1932 – 2021
Robert Baker was born July 14, 1932, to his loving parents Samuel Edward and Maude Delacy Baker in Brooklyn, New York. He passed away September 19. He had one brother, Allen, and an Aunt Claris, both deceased.
During his childhood, Robert and his family relocated to Barbados. Upon completion of high school, he and his family moved back to New York. In his quest for higher learning, he attended the school of dentistry and graduated as a dental technologist. However, Robert went on to work as a supervisor of painters with New York City Housing Authority until his retirement.
Robert met Violet McLean, a beautiful and faithful servant of the Lord, whom he could not resist. They were joined in holy matrimony in 1969, and this love affair spanned 52 years. Together, they raised four beautiful children. Robert was both provider and protector. He loved his children fiercely and gave them the best life possible. He also instilled in them a strong sense of responsibility and the need to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and family. Robert was just as dedicated to his grandchildren, great-grandchildren, many nephews, nieces, and cousins. He opened not only his heart to them, but his home as well and provided a safe haven for many.
Robert was a man of excellence and possessed a wonderful sense of humor. At one church function, he distributed pencils that had no points on them. Initially it was funny, but it caused one to consider the deeper message: that life without Jesus is pointless. Robert prepared difficult Bible quizzes and seemed to enjoy looking at our faces for expressions of either excitement or sadness. The question was “Did we study his assignments?”
Robert’s greatest love of all was for the Lord God Almighty. He studied the Scriptures daily and prayed fervently. His deep love for the Church brethren was beyond measure, and he served with great joy and enthusiasm. Because of his excellent teaching and preaching ministry, some members became elders, deacons, and wonderful men of God. But even more, Robert was known for his peaceful disposition and Christlike character.
In 1979, a dilapidated building, located at 84 Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, was purchased for a place of worship. Along with other brethren, Elder Baker worked hard and smart to repair the walls and paint them. He also did a significant amount of carpentry within the edifice. Robert was motivated to ensure that the building became a wonderful place of worship. This was a pleasant experience for all, which resulted in greater respect and love for him.
Robert was a strong supporter of the North American General Conference and attended the biannual conference in various states throughout the US. For several years, he served effectively on the Northeast District board. He remained a faithful member of the Long Island church, where his church family was blessed by his wisdom, intellect, and grace.
He showed a strong work ethic and servanthood that is rarely seen these days. When there was work to be done, he made himself available, whether it was preparing for various functions or preparing for any special needs of the church. Many can recall the colorful, spiritually meaningful banner that he had professionally made. It read “Don’t Be Caught Napping” and was hung across the wall just behind the rostrum. This signage provided a perpetual reminder for us to make sure that our lives are ready for Christ’s coming.
One of Robert’s favorite verses was Psalms 50:10: “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” In other words, he would remind us, “Don’t worry for a thing. The Lord will provide.”
In 1999, Elder Robert Baker relocated to Florida where he continued to serve in the Church of God (Seventh Day). A few years ago, he became ill, and his body began to decline. He was tirelessly cared for by the love of his life, Violet, who ensured that all his needs were always met. In his sickness, Robert constantly sang, quoted Bible verses, and prayed with his wife. In fact, the last hymn they sang together was “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior.”
As Robert sleeps, his wonderful legacy will always be treasured in the lives of his wife, Violet; children: Benjamin, Malcolm, Clive (deceased), Bernice (deceased), and Elaine; grandchildren: Corey, Nikima, Joey, Jessica, Tiffany, Rachel, Sharon, Ellen, Rodney, Reagan, Erin; brothers-in-law: Lesford, Herman, Sylvester, and Hubert (Norma); sisters-in-law: Irene Watson (Keith), Lorna Shields (Artlez); nephew: Mathew Shields; niece: Melody Shields; and a multitude of his brethren in faith and a host of relatives and friends.
1932 – 2021
Elias G. Escoto (89) of Madera, California, fell asleep in Jesus at home on October 11. He was born August 1, 1932, in La Verne, California, to Ascencion Garcia and Benito Escoto and was the youngest of nine siblings. In the early years, the family worked the fields, picking cotton, grapes, apples, and the like.
When World War II erupted, Elias’ older brothers enlisted. In 1952, at age 20, Elias volunteered to serve in the United States Air Force during the Korean conflict. Two years of his service, he was stationed in Japan. Stateside he was stationed in Colorado, then March Air Force Base in California. He was discharged in 1955.
Elias met Nellie on a blind date and married her February 2, 1958. In a span of nine years they had seven children: Elias Jr., Michael, Paul, Carmela, Louie, Virginia, and Gabriel.
Although Elias was called by Lord at age 14 and was baptized, he succumbed to the temptations of the world as an adult. While he attended a Bible study given by Trinidad Padilla, the Lord moved Elias to rededicate his life to following Jesus.
