President’s Report to the 28th Constituency Session

Arizona Conference

The World for Jesus!

Wonderful things have happened in the Arizona Conference since 1932 when our church work began in a very humble way in Phoenix. During the last four years we have been richly blessed and we give God all the glory. I want to thank you along with our pastors, staff, and officers Tony Anobile, Kent Sharpe and Ed Keyes, for your prayers and support! 

Our theme this session, “The World for Jesus!” reflects a world to win for Christ. This is based, of course, on the first angel’s message of Revelation 14, proclaiming the everlasting gospel to be preached to the whole world, to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

When I came to Arizona four years ago, we were in the midst of a crisis. I remember our treasurer, Keith Heinrich, telling me repeatedly we barely had enough cash flow to make
bi-weekly payroll. I have to admit now that I wondered why on earth the Lord had sent me to Arizona! 

Our percentage of operating capital dipped to about 11 percent. We prayed for wisdom and God blessed! 

We had to deal with some very difficult issues involving personnel, Camp Yavapines, and Thunderbird Academy. The details of these don’t need to be resurrected at this time. 

In January of 2005 we held 17 town hall meetings in a short span of just 15 days.
The purpose of these meetings was two-fold
to listen to our constituents and to cast a vision for finishing the work in Arizona. We received a lot of very positive feedback from our church members. 

Next we partnered with ShareHim and the Quiet Hour for some exciting Global Evangelism projects which literally jump-started our work in Arizona. From 2004 to the present time, Arizona pastors, laymen and youth have preached in Ghana, Kenya, India, Tanzania, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Romania, Nepal, Irian Jaya, South Africa, Costa Rica, Rwanda, Philippines, El Salvador and the Ukraine. It’s important to note that funding for these projects—equipment and all—has come from donations and sources outside our Conference. No Arizona dollars have been invested in our global outreach. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to express appreciation to ShareHim for covering my expenses, and those of my wife Kathy, for every ShareHim trip we’ve participated in with our Arizona members. Reaching the world for Jesus takes united effort, and in the last four years we have really been blessed to be a blessing! 

Thousands have been baptized in these countries as we and other ShareHim participants have preached hundreds of meetings internationally, and these in addition to the hundreds of homeland meetings held right here in Arizona. It is estimated that ten per cent of the baptisms in the world church can be attributed to ShareHim projects.

This Gospel “fire” experienced by our members in lands afar off was imported and transported back home to our wonderful state where enthusiastic pastors and lay members were touched by the sparks and ignited more “fires” in their local church congregations. 

As a result God has blessed Arizona with many new members. In 2004 our membership stood at 13,847. At the end of 2006 we celebrated a church membership of 15,697.

By session time we will be well over 16,000 members—an 18% gain, compared to the Pacific Union growth rate of 1%. And this phenomenal growth is not due to an influx of Adventists moving into Arizona—over the last four years we have seen almost the same number of transfers out/losses due to death, as we have had transfers in. Our baptismal numbers speak for themselves. Annual baptisms for the last three years have almost doubled; baptisms/professions of faith have averaged 944. Praise the Lord!

Another huge blessing is our tithe increase—from $7,641,000 in 2002 to $11,254,000 in 2006. This is a remarkable 47% increase in just four years! For comparison, during this same period the Pacific Union Conference tithe increase was 17.6% and for the North American Division the average was just over 19%. From the depths of our hearts we praise the Lord and we thank you, our constituents, for your faithfulness. Please continue to pray for more income as our tithe per capita, even with the blessings we’ve experienced, remains at the lower end of the scale for the North American Division.

Last year we were blessed with an extremely successful series of meetings held by It Is Written’s Director-Speaker, Shawn Boonstra. Almost every Conference pastor supported the meetings in one way or another, and almost every church was involved. About 500 precious souls were plucked from the kingdom of Satan and added to God’s kingdom. 

This last year we were able to share The Desire of Ages with all our Conference families.  A gift copy of this book was mailed to every Adventist home in Arizona to help our members know Jesus better. 

Arizona is the first conference I’m aware of to have 28 academy students preach an international evangelistic meeting. Our student evangelists had unbelievable life-changing experiences while preaching in the Dominican Republic during their spring break this year.  They preached 18 sermons in two weeks. Five of our own students were baptized, and the spiritual atmosphere at Thunderbird Adventist Academy was transformed thanks to the vision of TAA Principal Barry Warren, TAA Chaplain Mathieu Theoret, Arizona Conference Youth Director Erik VanDenburgh, and Camelback Youth Pastor Benjamin Lundquist—along with their staffs. 

I’m excited about what’s happening at Thunderbird Adventist Academy! During the last four years we have seen a tremendous increase in enrollment from 131 students in 2002−2003, to 156 students for the 2006−2007 school year. Thank you again to the wonderful leadership we have at this academy. We have faced some very difficult challenges and have seen a marvelous transformation at TAA. 

We are also in the process of developing another academy on the west side of Phoenix, Glenview Adventist Academy. With the implementation of some innovative ideas and progressive technology, our students will have opportunities to experience the best in cost-effective “distance learning” taught by Adventist educators on staff at Thunderbird Academy. We can be proud of our Adventist schools and the education they provide—our students average in the 80th percentile or above over their public school peers. I truly believe our schools are the best place for our children to receive a quality Christian education.

