“For the first time in our city, the white, black, and Spanish SDA churches came together for worship on Sabbath. We met at one of our churches, marched through the streets to another, singing ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!’ Just like the interfaith service one week earlier, I felt God’s presence. After worship, we went to the place where a young man filled with hate rammed his car into a crowd of people killing Heather Heyer. We wanted to stand with our city and add our gift of two dozen roses to the spot where Heather died.
When we got there, we saw someone. It was Heather’s mom. She was there marking the one-week anniversary of her daughter’s passing. We got quiet, stood back, and gave her space to grieve. A few minutes later, she turned and asked us to come near. We pressed in really close, some were crying, others were hugging , and then someone asked Heather’s mom if we could pray. She said, ‘Please,’ so we did. Right after prayer someone struck up the tune, ‘Just like Heather Heyer did, I’m gonna letting shine…’
We were all in awe realizing what was happening—a street-side memorial service for Heather! Those roses that we were going to lay on the ground, we laid in her mother’s arms instead. With tears in her eyes she thanked us for being there with her.
I have never been prouder to be a Seventh-day Adventist. We were there for our community. We proved that love trumps hate.”
📸: Brian Patrick Tagalog
“‘I have just received word that there are hundreds of men with torches outside and it’s not safe for us to leave.’ That’s what the pastor said. We were in church praying for Charlottesville because hundreds of neo-Nazis, KKK members, and other white supremacists came our city wanting to hurt people.
There we were- Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, white, black, young, old, male, female, peaceably gathered in a sanctuary, praying. And while we were inside united in love, others were outside united in hate. They were literally barking like dogs with torches in hand, showing everyone how insecure and afraid of change they were.
The choir director came to the mic and said, ‘Let’s sing! Let’s sing so loud that the those outside will know that we’re not afraid, and that God is with us!’ So we started to sing the spiritual, ‘Oh freedom! Oh freedom! Oh freedom over me! And before I'd be a slave I'd be buried in my grave and go home to my Lord and be free!’ We sang that song so long and so loud that the fear and shock some were experiencing evaporated. The next day, our country watched as white supremacy and hate murdered Heather Heyer.’”
📸: Brian Patrick Tagalog
“I think that music has had a lot of different roles in my life. I grew up in a family that loved music. It was something we always enjoyed together as a unit. I can’t remember a time we were ever in the car not listening to music when we were kids. My parents put me and my siblings in piano lessons when we were young and other instruments just naturally followed. Band was always one of my favorite classes in school. I think that it was a release for me. I felt a lot of pressure to pursue something super ‘academic’ because I always did well in school. I also played competitive sports so I was often scared that showing my emotional side would make me seem weak. As I continued through high school, amidst all the tough classes and intense sports games, band let me have my creative outlet that made me feel balanced.
As a nurse today, I still count on music to be my creative outlet. I’ve always felt somewhat torn down the middle because I chose health care. I’m slowly learning that it’s okay for me to find my identity in multiple things that are totally different. I have always felt connected to and understood by music, so on stressful days I’d look forward to sitting down to play an instrument or just to listening to whatever I could get my hands on. I still look forward to any amount of time driving in my car where I know I can just jam out. I count on music to match my mood and to help me feel settled. Some of my best friendships are with the people that I can appreciate music with the most. It’s like a way of letting people in without them knowing it. I think that the kind of music that really speaks to you says a lot about a person. I truly value the way it has enriched so many of my relationships.
Music is also the way I feel the most connected spiritually. Regardless of whether I’m in my darkest or brightest places, the power of speaking truth into my life through worship is crazy. I can’t count the number of times that music has pulled me out of a spiral when nothing else makes sense. More and more I crave music with lyrical richness. I appreciate music that makes me think and reminds me the depth of God’s love and promises in my life. The peace that worshipping through music brings me is something that I honestly don’t think I could live without. It’s kind of hard to explain what music means to me because of how intertwined it is in my life. From desperately seeking peace or God’s presence, to remembering I’m more than my profession, to just jamming in the car on a perfect summer day, music is everywhere for me.”
📸: Breana Soliday Haughton
”Christian maturity is different than maturity in the physical sense, given that one is only mature when one is fully grown. The idea of Christian maturity is not that one will be fully grown, but have enough knowledge, understanding, and love towards God to discern between those things that are profitable or not. A mature Christian is able to understand the world, interact with it, and deliver the message of the Gospel to it, in whichever shape or form.
