Monthly Newsletter | May 2016

Newsletter May 2016

Speaking Out for Evan: Raising Awareness of a Drug Crisis       

by Mandy Panasuk

For many of us, drug abuse seems like a problem that other people, other families, other communities struggle with. The reality is that drug abuse has become a serious health crisis throughout the nation, with overdoses and deaths on the rise, and our own community is no exception.

On July 16, 2014, drugs brought heartbreak to the Poitra family, members of the Grand Forks Seventh-day Adventist Church, when 19-year-old Evan passed away at his home from a fentanyl overdose. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic narcotic that is used in hospitals to control severe pain. Evan, a young man with a great sense of humor and someone who made people feel special, became part of an alarming trend of young people in the Grand Forks community who have lost their lives to drug overdose in the last two years.

In the aftermath of this personal tragedy, Evan’s parents, Jackie and Wayne, are working to bring awareness to the epidemic of drug abuse that is destroying lives and leaving grieving loved ones in its wake. On April 24, 2016, they were interviewed by NBC Nightly News for a segment that aired the following day, highlighting the growing fentanyl crisis. The news clip can be viewed at

The Poitras are also featured in a locally produced documentary, Faded, that depicts the real-life struggle drug addiction has wrought in the lives of four Grand Forks area residents. Faded will be shown at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks as part of an educational forum: “Deadly Dose, The Realities of Fentanyl and Drug Overdose in Our Community.” The forum, sponsored by police and other local organizations, is May 10, 6:30-8pm, and is free and open to the public. This sobering and powerful documentary should not be missed.

Experimenting with synthetic drugs like fentanyl is anything but “no big deal.” Highly addictive and dangerous, these drugs are so potent even one encounter can have devastating consequences.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a drug addiction, please seek help now. There are people who care that are waiting to support you.

Jackie shares in regard to her recent interviews, “While this is way out of my comfort zone, I will continue to be Evan’s voice and to speak out on his behalf. I will not let his death be in vain. If I can make an impact on even one life, I will have done my part.”

The Most Fun You’ll Ever Have in a Hairnet troy

by Mandy Panasuk

Thirty-eight Grand Forks church volunteers gathered at the Public Works building with other local residents on Sunday morning, April 3, for a 2-hour shift in the Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) mobile pack event. FMSC is a Christian non-profit organization working globally to feed children with meals packed by volunteers. The greater Grand Forks area event ran April 1-3, drawing participants from churches, businesses, and other groups. Funds to cover the cost of the meals packed were also raised locally.

The day began with learning how to pack the meals and hearing “Emmanuel’s Story.” “Emma,” a toddler in Africa, is one of the many children whose lives have literally been saved by this incredible ministry. When a local ministry was connected with Emma and his three siblings, 2.5-year-old Emma weighed 9 pounds and couldn’t walk. (As a mother of an almost 2-year-old, this broke my heart.) Thanks to meals from FMSC, these children are now healthy and have a new joy for life.

Next, we donned on some very fashionable hairnets and got down to business. We divided into teams and settled into specific roles (everything from rice scooper to supply re-filler to bag weigher and more), working efficiently and grooving to a background of peppy tunes. Our group assembled MannaPack Rice, one of three meal packs specially developed by FMSC to not only meet the needs of severely malnourished and starving children but also maintain the health of children no longer in extreme hunger. This mixture of rice, soy, vitamins, and dehydrated vegetables can be prepared with only boiling water. Each meal costs less than 25 cents to produce.

The morning concluded with praying over the pallet of food we had packed, asking that God would guide it safely to its destination and bless the children who would eat it. We also got to samplemobile pack stats the MannaPack Rice. (It was actually pretty tasty!) This event was well-worth participating in—both in the chance to be the hands of Jesus feeding hungry children and in the blessing of fun and fellowship.

To learn more about Feed My Starving Children and watch the stories of the children impacted by this ministry, visit




Cave QuestVacation Bible School 2016: June 27 – 30

by Leanne Erickson

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” (John 8:12, NIV)

Our world is a tough world for kids. They are surrounded by so many forms of darkness that even 20-30 years ago were not an issue for children. Our church has an opportunity to plant a seed of hope in the lives of our church’s children and reach out to children of our community. This year’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) will be the evenings of June 27-30, and the theme is Cave Quest – Following Jesus the Light of the World. VBS gives us the tools to introduce Jesus to children, to teach that Jesus loves them, Jesus can help them, and Jesus is always with them.

