By Bishop D. Chris Thompson
I was so blessed to attend part of the Sonshine Camp Meeting and to preside over the 2017 Annual Conference, June 23, 2017. That one makes nearly 60 for me. I do enjoy the annual conferences. This one was certainly one of my favorites.
I arrived early enough to hear the preaching of Bishop Tony Miller on Thursday. He was in good form. The praise and worship by Dave and Jennifer Ragan was awesome. Bishop Ray Willis is gifted in leading camp meeting services. During the service, Bishop Ray had pastors bring county soil samples and the regional directors prayed over the soil. It was a phenomenal time in the Lord. The conference was preparing for a similar event on the Friday night of General Conference.
During the day on Thursday, Brian James represented Emmanuel College. He did an excellent job. I shared a few words about Holmes Bible College on Friday. Every time I speak I get more excited about the school. Emmanuel and Holmes are doing an excellent job in training youth for the future.
As the Conference began, I spoke on the 2017 theme, “We Prayerfully Value Christ’s Kingdom” and gave a short devotion on how generations relate to Christ’s kingdom. Both were well received.
Various departmental leaders gave reports – Discipleship, Missions and Financial. These were given with much enthusiasm and the people responded accordingly. Over 70 delegates were present for the morning Conference. In the evening services, over 300 attended. The conference has 106 churches with new churches being planted regularly.
Rev. Orren Simpson gave the Memoirs Report. Seven individuals were mentioned:
James Edward (Jake) Anderson
Juanita George Bearry
George Edward Lewis
Edward Arthur MacDonald
Donald Robert Trenschel
Iris Gray Worrell
Bro. Orren and I go back many years. He did a superb job. It was good to visit with him again.
It was an honor for me to recognize two former superintendents– Orren Simpson and Clifton Smith. Both these men are loved and deeply appreciated. Clifton also served the IPHC well in missions. He is still a delightful fellow!!!
Bishop Ray Willis presented a challenging State of the Conference report. It was one of the best I’ve heard this year. He is full of vision and mission. He focused on four points:
- Synergizing ministries and churches to accomplish kingdom success
- The increased need and implementation of next-generation emphasis and strategies
- Sonshine Network Ministries is to be a missions-minded conference.
- He is determined to provide resources, material, and training to help facilitate the vision given by God.
Bishop Ray is an excellent speaker. On Friday night, he preached a marvelous message on the church as “the light of the world.” There was a shout in the camp.
Ray Willis is a “Master” trainer with the IPHC and DCPI (Dynamic Church Planting International). He is one bishop who has made himself available for training and has partnered extensively with EVUSA. The conference is beginning to move forward with “solid” full Member Church plants and with fruitful church revitalization as well. Well done, Bishop Ray. I would be thrilled to have you multiplied, sir (and with Ray, you get Peggy). May I also say that Ray has one of the most beautiful and powerful F-350 trucks I have ever ridden in. Help me, Lord!
Assistant Superintendent Donovan Tinsley read the Credential Committee Report. Eight would receive license and three would be ordained on Friday night:
Clifford LeRoy Brooks Minister’s License
Curtis J. Clevinger Minister’s License
Melissa Jean Ladd Minister’s License
Paul Thomas Ladd Minister’s License
James L. Philmon Minister’s License
Jason Christopher Sellars Minister’s License
Victoria Lynn Wilkerson Minister’s License
William Shawn Wilkerson Minister’s License
David R. Hodges Certificate of Ordination
Reuben Jackson Certificate of Ordination
Andrew Christian Walker Certificate of Ordination
This was quite a diverse list. I do praise the Lord for the diversity. I believe so strongly that a conference should mirror the people who live in the geographical area.
I was excited to see Van and Jane Bloss, IPHC missionaries at the Conference. They are veteran teaching missionaries. I follow their reports and their postings on Facebook.
Bishop Ray and Peggy Willis are excellent hosts. After the Conference, I was treated to some excellent home cooking at Fred’s – “where they have slow food fast.” I enjoyed all the southern vegetables, especially the fried green tomatoes.
I must speak a word about the Willis family. Ray’s dad and mom were present. They were pastors. They both are strong and very anointed. Praise Him! Ray and Peggy’s son, Chad, is a pastor and serves on the Conference Executive Council as a regional director. Ray and Peggy are “real people.” They are Pentecostal and they are holiness. These seem to be vital parts of the family DNA.