Story by Philip Baptiste
Several leaders from the Columbia Union Conference recently traveled to Kenya to help the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) officially establish an Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) organization during the ECD’s 2nd Annual ASI convention.
More than 200 Seventh-day Adventist business owners, professionals, ministry leaders and church administrators gathered at February 22-24 event at ECD headquarters in Nairobi. Participants included the presidents, executive secretaries and treasurers from the 11 unions in ECD, as well as division departmental directors and office staff.
Event leaders focused on the program theme, “Sharing Christ in the Marketplace,” and presented topics such as Social Media Strategies for Business and Ministries, ASI in the Bible, Ellen White and ASI, Strategies for Excellence as ASI Union Chapters, Serving the Underserved, Strategic Planning for ASI Members and Leaders, Creating a Winning Team, The Mission, Power and Purpose of ASI, Strategic Communication and Branding, Crisis Management and much more.
Keynote presenters for the event included Celeste Ryan-Blyden, vice president for Strategic Communication for the Columbia Union Conference; LaTasha Hewitt, communication director of the Allegheny East Conference; Dwain Esmond, associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate based at the General Conference headquarters; Bryant Smith, communication director of the Allegheny West Conference; G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary of the North American Division; and Emanuel Pelote, president of the Columbia Union Conference ASI Chapter.
The highlight of the event was the adoption of the Columbia Union Conference ASI Chapter Constitution by church leaders and ASI members from the ECD’s 11-country region. This was cause for celebration because it means that for the first time in ECD, ASI members and leaders would operate the ministry as an official part of the Adventist Church structure, much like in other world divisions. Led by Emanuel Pelote, president of the Columbia Union ASI Chapter, ECD union presidents and lay leaders of ASI adapted and slightly modified the constitution to meet the contextual needs of the East-Central Africa region. Lay leaders committed to collaborate with church pastors and union administrators to prioritize mission and share the gospel of Jesus. Pelote shared that he was "thrilled that the Columbia Union could play a part in what God is doing to unite the membership with the church administration and pastors in mission as they launch and inaugurate official union ASI chapters within ECD."
Union presidents, secretaries, and treasurers from the ECD’s 11 unions met with Pelote and Ryan-Blyden, along with the three executive officers of the division to discuss how to better support and collaborate with ASI union chapters and unleash lay people for ministry in their respective regions. Pastor Temesgen Bulti, president of the Ethiopia Union Mission, says, "I now understand how our union should to relate to ASI. We support them, empower them and work with them to help further the Adventist mission."
Ryan-Blyden, who also serves as the Columbia Union’s ASI representative, gave a devotional message as well as presentations on crisis management and how to share the Adventist story. Reflecting on the event, she said, "In the Columbia Union, we want to see every member get involved and experience the Adventist mission. We’ve seen this happen effectively through ASI when church leaders and lay members team up and share their God-given gifts and resources. It’s exciting to see the ECD embrace this movement division-wide.”
Blasious Ruguri, president of ECD, where church membership now tops four million, said: "I am so excited to see our lay people mobilized and determined to use their gifts, talents, and resources to engage in sharing Christ in the marketplace. As pastors and church leaders work hand in hand with the laity, together we can finish the work and help hasten the second coming of Jesus."
Participants shared that they were mobilized for mission and left feeling more committed to getting involved in sharing the Adventist message of hope and wholeness. ASI was established in 1947 by Adventist healthcare workers and expanded in the 1970's to include business owners, ministry leaders, and other professional lay members.
Philip Baptiste serves as special assistant to the president of the East-Central Africa Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.