The Group Publishing VBS program is an excellent, well-put-together program, with modern, catchy music that kids love, a Bible Spotlight featuring a Bible story, and a Bible Buddy animal that teaches kids the wonders of God’s creation. Our church has used Group programs for over ten years and has witnessed to hundreds of kids during that time. Many years we have had 50-60 kids participate in VBS, with the majority from our community.

We cannot do VBS without volunteers from our church. Team leaders, station leaders, decorators, and technology experts are needed to bring this program to kids who need the light of Jesus. If you are interested in helping with VBS, please see Leanne Erickson!

Junior Class Assembles Gifts for Chemo Patients

by Alicia Rodewald

Twenty colorful canvas bags were delivered to Altru’s Cancer Center the afternoon of April 18. Inside each bag was a “chemo care kit,” assembled by members of the Junior Sabbath School class, using supplies purchased with donations from church members. The kits were a joint venture between Community Services and the Junior class, the latter having chosen the Cancer Center as their first quarter’s mission emphasis. (The Junior class earned money throughout the quarter by helping out with custodial duties around church.)

The kits were divided equally between children and adults, males and females, and contained such items as blankets, socks, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, lotion, activity books, candy, a Dairy Queen gift card, and a copy of Pastor Mike’s sermon on finding peace. The children’s kits also included a stuffed animal and a children’s Bible, while the adults were supplied with a copy of “Steps to Christ.” Each kit was topped off with a handmade card, in which was written a message of support and a promise to remember its recipient in prayer.

Members of the Junior class were able to earn their Community Services honor for Pathfinders.

It is our prayer that these twenty individuals and their families feel the love of Jesus surrounding them during their difficult journeys, and that you are richly blessed for your generous support of this project.

Women’s Ministries Hosts Brave Girls Event

by Jen Erickson

womens ministry 1Our Women’s Ministries event for all Brave Girls was held on Sunday, April 3, at the church. After a quick devotional by Jen Erickson about being freed from the bounds of slavery to sin, we settled in for a craft project with a purpose.

Ladies each made several small cards that contained a positive message and lovely image. Each small card was addressed to a pre-printed recipient such as “Dear Beautiful Girl” or “Dear Brave Girl.” Then, they added stickers, washi tape, or beautiful papers along with more messages. The messages said things like “Things will get better,” or “You are strong enough to get through this.”womens ministry 2

These cards were gathered and will be sent off to an organization that distributes them to girls caught in the human trafficking industry overseas. These girls are often not allowed any personal possessions, and the hope is that they could have this small card to give them bravery until they can escape to a better life.

“But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”

(Romans 6:22, ESV)




We want to hear from YOU!

If you would like to submit information for the church newsletter, email


A Note From Pastor Mike

Photo Paster TempleThe ancient bearded man dressed in the vestiture and hood of chain mail speaks quietly and with conviction: “You must choose, but choose wisely. For as the true grail will bring you life, the false grail will take it from you.”

Directed by Steven Spielberg in 1989, the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade depicts a scene in a remote cave room where Dr. Jones is faced with selecting The Holy Grail (a cup presumably used by Christ at the Last Supper). The myriad of golden choices that are available to him is staggering. A 700-year-old knight explains that he alone has been guarding the cup for centuries.

Indiana Jones is given the opportunity to choose a chalice from which to drink the water of eternal life. He chooses a simple, dusty goblet from behind two bedazzled specimens, dips it into a pool of water, and drinks from it. “You have chosen wisely,” the old knight quietly whispers.

As far-fetched as this movie is, this scene has repeatedly played out in my mind over the last 20 plus years. “You must choose, but choose wisely.” This thought-provoking phrase has cycled through my brain in a way that would probably make Spielberg proud. His message stuck, and it repeats itself often as I go through the daily task of living. If there was ever a statement that applies to humans in the 21st century, I am convinced that this is it: “You must choose, but choose wisely.”

Life is a veritable buffet of choices and opportunities. I am inundated with media, compelling voices from the left and from the right, music, news, books, magazines, hobbies, and relationships. Yet with all the technology that exists, I am often left with this hollow feeling that I am simply unable to properly decide what to keep and what to leave. As intimidating as it sometimes is to choose correctly, we are faced with this daunting task in almost every moment of each day that we live.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:3, NKJV)

My ability to choose wisely in every circumstance doesn’t magically appear after spending time with my Creator, but I have noticed that my willingness to consider God’s kingdom and His will gives me the peace I need to move forward.

For daily inspiration from Pastor Mike, visit

Monthly Newsletter – February 2016

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Men’s Retreat at Medora in March

Are you a man who seeks to maintain the responsibilities in your life in the way and admonition of the Lord? Whether you are a husband, father, student, church member, church leader, employee, or employer, the Dakota Conference Men’s Retreat is designed for you.

