ASI Draws Business- and Ministry-minded People

October 01, 2004 | Celeste Ryan

Barbara Taylor believes in doing good business. She also believes in sharing her faith. Hence, this Copper Mountain, Colorado, Adventist has found a way to do both. “We not only take care of work, we go out as Christians and share Christ,” she recently told a newspaper reporter in Cincinnati, Ohio. The link to a religious Web site printed on the back of her business card sometimes opens the door for witnessing.

Taylor, the president of Between U-N-Me Inc., a men’s sportswear wholesale company, was one of nearly 2,000 people who attended the 57th Annual Adventist-laymen’s Service and Industries (ASI) Convention in August, where more than $2.33 million was collected in offerings to help fund the projects and ministries of 43 organizations.

Attendees to the convention, who come from all walks of life and parts of North America and beyond, and who represent for-profit and non-profit organizations, have two things in common—they’re business- and ministry-minded Adventists.

Mark Black, a building contractor from Seattle, Washington, looks for any opportunity to witness—carrying his Bible on plane trips, displaying religious books in his office and offering prayer at business lunches. “Not including sending e-mail Bible studies, I give about three to four Bible studies a day,” he says.

Todd Rhoades, the 23-year-old owner of T & T Masonry in Chestertown, Maryland, is a new ASI member who, while still growing in his personal faith, is already finding ways to minister to the needs of others. He volunteers with recovering alcoholics and mentally impaired patients and is working with a group of students to start a public campus ministry at the University of Maryland.

John Chung, a dermatologist from Dalton, Georgia, began giving after-hours Bible studies to his patients several years ago. He now has 20–50 people studying each week.

The enthusiasm of these active members, who seek opportunities to minister while doing business, is a common trait of ASI members—very likely what the founders of the association envisioned when they established the organization with the motto “Sharing Christ in the Marketplace.”

It was 57 years ago that representatives of self-supporting ministries gathered in Cincinnati with Adventist leaders to form an organization that would promote missionary enterprises. From the beginning, the annual convention and mission work were critical objectives.

In 1970, the first mission offering, which totaled $2,017, added a new dimension to the organization. The money went to help a medical clinic, college and ministry with financial needs. The offerings grew slowly until Tom Zapara and Harold Lance challenged fellow members to do better.

Members answered the call, giving $80,000 in 1981. In 1999, a high point of more than $4.5 million was collected and used to support mission work around the world. ASI continues to grow and now has nearly 1,000 members with businesses, like Taylor, Black, Rhoades, and Chung, and ministries like Right Arm of Love Ministries, a health outreach founded by Lela and Chris Lewis of Avondale, Arizona; Native American Ministries, operated by Edward and Cheryl Dunn of Westbank, British Columbia; Life Line to Africa Inc., run by Peter Carstens of Jefferson Valley, New York; and Quiet Moments, an online radio program operated from Ypsilanti, Michigan, by ASI president Debbie Young and her husband, Ray.

Their grassroots association continues to grow and thrive. Doreen Schmidt, of the Eastlex Machine Corporation in Lexington, Kentucky, and ASI vice president for recruitment, says that more than 120 new members joined during the last year.

As August rolled around, those members—new and old—left their homes, schools, jobs, ministries and businesses and came to the convention to network at 275 exhibit booths and over vegetarian and vegan meals. They came to learn through workshops on witnessing, giving Bible studies, customer service and health outreach. They came to hear numerous testimonies of how fellow lay members—young and old—have brought people to Christ and how those receiving funds have furthered the gospel. And they came to worship and be inspired by keynote speakers who, following this year’s theme, called them to realize it’s really “Christ’s Power…Our Hands” that make the difference.

The Sabbath speaker, Shawn Boonstra of It is Written, encouraged attendees to be ready for a divine appointment to witness for God. “You can’t believe in Bible prophecy without believing that God has put you in His schedule as He moves with certainty towards the second coming,” he preached.

While the adults were inspired by speakers and testimonies, the youth were not to be left behind. Several hundred from tiny tots to young adults accompanied their parents and enjoyed their own programs and evangelistic activities. Sixty earliteens canvassed the city, selling more than $2,000 in magabooks while 100 teens conducted a free health expo for city residents.

Columbia Union chapter president Denise Thomas-Ellis says that attending ASI really compels youth to participate in Christ’s work. She points out 21-year-old Rachel Hyman of Atlanta, Georgia, who just finished a summer as a literature evangelist for Georgia-Cumberland Conference. Now she intends to become a full-time Bible worker. “I want to help people who are looking for truth understand the Bible and God’s love,” she says, much to the delight of Thomas-Ellis and other ASI leaders.

“Thank you for being committed to your youth and giving them the opportunity of sharing Jesus Christ with the hearts and homes of Cincinnati,” said Chester Clark III, an academy teacher from Arkansas. Clark is ASI’s vice president for youth evangelism and coordinator of the ASI-funded Youth for Jesus evangelism effort recently conducted in Cincinnati. “It’s truly amazing to see God using young people,” he told the audience while giving a project report. Clark and his team of 28 reported that during the past year, they had reached out to 400,000 people and invited them to take Bible studies and attend an evangelism series preached by teens as young as 15. To date, evangelistic series were conducted in seven churches, 90 people were baptized, and 40 more are studying.

At the close of the weekend, when the reports from youth, members in action, exhibitors and evangelists had ended, Young challenged members to take their experience home. “Walk away with the inspiration and motivation to share Christ in your marketplace,” she said.

Next year’s ASI convention will be held August 3–6 in Sacramento, California.