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Launching a Dream: Community Engagement in the Oregon Conference

Launching a Dream: Community Engagement in the Oregon Conference

I had made the long drive to Walla Walla University from Canada to visit my daughter. She was in her third year there, and my wife and I had not yet made the trip south to visit her at the during the annual WWU Parent Weekend. I had come a long way from Ontario, Canada and realized that I was only a four-hour drive from the Oregon Conference office, where I had recently been invited to become the new director of Community Engagement, Adventist Community Services, and Disaster Response. I wouldn’t start at the conference until January 1, but since I had never stepped foot on the property, I was curious to see what awaited me.

It was a lovely October day when I pulled my car into the parking lot. My GPS told me that I had arrived at 19800 Oatfield Road in Gladstone, Oregon. As I slowly climbed out of my car, I looked around. “This place is amazing”, I thought to myself. I didn’t know a soul and I was also curious about the people I would be working with. I was immediately impressed by the vast, park-like property, seemingly right in the middle of a small city. I couldn’t get over the fact that this would be my new home away from home. I was even more impressed by the quality of people I would be working with soon.

A Little Background
Born in Richmond, British Columbia into a quasi-Adventist family, I was blessed to spend all my first 12 years of schooling at Fraser Valley Adventist Academy in Aldergrove, B.C. After high school graduation, I found myself, for my first year of post-secondary education, at Southeast Asia Union College in Singapore. I finished up the last three years at Canadian University College (now Burman University) and for 22 years, I pastored in Oregon, British Columbia, Washington and Idaho. As the pandemic struck in March of 2020, I was called to Oshawa, Ontario to become creative director for the It Is Written Canada telecast ministry. Now I was beginning a new phase of ministry in the Oregon Conference.

What Might Community Engagement Look Like in the OC
We have had Adventist Community Services (ACS) and Disaster Response (DR) departments in conferences throughout the NAD for many years. But President Dan Linrud wanted something more for this particular position. An intentional focus on mentoring pastors and inspiring leaders and congregations to become more engaged with their communities was the goal. Because of my 10 years of experience running several unique ministries of compassion at Church in the Valley in Canada, it made me a good match for inspiring positive change in the Northwest. Since coming to this conference, my goal has been to meet pastors and church members and offer training and support. It’s my vision and dream to see our churches turnaround from sleeping and irrelevant to be welcoming places for the people around us. We need to identify our community’s societal issues and then do something about it! When a church is engaged in its community, I’ve seen what kind of a change can happen to its members. Suddenly there is purpose and an outward focus. My dream is that more of our churches will become less like private Adventist clubs and more inviting to everyone. When our churches start catching the vision for community engagement, it will spark a movement across the entire North American Division.

Kindness and Care with No Strings Attached
I remember the day vividly when I visited an assisted living center in Abbotsford, British Columbia. I was there to visit Sandy Murphy who was there for rehabilitation. Her feet had contracted a horrible disease and had to be amputated. Sandy and her husband Ken were chosen by our local church to have their home completely renovated for free by the Extreme Home Repair team. The plan was to make the house accessible for her since she would be confined to a wheelchair. We soon discovered they had already been through a lot of heartache. Their son had been incarcerated for impaired driving, and while in prison, was killed in a fight.

Through one of our Acts of Kindness programs (Extreme Home Repair), we were trying to bring hope to this family, that has been knocked down time and time again. As I visited with Sandy, I found out that they did not have a church they attended regularly. A bit later in our conversation she said, “Well, maybe I’ll come to your church one day.” I told her that her house was a gift with no strings attached. “We don’t require you to come to our church because we are doing this.” I said. “I don’t want you to feel that we are pushing anything on you.” I really loved what Sandy said next. She looked at me and said, “All I have ever felt from you, Lorne and the team… is love.” That statement impacted me. This is why we work so hard at community engagement projects. Because we want people to sense the love of Jesus through what we do. We participate in Outrageous Generosity because that’s what Jesus would do. This is our motivation.

It's great to back here. I have been in Oregon before, many years ago, but I had forgotten what an awesome place this is. What makes it even more awesome, is the people. I am really looking forward to connecting with all of the pastors, leaders and congregations of the Oregon Conference. I am also looking forward to what God will do in our future together. I’m praying for us to love our communities more and see what we can do to take community engagement to the next level in Oregon and Southwest Washington!

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