ASI Northwest: Fresh Direction, Expanded Vision
You know you’ve arrived as an organization when everyone recognizes you by an acronym. Read NFL, CSI, FBI or NASA in a sentence, and you’re likely to know exactly what’s meant without any further ado. In Adventist circles, of course, we quickly recognize GC, EGW, ADRA and … ASI. But what does ASI really stand for, and what does it do?
ASI's history is rooted in Madison College, an Adventist self-supporting institution established in 1904 near Nashville, Tennessee, by E.A. Sutherland and Percy Magan. As Madison expanded, it began to plant satellite schools and institutions around the country. These self-supporting entities formed the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Self-Supporting Institutions, or ASI, in 1947.
At the time, ASI emphasized educational or health groups, but it later began to include businesses and Adventist entrepreneurs and professionals. To better reflect ASI’s growing diversity, the organization's name was changed to Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries in 1979. An annual convention for the national organization is typically held every summer.
The Northwest chapter for ASI, which covers the territory within the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC), exists to inspire and support lay member efforts in sharing the Adventist message and mission. It also convenes an annual meeting — the next one is coming to Boise, Idaho, April 21–23.
More about the vision for ASI Northwest (ASI NW) was recently shared by three integrally involved leaders: Fred Cornforth, ASI NW vice president for communication and Boise, Idaho-area businessman; James Rafferty, ASI NW president and Light Bearers Ministry co-founder/co-director; and Rick Westermeyer, ASI NW executive vice president and a Portland, Oregon-area physician. We’ve excerpted a few of the questions and answers here. The full interview is available online at gleanernow.com.
Why are you personally involved with the mission of ASI?
RW: A few years ago several lay friends and I started a nonprofit organization to support orphans at a children’s home in Zimbabwe. ASI members have been extremely valuable in helping us reach several objectives for that project. Garwin McNeilus of the ASI-sponsored One-Day Church project shipped us two containers of building materials for a chapel and vocational training buildings and sent some of his builders to help put them up at no cost. Light Bearers Ministry included a stained-glass window for the chapel in a container full of literature to Zimbabwe. We have greatly benefited from the collaboration and networking with ASI.
FC: Being an entrepreneur is, I believe, a type of spiritual gift, something God can really use in the marketplace for His purposes. I want to be part of anything we can do there to fulfill the potential of reaching others. And, I believe we can do more for Him when we work together.
In collaboration with the national ASI organization, what is the unique role for the NW chapter?
FC: This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road, where we can enhance personal relationships on a local level to flesh out the structure of our national efforts.
RW: It also allows more direct contact with Northwest-based lay-run ministries of global impact such as Gospel Outreach, Light Bearers and Caring Hands, just to name a few.
JR: This gives us an opportunity to raise the vision of our general membership. We locate our annual Northwest meetings in different spots throughout the NPUC each year, to allow local laypersons in each area to get a taste for what ASI offers.
What areas of critical growth do you envision as ASI NW moves forward?
FC: We need to increase our connection with a younger age group. We are laying the ground work to work more closely with Walla Walla University and other Northwest schools to raise the vision of our youth and young adults to encourage them to share Jesus in whatever vocation they choose. We’d also love to have a more active presence in regional rally’s and at NPUC-area camp meetings, where we can learn from each other how to more effectively share the good news.
JR: One of our current goals is to provide support to every Northwest ASI ministry actively engaging the world for Christ. In the past some ministries have gone without support while others have received support again and again. We are presently experimenting with a rotation process. Last year we were able to give $5,000 donations to seven ASI ministries, and this year we hope to do the same for seven more ASI NW ministries.
Is ASI membership and involvement limited to members and ministries with a particular view of Adventist beliefs and practices?
RW: Traditionally, many of our members have come from the more conservative side of Adventism. Yet the vast majority have a focus beyond broad labels. They are sincere, dedicated laypeople who want the mission of the church to go forward.
FC: I see ASI eager to bring all hands on deck, to empower and encourage them to reach out to others, to respond to the Lord's call to serve others as He did, always desiring their best good. A spirit of grace and wisdom will guide us to avoid reducing people to mere labels of left, right, liberal or conservative. In my opinion, if we have clarity on our core values and beliefs, diversity in practice becomes a strength. If our focus is on Him, we will find unity in a common mission. This is a necessary area of growth for us, both within ASI NW and in our varied church congregations.
JR: Let’s remember too that ASI is first and foremost a church entity headquartered at the General Conference, and as such it lines up with the specific beliefs of our beloved church — as does each regional chapter, including the Northwest. Within these borders there is lots of wiggle room for diversity, and ASI, like most of our church institutions, wrestles with that diversity. Yet for most ASI members the mission of the church takes precedence over these ongoing challenges.
So events that bring a wide range of members together in service such as Impact Your Health are an important part of ASI’s plan?
RW: Yes, the Impact Your Health Portland event last year, to be repeated this year for Boise just before our Northwest chapter convention in April, has borne this out. ASI and community members joined together to make a major impact for good.
JR: One key way we can represent this unity is through shared support for the various lines of ministry that make up ASI NW. Nobody gets left out. Nobody is marginalized. We need each other, and working together means a stronger, greater impact for reaching our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. Joining ASI means uniting with an organization that receives to give. Together in ministry our God-given talents go further to reach more.
Our ASI NW leaders are eager to meet as many new faces at this year’s convention as possible. Fred Cornforth says, “The testimonies each night at both the regional and national events are nothing short of amazing — a dramatic demonstration of how God is working in our communities and around the world. Old and new members will be inspired.” The ASI Northwest Spring Conference is April 21–23 at the Grove Inn in Boise, Idaho. More information on registration is readily available online at asinw.netasi.org.
“Come join us,” says Cornforth. “We will all put our heads together and prayerfully determine what God wants this organization to be and where He wants us to go in the months ahead.”