The Gift of Life

June 11, 2024

Note from the Editor: The following is the fourth in our 2024 series featuring a president from within the Southwestern Union territory as they explore one Adventist fundamental belief and how it has affected their life, faith and ministry.

When what should have been a straightforward procedure went drastically wrong, Richard Dye’s life abruptly hung in the balance. Many health concerns culminated in a serious situation. His kidneys were failing, and in the process of putting in a port, an artery in his neck was stabbed, causing severe bleeding. He would need to be revived four times before being stabilized. 

Meanwhile, other complications, sepsis and a month-long coma ensued. When he awoke, he faced a long recovery, relearning to walk and grappling with the physical and spiritual implications of his near-death experience. Two decades later, as president of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference, Dye reflects on this event through the lens of his Adventist beliefs, which underscore profound gratitude for life, hope in life after death and the promise of the resurrection.

Dye was born into a ministerial family with his father and grandfather working as pastors for the church, and he was surrounded by faith from an early age. Yet, he says he questioned his path during his teenage years. His journey wasn’t straightforward; it involved wrestling with the call to ministry—a calling he ultimately embraced after recognizing it as not merely a job but a divine appointment. “Ministry is a calling,” he says. “Trying to run away from God’s calling doesn’t work well.”

Following his recovery, Dye rededicated himself wholeheartedly to the ministry, channeling his energy and faith into his pastoral duties. Over the years, he served in various capacities in the Mid-America and Southwestern Union, influencing communities with his leadership and spiritual guidance. His journey from pastor to conference and union leadership roles culminated in his election to lead the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference in 2018. In this role, Dye has focused on encouraging spiritual growth, community engagement and mission-driven initiatives, reflecting his vision of a church actively engaged in fulfilling its divine mandate. “I believe God has a vision for every church to make a difference in that community, and I believe it’s the pastor’s and leaders’ role to find out what that mission is,” he says.

His experiences, including his brush with death, continue to inform his compassionate approach to leadership, emphasizing the Adventist message of hope and resurrection. He remains convicted of the Adventist belief that death is a sleep-like state until the resurrection. This is a doctrine he says offers comfort and hope amidst the often-painful realities of life and death. In a conversation he had after his recovery with his wife’s employer, a psychiatrist who was curious about his near-death experience, she inquired if he had seen bright lights or had out-of-body experiences. Dye’s response was grounded firmly in his experience, which confirmed his belief in the words of Ecclesiastes; he explained that he experienced nothing. “It’s just as the Bible says—you close your eyes and know nothing until your eyes open again,” he told her.

Dye’s intimate encounter with death shaped his life and ministry, creating a sense of urgency in sharing that our focus isn’t death—it’s the gift of life. “It isn’t just about what happens after we die; it’s about how we live our lives today, with the assurance of God’s ultimate justice and love.”

While he focuses his efforts on utilizing the gift of his life and encouraging others to do the same, he’s also reassured in the hope of resurrection. He thinks of close family members who have died, of biblical heroes he’d like to meet, but he also thinks of people he’s met in passing, of the “divine appointments” he’s had.

He recalls a flight he was on one evening, pleased to have a sparsely populated plane with space to relax, and remembers feeling disappointed when several people chose to sit near him. Instead of a peaceful rest, he found himself engaging with fellow passengers—a distressed couple, both of whom were Pentecostal pastors, and a curious woman. The woman, intrigued by Dye’s Bible, initiated a conversation about Christianity that led her to commit her life to Christ that very night.

After Dye shared truths from the Bible and prayed with the woman, the nearby couple turned to him and shared that they were feeling very low. In fact, they were reeling from a visit they’d had with an oncologist, who’d given them the unfortunate news of the wife’s terminal cancer diagnosis. She was given three to four weeks to live. Together, the group of four shared scriptures and prayers, comforting each other and worshiping God for the duration of the flight. Though they parted at the end of the flight, Dye never forgot those individuals.

“I’m looking forward, frankly, to the resurrection, the coming of Jesus, because I believe in my heart of hearts that those three individuals are going to be there. I’d really like to introduce them to my wife and my family that I’ve told them about for a long, long time.”

When Dye thinks of death and resurrection, he says that we should not be fearful; we have reason to hope and should be encouraged to embrace the comfort and certainty of God’s promises and look forward to the joyous reunion that awaits. “When we talk about death and resurrection, it might seem hard to see hope. But that hope is what keeps us going, knowing that the next waking moment for those who have passed in Christ will be to see Jesus at His coming.”


By Jessica L. Lozano. Lozano is a writer and consultant from Northwest Arkansas. Photos by Debbie Upson, Ozark Adventist Academy Digital Media. Richard Dye is the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference President. He lives in Waskom, Tex. with his wife, LaVonne. They are parents to two adult sons, Richard and Steven.