provides free, no questions asked, first come first served, quality health and dental care in major cities. The Spokane community generously offered free use of the fairgrounds for three days, providing excellent facilities for the 3,111 patients who received over 7,000 procedures, including dental fillings, extractions, crowns, root canals, surgeries, eyeglass fittings, physical and mental health examinations and screening, haircuts, shampoos, suits, glasses, shoes, and much more. All this was possible through the combined efforts of over 1,400 volunteers. Many others contributed equipment, supplies, and funds, including generous financial help from the Upper Columbia Conference, North Pacific Union Conference, the North American Division, Adventist Health Systems, and from ASI.
Hundreds of patients received follow-up care and laboratory reports from physicians and nurses in two local Adventist churches. Several hundred patients stayed for health lectures that gave meaning to the lab reports and clinical findings. Also offered was an eight-week cooking and nutrition class that included nightly sample tasting of the same delicious and healthy recipes they had watched the teachers prepare. Spokane’s Mayor David Condon spoke eloquently to the ASI Convention family, expressing his and the city’s appreciation for their contribution to Spokane.
ASI convention programs include a report from the projects ASI supported during the last year and features some of the projects chosen for funding from the current convention offering. This year ASI selected 42 new projects out of over 100 applications. Projects are situated in several countries, including Nepal, Zambia, the Amazon River area of Brazil, Canada, India, and the United States. The total offering goal was $1,435,000. Selected projects included diverse ministries, including some church-owned ministries. We thank God for the generous offering response that exceeded the offering goal—a total of over $1,800,000.
Speakers for this year’s convention included lay persons Patsy Arrabito, David Kim, and Lyndi Schwartz; It Is Written television speaker John Bradshaw; newly re-elected Adventist world church president, Ted Wilson; retiring ASI president, Frank Fournier; and ASI secretary-treasurer, Kyle Allen. Every session included Members in Action features, in which ASI members told a variety of experiences about how they share Christ in their marketplace, and a report on several of this year’s offering projects. ]
A wide variety of seminars gave registered attendees many options and hard choices. Children and young people were well provided for with meaningful programs for nursery-age children through kindergarten, primary, juniors, earliteens, and youth. The newly-expanded Spokane Convention Center provided ample space for hundreds of exhibitors, who presented innovative information and products and shared how they are involved in extending some aspect of the gospel commission.
It is remarkable what happened in Spokane last year. Initially very few Spokanites knew anything of ASI. Afterwards hundreds came to know Jesus in a new and fuller way through the ASI Youth for Jesus program. Thousands received life-changing health care from the generous volunteers from Your best Pathway to Health, who showed them in a real way what Jesus would do. Hundreds of local Seventh-day Adventists who before knew nothing of ASI volunteered three days of service with YbPTH and then came to the convention center to attend interesting and challenging ASI meetings, learning of new opportunities for service and a deeper love for Jesus. Perhaps the biggest impact, though, was the thousands in a community that saw the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its members in a new and special way.
Plan to come to the next ASI Convention in Phoenix, Arizona, August 3-6 2016.