Louisville, Kentucky, was the scene of the ASI International Convention Aug. 1–4, 2007. ASI® (Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries®) marked its 60th anniversary this year.
A Little History
The roots of ASI go back to Madison, Tennessee, and the days of Ellen G. White. She strongly supported establishing an industrial school near Nashville, Tennessee. E. A. Sutherland, later the first president of ASI, and Percy Magan started the school in 1904 with a work-study program that would allow students to work and pay for their education. This later became Madison College.
Out of the model of this self-supporting school, other self-supporting entities were started. Workers would meet together at Madison every year, sharing experiences and encouraging each other.
In 1946 Dr. Sutherland was asked by the General Conference to serve as secretary of a newly formed Commission on Rural Living. The next spring a group of self-supporting workers and General Conference representatives met in Cincinnati, Ohio, to organize what became the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Self-supporting Institutions. When the association grew and gradually included lay people in business, the name was changed to its current one in 1979.
Long-time ASI member Edwin Martin has a rich heritage in the church and self-supporting ministries. His father, Neil Martin, attended Madison in 1908 and stayed in the Madison vicinity until 1925. Neil was a charter member of ASI, attending the first convention in 1947 along with Edwin's brother, Charles. Though he did not attend that first gathering, Edwin says, "I've been associated with ASI on and off since it first began." He is probably the oldest and longest attending member at conventions these days.
ASI Yesterday and Today
Harold Lance, current Missions, Inc. president, and a 32-year veteran of ASI, remembered, "In the old days we had about 150 young people at the convention." The gatherings used to be scheduled in October, making it difficult for families with children to attend. This year there were more than 500 children and youth in attendance on Sabbath. "We used to serve about 150 for lunch," Lance said. This year nearly 2,000 were served in a record 50 minutes. We've grown.
Devotionals, prayer time, stirring messages, testimonies, music—this is the ASI convention. Twenty seminars covering topics from health (Dr. Neil Nedley, "Improving Emotional Intelligence") to education (James Standish, "Becoming an ASI Ambassador to National Leaders"), and 18 additional subjects provided excellent learning experiences.
The stories told during the Member in Action feature were inspirational. Willard Regester, M.D., Grants Pass, Oregon, puts an ad in the local newspaper offering Bible studies. One of his contacts, Evelyn, was baptized in February. John and Paula Moriarity, Pewee Valley, Kentucky, have 20 non-Adventists meeting at their home every Sunday for Bible study. Sherene Becca, Austin, Texas, is a freshman at Baylor University. She wants to minister to fellow students, "to reflect God in all ways and bring glory to His name." Viorel Catarama, Hinsdale, Illinois, went to Tanzania and helped to train 300 people in successful evangelism methods. This is only a small sample of the dozens of stories told.
Complete programs for children and youth, including community outreach, were available. And the ever popular exhibit hall had more than 300 exhibits showcasing ministries and witnessing opportunities.
The annual offering has supported hundreds of ventures through the years. The offerings and pledges given this year to support 40 projects were in excess of $1.6 million. The overflow offering, monies in excess of the $1,269,000 goal, will go to fund the DVD and Train Them Now initiative, a joint effort of the General Conference and ASI that uses lay members to train and equip others to conduct evangelistic meetings using the multiple translations of the New Beginnings DVDs.
For the ninth year ASI's Youth for Jesus program took place prior to convention. Forty-three youth worked at locations in the Louisville area, leading out in Revelation Speaks. Churches hosting the youth were New Albany and Jeffersonville, Indiana; Pewee Valley and Shelbyville churches, and the Magazine Street Church in Kentucky. The Frankfort Church hosted students from Ouachita Hills College. There were a total of 149 decisions for baptism. At the time of the convention, 77 had been baptized with more preparing to take the step.
Michael Ryan, General Conference vice president, talked with several about missions and the DVD program. Literally thousands of people have been touched by the good news of salvation through these endeavors. He said, "Active, committed lay people telling the gospel story have affected the whole world!" ASI is all about people telling the world—and telling them now!
For more information about ASI and the 2008 convention in Tampa, Florida, go to www.asiministries.org.