• Connecting people to an abundant life with Jesus Christ and preparing them for His return

Prison Ministries

Ministering To The Least of These

Ministering To The Least of These 2002 1125 Ken Miller

Embracing its commitment to being community-relevant, the Oakland Market Street Church recently hosted an impactful Prison Ministry Sabbath featuring Anthony Lewis, a pastor from Florida.

Lewis shared his journey from his role as an SDA conference conference departmental director to a decade-long prison term. During his incarceration, Lewis underwent a transformative shift. Mundane Sabbath School lessons became precious moments of spiritual connection, and he longed for visits, religious services, materials, and interaction. This was a great contrast to his former indifference.

His testimony underscores the importance of extending outreach to marginalized communities like those within the prison system. The NCC Prison Ministry Department seeks individuals who are passionate about serving this overlooked community. It offers opportunities for involvement, such as letter writing, supporting local families, and ministering within correctional facilities.

If you are interested in serving this community or are already involved in a prison ministry, please email the team here.

Featured in Northern Lights, March 28, 2024
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Welding A Solid Community Outreach

Welding A Solid Community Outreach 2000 1125 Ken Miller

Orangevale member Rob Purvis is an expert in welding. Collectively, with several other volunteer welding instructors, he teaches students this high-demand vocation. Not just the physical expertise of laying a bead of molten metal connecting two objects but the math, physics, and accuracy employers will demand.

Reignite Hope is a welding training school that Purvis was inspired to start in a pristine fifty-three foot semi-trailer temporarily parked in the Rancho Cordova church’s parking lot.

Its purpose is two-fold: To provide a vocation to those seeking to better their lives and to share Jesus’s love. Blake Jones, Orangevale pastor, exclaimed, “I love this ministry! It gives people a practical skill whereby they can make a living. And we also bring the gospel and our hope in Christ to them. We’re seeing God use this to touch hearts and lives.”

Students are a mix of individuals wanting to retrain from other careers, laborers, unhoused, or re-entering society from incarceration. Placement services, word of mouth, and even probation officers forward candidates to the program, and the training is free of charge to the student. After training and graduation, a newly certified welder can walk into a business and professionally weld.

This outreach takes a missional approach, and the participation of the Orangevale and Rancho Cordova churches is integral to the program. Besides providing a location to park the rig, they provide a meeting room, and church members help with meals, which the students greatly appreciate. They also give bible studies, write resumes, and other helpful services.

Debbie Purvis, Orangevale member and co-director, stated, “We currently have sixteen students in the program, and the Holy Spirit has been moving, convicting hearts, with several students deciding to follow Christ!”

Kietrich Germany, district pastor of Rancho Cordova and Stockton Mayfair churches, commented, “I am so overjoyed to have this outreach in our parking lot to serve our community in such a practical way. This type of help can be truly life-transforming. There is nothing quite like the self-dignity supplied by being gainfully employed. I truly believe this kind of ministry causes Jesus to smile.”

Featured in Northern Lights, November 30, 2023
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NCCSDA.com Wins Prestigious ADDY Award

NCCSDA.com Wins Prestigious ADDY Award 2000 1125 Ken Miller

Part of the NCC’s path to organizational health is to effectively inform, educate, and tell the stories of our churches, schools, and ministries. To do this, a new website was launched in 2020.

The COVID pandemic was a catalyst that accelerated the need for online methods for staying current with news and events. The NCC website was no exception, and its professional look, functionality, and information were revamped with a new look.

Subsequently, the site was entered into the 2022 American Advertising Awards competition, winning an impressive Silver Award. Terrill Thomas, web designer and president of T13 Media, said of the project and award, “It was gratifying to see Christian content, graphics, and web design be recognized for excellence by a secular professional organization.”

The website is constantly updated with important conference information, including employment opportunities, education scholarships, events, and news.

Most recently, the communication and development department has posted an incredible help guide for creating a culture of stewardship in your church. You can visit the website here.

Featured in Northern Lights, July 6, 2023
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Conference Advance Offering- What Does it Mean?

Conference Advance Offering- What Does it Mean? 1200 675 Ken Miller

The name of this offering category is confusing and lacks a definition. To be transparent and good stewards of your gifts, the purpose is to spread the gospel in our territory.

When you give, with the power of the Holy Spirit, the ministries supported can better connect people to an abundant life in Jesus and prepare them for the Second Coming.

Moreover, Conference Advance gives you the opportunity to support various ministries with one gift.

This week’s offering will support the following five ministries:

  1. Leoni Meadows receives 85% to support camp operations.
  2. With its various projects, Urban Ministries (6%) is making a positive impact and connecting people to Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Education (3%) teaches our youngest members and non-members and sets them up to experience abundant life in Jesus.
  4. Our Church Growth and Evangelism Department (3%) is increasing the number of people exposed to the Gospel truth and attracted to our churches and schools.
  5. The Native American Ministry (3%) is busy serving and reaching this unique population with various projects.

