By Colleen Tinker
The 2017 FAF Conference this last weekend has yielded wonderful memories and a host of insights and conversations that have left long-lasting effects.
Held at the Fellowship In The Pass Church in Beaumont, California, attendees drank in the rich teaching provided by Gary Inrig as he taught through the new covenant chapters of 2 Corinthians 3 through 5 and of Dale Ratzlaff with his sessions on how we can be sure we have Life Assurance and The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ.
Jim Valentine of Christian Apologetics Research and Information Services conducted a breakout session entitle, “Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Adventism”. Martin Carey presented “Life Is More (than Worry)” in his breakouts, and Richard and Colleen Tinker hosted a breakout session entitled “Your Afterlife Questions Answered”.
On Friday evening, while an unusually severe storm named “Lucifer” pounded Southern California, Dale Ratzlaff addressed a public meeting with his talk, “The Three Pillars of Adventism”. Paul Carden of The Centers for Apologetics Research gave a short talk, “Adventist Missionary Threats”, and Rolaant McKenzie from Michigan shared his faith story.
Two others also shared their faith stories during the weekend: Anthony Andreola and Sonja McCart. Jonathan Winn again led the worship team.
This year the conference concluded with church at the new church plant in Loma Linda, Redeemer Fellowship, with lead pastor Gary Inrig as he preached his last session, “The Glorious Message of the New Covenant” from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6. Les and Fran Spoelstra hosted the final conference lunch at their home in Redlands.
Former Adventists and their food
This year I want to acknowledge our hospitality coordinator Amy Herwig and expound a bit about why her hours of careful planning and the hardship of producing conference meals in a venue that did not include the use of a stove had such a powerful effect on the tone of the whole conference. In order to explain the significance of Amy’s provisions, I’ll first outline the menu for the conference.
Throughout Friday and Saturday, Amy and her team (which included Paula Jones, Audrey Herwig, Traci Mohler, and Ryan and Evan Herwig) kept a supply of snacks including trail mix, eggs, fruit, and homemade cookies, coffee, soda, and apple cider on a table in the back of the conference room.
Our meals were satisfying and generous: meatball subs (both meat and meatless varieties), chicken pot pie with salad and rolls, haystacks with ground beef on the side, and tri-tip beef with mashed potatoes, gourmet macaroni, salad, and homemade desserts. As I was discussing the menu with Amy, I realized in a new way why the food at the FAF conferences is so important in almost subliminal ways.
A sense of “plenty” is part of the experience Amy created, and I believe there are two reasons this fact was so important. First, Adventists grew up with rigid eating schedules (at least good Adventists did). In “observant”, Ellen White-honoring homes, it was forbidden to let any morsel of food pass the lips between meals, and meals had to be between four and five hours apart. Preferably, two meals a day should replace three. Scarcity, austerity, and asceticism marked the Adventist relationship with food. For people to be able to eat when they’re hungry instead of literally going hungry is a significant “shift” in their thinking and eating. For food not to be a discipline but a welcomed part of fellowship is a total paradigm shift for those who have been Adventists.
Secondly, at FAF conferences, many people are running on adrenalin. Their internal identities and worldview are being challenged; “light bulbs” are going on in their heads; they’re sharing stories and being amazed that they’re not terminally unique but that others share their losses and disorientation. Having plenty of protein and plenty of food is both comforting and literally sustaining. Even if attendees are too involved to eat much food at mealtime, just knowing they can grab a snack or have meat to hold them over is comforting and sustaining.
It’s hard to explain even to myself the actual reasons the conference food is so significant. I suspect that for former Adventists, having food be both accessible and enjoyable is subliminally impacting. Both the fact that protein is always available as well as the fact that there is always plenty is comforting, nourishing, and sustaining. At the conference, the accessibility of food (including meat) is associated with truth and reality—as opposed to the Adventist emphasis on limited options and limited supply which were explained as the path to being healthy and thus more godly.
Reflecting on the food provisions at the FAF conference, I’m realizing how significant it is that Jesus gave us a meal by which to remember His sacrifice and covenant. What an earmark of a false prophet it is that Ellen White took the joy out of the God-given blessing of sharing food and worship together at a meal!
Looking back, I thank every speaker for the time and love that went into giving us real food from the word of God. I also thank Amy and her team for helping to give us former Adventists “permission” to enjoy food, to give up the guilt of not waiting five hours to eat, and to experience an abundance of good food as part of our weekend of discovering truth and the grace and provision of the Lord Jesus.