The theme for the 21st annual Men’s Retreat is “Facing God, Facing the World.” Though we live in a confusing, unstable world, though the maze we seem to live and operate in gives no direction, through God’s providence we can be victorious in our Christian walk. God has and will continue to lead His people. This retreat will offer relevant insight to the time in which we live.

The retreat will be held on March 11-13 at the Rough Rider Inn in rustic Medora, the badlands capital of North Dakota. The food is good, rooms comfortable. The cost is $180 for the weekend, including two nights and five meals. This year’s speaker is Dr. Thomas Shepherd, Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Director of the PhD in Religion and ThD programs at Andrews University. This is a great opportunity grow in your faith and fellowship with men from all around the Dakota Conference.

Register before February 25 for early-bird pricing. The church is willing to sponsor those who cannot afford to cover the costs or are in need of transportation to and from. Please contact Randy Rubbert for more information. See you there!

first eventSuccessful First Event for Grand Forks Adventist Youth!

January 20 was the first get-together of the Grand Forks Adventist Youth. About 30 people attended that evening, including several youth from the community.

The evening began with worship music led by Kelsey, Mandy, and Leanne. Damaris introduced Carlos’ devotion about unity with an activity: the group held hands and formed a circle, then passed a hula-hoop along the chain without breaking the hand-hold.

After worship, the group enjoyed a delicious pizza supper provided by Deanna. Following the refreshments were Minute-to-Win-it games. The youth were divided into two teams (Sassy Skittles and Lumberjacks) and competed against each other for bragging rights.

Our next event will be February 20 at 5:30. Meet at the church for a short worship program and soup and sandwiches, followed by bowling. To assist leaders in planning, please sign up on the sheet located on the photocopy counter.

Women’s Sunday Project Day

A group of ladies met Sunday, January 24, for a day of sewing, knitting, and card-making. It was a fun opportunity to work on projects and to enjoy fellowship with each other. A potluck-style lunch was enjoyed by all.

On February 8 at 6:30pm, there will be a card exchange—each attendee will bring blank handmade cards to exchange with each other. Please see Megan Tretter for information if you would like to participate.

Name Your Newsletter

The Grand Forks Church newsletter needs a name! Submit your ideas on the church Facebook page, text 701-741-5992, or talk to Leanne Erickson, Troy Erickson, or Mandy Panasuk.

Ideas will be collected during February and March, followed by a vote for the winner in April. The person who submits the winning name will receive a prize!

breathing faithBreathing Faith by Mandy Panasuk

During college, I remember reading through the final paper of a woman I tutored during her master’s program. It was the story of her life, the bricks of her experiences mortared together with theoretical constructions of psychologists. Her life, summarized in ten typed pages, was an eloquent picture of God’s intervention and protection—her present faith solid, a wall of confidence in His ability to provide for every need, despite the hurts and darkness of the past. Midway through the paper, I stopped looking for comma splices to wonder how to get to this point, where having faith seems as easy as breathing.

So often, my faith seems more prone to spiritual asthma attacks. One day I think, “Wow, I’ve got it, this breathing thing…” It’s just in and out, in and out; my lungs feel light, full of air. But the next minute I’m scraping the air for oxygen. Leave me alone with my thoughts for two minutes and my fears fill my lungs with concrete. “Oh ye of little faith…”

I think of my grandma Florence, a veritable Amazon of faith, speaking life into people so fully and frequently that you were lucky to not catch a busy signal when calling her. I miss her now, wish I could dial her number and ask her how she got there. What was the secret that made her words strong and resonant like the voice of a prophet?

Today, as the rain breaks against my windshield, blurring tail lights into soft red, I think of all the things I can’t see the end of, and I remember that it’s daily…“take up your cross daily,” (Luke 9:23), and I’m oddly comforted by the thought. Maybe faith is found in the building up of days upon days of cross-bearing, burden-casting, continual asking, and waiting. Perhaps it isn’t ever happened upon suddenly and is more like a far-off scene slowly being brought into focus.

Recipe of the Month

Corn and Tomato Salad

1 can of sweet corn

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 bunch cilantro or parsley

1/2 small red onion chopped

2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the first four ingredients. Whisk oil, lime juice, cumin, and salt together.  Drizzle over salad.

This is a basic recipe.  Be creative: add your favorite nuts or garbanzo beans in place of the corn; add kale or lemon too!

Submitted by Corinne Passa