This year we witnessed a first-of-its-kind tent evangelistic series, preached by 7th and 8th graders in affluent Scottsdale, Arizona! These meetings not only attracted Union-wide attention, they also drew media interest. The Scottsdale Tribune, a local newspaper, sent two reporters to cover one of the meetings. The reporters were very impressed and printed a very up-beat, in-depth article praising the commitment and enthusiasm of our young Adventist preachers! There were 250 under the dome of our tent for the final meeting, many of them professional people who might not normally attend a venue of this nature.
At meetings end, there were 50 decisions for baptism. 

Our past two camp meetings have been broadcast live over the Internet. I believe this is also a first for the North American Division. At the present time several of our churches (Hispanic and Anglo) are broadcasting their church services live. You may wish to check out our Arizona Conference website at www.azconference.org, recognized as one of the best in the Pacific Union. Camp meeting presentations as well as evangelistic meetings are archived there for your viewing convenience.

Another Arizona Conference first—and a North American Division first according to Youth Director James Black—came in the form of an ambitious project we called X-treme Makeover. Under the leadership of Pastor Benjamin Lundquist and one of our dedicated laymen from Tucson, Sam Ochoa, Arizona youth attending our June 2007 camp meeting transformed an old, dilapidated house into a nice home for a well-deserving woman in Prescott. What an “x-tremely” meaningful service experience this was for our youth—one we plan to repeat!

I’m sure you are familiar with the “4 in 24”—Our Arizona Family Miracle project. I want to thank you for supporting this worthy program. It is already benefiting our schools, churches and ministries. Thousands of dollars are in the process of being distributed for essential needs like text and reference books, computers, lighting and playground equipment for our school-aged children. More than a dozen of our churches have requested and are receiving “4 in 24” funds for purchasing Bibles, chairs, and audio/video equipment, and
for upgrading church facilities. One hundred percent of the funds that you designate for “4 in 24” stay right here in Arizona!

This year we will complete 250 homeland evangelistic meetings in Arizona—another first!  We are experiencing new vision, new excitement and a new atmosphere for finishing the work in Arizona. 

Over the last four years, 17 new groups/companies were planted in the Arizona Conference.  Our pastors and church members have worked very hard. Some of these same pastors and lay people have consistently baptized more than 100 individuals yearly, a remarkable record in North America. This truly is our mission field. 

The last four years we have been blessed to have a “dream team” of a staff at the Arizona Conference Office. Most of our directors were not here four years ago and we thank the Lord for the able leadership He has provided. Our staff recently underwent an evaluation process and, according to Pacific Union Conference President Elder Thomas Mostert, our administrators and directors scored at the high end of the scale, percentage-wise, for the Pacific Union.

Please take time to read the departmental directors’ reports that follow, as well as the reports from all your officers, and you will catch a glimpse of the work that each department accomplishes. Become a bit better acquainted with the plans and goals of your Adventist Book Center and all of the outreaches/ministries that serve the Arizona Conference family including our African-American, Hispanic, Native, Family, Literature, and Youth Ministries; Camp Yavapines; our Communication and Development department; the Community Services, Prison and Disaster Response ministries; your Ministerial/Evangelism and Education/Sabbath School departments; our Religious Liberty and Stewardship/Trust Services ministries—as well as the basic administrative responsibilities carried by our Secretariat and Treasury departments, and by our Vice President’s office.

I must not close without remembering three valiant warriors who went to sleep in Jesus during the past four years:  Elder James Edgecombe, Elder John Leski, and teacher Claudia Sargeant. Their accomplishments and contributions to the Arizona Conference were many and they are sadly missed. One day very soon we will see them again on that glorious resurrection morning!

With all my heart I believe that Jesus is serious about our finishing His work in Arizona with His help. RememberHe said He would return after this gospel of the kingdom was preached in all the world. (Matthew 24:14) God has a plan and Arizona is in His plan!
That plan is to reach the world for Jesus. 

I also believe God has a special plan for each of us. I vividly remember an event that happened when I was just 16 years old—a reminder that He was preserving my life for His service. I was driving to work on a back road from my country home to Oklahoma City one summer morning when suddenly my horn mysteriously honked and the car died.  A short time later a kind man picked me up, and about half a mile further along the road we came upon a terrible accident. An oilfield semi-truck loaded with pipe had just run a stop sign, hitting a lady traveling from the opposite direction on the same road on which I had been driving.  That dear lady lost her life in that accident!

I am convinced God sent His angel to honk my car’s horn and stop the car to preserve my life—because He had a plan for me. 

I am equally convinced that God has a plan for each of our lives. I believe His ultimate goal is for us to share our faith with friends and neighbors through Bible studies and friendship evangelism, and through public evangelism here in Arizona and anywhere in the world He may ask us to go. When this gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world, then Jesus will come.

As I look at world conditions I realize I’ve had enough of living on this old ball of mud.  I want to go Home! Let’s work together to that end!

 
 
    
Duane McKey, President