1929 – 2020
Thelma Dell Willhelm (90) of Campbellsville, Kentucky, was born October 17, 1929, in Bloomer, Wisconsin, to Louis and Cleone (Allmon) Harris. She departed this life on June 28, 2020, at the Grandview Nursing and Rehab Center in Campbellsville.
Thelma had made a profession of faith in Christ and was a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Denver, Colorado. She was a retired employee of the General Conference office.
Thelma enjoyed creating lasting heirlooms; her crocheted and knitted keepsakes are dearly treasured. She had a strong work ethic throughout her life, and loved to travel and sing with her family.
Thelma is survived by her husband, William Harold Willhelm; two daughters, Lawanna Abell and Virginia Uhlir (Mike); four grandchildren (Jeff Uhlir, Cheryl Westfall, Willie Abell, and Amanda Kelley); ten great-grandchildren; and a host of other family and friends. She was preceded in death by a son-in-law, Greg Abell, and seven siblings.
1938 – 2020
Billie N. Veyro (82) passed away on June 21 in Dallas, Texas. She was born Billie Nell Parmer in Slaton, Texas, on May 31, 1938, the daughter of Ruby Summers (nee Rudd) and Bill Parmer. She was preceded in death by her husband, Florencio Veyro, who served as pastor of the Lubbock, Texas CoG7 and on the Southwest District board.
Billie Nell loved to sing, write poetry, and sew. In 1956, she graduated from Slaton High School, where she was active in the pep squad, choir, FHA, speech club, and drama. From the time she was a child, Billie Nell was a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and a member of First Baptist Church in Slaton. After marrying, she became a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Lubbock, where she spent many years teaching the children’s Sabbath school class.
On January 6, 1968, Billie Nell married Florencio Veyro Costales. They made their home in Lubbock and had three daughters. For many years she worked at Methodist Hospital (now Covenant Medical Center) in Lubbock as a medical transcriptionist.
Billie Nell is survived by her three daughters (Candace Renae Townsley, Julia Michelle Sanchez, and Laura Elizabeth Sanchez,); her two sons–in–law, Jacob and Ben Sanchez; and six beautiful grandchildren: Courtney Moreen (Christopher) Arnold, Mary Elizabeth (Jim) Bausch, Jacob Veyro Sanchez, Clara Julia Sanchez, Catherine Geneviève Sanchez, and Josiah Veyro Sanchez. Billie Nell was also blessed with a great-grandchild, Ava Sophia Arnold.
Billie Nell passed on her love of singing and music, writing, and sewing to her children and grandchildren. Until we meet again, she will be dearly missed and lovingly remembered.
Donations to the American Kidney Fund are graciously accepted.
If there were a contest to determine the top ten most heard phrases these past few months, I’d submit uncertain times. It seems that every television commercial, corporate email, and newscast contains at least one sentence that begins, “In these uncertain times. . . .”
These times certainly are uncertain. An unseen and previously unknown threat, COVID-19, suddenly changed our lives. Some people became seriously ill, and many more became seriously afraid. Businesses closed. Churches didn’t meet in person. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs. Will things ever return to what they were before? We don’t know. Uncertain times.
I am, however, certain about these three things:
• The Church of God (Seventh Day) is alive and well. Within the United States and Canada, congregations are livestreaming worship services, Zooming Bible studies, and staying in touch electronically. District superintendents and area representatives continue to communicate. Artios Christian College, Missions, and Bible Advocate Press haven’t missed a beat, thanks to technologies available. Our Denver offices have remained open to serve us.
• Our local congregations, districts, and Conference continue to need tithes and offerings. Budgeted expenses are being cut to the bone. Scheduled salary raises have been withheld. Leadership meetings, Super Sabbaths, retreats, and camps are being cancelled. Leaders are doing everything possible to protect the financial health of our church, but many expenses cannot be eliminated. We continue to need the tithes and offerings of our members.
• The almighty God we serve and in whom we trust remains in absolute control. Nothing that is happening surprises Him or overwhelms Him. Throughout human history, God has demonstrated His faithfulness to those who place themselves in His hands. Present difficulties never annul God’s eternal promises and plans.
I am uncertain of much. But God, His mission, and His promised outcomes are not among them. Keep faith with God!
— Loren Stacy
On Sabbath, April 25, BAP curriculum editor
Jason Overman was the guest teacher for Lesson 4 of the Prince of Peace quarterly, via Zoom. Over 230 households “Zoomed in” for the lesson. Even in desperate times of uncertainty, God’s grace opens up new opportunities for His people in ways we could not imagine.
