A WC CHURCH MEMBER’S JOURNEY FROM AMISH TO ADVENTIST

Luke Stoltzfus tends goats on the family farm as a teenager.

For Luke Stoltzfus, growing up Amish meant living in a closed society. Everything from one’s style of clothing and hair to the school they attended and the career they chose where all based on traditions within the community.

Luke’s family lived on a 10-acre farm in Kentucky. Their livelihood was secured partly by growing fruits and vegetables to sell in a market near the home of Jose and Jennifer Ramos, an Adventist military couple stationed at Ft. Campbell.

A close friendship developed between the Stoltzfus brothers and the couple, and Jose eventually gave them a copy of The Great Controversy, by Ellen White.

Through his reading, Luke’s brother, David, became convicted that Sabbath was the correct day of worship. Luke set out to prove him wrong. Thinking their parents could talk some sense into David, Luke went to them with his concerns. However, when Jose and Jennifer moved to Oklahoma, David went with them. There, he continued to study.

Luke remembers a time David came home to visit. It was nearly Easter, so they read the biblical account of Jesus’ death, resting in the tomb on Sabbath, and being resurrected on Sunday. David also shared a book with Luke called The Almost Forgotten Day, by Mark Finley. As Luke read it, he began questioning more of the Amish traditions. One day while reading Mark 7, he began to realize the importance of following God’s laws rather than the traditions of men. He resolved that he, too, would keep the seventh-day Sabbath.

When Amish children reach 16 or 17 years of age, they are given the opportunity to be baptized into their church. Neither Luke nor David had chosen to be baptized into the Amish faith but each, at separate times, chose for themselves to become Adventist.

“I rebelled my way into the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” confessed Luke. “I slowly accepted that death is a sleep, that hellfire is not a place and that my way out of the Amish traditions was to keep God’s laws. My father was very hurt by my decision, and there were poor family relations for a while. But the healing has started, and I share God’s word with my family whenever they have need.”

Since Luke’s baptism in March 2001, he has studied with the Amazing Facts College of Evangelism (AFCOE) and spent a year as a Bible worker in Washington state. He continues to witness as he uses his Amish training in carpentry whenever the opportunity arises. But most of all he enjoys teaching the adult Sabbath school lessons in the West County Church where he and his wife, Crystal, are members.

West County Church Hosts ‘DINNER WITH THE DOCTOR’

 Pastor Wayne Kablanow speaks to guests about God's desire for us to be healthy. (Photo: Mary Schwantes)

Pastor Wayne Kablanow speaks to guests about God's desire for us to be healthy. (Photo: Mary Schwantes)

Each quarter, the West County Church’s Health Team, directed by Lauren Clark Thompson and Leslie Olin, presents a vegan dinner for the community.

The guest speaker for this quarter was Pastor Wayne Kablanow, who ministers in the Better Living Center in Spokane, Washington. He shared answers about why Seventh-day Adventists focus so much on health.

The menu was suitable for picnicking and featured zucchini black bean sliders on whole wheat buns, a pasta salad and taco salad with vegan ranch dressing, and festive dried fruit balls for dessert.

For more than five years, nearly a dozen people from the community have been attending these health programs. Each guest receives a copy of Ellen White’s Ministry of Healing.

The Impact of Church Attendance

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Guest writer to our blog, Jason Lewis is the primary caregiver for his mother and in recent years he’s noticed what an impact church attendance has had. “Going to church and participating in church activities has helped her stay both mentally and physically active. I’d love to spread the word about that and offer additional tips on improving physical, mental, and spiritual health for seniors.”

There are several reasons why you should consider attending church: For spiritual guidance, to worship, for fellowship and more. But did you know it’s good for your health? Studies have shown that attending a house of worship is good for the health of older adults. Science cannot entirely explain why these health benefits occur, but that shouldn't stop you from discovering for yourself.

Studies

Studiesshow that attending services helps reduce stress, which has many health benefits, including improvement in blood pressure, mental health and preventing chronic disease. It might not seem like it, but more than 50 percent of Americans attend church services once a month. So, should you attend church? That’s your call. But it can be healthy for you. 

Reasons for attending services in a faith community can help older adults.

1.    It can make you mindful.

Mindfulness, usually associated with meditation, which also has a place in a religious service. When you’re mindful, you’re focusing on what’s happening at that very moment, not yesterday or tomorrow. It can be difficult to make ourselves focus on the here and now, especially if we’re going through a transition as life-changing as addiction recovery. But taking even a few minutes a day to be mindful of all we have in the present moment -- and especially all we have to be grateful for -- can help us feel more at peace with ourselves, our surroundings, and our circumstances.