You can return your offering by clicking here, or you can give directly at the offering call on Sabbath.

Featured in Northern Lights, April 20, 2023

Caring For The Forgotten Behind Bars

Caring For The Forgotten Behind Bars 1997 955 Ken Miller

April 1- The Prison Ministries Department sponsored a training seminar for those that serve men and women behind bars. Thirty-four people attended and learned how to be more effective in their ministry from speaker Daniel McManus, an ex-convict and president of the Alliance of Prison Ministry Organizations and Affiliates.

Rudy Peters, prison ministries director, stated, “We are dedicated to the support of our members involved in this important ministry. We are creating a program named The Prison Ministry Federation that will provide a framework that assists volunteers, pastors, and churches in their prison work.”

Peters concluded, “Members that serve in prison ministry are contagiously kind and passionate about caring for the forgotten. Many have been inside those same walls. We want to ensure they have all the training and tools needed for this important work.”

Featured in Northern Lights, April 13, 2023

Journeys Of Pain, Joy, Service, and Excellence- Our Ten Women Pastors

Journeys Of Pain, Joy, Service, and Excellence- Our Ten Women Pastors 2062 1125 Ken Miller

By Laurie Trujillo

These ten women are making history and playing a vital role in connecting people to an abundant life in Jesus and preparing them for the Second Coming. We wish to recognize and celebrate their critical role in the Northern California Conference serving as pastors or ordained ministers. Sonia Cartwright is in the process of earning her Master of Divinity from Andrews University.

What is your favorite Bible verse?

They come from all walks of life but share a common and inspirational journey that centers on God. They shared some of their journey with us, opening my eyes to what it takes to be a female pastor. Here are some excerpts:

“What I strive for in life and ministry is stated in 1 John 4:12-13, ‘No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.'”

“I love Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ God has often used this to quiet my heart when things are tense. It reminds me that God hears and cares for me and that His peace transcends understanding.'”

“Proverbs 3:5-6, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ This is the formula to success in life, and it provides the answer when you don’t know what to do.”

What was your journey like? What challenges did you overcome?

One pastor stated, “All the pastors I knew were male, and I did not initially think women could be pastors. I did not question the system. I simply accepted it.” Although this pastor felt a call to serve and was given the talent to minister, it took a person she respected and admired to nudge her into her calling.

Another recalled, “I remember God extending the invitation to serve my sophomore year in college, but it took me years to answer the call.” She had to escape her “selfish perspective of thinking that I had to be perfect to be a pastor.”

Not only did these pastors have to overcome personal challenges, but they also had to face public pressure not to answer the call. They were bullied, called names, and laughed at when people found out they wanted to be a pastor.

One of our pastors explains the experience well, “It was hard getting past some of the comments people made discouraging me as a woman going into ministry. Ultimately, I had to look to Jesus and stay focused on him. Jesus is the One that has kept me standing in ministry.”

What is different about being a female pastor/leader vs. a male pastor/leader? Advantages? Disadvantages?

One pastor clearly explains, “There are, unfortunately, many issues that come up. In addition to the struggles of maintaining a successful mentor relationship with male colleagues, I have been stalked and told that specific dress colors make it difficult to look at me while preaching.”

Another pastor wrote, “I think being a female pastor is difficult because many leadership skills needed are considered ‘not feminine.’ For example, some members are uncomfortable with my decisions because they feel they are not lady-like.”

However, our women pastors feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. One pastor wrote, “In my experience, I can meet with women my male colleagues feel uncomfortable with.” Another describes, “There are church members who feel more comfortable opening up to a woman than a man, and so I hear stories that would have never been told otherwise.”

All our pastors agree that they get an overwhelming sense of joy when a person connects to Jesus and begins living an abundant life. They enjoy walking alongside individuals and families, learning their stories, and ministering to their needs.

If a young girl wants to be a pastor and leader in ministry, what advice would you give her?

“The same advice I received, ‘If there is anything else you want to do…do that.’ You won’t make it if you don’t believe you are called to minister. If you answer the call, practice self-care and connect with a mentor. Learn to lovingly say no, invest in your friends and family, and keep up with your hobbies, exercise, and take vacations!”

“Fully surrender your heart to God first. Let God hold and protect it. Your heart will break if God isn’t your priority in the tough moments that will surely come. Likewise, your heart will get prideful in the good moments if you aren’t focused on God.”

“As a woman going into ministry, I would double down on your identity in Christ. We, as women, struggle with our identity. As a blossoming leader, many people will try to shape you into what they think a woman leader should be. But when you are fully aware of who you are, in Christ, you can embrace your calling and not be swayed by other people’s thoughts and opinions.”

