Upper Columbia Hosts New Member Open House

More than 100 new Adventist members attended the annual New Member Day open house at the Upper Columbia Conference office on Nov. 9. This event gives new members a better understanding of the church organization and its methods of accomplishing its work.

The event includes a tour of each department in the conference office, a presentation by Max Torkelsen, conference president, and a video that tells about the work of the church and how it is organized.

The most exciting part of the event, though, is the testimonial time during which some of the new members shared their stories about how they became Adventists.

Tom Hancock shared how he became an Adventist through a friendship with his employee. As the manager of a Denny’s restaurant, he had worked with a number of different kinds of people, but when he hired Amy Criswell as a waitress, he quickly realized that she was different.

“I’ve had religious people work for me before,” said Hancock, “but I saw something different in Amy. I could tell she was genuine and really lived what she believed.” During breaks Hancock and Criswell would sometimes talk about the Bible and, as their friendship developed, Criswell invited Hancock to join her Bible study. “I kept making excuses about how a manager shouldn’t get involved in stuff like that with employees,” said Hancock, “but one day when I found out she was quitting for another job I decided I’d better hurry up and take her up on the offer for Bible studies.” From there Hancock got involved with the Spokane (Wash.) Countryside Church and was baptized just one day before the New Member Day event.

It also took a friendship to bring new member Eileen Maloney into the church as well. She had been watching 3ABN for a number of months and was convinced of many Adventist beliefs, but it wasn’t until she met Pastor Shupe that she started attending church and decided to be baptized.

“I was watching 3ABN and they were broadcasting some meetings from Richland where I live,” said Maloney. “At the end of one of the sermons they invited people from the television audience to come to the auditorium. So I did, and that’s were I met Pastor Shupe. He was one of the prayer counselors, and he prayed with me as I gave my heart to Jesus that day.”

Tom and Barbara Bales became Adventists through a friendship with another pastor, Larry Mays. Tom was the pastor of the Bethel Community Church in Sunnyside, Wash. He and Mays met at a barbershop and began discussing the Bible. Their friendship grew, but they “agreed to disagree” about certain points of theology. When Tom decided to do a series of sermons for his church about the 10 commandments, he asked Larry if he could borrow some of his sermon materials.

“With Larry’s stuff and some of my own research I became convinced about the Sabbath,” said Bales. “I never intended to leave the Bethel church. I wanted to help them become Sabbathkeepers, too.”

Some of Bales' church members did decide to keep the Sabbath, but eventually he had to resign from leadership of the Bethel church. “My wife and I were attending a series of meetings by Lyle Albrecht at Larry’s church when I decided to resign,” said Bales. “But I offered to stay on until they could get another pastor. So for the next several months we were attending the Adventist church on Sabbath, and then I’d preach at the Bethel church on Sunday.”

There were many different stories about how the new members became Adventists, but one thing they all had in common was that someone in the church became their friend. “It’s true that only God can convert a human soul,” said Torkelsen, “but I believe he likes to use people and relationships as His instruments to make it happen.”

January 01, 2004 / Upper Columbia Conference