Growing the Kingdom: 90 Years & Counting
Ninety years ago, at the worst part of the Depression, the General Conference reorganized the work in North America. Financial challenges necessitated a change from twelve unions to eight and 58 conferences to 48. In the Southwestern Union, the result of those changes was the creation of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference on Feb. 23, 1932.
This new conference began with 39 churches, 2,078 members, nine ordained ministers, three licensed ministers, 18 teachers and 11 colporteurs. Not long after the merger, H. C. Hartwell penned the words to “The Song of the Builders.” In that rally song, she penned these words: “We’ll sing a song of unity, of churches far and near. From Arkansas unto the Gulf we sound a note of cheer… We’ll teach and preach and visit more, and train our children, too. As we build, God’s Spirit will attend every book and page of truth we send.”
And God has richly blessed during these past 90 years. In spite of the challenges, sometimes even hardship, the gospel of Jesus has been proclaimed and men, women and children have made decisions for Jesus and become part of the family. Our church schools and Ozark Adventist Academy continue to educate and train our children for not only living today but living for eternity.
Today, our conference has 13,210 members, 114 churches, companies and groups. Our members are faithful. They are actively engaged in sharing the soon return of Jesus! New churches are being planted. Training and mentoring are continuing to take place. New members are being nurtured. They are becoming genuine disciples of Jesus. There is an energy and enthusiasm to share the good news.
During this special year, the conference made special medallions to commemorate the progress in our field. As I was handing a medallion to one individual, they exclaimed they were delighted to be able to celebrate the 90 years. Then they proceeded to share that they probably wouldn’t be alive to celebrate 100 years. I responded that I didn’t want to celebrate 100 years either: I was praying earnestly for Jesus to come sooner than that!
Hartwell says in her last stanza: “We know what Israel ought to do; the times we understand. We’re wide-awake and active, too; a strong aggressive band. Progress, progress, we will see this year; working with a vision broad and clear. Every member building, praying, too, as well, we’ll succeed, you may be sure, results will tell.” Our mission is to go, grow and multiply! Jesus is coming soon!
By Richard C. Dye, Sr., President