2.    It improves your mood.

Studies have shown that attending services can give you a better outlook on life and illness. By boosting your mood, it is setting you up positively for the rest of your week. Older adults often experience isolation when they move into a retirement home, feeling lost without their home and family. Attending church can get you out of the house and into a social setting, making you feel better. 

3.    It can help you live longer.

Some studies have shown that those who attend church or synagogue live longer than others. One possible reason is the reduced stress, as mentioned above, but another theory is that the effect of religiosity has protective benefits to the heart. It can also help you live longer if you believe that your life has meaning, and who doesn’t want that?

4.    It gives you a community.

We all have various communities in our lives. Work, home, neighborhoods and more. A faith community can be there for you when others are not. Senior adults benefit from having a community to depend on when they need it. Communities also get you out of the house and engaged. You can attend social gatherings, card groups, knitting or crochet groups, exercise classes, Bible or Torah study and more. Being surrounded by other people and just having someone to talk to can make your life better in meaningful ways. 

5.    It can give you a purpose.

A faith community can get you involved in volunteerism and social justice, which take you out of your own needs to help others. The feeling of being needed or that someone depends on you can be an excellent boost to your self-esteem and a sense of purpose, giving you a specific reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

No matter where you are at in your walk with God, we invite you to experience the numerous benefits outlined above. You’ll likely feel fresh and recharged for the following week, and hopefully better able to take care of your health. Your body will thank you. 

West County Church Adopts a Highway

 West County Church members Brad Cruse, Yun Hee Cruse, Paul Moore and Brian Clark clean the one-mile stretch of highway in Chesterfield, Missouri. (Photo: Mary Schwantes)

West County Church members Brad Cruse, Yun Hee Cruse, Paul Moore and Brian Clark clean the one-mile stretch of highway in Chesterfield, Missouri. (Photo: Mary Schwantes)

A one-mile stretch of Wildhorse Creek Road in Chesterfield, Missouri, is clean and beautiful thanks to the dedicated efforts of local church member Jason Matthews and a team of volunteers.

Jason appealed to the Department of Transportation for the St. Louis Metropolitan area two years ago and got permission for the West County Church to keep the area clean.

Through sleet and snow, heat and humidity you will find church members volunteering their Sunday mornings, getting their exercise in by cleaning up trash along the highway. Interesting items have been discovered such as a debit card (the owner was contacted and grateful for it being returned), coins, a socket wrench and an old rusty file cabinet with a family of opossum living in it (mother opossum wasn’t too happy to meet the crew—the filing cabinet was left in place for now).

This is a wonderful way to serve a community and share witness. Residents often thank the volunteers as they pass by.

West County Church Celebrates New Member

 The West County Church's pastor and elders lay hands on Maya as a prayer of dedication is offered. (Photo submitted by Mary Schwantes)

The West County Church's pastor and elders lay hands on Maya as a prayer of dedication is offered. (Photo submitted by Mary Schwantes)

On June 23 the West County Church in Chesterfield, Missouri celebrated the baptism of Maya Achieng.

Maya, who graduated from 8th grade at Hillcrest SDA school in May, is originally from Kenya. She came to Missouri with her parents, Irene and Kennedy.

Following the baptism, church elders laid hands on Maya as a prayer of dedication was offered.

West County Church Hosts Sixth Annual Community Health Expo

 Linda Klevin, RN, provides blood pressure readings to community members attending the West County Church's Health Expo. (Photo submitted by Mary Schwantes)

Linda Klevin, RN, provides blood pressure readings to community members attending the West County Church's Health Expo. (Photo submitted by Mary Schwantes)

The St. Louis West County Church hosted their third annual community Health Expo in April.

The Health team, chaired by Lauren Clark Thompson and Leslie Olin, invited a variety of health-focused businesses to share information and interactive displays with participants. A local optometrist offered free vision screenings, Barnes Jewish Healthcare gave cholesterol and blood glucose tests, and Excelsior Family Chiropractic gave spine screenings.

Using the eight natural laws of health principles from the NEWSTART Lifestyle Program, interactive booths provided information on Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Trust, Air, Rest, and Temperance.

Other booths offered information about health counseling and using whole foods as medicine, and Monarch Fire Department made fire trucks available for children to explore.

Healthy food samples included Black Bean & Chipotle Burgers, Hearty Vegetable Stew, and Edamame Salad.