“I never looked back,” Elias said. From the Bible studies at his cousin Trini Garcia’s home to the Church of God (Seventh Day) in Ontario, led by Pastor Victor Youngs in a woman’s hall, to the church on Vine Street, he served many positions: deacon, elder, teacher, and youth leader. As youth leader, he wrote and directed plays for youth rallies. He always joined the gym night activities as if he were 19 years old. From 1986 to 1990, Elias joined Brother Jose Guerrero in planting a congregation in La Puente, California
Elias retired and moved to Madera, California, in 1990 and planted a church there as well. They first met at his home and later rented a church building in town. Elias served as pastor for the church in Madera until 2018. He continued to be involved as treasurer up until his last breath.
Elias often said, “ I knew that if I just waited long enough, I’d be great.” His legacy as a man of God will not be forgotten. He influenced many people by his example to follow the Lord. We will miss him, but we will see Brother Elias again when the Lord returns.
Elias was preceded in death by his wife and sons, Elias Jr. and Louie. He is survived by his sister, Virginia Walderama; his children Michael, Paul, Carmela, Virginia, and Gabriel; his thirteen grandchildren, and twenty-two great grandchildren. Elias also leaves behind many sisters and brothers in the Lord who loved and respected him.
Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.
– W. Edwards Deming
Recently, Pastor Andy Stanley personalized that quote for a gathering of church leaders: “Your [church] system is perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting.” The concept is simple: A given result is the product of a given process. Therefore, if we want to change the result we are getting, we need to change the process (system) we are using.
Responses to a survey of pastors and other leaders within the General Conference, conducted months ago, indicate that many are dissatisfied with results achieved in evangelism and growing new believers toward spiritual maturity. They are not seeing the number of baptisms they hope to see or observing the spiritual growth they hope to observe. What system or process is producing these unsatisfactory results? Unfortunately, it appears that the evangelism and mentoring system within many of our congregations is to have no intentional evangelism and mentoring system. Said another way, the system is to continue to do what has always been done and hope for better results.
Because a different system is needed in our church, a GC Evangelism and Disciple-Making Task Force is developing tools and training for GC congregations. We are imagining a system in which every member is trained to share the gospel. They would consider telling people about Jesus and leading people to a personal relationship with Jesus to be as normal as breathing. We are imagining a system in which every GC congregation is a welcoming church, a safe and nurturing place for Jesus seekers and for new believers. And we are imagining a system in which every congregation offers vibrant, Christ-centered small groups in which people may be brought to Jesus and grow in Him.
Part of this system is already available and being implemented. More is on the way! What’s your system?
— Loren Stacy
Focus on Jesus and Follow His Plan
Artios Christian College celebrated its 2021 graduates with a virtual graduation ceremony on Sabbath, August 7. This was our first virtual graduation ceremony ever! We appreciate the collaboration of the SWD Media Team for pulling the event together in a seamless and beautiful video. If you missed the ceremony and would like to celebrate with our graduates, you may view it here: https://fb.watch/7zxS7wi1B6/.
— Lisa Harp Hinds
On July 31, Elder Chip Hinds and Area 1 Representative Iván Villeda presented the Certificate of Affiliation to Monte Hermon, a new church in Grand Prairie, TX, led by Pastor Ramon Ruiz. Please help us officially welcome these brethren to our community of believers in Jesus Christ!
Brethren from the Brownsville, TX-Shalom church gave 348 backpacks on August 8 to children enrolled in a project that is part of a local school district. The children who received these backpacks do not live with their parents due to abuse, abandonment, parental imprisonment, or other issues. Having made this provision for several years, our brethren rejoice that they could resume this summer blessing for the children in their community.
On August 7, the El Paso Central Church was blessed to hold a concert involving the following youth from several of our congregations: Melissa and Angelica Luevano (Tigua); Caleb Lopez (Tree of Life); and Richie Prieto, Paulina and Jio Herrera, Paola Beard, and Jaziel Trejo (Central Church). Several brothers from these congregations visited the El Paso congregation, and we enjoyed ourselves in the Lord.
May God bless our young people for such a beautiful initiative. We thank God for them, and we pray that they will always have our Lord in their lives. We also hope that this will be the beginning of several more concerts so that our young people, and the rest of our congregations, can continue spending time together.
The children’s ministry in Area 3 held its “Meet Daniel” contest on August 22. Several churches in the area participated, and parents and teachers celebrated the children’s accomplishments. The day was full of joy knowing our children are learning the Word of God. First place winners were Illania Jagrup (Galena Park) and Angel Santos (Bethesda).
