Nevada-Utah Views - June 2024

A Safe Place for Everyone

By Carlos A. Camacho

As I fought back the tears welling up in my eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder: “How did I get here?” The weight of uncertainty pressed upon me, causing me to question if my years invested in pastoral ministry were a mistake. Had I misinterpreted God’s call? Was this not my path after all? Such doubts gnawed at me, compounded by the recent turmoil within my church.

Just an hour before, I had stood at the pulpit, ready to announce my resignation. Exhausted and disheartened, I could no longer bear the burden of shepherding that congregation. However, the conference president intercepted me before I could speak. With a firm yet compassionate grip, he urged me to reconsider, counseling against hasty decisions made in the heat of emotion.

As I drove home, tears blurring the road ahead, the recent image of my distraught wife leaving the church replayed in my mind. Her pain mirrored my own, stemming from the anguish of grappling with a church predator. The main frustration came after months of agonizing pain and disappointment dealing with this problem. I had listened to the harrowing stories of victims, offering what solace I could, only to find myself vilified in a cruel twist of fate when, somehow, I became the villain.

Sin, I realized, spares no one. Despite my efforts to protect the flock, I became ensnared in the fallout of moral decay. Some church leaders criticized my handling of the situation, preferring internal resolution over legal recourse. Yet, I remained steadfast in my commitment to justice, guided by a moral obligation to confront evil head-on.

Finally, after a long investigation, the perpetrator was apprehended and processed. In the aftermath, the church became the new target of discord. The conference administration held a business meeting to help the church process the situation and to explain the importance of following previously arranged protocols. One of the speakers was the lawyer in charge of the case. However, as often happens, a small number of outspoken parishioners chose instead to focus on my alleged shortcomings.

Perpetrators are often charismatic and well-liked, especially among closed communities such as churches. They thrive in environments where people’s defenses tend to be lowered since we share the same faith. Unfortunately, churches are not immune to sin and crime.

Our church has spent a lot of resources litigating cases such as these. We are indebted to dedicated Adventist lawyers who specialize in these matters, such as Phil Hiroshima, who began practicing law before I was born (one month before, to be exact!). In 2017, Phil received the Seventh-day Adventist World Church Lifetime Achievement Award from the Office of General Counsel. Today, the legacy of such specialized service to our church is continuing by Jon Daggett from the Hiroshima-Daggett firm out of Sacramento, California.

Amidst the turmoil, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of legal counsel, tirelessly advocating for the victims’ rights. Their expertise paved the way for institutional change, fostering a culture of accountability and zero tolerance for abuse. Despite the lingering animosity from a vocal minority, the resolve to uphold righteousness remained unwavering.

The Hiroshima-Daggett Firm developed a protocol to help church administrators mitigate the pain of victims, providing guidance and helping us to clearly communicate the church’s position toward any type of abuse and our willingness to take responsibility where responsibility is due. Such a protocol has brought much-needed healing and has also decreased the number of lawsuits against the church.

Back at my church, people felt hurt and betrayed by their own pastor. I was accused of being willing to turn people over to the authorities and disregarding the mandate to obey God before man. Folks, there is a place for church discipline, and an important one, but there is also a place for dealing with crime. Crime is to be reported to the authorities. Our unwillingness to report is not only criminal but also immoral. It perpetuates predators and increases the number of victims. It has cost institutions millions of dollars and sends the wrong message about what the church should be: a safe place for everyone.

That fateful night marked a turning point in my perspective on ministry and life. Through a televised interview, divine revelation pierced through my despair, reminding me of two enduring truths. First, the inherent sinfulness of humanity underscored the futility of self-absolution. Second, amidst adversity, God orchestrates redemption, transforming trials into triumphs of faith.

Gathered with conference leaders for dinner, I found solace in their understanding and affirmation of my convictions. Their support emboldened me to persevere, navigating the storm with unwavering faith. In the ensuing years, amidst reconciliations and renewed relationships, I found purpose in continuing my ministry journey.

