Columbia Union People
by Celeste Ryan-Blyden




January 2016




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Columbia, MD  21045
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The Columbia Union is blessed to have nearly 125,000 baptized members worshiping in 700 churches across eight states.  As Visitor editor, Celeste Ryan-Blyden travels to churches, schools, hospitals, camp meetings, and other places in our union to attend and cover events, etc.  Through this blog, she introduces you to the "Columbia Union People" she meets along the way.  Take a look; you might see someone you know!

Archives 2007
Columbia Union People

Takoma Park Church International Day---November 2007





Union Executive Committee, Philadelphia

Recently, we went to Philadelphia for the Columbia Union Executive Committee. President Dave Weigley wanted to hold it there because it was 100 years ago in that city that the organizing committee met to form our union. During our meeting, Mayor John Street visited with us. It was very touching to hear how his North Philadelphia Adventist Church (pictured below) family has impacted his life. “This church is the best thing that ever happened to me. Without it, I don’t know where I would be,” he said. “It has been at the heart of my commitment to people and the heart of everything that I do.” Street talked about how his relationship with God has seen him through 28 years in local government, the last few as mayor of America’s sixth largest city. His term ends January 6, 2008.


This is a new church building as their old edifice burned down in the early 1990s. The sanctuary is beautiful and features a pipe organ. I've got to go worship there. Interestingly it's in downtown, just off the campus of Temple University.


William Taliafero (left) is a longtime pastor and radio talkshow host in Philadelphia. He used to have a very popular show that he told me he's thinking of starting up again. He currently services on Mayor Street's staff as director of Human Relations. Gwen Foster also serves on the Mayor's staff as Health Czar. Lots of Adventists have served with Street, who grew up in Ebenezer church and whose father helped start 12 churches in the region! Sounds like he was a true church planter! Also pictured is Allegheny East Conference president Charles Cheatham and his executive secretary Henry Fordham. They coordinated our meetings in Philadelphia and served as our hosts! Thanks for the hospitality!


Bill Hall is currently shepherding the North Philadelphia congregation. He thinks Philly needs to be featured in the Visitor and he's right. It has been too long. Is there anybody in Philadelphia with a great story idea? a great ministry? Holla! 

New Jersey Conference Constituency

At New Jersey Conference's 38th Regular Constituency Session, I met several enthusiastic young people serving as first-time delegates to the session. I want you to meet two: Yolanda Bocanegra is from the Paterson Temple Spanish church and works in accounts receivable. "It's good to know what's going on in the whole Adventist Church because you come out of your little shell and get to see how the whole church works," she told me during the meeting. "I see that it's organized, that there's order, and that it's not run by just a few people."
Keren Rosado came to the microphone and spoke her mind. She's a member of the Pioneer Community company, a church plant in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. I'll have to check out this church to find out more. Stay tuned.
I thought it was beautiful how the Pathfinders marched in bringing the gift for retiring president LeRoy Finck. I loved how Finck and Jose Cortes, executive secretary elected president at the meeting, showed so much respect and appreciation for one another. Finck has agreed to stay on as executive secretary for a few months until his wife retires. They're planning to move back to Oregon where they have family and where they've ministered before. We wish them well.


Columbia Union Campmeeting--Allegheny West

A special shoutout to Lori from Columbus who says she loves reading my blog! Hug for you, Lori. Tell a friend; tell your whole church! Tell them to read all our camp meeting blogs!

Columbia Union president Dave Weigley (right) presents a plaque of congratulations to Allegheny West Conference for their 40th anniversary, which they are celebrating at camp meeting. Accepting are the officers (from left): executive secretary Carl Rogers, treasurer Zenobia Seward, and president James Lewis.

Thankfully, the weather was cool and thousands were able to attend camp meeting. They came by car, SUV, bus, and van, and stayed all day until sunset for the ABC sale.