Guests were excited to learn the Health Expo is an annual event. One even said she was going directly home to place next year’s event on her calendar.

Family Marks Seventh Generation of Adventists with West County Baptisms

 Matthew and Michaela Lawrence were baptized by their grandfather, Thomas Knoll. (Photo submitted by Rebecca Lawrence).

Matthew and Michaela Lawrence were baptized by their grandfather, Thomas Knoll. (Photo submitted by Rebecca Lawrence).

Matthew and Michaela Lawrence, brother and sister, became the newest members of the St. Louis West County Church on April 28. Matthew (13) and Michaela (9) are the seventh consecutive generation of Adventists in their family.

Their grandfather, Thomas R. Knoll, Sr., an ordained minister, had the pleasure of baptizing them. Their grandmother, Merry Knoll, played a special role by sewing their robes.

Matthew and Michaela’s parents, Jay and Rebecca, said the children love Jesus and are excited to officially become members of the Adventist Church.

Ministry Moment

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Working together! “Yes, I can do that!”

West County Ministries are working together.

One way is through the Sabbath School Department hosting “Invite a Friend to Sabbath School Day”.  Here the Sabbath School partners with other Church Ministries to invite friends to church for exceptional programs like the Easter and Christmas Concerts (provided through the Music Ministry) and the Family Weekend (provided by the Family Ministry).  The Hospitality Ministry hosts everyone’s favorite Fellowship Meals on these “Invite a Friend to Sabbath School Days”.

Easy ways to say - “Yes, I can do that!” 

  • Pray: pray for the Church Ministry’s and those attending these programs.
  • Invite: give out invitation post cards to friends (provided by the Ministry Council).  These cards can be personally given or add a short note on the back, address and then mail.    
  • Attend/Participate: please come, join in!  Never underestimate the value of your attendance. Bring a dish, stay and socialize, visit with old friends and establish new acquaintances.

 

Picnic in the Park

West County Church begins their Picnic in the Park season in May, visiting a different park each month through October.   Many comment on how much they enjoy getting acquainted with the different parks that we visit.  Each year we add in a new park along with our old favorite ones.  There is a common denominator that hits the target every time, and that is - yummy food!  Everyone brings a favorite dish or two for this potluck style meal.  These relaxing meals in nature are enjoyed by all ages; a time for making new friends, catching up and renewing acquaintances.

Purina Farms has become our annual first picnic stop and it is always a tailgate lunch on the lawn before visiting the barn and dog show.  Our next picnics were all under protected shelters at Longview Farms in June, Bernie Park in July, Love Park in August and Queenie Park in September. 

Our last picnic will be on October 28 at Babler State Park, remember to bundle up, with the weather being cooler and then enjoy the extra warmth at one of the four stone fireplaces.

Purina Farms - May

Longview Farm - June

Bernie Park - July

Love Park - August

Queenie Park - September

Ordination of the Deaconesses

Three deaconesses were ordained Sabbath August 12, 2017, by Pastor Ken Olin to serve, help and attend to the needs in the local Seventh-day Adventist church and the communities in which they live.  The ministry of the deaconesses began in the early Christian church.

Pictured from right to left:  Rebecca Lawrence, Head Deaconess, Jeanne Toay, Mary Schwantes, and Helen Palmer.  Behind the deaconesses are the church elders who placed their hands on the shoulders of the women in a prayer of commitment to serve.

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Steps to Christ Project

West County Church is joining in an exciting purchase of Steps to Christ with a local cover design depicting the St. Louis Arch. There is also a custom message on the back cover with a local area wide website. To reach our goal of 2,500 books we need 13 sponsors of $64.00 each which will buy 200 books per sponsor. The Steps to Christ will be a wonderful sharing book. Please mark tithe envelopes “West County Literature”, so overages may go towards additional sharing materials. -Thank you, West County Personal Ministries 

Investment Message

God is sovereign—He is the supreme authority over all things—but He has chosen to work through men and women. I would describe the partnership between God and man like this: we can’t do it without God, but He won’t do it without us. We are not to be independent of God, thinking that we can accomplish His will without Him. Jesus put it this way: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). God on the other hand does not “need” us, but He chooses not to work on earth apart from us. His plans include you and me. They factor our obedience, walking in partnership with Him. If you haven’t already asked God to partner with you on a SS Investment Project, there’s still time. He is waiting to hear from you. 