Recently, the Central Church of El Paso said goodbye to one of our youth, Jiovan Herrera, who was heading to Michigan to enroll in Spring Vale Christian School. The congregation and his parents prayed for him. We are sure that our Lord will keep him and the rest of his friends from our sister churches who also enlisted in this school: Caleb López (Tree of Life) and James Hernández (Tigua). May our God bless and keep them safe!
On Saturday, May 29, Pastor Walter Apen and family visited the CoG7 mission in Lexington, KY, to officially recognize it as a Conference church. As a district representative of Area #3, Pastor Apen performed the recognition service, as well as two baptisms, presentation of children, and a marriage blessing on Sunday, May 30. The new leader who is serving as local pastor is Emmanuel Huerta and his wife, Sendy. The two sisters in Christ who were baptized were Maria Paiz and Debora Sontay.
During an afternoon service on Saturday, July 31, Pastor Walter Apen and family, along with Superintendent Steve Krome, officially recognized the mission CoG7 in Marietta, GA, as a GC congregation. This church was originally established by the CoG7 Stone Mountain, GA church. Pastor Apen delivered the message “Committed to Testifying.” He and Superintendent Krome prayed for and blessed the newly elected church leaders. The new congregation (pictured below) is led by Hubaldo Hernandez and his wife, Julie.
The Central District has not held many inter-church events recently (camps, retreats, Super Sabbaths, etc.) because of the pandemic. However, the district superintendent arranged for various ministers to go to local churches to bless and encourage them. Here are a few highlights.
Elder Mike Vlad and his wife, Debbie, worked hard for a full weekend assisting the church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In North Platte, Nebraska, Elder Monico Muffley and his wife, Martha, baptized and encouraged new members. They also performed special personal prayer and counseling ministries.
Elder David Lozano preached and taught in the Philadelphia church (Chicago). In Schuyler, Nebraska, Elder Noe Reyes spent a full weekend for a revival with the sizeable congregation there. Elder Juan Arzet and Brother Carlos Garcia (Cicero and Damen churches in Chicago) have evangelized extensively and assisted with special needs of many people in a remote area of Guatemala.
Two special evangelism projects are happening in the Central District. One is sponsored by the district board, using nine churches and many copies of our GC book This We Believe. In the second evangelism project, Elders Mike Vlad and Larry Zaragoza will travel to some of our local churches in the district to train members in effective one-on-one evangelism. Right now, they are scheduled to be at Addison (Chicago) and possibly Colorado Springs.
We hope and pray that our district ministry events, camps, retreats, and Super Sabbaths will be restored to their normal and effective pace in 2022 freed of the pandemic’s existence and effect.
A young boy named Yassel approached one of St. Paul’s praise team musicians and asked, “Can I sit beside you and watch and learn?” Almost every Sabbath the boy sits in the spot provided for him, while Joe Carbajal plays either keyboard or grand piano. Perhaps in the future, this young man will sit where Joe sits now, thanks to his desire to learn music. Several members of the St. Paul praise team started by watching, learning, and practicing at a young age.
Local churches in Area #1 sponsored a Family Camp at Crystal Springs Camp near Medina, ND. About 85 attended on Sabbath from several area churches, including Wisconsin. A youth camp and marriage retreat activity were integrated into this event, and two special moments added flavor and joy to the weekend: the wedding of Dick Montanez and Sue Knight, performed by Elder Oscar Mata, and the baptism of a young man by Elder Steve Kyner.
The past year and a half has challenged our district psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’ve endured the roller coaster ride of opening and closing the church doors; of distancing, then being near and far again; of meeting virtually or in person and then a combination of the two; of losing membership, then gaining and losing again.
But none of these challenges were insurmountable as we waited to hold joint district gatherings again. Kudos to our local church elders and their teams for finding interesting and ingenious ways to encourage the membership to worship God while endeavoring to stay safe during the pandemic.
In conjunction with the district, Parkland CoG7 hosted its annual family campmeetings after an absence last year. A successful and well-attended campout placed our youth as the primary focus. Considering they were placed at a disadvantage during the surge of the pandemic, we learned that we need to allow youth a safe space to establish new friendships and rekindle old ones. Special classes, with a lot of free time, were organized for the FYCers and Seekers.
Thunderstorms and colder weather could not deter our youth’s enthusiasm to regain ground lost because of the need to isolate. As we continue to focus on Jesus and follow His plan, the thrust of the district is to find and fund the involvement and development of our youth.
In late July, the GC staff said goodbye to Eddie Villalba, office/facilities manager at the General Conference headquarters since 2015. Eddie’s wife, Socorro (pictured here), joined their family and staff members at a local restaurant to honor Eddie’s years of service. Loren Stacy, GC president, and Jody McCoy, executive director, were also on hand for the celebration.
We wish Eddie and Socorro God’s blessings in retirement and wish Eddie’s replacement, Allan Stroupe, blessings in his new duties.