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Family Celebration Sabbath held at Adventist Theological Seminary

By Keri Suarez

Family was the central theme of the aptly named Family Celebration Sabbath, held recently at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary (Mich.). The weekend's worships and workshops featured Pastors Mike and Gayle Tucker of the Faith for Today television ministry and culminated with an award ceremony and reception highlighting accomplishments of individuals who have dedicated their lives to family life ministry.

"Family Celebration Sabbath is a valued reminder of what is most important in our lives and in our faith. There is very little more cherished than these three words and our gathering each summer is a wonderful affirmation to keep first things first," said event organizer Allan Martin, associate professor of discipleship and family ministry for the seminary.

Family Celebration Sabbath started on Friday evening with a resource reception sponsored by AdventSource followed by a worship experience with the Tuckers that focused on the value of spiritual habits and the need for spiritual disciplines. A spiritual discipline, said Mike, is "anything you devise to solve a spiritual problem."

Sabbath offered more opportunities for family celebrants to experience the Tuckers' ministry. Gayle focused on prayer as a spiritual habit. "Every relationship requires communication," she said, including our relationship with Christ.

Nelson Silvia, also an MDiv student, said this was the first time he has attended a Family Celebration Sabbath. "I was curious and wanted to check it out because I believe family is the foundation of ministry."

Award Ceremony
Sabbath concluded with a commendation ceremony. The Adventist Association of Family Life Professionals (AAFLP) inaugurated the John & Millie Youngberg Award, with both John and Millie Youngberg on hand to be honored and to congratulate the first recipient, Columbia Union Conference’s own Yerusi Fajardo.

Fajardo is a Master of Religious Education student with an emphasis in Family Life Education. Her academic excellence and pursuit to enrich family life education in the Hispanic community made her a worthy recipient of the award. The award included monetary support for her education. She and her husband, Eliasib, are employees of the Potomac Conference.

The Youngbergs, prolific authors of family life education materials, are well known for directing the Family Life Workshop and Family Life International program at Andrews University from 1975-1998. Concepts they conceived regarding certification in family life education live on in the Family Life Certificate program available at Andrews University, and in the bi-level certification program recently adopted by the AAFLP.

Karen and Ron Flowers, co-directors of the Family Ministries department of the Adventist Church worldwide, said of the Youngbergs, "It is fitting that this award be named in your honor. You have given a life of dedicated service to prepare young people for service in the church. You have been pioneers in bringing to the forefront in the church the heart-turning, family-strengthening Elijah message of Malachi. Nothing has brought you greater joy than to see students' lives and professional careers shaped by that message. We know: we are among those students."

The featured weekend speakers, the Tuckers, were honored with the Ministries Distinguished Service Award. It is the highest honor bestowed by the North American Division (NAD) on an individual or individuals who have made sustained and far-reaching contributions to stronger and healthier marriages and families across North America.

The Tuckers are pastors in the Texas Conference and co-hosts for Faith for Today television's flagship program, “Lifestyle Magazine.” They were the 2008 recipients because of their pioneering work over the last nine years of presenting From This Day Forward marriage conferences across North America with Willie and Elaine Oliver of the NAD Family Ministries department. Marriage, family, and individual counseling are major components of the Tucker's ministry.

Recipients of the Campus Spiritual Leadership Certificate and the Family Life Education Certificate, along with the award recipients, were honored at a reception following the ceremony.

During the past two years, Family Celebration Sabbath has attracted hundreds of people from across the NAD and around the world, with the simple goal of taking time to enjoy God and each other. The event is sponsored by the seminary's Religious Education Program, AdventSource, AAFLP, and the Family Ministries departments of the worldwide Adventist Church and the NAD.