Fathers Day

On June 17 the children took turns during their class time to visit the Sabbath School resource room where they each hand crafted cards for Father’s Day.  The exercise encouraged the students to recognize the things they appreciate about their Dad’s and the importance to take time to thank them!

Shoes Needed!

Shoes Needed!

Donate to the ACS!

The ACS needs shoes! Please bring your gently used or new shoes to church and place them in the bin marked “shoes”. If the goal of 100 pairs is reached by June 3rd, Marilyn Brines will donate $50 toward investment. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:15 

Special Recognition Sabbath - May 27

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There is honor in the aging process, as growing old is normally accompanied by increased wisdom and experience. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor attained by a righteous life” (Prov. 16:31; Prov. 20:29). You are invited to celebrate the legacy and contributions of older adults to our church and community, and join us lunch on Saturday, May 27, 2017. 9:30 am - Song Service and Bible Study. 10:45 am -Worship Service. Noon Family Friendship Lunch. Give invitations to your family and friends. Bring an Older Adult to share in the celebration. We anticipate having many visitors, so members please bring plenty of food to share. 

May Baskets

Do you know what a May Basket is?

Many students learned today for the first time what a May Basket is, a tradition of secretly placing a basket, often handcrafted, at a neighbors door, then ringing their door bell and running away so the neighbor wouldn’t know who the good deed was from. The children’s classes took turns visiting the Sabbath School resource room where supplies awaited them to create May Baskets with scriptures and messages of Jesus’ love. 

While the students were busy crafting May Baskets each class was read a story telling of children who surprised neighbors with good deeds. 

The rest of the story:

One Mom reported that her child did pass out May Baskets to neighbors on May 1st … and they were happy later that day to view her neighbors post on Facebook accompanied by a picture of her child’s May Basket, saying “wondering who did this nice deed!” 

 

Go Light Your World

For second quarter our Children’s Sabbath School is focusing on “Go Light Your World”.  For Easter weekend everyone wrote favorite Bible scriptures on Jesus’ resurrection and then attached these scriptures to balloons.  The balloons were then released. 

He Is Risen

Our church embraced the theme, “He is Risen” during Easter weekend, April 15.  A special appreciation to our Choir Director, Charito Pattichot, who coordinated and directed an outstanding musical program. The selection of songs had not only lovely arrangements but were also rich with meaningful lyrics telling the story of Jesus' triumphant entry to Jerusalem, His feelings of isolation in Gethsemane, Mary's grief when witnessing the death of her Son, the sorrow of Jesus' followers when they laid Him in the tomb, and the culmination of Jesus resurrection and the gift it is to all!

Nancy Cowin did an outstanding job as pianist.  The church also enjoyed pieces that featured the children’s choir and instrumental accompaniment of the guitar, violin, cello and drum.   Pastor David Klinedinst did an excellent job reading the narration that took the church through the Easter story. Following the service refreshments and a lovely luncheon were provided.

Mission Focus: West Central Africa

Second Quarter 2017

Come visit the Children’s Sabbath School wing and check out the two Mission Bulletin Boards!  

The Mission focus for second quarter is West Central Africa.  One feature of the display is colorful flags.  Test your skill at identifying which flag is for which country.  

Lauris White has been creating beautiful mission displays for the children’s mission offerings.  This quarter she crocheted, in 3D, four adorable animals of Africa; a crocodile, an elephant, a monkey and a lion.  Lauris’ display also tells where the mission offering goes to for this quarter.  Children are given stones to place in the collection jar in exchange for any offering brought to their class.  The Blue stones are for the Beginner & Kindergarten Classes, Red stones are for Primary, Yellow stones are for Juniors and green stones are for the Teen & Youth Classes.

LOVE!

Our Sabbath School Leaders are continuing to have individual class time as usual but are also coordinating their programs with a THEME for all the children’s classes.  This theme is emphasized in individual classes and also during a time when all classes come together for a devotional, activities and a song. 

First quarter’s Children’s Sabbath School theme is LOVE!  Three aspects of LOVE is our focus:

  • Jesus’ love for us
  • Our love for Jesus
  • Our love for each other

Our theme song is the familiar and much loved song “Jesus Loves Me”.  There is a message on the Children’s Division hallway wall that says:  “I Love Jesus because…” then below these words is a growing number of paper hearts… the hearts are attached by the students as they fill in their answer to that question.  Then, at the close of our time together everyone lines up for an activity demonstrating love for each other -  a group hand shake that snakes down the hallway and has everyone in smiles and laughter.