Special thanks to Pastor Donville Bell and the Rhema Praise Sanctuary CoG7 family in Willowdene, Jamaica.
Jason is available to teach lessons and hold discussions via Zoom. Contact him at jason.overman@cog7. org.
My family and I had just come home from spending time with our family in Arizona, only to enter quarantine on March 15. We wanted to start on our district travels, beginning with our biannual board meeting. Well, that didn’t occur. The March and April calendars were filled with different district-wide functions, but they were cancelled or postponed.
As a ministries director for women, my calendar cleared up quickly. It made me sad, and I wondered how I would fill the time. But God had other plans.
I began receiving requests that needed to be filled by our Prayer Shawl Ministry. In two weeks, we sent out eleven prayer shawls and one coverlet for those needing prayer due to the virus and hospitalization. Recently, another three went to friends of members. We have done 22 prayer shawls since the quarantine began.
I thank God for the technology He has provided. We are holding women’s meetings, devotions, prayer time, and chat time on Zoom. Our Ossining, New York women’s group did a group meeting recently, and members from various churches joined in. We retreated with several women from Boston, Bridgeport, Winchester, and other cities.
In mid-April our own local women’s group Bible study met online. It was great to see others and have a study and “catch up” time.
Church is still going on. It may not be as we know it, but we must remember we are the church, so we will continue to minister in ways that God provides.
Bringing comfort. Women Equipping Women in the NED have been busy! They made a prayer blanket for Pastor Donald Gouldbourne (Boston, MA), who was having major health issues, and sent it to him in March. In late January, Laura Sinai Chavez in Fort Wayne, IN (Warsaw St. congregation) was scheduled for surgery, so her mom requested a prayer afghan for her.
I am a discipleship cell leader. In this time of pandemic, I am sending devotionals to twenty brothers daily. At the same time, I remind them to all pray at 7:00 p.m. as Pastor Antonio Vega suggested. In my home we have Bible study on Thursdays and Fridays. — Areli Vega, Church of God, Lanham, MD
The Lanham, Maryland congregation has been reaching out during the coronavirus outbreak. Read what their various ministries are doing at churchright.org.
March 14-15, just before the shut down for COVID-19, the Central District board completed its 2020 meeting in St Paul, Minnesota.
Extra time was spent working to increase the effective Ministry Program, which consists of all our camps, retreats, and Super Sabbaths. There are well over 25 of these valuable camping and fellowship events in our district.
The board signed a letter of thanks to Crist Romero (Waukegan, Illinois), who completed a four-year term working with our translation needs. She also helped organize and work personally with the growing number of members-at-large in our twelve-state district.
Due to a generous contribution from Still Waters Prairie Retreat in Alfred, North Dakota, we approved a committee to manage these funds. It will assist all Central District Pastoral Program students taking classes at Artios by covering all their tuition costs.
Perhaps like every district, much of our meeting was consumed with trying to create a balanced budget. New appointments for the coming year were made, the budget was adopted, and the minutes were approved. Then everybody scrambled to get home as news of the pandemic and coming shutdown threatened.
The SWD Leadership Team had its annual meeting in San Antonio, TX, on March 8, centering on the theme “Building a Legacy of Leadership.” Team members heard from different CoG7 national leaders and district ministries to learn how they can reset their ministries and enhance existing ones. During a Q&A time after the presentations, the team was encouraged to strive for a leadership mindset for 2020.
Twenty-six sisters from San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Kerrville, and Laredo gathered on March 15 at our sister church in Artesia Wells, TX. Focusing on the theme “Don’t Give Up!” they prayed and worshipped and were reminded that even when we are discouraged, we must continue to pray. God listens.
1927 – 2020
Paul Heavilin was born March 15, 1927, in Marion, Indiana, child number eight of fifteen born to McClellan and Vera (Foster) Heavilin. He slipped peacefully from this life on March 29, 2020, in Waldron, Indiana. His wife, Virginia, and daughter Marilyn were by his side.
After earning his first bachelor’s degree, Paul pastored two years in Wisconsin for the Wesleyan Methodists. At that point in 1952, with three young girls in tow (the youngest less than a week old), he went to Missouri to teach at Midwest Bible College (MBC) for the Church of God (Seventh Day), and Virginia cooked for the students. This set a pattern for the rest of Paul’s life of his wife being a co-partner in his ministry wherever he went.
Over the next 48 years, Paul served the Church of God in multiple places and in multiple roles: pastoring in Wisconsin, California, and Michigan; working as youth camp director, president of the Michigan state board, president of the North American Ministerial Council, and secretary of the International Ministerial Congress; carrying out duties in numerous positions on district, state, and local boards; and ministering for fourteen years at Spring Vale Academy (SVA), where he was “Uncle Paul” to many of the students. Between his MBC and SVA teaching years, Paul taught two generations of some of the same families!