Jesus gave us a model to Christian maturity. This model is to seek and follow Him. A primary way to do this is through the study of the Scriptures, either in a community or solitary fashion. This will lead to continual entrenchment in the Word of God and other spiritual practices. Out of that, fruits will follow in the form of action towards others in order to accomplish the multifacted mission that Christ gave us.”
Jose Briones is a pastor and host of the Disruptive Adventism podcast.
“I wish people would ask me more about what I like to do for fun. I feel like there’s a stigma that any religion major means the person only reads his Bible and Ellen White books all day, and that’s not the case with me. I enjoy Netflix. Many Adventists have this reputation that we don’t like music, video games or movies. I do enjoy being outdoors, too, and snowboarding, skating, sky diving, working out, travel, road trips. Some conservative Adventists would have it out there that if you do any of these things you’re not consecrated or don’t follow the Bible.”
“In my lifetime I hope to see a wave of Adventist activism across the world. A global generation of people committed to displaying the justice of Jesus Christ by saving the lost from exploitation, slavery, marginalization, prejudice, and sin through their speech, service, and sacrifice. Man! Activism is inextricable from my faith. When I read about how sin separated humanity from God, from one another, and altered their relationship to the Earth, when I realized that the Word became flesh to reconcile us, I realized that Christ and His sacrifice reconciles us back to God. But it is the Holy Spirit who is actively working in us transforming us to be more like God in character so that we can reconcile with one another. When we truly work for full, true reconciliation within the human family that means we stand against all forms of injustice that seek to dehumanize and separate any member of our family.
Every human being is our family. Jesus’ last prayer for His disciples was that they be one as He and His Father were one. God desires oneness in the body of Christ, or the Church, but also within the human family at large. And so the work of the Gospel is the work of radical reconciliation between God and humanity for the reconciliation of all peoples within the human family.”
“I’ve lived in the Bronx my whole life. I was baptized at fourteen and definitely didn’t understand the decision. Raised by a very religious, overbearing, but well-intentioned grandmother and a super chill mom, my relationship with God has often been complex. Church from fourteen through seventeen was my refuge, my place to spend my Saturdays and people to hang with Saturday night, but something changed. People started sleeping in. They started being lethargic, going away to college, and church became this thing you do so God isn’t mad at you. There was no community, no filling of the spirit- just the place you go to be guilt-tripped and fear-mongered about the End Days. It was hard explaining it to people growing up, the Sabbath thing and how I wasn’t Jewish. I dated only one Adventist boy my whole life.
I’m twenty-five now and I’m still building my personal relationship with Christ. I’ve been through so much, seen so much, but it’s the reading I’ve done, online podcasts like Adventist Millennial, and gospel music that makes me wanna cry- and the extra good days when it’s like ‘Wow, God really loves me. It was raining and the train came in two
minutes. I found ten dollars in a shelf at Walmart. I got an encouraging email at work.’ It’s those little things that make me feel looked after by something greater than me keep my faith strong. My mom was recently diagnosed with cancer and I’m scared to death. I haven’t been to church. I’m not even praying as often as I should, but I miss that community. I don’t want anyone to tell me to trust God’s plan- I just want Him to heal my mom.“
“I started to realize that I didn’t really even have my own faith. The deeper I dug the more I came to realize that my belief system was that of my parents, my pastor, my teachers. As a child I was content to follow those I loved and trusted, but once I got out on my own the foundations of my faith started to crumble. I left the church for a number of years because I thought my faith was a sham, when in actuality it simply wasn’t mine; it was someone else’s.
Eventually God pulled me back to Him and I started a journey of building back my faith from the ground up. I believe the one life event that really helped to shape the faith I hold so dear today was my time at Southwestern Adventist University. At SWAU I had the opportunity to ask questions, receive advice and guidance, wrestle with issues and strengthen my relationship with Christ and fellow humans. The faith that I have today looks completely different from my faith of yesteryear. I’m not saying that my old beliefs bad, but they weren’t truly mine. University gave me the opportunity to not only surround myself with people that believed like me, but also people who had theology much different than mine. Don’t discount others’ journey, even when it looks much different than yours. Dialogue and debate can give us insights that we may have never thought of before. Even if our beliefs don’t change, we can gain better understanding and empathy concerning others’ positions.
If we want our faith to be transformative and strong, it must be our own. Building your belief system takes time. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it is scary. Sometimes it is exciting, invigorating and life-giving. I thank SWAU for the opportunity to mature in my walk with Christ and with others who were also building their faith. I thank God for being patient with me as I wrestled with Him, and for also sending His Spirit to guide me along the way. I am still growing in my faith and I hope I never feel content enough to stop.”