The Mid-America Union has several representations of their ministries and associations in the Convention Center of the General Conference Session. With thousands of guests streaming through the exhibit halls, exposure and opportunities are endless. Among those located in Mid-America territory are Campion Academy, Christian Record Services for the Blind, Bible Faces ministries and Union College. Other Mid-America entities present are AdventSource and Payabya Mission on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Out of over 1,600 Adventist secondary schools in the world, less than 10 academies have booths in the convention center. One of those few is Campion Academy. “So far I’ve only seen three high school booths,” said Jessica Rios, Campion Academy’s new recruiter. “If you’re here, it’s a big deal.” Many international students visit the booth to inquire about the school, all looking for an academy where they can learn English. Some visitors come from countries that do not have a single Adventist academy.
Campion alumni and current students are a constant feature at the booth, much to the relief of Jessica. “They definitely help draw in traffic,” she said. “Many even volunteered to help run the booth, which is helpful since I’m the only one here for the entire week.”
One thing Rios would love for people to know about Campion is that it’s a great school and “might be more doable than one would think.” Often visitors will hear the cost and immediately balk, thinking it impossible to send their child to the school at such a price. Rios wants to encourage those to think, pray and talk with her before just saying no. “Let’s see what God says and what we can work out,” she said.
The Campion booth has freebies that have proven almost too popular: chap sticks, rulers, Frisbees, sunglasses, T-shirts, pens, all promoting the school. “I’ve had to hide the freebies because people would flock to the booth simply for the free stuff,” Jessica admitted. “Hiding the free stuff results in sincere visitors who are actually interested in the school instead of just getting a free shirt.”
Christian Record Services for the Blind
Instead of handing out freebies that people will just throw away or lose, the booth for Christian Record Services decided to give out one quality promotional item. “We’re handing out a large print detailed book that describes our outreach to people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Jeri Lyn Rogge, assistant to the president of development. “This book shows exactly what it is we do: simple and to the point.”
Christian Record is about evangelism, especially to those who aren’t reached through normal marketing methods. The materials from Christian Record specialize in reaching the visually impaired—those who might be in the dark, both literally and figuratively, regarding health messages and religious truths.
For blinded veterans, Christian Record offers a free audio player, inSight4Vets, loaded with hours of books, stories, and portions of the Bible. One book included is Unbroken, the inspirational true story about the Olympic runner and World War II hero, Louis Zamperini. “If anyone knows of a veteran who fits the criteria, send them our way for a free player!” enthused Rogge.
They’re doing a similar project for children. Jeri Lyn described the process of taking the same type of audio player and putting hours of stories from My Story Hour onto it and then placing the audio players into a stuffed animal. This initiative, called Wildlife STORYTELLERS, is designed to introduce young children to Christian Record’s free services and help them be ready to attend National Camps for the Blind when they reach age nine.
A final product they’re producing is individual books of the Bible in Braille. Bibles in Braille are huge endeavors, usually numerous volumes hundreds of pages thick. The binding doesn’t allow the books to lie flat and their chunkiness make them cumbersome. “We’re producing individual books of the Bible, such as Mark or Acts, which means they are smaller and easily transportable,” explained Jeri Lyn. “We’re also making them with spiral binding which allows them to lie flat without causing damage to the book.”
At another booth from MAUC, dozens of visitors are drawn in by the extensive sword and dagger display or to take their photograph as a Roman soldier. “We’re doing a contest on social media,” said Dick Stenbakken, creator of the Bible narrative ministry Bible Faces. “We have a Roman soldier cut out with a face hole for people to take a picture as a soldier!” Visitors share the photo online with the hashtag #MyBibleFace to win one of the daily prizes, which include some of the Bible Faces DVDs.
Stenbakken transforms into dozens of different Bible characters, complete with traditional garb and language. First person biblical narratives are “a highly professional form of teaching and exploring Scripture,” he explained. “A good story well told sticks with you which is why Jesus’ parables were so memorable and relatable.”
Stenbakken has performed some of his stories, for example as the character of Peter or a Centurian soldier, at churches, hospitals, correctional facilities and worship services all over the country. More about his ministry and different characters he brings to life can be found at his website: www.biblefaces.com.
Union College’s two-story booth has been getting heavy traffic all day, every day. They have blank postcards for student missionaries that the visitors can fill out, iPads with promotional videos on them, and an eight-foot-long table filled with Legos for visitors to play with. They’re promoting the theme, Build Your Future at Union College, and encouraging visitors to build and photograph a Lego creation to share on social media. Daily winners receive specialty Union College T-shirts.
“Our booth is overrun by 8-10 year olds all day,” said Courtney Gutknecht, one of Union’s recruiters, while behind her, almost 20 children clamor for the choicest Lego pieces. “I keep trying to think of ways to remind them that this is a college booth and that in 10 years Union College should be in the front of their minds. The results from this week should be evident in enrollment in 2025.”
A notable difference can be observed between the more conservative college booths and their own. For example, Walla Walla University, located directly next to Union’s booth, has an impressive rotating circular banner displaying happy studious millennials and luxurious recliners for tired passersby.
Compared to some other school’s sophisticated and professional set-ups, Union College might appear a little crazy. But Union is proud of what their booth is accomplishing. “We are professional in that we are reaching every age demographic in a professional way,” said Tyler Morrison who works in Enrollment Services. “We are entertaining the children in an orderly fashion, allowing adults to get a well-deserved break while our trained booth workers competently inform passersby of what Union College has to offer.”
The representatives for Union do not focus singularly on recruiting students for the school; they also make it a point to minister to the needs of everyone they can, of all ages and cultures, at the same time. Tyler concluded stating that their “booth proves that you don’t have to sacrifice fun for the sake of professionalism.”
Katie Morrison is a communication intern with the Rocky Mountain Conference.
Photo Credit: Katie Morrison