Paul was preceded in death by his parents and eleven of his siblings. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Virginia (Spencer); brothers John and Charles (Barbara); sister Lois (Ben) Drown; seven children, 19 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren, and five great-great grandchildren.
Read the entire memorial for Paul on our Memorials page at cog7.org.
To update our 47-year-old printing press and other machines, the board of directors approved the purchase of a Canon printer. We can now do smaller print-on-demand jobs — you print only what you need.
To learn more about our new addition, watch for updates in future issues of Churchright.
1938 – 2020
Robert Barthel (81) of Muskogee, Oklahoma, passed from this life June 6 in Muskogee. He was born July 31, 1938, to Roy and Shirley (Krumsiek) Barthel in Roland, Oklahoma.
Bob grew up in Roland and graduated from Roland High School. He earned his master’s degree in education and counseling at Central State College and earned his PhD in science. He proudly served his country in the U.S. Air Force in Korea as a dental technician and was honorably discharged.
Bob married Dorothy Lee Whitten in 1958; she died on April 15, 1997. He later married Leah Moldenhauer, who preceded him in death as well. He later married Mary Irwin.
Bob worked in the Treasury Department for the State of Oklahoma and taught at Tecumseh High School and in the McAlester School system. Until his retirement, he worked for the Department of Labor with the Coal Mine Workers Compensation Program, and at the Veterans Administration with the Vocational Rehabilitation Services.
Bob served as a minister with the Church of God (Seventh Day) and was a major supporter of the congregation in Muskogee. He taught at the Ministerial Training Center and served in many Church leadership roles and committees.
Bob loved spending time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and attending any and all activities they were involved in.
In addition to his first two wives, Bob was preceded in death by two brothers, Kenneth and Thomas. He is survived by his wife, Mary; sons Robert (Nanci), Randall (Audri), and Roger (Nina); step-children Kenneth Gitthens, Sharon Wilson, Steven Gitthens, Andrew Gitthens, and Kimberly Keyes; sister, Dr. Judith V. “Dee” Barthel-Blair; and numerous grandchildren and extended family and friends.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Dover Family Camp Fund, Oklahoma Conference CoG7, P.O. Box 392, Coweta, OK 74429, or the American Heart Association.
1935 – 2020
Elden Fischer (84) of Perry, Michigan, passed away May 26 at Memorial Healthcare in Owosso after a battle with COVID-19.
Elden was born in Eureka, South Dakota, on November 7, 1935, to Fred F. and Esther (Schrenk) Fischer. Having lost a sister before his birth, he grew up the oldest of three children. Elden graduated from Eureka High School in 1954, then graduated from Northern State Teachers College in 1958. He served his country at Kansas University Medical center in Kansas City as a conscientious objector until 1960. During this service time, in 1959, he married his love-for-a-lifetime, Cecyl (Caswell) in Stanberry, Missouri. They celebrated 61 years of marriage just two days before his passing.
Awarded a grant for one academic year toward graduate work through the National Science Foundation, Elden moved his family of four to Corvallis, Oregon, to finish his master’s degree at Oregon State University. He taught one year of junior high in Junction City, Oregon. before moving to Owosso to teach at Spring Vale Academy (now Spring Vale Christian School).
At Spring Vale, Elden held titles at various times as science teacher, principal, director, supervisor, and eventually a board of directors member. After he left his employment at the school, he remained a pillar of the school community as a personal basketball coach (unofficial), friend, mentor, and encourager of students and staff. Elden brought his experience with the Church of God (Seventh Day) National Youth Agency to his role as Sabbath school superintendent. He will be long remembered for the energy and creativity he poured into the opening program at church. His trademark was innovative object lessons or sometimes a play on words that would help one remember a theme of God’s love throughout the next week.
Elden went on to teach chemistry at Lansing Community College while pursuing a career in real estate.
Elden was an avid sports enthusiast. He was loyal to the Michigan State Spartans (Cecyl’s alma mater), the Detroit Tigers and Lions, and the Spring Vale Flames. He was a regular at the MSU women’s volleyball and basketball, and often shared that experience with Spring Vale students as they were available.
The passion of Elden’s life was sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. He was a daily Bible reader and showed up at God’s house for whatever was taking place, be it church service or fellowship. He appreciated the way that the laws of science confirmed his belief in the Creator God.
