Over 200 Seventh-day Adventist business owners, professionals and church leaders gathered at the East-Central Africa Division (ECD) headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, for the 2nd Annual ECD Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) Convention February 22-24, 2018. Participants included the presidents, executive secretaries and treasurers from the 11 unions in ECD, as well as division departmental directors and office staff.
The highlight of the event was the adoption of the Columbia Union Conference ASI Chapter Constitution by church leaders and ASI members from the ECD’s 11-country region. This was cause for celebration because it means that for the first time in the ECD, ASI members and leaders would operate the ministry as an official part of the Adventist Church structure, much like in other world divisions.
Led by Emanuel Pelote, president of the Columbia Union ASI Chapter, ECD Union presidents and ASI lay leaders adapted and slightly modified the constitution to meet the contextual needs of the East-Central Africa region. Lay leaders committed to collaborate with church pastors and union administrators to prioritize mission and share the gospel of Jesus. Pelote shared that he was "thrilled that the Columbia Union could play a part in what God is doing to unite the membership with Church administration and pastors in mission as they launch and inaugurate official union ASI chapters within ECD."
The convention was dubbed a huge success as leaders focused on the program theme, “Sharing Christ in the Marketplace,” and presented topics such as Social Media Strategies for Business and Ministries, ASI in the Bible, Ellen White and ASI, Strategies for Excellence as ASI Union Chapters, Serving the Underserved, Strategic Planning for ASI Members and Leaders, Creating a Winning Team, The Mission Power and Purpose of ASI, Strategic Communication and Branding, Crisis Management and much more.
The keynote presenters for the event were Dwain Esmond, associate director of the Ellen G. White Estate based at the General Conference headquarters; G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary of the North American Division; Celeste Ryan-Blyden, vice president for Strategic Communication for the Columbia Union Conference; Emanuel Pelote, president of Columbia Union ASI Chapter; LaTasha Hewitt, communication director of the Allegheny East Conference; and Bryant Smith, communication director of the Allegheny West Conference.
Union presidents, secretaries, and treasurers from the ECD’s 11 unions met with Pelote and Ryan-Blyden, along with the three executive officers of the division to learn how to better support and collaborate with ASI union chapters and unleash lay people for ministry in their respective regions. Pastor Temesgen Bulti, president of the Ethiopia Union Mission, said, "I now understand how our union should to relate to ASI. We support them, empower them and work with them to help further the Adventist mission."
Reflecting on the three-day inspiring event, Ryan-Blyden said, "In the Columbia Union, we want to see every member get involved and experience the Adventist mission. We’ve seen this happen effectively through ASI when church leaders and lay members team up and share their God-given gifts and resources. It’s exciting to see the ECD embrace this movement division-wide.”
Blasious Ruguri, ECD president, said: "I am so excited to see our lay people mobilized and determined to use their gifts, talents, and resources to engage in sharing Christ in the marketplace. As pastors and church leaders work hand in hand with the laity, together we can finish the work and help hasten the second coming of Jesus."
Participants shared that they were mobilized for mission and left feeling more committed to getting involved in sharing the Adventist message of hope and wholeness. ASI was established in 1947 by Adventist healthcare workers and expanded in the 1970's to include business owners, ministry leaders, and other professional lay members.
Philip Baptiste serves as special assistant to the president of the East-Central Africa Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.