“Learn to recognize God’s voice. Remember, God is with you always and has a purpose for you. You are a daughter of God first and foremost, and never lose that dignity.”

Wrap Up

Women pastors have made history and continue to shape our story in the Northern California Conference. They have been called into ministry, and God has gone out before them. God has broken down obstacles so that they can be more effective in spreading the gospel. Their gender is an asset to connect with those who perhaps would have gone untouched. And their journey is inspiring.

Let’s celebrate all our pastors, especially recognizing and appreciating those women God calls to serve and lead!

Featured in Northern Lights, April 13, 2023

Willie Johnson Retires

Willie Johnson Retires 1382 1036 Julie Lorenz

After sharing the gospel for three decades, Willie Johnson Jr. officially retired at the end of December. He had served in the NCC office since 2016, leading four departments—African American ministries, urban ministries, men’s ministries, and prison ministries.
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“We have truly been blessed by Elder Johnson’s ministry—first as a pastor and then as a director and coordinator,” said President Marc Woodson. “He has engaged his calling with wisdom, truth, and a sincere love for people.”
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Johnson grew up in Louisiana and served in the Air Force. He was married with three children and working as a combustion safety technician in New Orleans when his life changed. “One Sunday morning, I fell on my knees and asked God for someone to guide me to Him,” he said.
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Two weeks later, the head elder of a nearby Adventist church knocked on his door and asked if he wanted Bible studies. Eight months later, Johnson and his wife, Bernadette, were baptized together.
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Johnson became involved in his local church—serving as a colporteur and head elder—but he felt God’s call to full-time ministry. Three years after his baptism, he enrolled at Southwestern Adventist College (now University). During his time there, he was a student pastor at several churches.
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After graduation, the Southwest Region Conference gave him 100 sets of Bible studies and challenged him to start a church. After much prayer and hard work, he planted two churches in Oklahoma. He was later called to pastor two churches in the Oklahoma Conference, where he was ordained in 1999.
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In 2004, he was called to the NCC, where he served as pastor of the Oakland Elmhurst church and the Fairfield Community church before taking on his many roles in the NCC office. “Willie is the consummate pastor, possessing superb skills to be an excellent pastoral leader,” said Jim Lorenz, ministerial director.
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Although officially retired, Johnson does not intend to abandon his calling. “I plan to spend the rest of my life doing what brought me into the Church–giving Bible studies, helping churches do evangelism, and preaching,” he said.

He will be missed by his colleagues!
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“Pastor Willie Johnson is a Christian who loves the Lord Jesus Christ and his wife and family,” said Edwin Brown, senior pastor of the Oakland Market Street church. “He goes out of his way to help and serve the Church and community in any way possible to lead people to Christ. He is an amazing friend and colleague. My wife, Paula, and I pray that God will richly bless him and Bernadette.”
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“Elder Johnson shares wisdom and peace through his kind words,” said Daniel Yim, pastor of the SDA Abundant Life/Sebastopol district. “His service is consistent and faithful. We are all blessed to know such a wonderful Christian who loves the Lord so much!”
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“In the nearly five years I’ve worked as Elder Willie Johnson’s administrative assistant, I’ve appreciated his great passion for the ministries he had charge over,” said Yolanda Frazier, administrative assistant in multiple departments. “He loves serving the people of God, connecting people to Jesus, and encouraging people for His Kingdom. Elder Johnson is fueled by these! He always says, ‘People don’t care what you know, ‘til they know that you care.’ Also, he often quotes Micah 6:8: ‘He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’ This is how he has been a great and effective leader at the NCC. I’m sad to see him retire and will truly miss working with him.”

NCC Prison Ministry Day at Sacramento Central Church

NCC Prison Ministry Day at Sacramento Central Church 720 540 Julie Lorenz

On Sabbath, Oct. 23, the Sacramento Central church hosted NCC Prison Ministry Day, an in-person and online event providing inspiration and training. In addition to the morning sermon by Associate Pastor Mike Thompson, some highlights of the day included:

Weimar Campus company member Darren Greenfield gave a presentation about the ongoing efforts of Blade of Hope ministry to build a transitional home for released inmates in the Sacramento area.

Prison Ministries Director Willie Johnson presented Carmen and Victor Beale, West Sacramento church members, with the NCC Prison Ministry Volunteer Award for their many years of outstanding service in ministry and training (pictured).

The afternoon’s training focused on three areas: how to recognize your call and establish your ministry; the importance of respecting prison chaplains and officials; and the do’s and don’ts of prison and jail ministries.

At the end of the day, a number of people expressed their desire to become prison ministry volunteers, and plans are being made to train them in the near future. “I was impressed that prison ministry—a mandated work by our Savior—will grow in our conference,” said Johnson. “And Jesus can continue to say, ‘You visited Me!’”