The Adventist Church, like any human institution, is imperfect. Yet, our anticipation of Christ’s return sustains us, envisioning a future where all is restored in divine perfection. Until then, our duty remains clear: to safeguard the vulnerable, uphold justice, and extend grace to all.

As mandated reporters, pastors bear the weight of moral and legal responsibility, ensuring the safety and well-being of congregants. We cannot turn a blind eye to wrongdoing, nor can we shirk our duty to report crimes to the authorities. Such actions not only uphold the law but also safeguard the sanctity of our faith community.

Moreover, our commitment to Christ compels us to extend compassion even to perpetrators, guiding them toward repentance and restoration. While the legal process unfolds, we stand ready to offer support and guidance, mindful of our dual roles as agents of justice and ambassadors of grace.

Let us remember our identity as children of God, called to emulate His boundless love and mercy. May we, as a church, remain vigilant in our pursuit of righteousness, speaking out against injustice and extending grace to all. For in doing so, we bear witness to the transformative power of Christ’s redeeming love, hastening the day of His glorious return.

Teen Bible Study Group

By Michelle Ward

Veisinia Mo’oungaafi, on the left, with her Sunday morning Bible study group.
Veisinia Mo’oungaafi, on the left, with her Sunday morning Bible study group.

On a Sabbath morning in January, Veisinia Mo’ungaafi greeted some of the young families attending the Salt Lake Central/Tala Ki Mamani district church during the divine hour greeting times. A few of the families had several young teenagers, and Veisinia asked one of the mothers, who had three boys ages 10-14, if they could come to her home for Bible study on Sundays. She was willing to have them come over the next Sunday at 10:00 a.m. Surprisingly, six young people arrived—most of them teenagers. The studies used were the Voice of Prophecy KidZone Bible Guides. 

The following week the group grew to ten kids, who attended with their mothers and an auntie who had brought them to the Bible study. Veisinia involved their Sabbath School teachers in this study; thankfully, they were also excited and willing to help when she was out of town. Pastor Oneil Madden was also invited to join them in their studies and participate in the last study on the eighth week. The students were offered prizes if they did extra lessons, enabling them to complete the study course in eight weeks instead of the usual 14 weeks.

On the eighth Sunday, they had a potluck party, and the pastor took over the last lesson, which was about baptism. All 12 kids, ranging in age from 8 to 14 years, wanted to be baptized. They held a celebration on April 6, with six of them getting baptized and the others deciding to wait for the next time.

Salt Lake Central/Tala Ki Mamani district pastor Oneil Madden baptizes students of the Sunday morning teen Bible study group.







Veisinia is praying for these kids and for more to join their next group in another home in a few weeks. The pastor also had a regular Zoom Bible study every Sabbath evening, and Veisinia encouraged the students to jump into that too. It was her goal to ensure that no child was left behind, and she continued to go to their homes if they didn’t come to hers. She gives credit and thanks to Pastor Madden and the children’s ministry leaders of Salt Lake Central/Tala Ki Mamani (Tell the World) church for their support and prayers for this important ministry.

NUC's Wednesday Prayer Warriors

By Neat Randriamialison

For the last three decades, a group of church members in the Reno, Nevada, area has been coming to the Nevada-Utah Conference (NUC) headquarters office every week to spend some time in prayer. For two straight hours they pray for the office staff, pastors, educators, churches, schools, the country, the world, and for individual requests. A member of the group said, “Sometimes I don’t even know how to pray. All I know is, we leave everything in God’s hands and learn to find comfort in Him.”

NUC office administration and staff enjoy fellowship with the Wednesday morning prayer group over lunch.
NUC office administration and staff enjoy fellowship with the Wednesday morning prayer group over lunch.

On Wednesday, May 1, 2024, the conference officials, along with the supporting staff, decided to have lunch with this group to fellowship with them and thank them for their ministry. Delberth Castillo, the Adventist Community Service director, reminded them of the time when they prayed for his cousin, who’d had an accident that paralyzed him. Delberth mentioned to the group that his cousin is in good spirits and that their prayers were very much appreciated.

Prayer brings not just comfort but also peace to those who are in need of prayer and also to those who are praying.