Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Columbia Union Conference Executive Leadership (back row) Dave Weigley, Rob Vandeman and Seth Bardu honor the 2016 Notable Persons of Honor (front row) Marilyn Peeke, Sahilys Fuentes, Minnie McNeil, Tim Engelkeimer and Pam Scheib

2016 Notable Persons of Honor Recognized

Story by Celeste Ryan Blyden

Today Columbia Union Conference leaders recognized a group of seven people who have worked tirelessly for the Lord in the Columbia Union Conference territory.

During the November Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee Meeting at union headquarters in Columbia, Md. Rob Vandeman, executive secretary, introduced this year’s honorees. “These people have been faithful to their calling to help share the message of Jesus through different means,” he said.

Pam Scheib serves as Adventurer and Pathfinder Director for the Pennsylvania Conference and also as our union coordinator. She is a member of the Executive Advisory Committee for the 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee, and was the Camporee Director for the 2007, 2012 and the recent 2016 Columbia Union Pathfinder Camporee, with over 3,000 attendees, the largest in our union’s history.

Though she and her husband Michael have no children of their own, they consider all of the Adventurers and Pathfinders that have been a part of their lives over the years to be significant members of their “family.” Pam lives to show young people how awesome God truly is and to lead them to Christ. Her motto is, "Training future leaders to walk with Christ wherever He is going.”

Marilynn Peeke has also dedicated herself to youth through the ministry of education. She has served in Chesapeake Conference for 21 years – four at Highland View Academy in Hagerstown, Md., and the past 17 at Atholton Adventist Academy in Columbia, Md. At Atholton, Peeke has been instrumental in launching or reviving several programs, including grades 9, 10 and pre-kindergarten; the band; foreign language instruction for grades 1-10; formal computer instruction for grades 5-10; the international student program; and the summer program. She also worked tirelessly during the building of the new school wing, showing up every day to volunteer her services and using her enthusiasm to keep excitement for the building project high. She is currently on a mission to retire the school mortgage by December 31, 2016.

Those who know Peeke best say that she lives at school and sleeps next door. (Her house just happens to be about 150 feet away from the school!) They also know that she’s a living testimony of her favorite Scripture, Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Tim Engelkeimer is another faithful steward in God’s vineyard. For the last 25 years, he has served as the camp ranger for the Mountain View Conference’s Valley Vista Adventist Center near Huttonsville, W.Va.  

Engelkeimer learned to work with his hands, driving the tractor, helping his dad with building and remodeling projects on a small fruit farm in Michigan where he was raised. He later earned licenses in real estate; water, pool and sewer operations; and residential contracting, all of which came in handy in his work at Valley Vista.

“While the work is often hard and lonely,” he says, “it’s fun to see the people of Mountain View come to a place they love around Christ-centered programs.”

Tim calls the words of Proverbs 3:7: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil,” together with the counsel of James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God who gives to all men liberally...” a prayer best said for me daily.

Minnie McNeil adopted for her life the instructions given by Moses to Joshua found in Deuteronomy 31:8: “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

After enjoying a 34-year career in nursing, He led her to the Allegheny East Conference where she served as Women’s and Prison Ministries director for 15 years and where she continues to champion ministries of compassion as director of Adventist Community Services for the conference and as ACS and Disaster Response coordinator for our Union. She serves on the ACS Board of Directors for the North American Division, served 12 years as an appointed member of the American Cancer Society Board and 10 years on the Chester County, Pennsylvania, Health Department Board of Directors, the last four as chair. She co-founded and with her husband of 52 years, Andrew, continues to operate a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing housing and supportive services, that includes a 22-bed shelter for homeless men; 18 apartments for low- to moderate-income individuals and families; two transitional houses; and three townhouses providing supportive permanent housing for men. 

Monte Sahlin has been a stalwart fixture in ministry in the Columbia Union for many a decade. During his 45-year tenure, he served the Seventh-day Adventist church as a minister, research sociologist, journalist, author and community organizer. His ministry began in 1970 with the Voice of Prophecy in Los Angeles. He later pastored in a number of churches – large churches in major cities in the northeast and Midwest and small churches in rural Appalachia. He served the church administratively at the Ohio Conference, North American Division, here at the Columbia Union Conference and then back at the Ohio Conference before retirement in 2014.

One of the major components of Sahlin’s ministry has been research, development and spearheading special projects, including the development of the Adventist Communication Network for the Net Evangelism series, which was the precursor to what is now Hope Channel. He authored or coauthored more than 120 major research reports, whose data has been invaluable to the work and advancement of Adventist mission. His findings were published in 26 books and many articles for the Visitor, Adventist Review, Ministry magazine and other periodicals. Along the way, he mentored a few dozen individuals who continue to serve the church today.

Violeta Anavitarte (pictured with José H. Cortés, New Jersey Conference president), a native of the Dominican Republic, is 89 years old, but it was as a young adult living in New York City that she was introduced to the Advent message, gave her heart to the Lord without reservation and came to know and experience that love which passes understanding.

In 1989 she returned home to study theology at the Adventist University in the Dominican Republic, graduated Magna Cum Laude and returned to the states where she was ordained as the first female elder in New Jersey. She then worked as a Bible worker and colporteur for many years. She remains an active ministry leader at the Iglesia PanAmericana church in Vineland, N.J., and says her greatest love and passion is preaching and teaching about Jesus.

Sahilys Fuentes has dedicated her life to public evangelism and church planting. Fuentes has helped to win more than 800 souls for Christ’s kingdom.

Sahilys earned two bachelors degrees – one in pastoral counseling and the other in Biblical Pastoral Theology from the Adventist University of the Antilles, Puerto Rico. “I started to receive invitations to preach at various evangelistic meetings, weeks of prayers, women's ministry evangelism and in Canada and Latin America,” she recalls. “Additionally, I volunteered with a group of elders in Potomac to conduct public evangelism events in the Caribbean and Central America.”

From there she began planting churches closer to home in northern Virginia and has been instrumental in starting the Arlington, Vienna, Herndon and Fairfax Spanish congregations and is currently serving as volunteer pastor for the Lorton Spanish group, which will be her fifth.


Feature photo: Columbia Union Conference Executive Leadership (back row) Dave Weigley, Rob Vandeman and Seth Bardu honor the 2016 Notable Persons of Honor (front row) Marilyn Peeke, Sahilys Fuentes, Minnie McNeil, Tim Engelkeimer and Pam Scheib. Sahlin and Anavitarte not pictured.


Photo of Violeta Anavitarte by Jorge Pilco

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