At the Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) annual international convention, more than 1,800 gathered to both celebrate 70 years of the ministry-minded organization and motivate members to find ways to help “finish the work.”
The convention was themed “Called. Chosen. Committed.” It took place in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 2-5, 2017, while the Fruition Lab Conference ran concurrently from Aug. 2-4.
“We’ve been called. We’ve been chosen. [Now] we’re focusing on the committed part,” says Steve Dickman, ASI president. “The decision for commitment is a personal choice. We are trying to emphasize that it’s so important that we, as laypeople, commit ourselves entirely to help finish the work of spreading the gospel.”
During the ASI convention, attendees interacted with other ministry-focused individuals at approximately 225 exhibit booths. And more than 25 daily seminars, worship services, and plenary sessions in total served as opportunities to learn, share, and grow.
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“The ASI convention is a great opportunity for networking, fellowshipping, and showcasing ministry [efforts],” says Dickman. “You can walk down the exhibit hall booths and see the amazing ministries that are going on with lay people. … We want every lay business person and professional involved in supporting the mission of the church.”
Special programming at this year’s convention included a Total Member Involvement session on Aug. 4 and the Sabbath afternoon “ASI Presents,” a 70th anniversary program that explored ASI’s beginnings, demonstrated how ASI’s vision and mission have expanded around the world, and encouraged members to continue (and renew) efforts to help draw others to Jesus and His church.
This message resonates with Jason Fournier, director of Kibidula Farm Institute in Tanzania, who says he enjoys “meeting lots of people and discussing how to move forward on different projects.” And while the testimonies and seminars are inspiring, Fournier says that for him, “It’s all about encouraging each other on how to hasten Jesus’ coming. Let’s not have another 70 years. Let’s finish this thing."
A People Led
The majority in attendance came from locations inside North America. But church members working in ministries and businesses in more than 30 countries, including Uganda, Brazil, Mongolia, Austria, Germany, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia, also attended. At the convention, many shared their stories and their passion.
"What always amazes me at ASI is hearing the incredible stories of what God is doing through our Adventist laypeople and ministries around the world. God is really at work in our generation,” says Kyle Allen, ASI secretary/treasurer. “As this was our 70th anniversary, we also had a special focus on the history of how God has led ASI and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The stories of commitment and sacrifice of those who have gone before us have inspired and challenged me to live a more committed life."
Emanuel Pelote, president of the Columbia Union Conference ASI chapter, wasn’t expecting much when he first came to an ASI convention about seven years ago. But his interactions with those he met changed his outlook on the event as well as his own dedication to mission work. Pelote hasn’t missed a convention since.
“I realized I could do more,” he says. “And I realized that I need to be around people like this. I need to be reminded that the Spirit is speaking and He will enable and empower me to do more.”
George Cartwright, from Atlanta, Georgia, is managing director of On the Brink Media Group. He heard about ASI at the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas. This year he says the Holy Spirit prompted him to check out the 2017 convention. Cartwight was glad he listened.
“This [event] was really good, really helpful. The seminars [I attended] were helpful, but what was most helpful was that it was all Christ-centered,” he says. “It helped me understand better how others are, in their business, focusing on the mission of the church, ... and how we can incorporate that in our everyday marketplace.” For Cartwright, who feels that ASI is for people from all walks of life, the entire event “just all worked together to make the experience at ASI wonderful.”
Mark A. Finley, an evangelist and a former vice president of the General Conference, has attended ASI conventions for 30 years, recognizing value in it as a pastor. He also finds it interesting that the 70th anniversary and the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation coincide.
“There was this new, explosive idea that burst upon the scene,” he says. “It wasn’t just the priest that was the dispenser of God’s grace. Every layperson was an ambassador for Christ. Every layperson was a light for the world. Every layperson a witness for Jesus. That was revolutionary in the Reformation time and frankly, it is revolutionary today. Witnessing is the call of every believer.”
Finely adds, “ASI this year has focused particularly on businesspeople and laypeople, institutions and supporting institutions using their resources to be powerful witnesses for Jesus in this generation.”
Esther Alva, a physician who runs Medical Partners with her physician husband, says that she treasures the activities at the ASI convention. “I especially like the prayer [time]. ASI has been worshipful and I really like that.”
A challenge was issued to participants to hand out 20 GLOW tracts and pray with others. “I prayed with five non-attendees who are here as well as five attendees. People were impressed that someone would come to pray with a stranger. I even prayed with the person who was directing the line in the cafeteria. … The spirit of mission is here.”
Call to Commitment
The event concluded with vespers on Aug. 5 and those gathered were encouraged to go back to their businesses, their ministries, following this advice, the title of that evening’s program: “No Applications, Only Commitments.”
Pelote says, “It is urgent, wherever God has placed you, right now He wants to use you. There is so much to do and so little time.”
“What set apart ASI this year was not only the focus on God’s leading in the 70 years of our history,” says Allen. “That focuses us for the mission still ahead. At ASI, we were reminded that only as we join together, laypeople and pastors and church workers, will we finish the work God has given us to do.”
 The Reformation began on Oct. 31, 1517, in Wittenberg, Germany, when Martin Luther, a priest, sent his Ninety-Five Theses to the Archbishop of Mainz. Luther is given credit for starting the Protestant Reformation.