Head deacon for camp meeting, Pastor Joseph P. Lewis who pastors the Waynesboro (Va.) Northeast church and the Bethel church in Staunton, Va., stands in the reverent position with his nephew and protege Gabriel Young, a sharp young junior usher at Youngstown, Pa.'s Temple Emmanuel church. He's one to watch; his future is bright!
The Hackle family -- Keith and Nishina with Ke'maree and Ky'mira -- were baptized within the last month and are attended their first camp meeting. We welcome them to the Adventist family!
Under trees, in the pavilion, in the cafeteria, in the car, and even in the pup tent, lunch is served!
This sign welcomes everyone to AWC Camp Grounds where there's something for every age, even a lake with paddle boats.
A pastor transports attendees from place to place. Thanks to Elder Carl Rogers for my annual tour of the camp grounds where I got to see old friends and Visitor readers, make new friends, and take photos (of course)! See you next year everybody!

Columbia Union Campmeeting--Pennsylvania

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

"I'm inright, upright, downright, outright happy all the time. ..." It's evident these kindergartners enjoyed song service at their meetings.

Neil Nedley, MD, who gave talks about depression, also gave afternoon workshops on dating in the choir room which drew people of all ages. There was no standing or sitting room available. Hmmm, maybe I need to get the tape!

Each of Pennsylvania's schools prepared displays to highlight the best of their offerings. This one is by York Seventh-day Adventist School.
This year instead of a prayer room, Prayer Ministries coordinator Sue Shobe (thanks to the awesome creations of Nancy Manente) hosted an interactive Prayer Tent with stations that asked questions, shared texts, or allowed for activities. For example, one question asked "What problems do you need to give back to God?" Attendees could write answers on the palm of God's hand. There was so much to see, do, and pray about that Shobe says more than one person visited and stayed for an hour or more.
Tents for the juniors, earliteens, and youth meetings create a beautiful backdrop against the mountains in Hamburg, Pa.
Deborah Wasmer, elementary teacher at Lehigh Valley Elementary School, coordinated the kindergarten programs with lots of attendees and lots of help! Their theme was "Spending the day in the Forest." Here Wasmer engages a few attendees in singing a song called "Let's Help Mr. Beaver."
The exhibit area featured displays by Columbia Union College, Adventist Community Services, Blue Mountain Academy, and many of the conference's ministries, like this one for Women's Ministries. Thanks to Kathleen Sutton, BMA's director of development, for sharing her table with the Visitor!

Photos from Ohio Camp Meeting in Mt. Vernon – June 16, 2007

At Columbus Eastwood church’s annual camp meeting potluck, Carolyn Grahn, wife of Pastor Larry Grahn, serves me a piece of cake, well, several pieces of cake, but they were all different flavors and made by different members and she insisted I try them! They had three tables worth of food and seemingly fed the 5,000 with their loaves, fishes, and homemade casserole dishes! You know Karen Hatch had something to do with this event! 
After potluck and just before the afternoon program, Columbus Eastwood members Dejan and Heidi Samardzic relax with their son, Petar, and their friends Pastor Oswaldo Magana and his wife, Herlinda. Pastor Magana leads two Hispanic churches in Cleveland.

Two women pray together and then hug. Even though I was across campus, I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst. As the Word promises, “Where two or three are gathered in my name…”







Lunetta King celebrated her 55th wedding anniversary at camp meeting (what better place to be!) this year with her husband James. On Sabbath, in their RV, I got to join in the celebration for her 25th birthday (that’s what the cake said!), which included chocolate cake, watermelon, her son Kevin, and her 4-year-old grandson Nickolaus. Though retired, the Kings are currently giving nine Bible studies. Isn’t that what we’re all about?


The Sabbath speaker Ron Halverson, Sr., gave a wonderful message and reminded attendees that Jesus is coming soon. “Everyday I pray and ask the Lord to return,” he said. “The world is not going to get better; Jesus must return!”

Photos from Potomac’s Southern Asian Church in Silver Spring, Md. May 12, 2007


Pastor Franklin David asked me to come and share the video I shot in India in February. While there, I met some great people and wandered from class to class to see what they were up to. Here’s what I found:

Kindergarten--Sandi David, the main teacher of the kindergarten class, kept most everyone’s attention as she told a story. She had lots of adult helpers who enjoy working with the littlest members of our church, including Vicki Timoll, who’s interested in taking her own children on a mission trip this summer.
Primary – As class ends, Primary teacher Rita Murhutta gives Santosh Benezette his Primary Treasure for the week. Happy reading Santosh!