Elden loved people and truly wanted the best for all of them. He saw people as God’s creation and appreciated them for who they were. He was trustworthy, honest, funny, unique, caring, dedicated, and loyal. Elden will best be remembered by the people whose lives he touched along his life’s path.
Elden was preceded in death by his parents and sister and infant son, Kent Douglas. He is survived by his wife, Cecyl, brother Harvey (Barbara) Fischer; sister Lucille (Will) McGill; Becki Fischer; Tracy (William) Schmitz and Scott (Elizabeth) Fischer; and adoring grandchildren, Evan (Shannon) Schmitz, Kyle, Jacob and Bailey Schmitz, and Alexis and Austin Fischer.
What have CoG7 congregations been doing during this COVID-19 time? Though shut in, they have not been shut out of ministry! As church doors have closed, other avenues have opened. Read the exciting things God has been doing during this pandemic.
The NASB begins 2 Corinthians 6:1: “And working together with Him [God]. . . .” Paul writes something similar in 1 Corinthians 3:9: “For we [Paul, Apollos, and other believers] are God’s fellow workers. . . .” It’s inspiring to think of being God’s co-workers in God’s great mission to reconcile the world to Himself in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19)!
But I am also inspired by this thought: If each follower of Christ is God’s fellow worker in God’s great mission, then each follower must also be their brother’s or sister’s fellow worker. In Christ, we are working together with God and with one another.
“Working together” is one of the key ideas of the General Conference. Our history is one of groups of believers discovering one another, finding out that they share common understandings of God’s Word and will, and then uniting to become more effective workers with God. By combining their resources, they did things that none of them could do as effectively alone. They discovered that we are better together.
What was true then is true today. We are better together. The members and congregations of the Church of God (Seventh Day) in the United States and Canada are more useful to God as the General Conference than any one of us could be alone. By ourselves, we can do a limited number of good and wonderful things. But together, we can do so much more! We can support Artios Christian College, an institution of higher education that is impacting the world. We can publish the Bible Advocate that spreads the gospel everywhere. We can financially contribute to foreign missions projects and indigenous gospel workers around the globe. We can create districts and administrative services and ministries to support the good work of each congregation and member. We can organize a ministerial council to keep us doctrinally unified and help us find pastors we can trust.
Working together with God is great. Working together with God and one another is fantastic! We truly are better together.
— Loren Stacy
Recently, Sylvia Corral retired from her vital role as translator for the General Conference — what she calls “a precious and unbelievable chapter of my life.” Sylvia is precious to us too! For over 32 years she served in various capacities: at conventions, translating services and business sessions, and especially in Publications, translating the Bible Advocate and quarterlies into Spanish. Her great attention to accuracy and heart for ministry blessed readers and co-workers alike.
We will miss you, sister! Our prayers go with you in this new chapter of your life.
The Southeast District Youth Retreat Planning Committee met February 21-22 at the Ramada Inn in Jacksonville, Florida. Committee members elected a chairperson (Sister Allison Krome) and vice chairperson (Sister Sharon Modeste). Other committee members are Andre Campbell, Jon Unzueta, Kelly Berduo, Silverio Sanchez, Walter Apen, and Patrick George (unable to attend). Committee family members also attended the meeting and were recruited into service for leadership at the upcoming retreat: Kandi Campbell, Maria and Jessica Sanchez, Joel Modeste, and Lilly Apen.
The retreat theme will be “Who You Say I Am” and will take place December 18-21 at the DaySpring Conference Center in Parish, Florida. A lot of preparation was accomplished during this meeting, like deciding speakers and activities, and much more will be done in the future.
Special thanks to all the committee members who willingly sacrifice their time and energy for our district youth!
Congratulations to Ruben Arzet, leader of the Philadelphia (IL) church, and the leadership team in Chicago, IL. In the last four years, the Central District has added 276 new members, and the Philadelphia church has top honors in numbers added locally: 41! Their average attendance is now 90-plus!
Pictured here are the current church board members (L to R): Astari Bustos, Ruben Arzet, Alex Portillo, Monica Portillo, Daniel Valle, and Arial Pascual.
The next top four Central District churches that added new members, in the same time frame, are Rockford, IL (29); Aurora, CO (27); Zion, IL (24); Colorado Springs, CO (23); and Justice, IL (21). May God continue to bless the Philadelphia church and her dedication to serve our Lord in His kingdom!
On February 18-19, the SWD Children’s Ministry had its first training for teachers at the Galena Park church. Both speakers provided skills, curriculum, and a vast variety of examples for teachers to enhance their students’ learning. We praise the Lord for this blessing given to more than 130 teachers.