Flowers for mom – Celebrating Mother’s Day, the juniors made these “flowers” for their moms. Later, during the service, every woman was honored with a beautiful rose. Mine was a rich red and still thrives in the Deer Park water bottle “vase” on my kitchen counter along with a rose Austin plucked from our three-bush rose garden, which is in great bloom right now with yellow, pink, and a host of orange/pink/yellow roses. The scent is yummy!


Earliteens – Sunny Makey’s Earliteen class looked at images inside photos while munching on Dunkin Donuts. “We were trying to find the deeper meaning of things,” one young man told me and then asked, “Can you see the face in this photo?” Indeed I could.
Collegiates – About 20 members of the collegiate class were present. Their teacher Philip Stanley invited me to their potluck next week. Can’t make it, but he also told me that on June 8 and 9, the collegiates are conducting the church service and that I really need to come back for that. I’d love to… and maybe they’ll have potluck again that day.
Choir – For church, we were blessed by music from a visiting group from the Mizo church, Vijay Benedict who gave an evening concert, and this choir. Aren’t they beautiful in their colorful garb?
Church Sanctuary – I’ve heard that the church’s sanctuary is beautiful, but wow, it was really something and there was room for everyone. Pastor Franklin David’s sermon was great, in fact, it was Spic n Span (you had to be there to get that).

Photos from Mountain View’s Lewisburg (W.Va.) Church March 23, 2007

 I visited this church with my video producers to shoot part of the May Visitor News Video titled “Tell the World, Tell Them Now!”

These young ladies were on time for Sabbath School.
Somebody’s reading the Visitor (love when that happens!). I hope he gets it every month at home, afterall it’s free to members.
Everyone in the Lewisburg Church is raving about Lillian Torres and how she has taught them to give Bible studies without fear. Don’t miss her dos and don'ts in our April issue.
This local farmer and church elder was so friendly, as was the entire congregation. We enjoyed a delicious potluck with them after the sermon. Nothin’ like a church potluck! There’s always a great salad that you’ve never heard of before, a great mac’ and cheese dish, a great corn dish, and a great Special K loaf. Am I tellin’ the truth or what?
Pastor Stewart and Kathy Pepper were great hosts. On this day, they enjoyed the worship service since Pastor Dave Weigley, our union president, was preaching.
I just love these ladies and their beautiful smiles. The one on the right is the aunt to the one on the left, who happens to be a great photographer and told me she and her husband are busy restoring an old house. That’s adventurous! Are you having fun yet?
This young man, who was sitting on the floor in the back of the sanctuary, was kind enough to let me take his photo. Sorry I can’t remember all the names, just glad I got to meet everybody.

Photos from Potomac's Manassas (Va.) Church
March 17, 2007

Kellie Rodman teaches Beginners and Kindergarten Sabbath School.
The Juniors class reads about Saul and Samuel.
Sandy Revas plays Bible hangman with her rambunctious Primary class.  Turns out the text in play was John 3:16.  Who won Sandy, the boys or the girls?
Cesar Payne, who I haven't seen since our BMA (Blue Mountain Academy) days eons ago, teaches Earliteen and Youth.  It was so great to see you Cesar!
Pastor Joey Pollom's blessing of this family's newest addition was so touching.  I loved how he asked the congregation to vow to support the family and everyone agreed.  The church service was wonderful.  Look for their video story on our website soon.  Click on "Videos" to watch.  And, I highly recommend you visit this church in person and on the web at
My video crew and I fell in love with this family.  Mom Sanchez (left) went to church for 20 years praying for her family to join her. Through a series of events, including the church's evangelism seminar last fall, her husband, son, and his wife and kids all joined the church.  A beautiful family and a beautiful story.  Keep them in prayer as they witness to other members of their family.