Greater Orlando’s SDA landscape: 52 churches within 15 miles

By Gia Arroyo

Florida is the state with the second highest number of Seventh-day Adventist churches in the United States. With 471 SDA Churches dispersed across the state, I was intrigued by the numbers and decided to research the topic.

When taking on this project, I decided to focus on Orlando, specifically Seventh-day Adventist churches within a 15-mile radius of the city.  The majority of the churches that were in the 15-mile radius were located in Orange County. There were two remaining churches that were a part of Brevard County.

Below is the Interactive Map that I created to show the 52 SDA Churches in the 15-mile radius. The churches are mapped out by language.

Map to Key:

The population of Greater Orlando Area is an estimated 1,348,975 as of 2017. Since this estimate, Central Florida has seen an increase of citizens from Venezuela and Puerto Rico seeking refuge after a natural disaster and political turmoil.

English Churches:

There are 26 English speaking Seventh-day Adventist churches within the 15-mile radius of Orlando. Under this category, there are many churches that are diverse and large in numbers. Examples of this would be Forest Lake SDA or Spring Meadows churches.  It is also important to point out that some of these churches could be predominantly black, Asian, or white. However, since the focus of this map is on the language, researching that information was unnecessary.

Spanish Churches:  

 There are 14 Spanish-speaking churches on the interactive map. When conducting the research, I was expecting there to be more Spanish speaking churches in the area. I’m sure if I expanded the mile radius, more churches would pop up. Hispanics made up approximately 26.9 percent of the Greater Orlando Area in the 2010 census. In the upcoming census (2020), this number is most likely to increase due to the diaspora of Venezuelans and Puerto Ricans.

Greater Orlando Area’s SDA Population:

According to research done by the Glenmary Research Center in 1990, Orange County (Greater Orlando Area) was in the Top 25 U.S. Counties with Largest Seventh-day Adventist Communities.

In the 1990s, there were an estimated 6,526 Seventh-day Adventists in Orange County.  Fifty out of the 52 of the churches on the interactive map are in Orange County.

To see the amount of growth Orlando has had, I added up all the members of the 52 churches. If the numbers are correct and none of these members have left the area, we have an estimated 22,052 Seventh-day Adventists in the Greater Orlando Area (within the 15-mile radius).

The growing SDA population in the Greater Orlando Area is most likely caused by two factors. The first reason is people leaving their countries due to political or disaster refuge and immigrating to this area. These large groups of people moving to this area are usually already Adventists.  Although our church works hard to reach a lot of people, these individuals are not necessarily brought to the church from evangelism since they are already apart of the church.

Orlando is known for being the home of the massive AdventHealth Hospitals, previously known as Florida Hospital. Just in the Greater Orlando Area, there are 10 AdventHealth facilities. These huge hospitals must attract a lot of SDA’s to the area, and also in a way teach those unfamiliar with the faith about Adventism.

In a span of almost 30 years, the numbers of Adventists has skyrocketed in my hometown. I can’t wait to see where we will be another 30 years from now.


Learning about the 10/40 Window

 By Paola Mora Zepeda

The 10/40 window refers to the countries located between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator.  Within this region are 61 countries that have the least access to Christianity in the entire world. Most countries are predominantly  Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu, though some are dominated by other religions.

When I first heard of this term, I was intrigued. Throughout my whole life, I have lived in an Adventist environment. So, it was hard for me to imagine a place where Christianity is almost non-existent. Hence, I saw this interactive map as an opportunity to learn more about these countries and the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) presence within their borders.

The map contains four variables: Population of the country, main religion, SDA church membership and percentage of Adventists according to the population. All of this information comes from data collected in 2016, as I was unable to get more updated results for all four categories.

What I discovered, left me in shock. I was not expecting a large SDA church membership, but I never imagined how ignorant my guesses were. My jaw dropped as I found out that some countries had less than 100 Adventists — some as low five or zero. 

I know that there are cases where not all church members are reported due to the political strife and/or lack of religious freedom. But as I analyzed the numbers, I found it bizarre that the building I was in, my school’s library, had a bigger SDA presence than an entire country.

Then, when I came across countries with 2,000 members or more I found myself saying “Hey, that’s not too bad,” while ignoring the fact that these countries have millions of inhabitants. Yes, 2,000 is better than 20, but the percentage of SDA always remained under 0.2 percent and most did not even reach 0.1 percent.

The Seventh-day Adventist church has grown significantly in both terms of numbers and diversity, but this map is proof that there are still hundreds of millions of people that have not yet been reached.

What do the colors represent? 

The colors represent the SDA divisions to which these countries belong:

Light Blue: Northern Asia Pacific Division (NSD)
Purple: Southern Asia Pacific Division (SSD)
Yellow: Southern Asia Division (SUD)
Pink: Euro Asian Pacific Division (ESD)
Light Green: West Central Africa Division (WAD)
Teal: East-Central Africa Division (ECD)
Orange: Attached to the General Conference (MENA)
Dark Green: Israel Field
Red: Does not belong to any conference

Mixed Religious Households

By Gia Arroyo

Growing up in a household that is split religiously is never an easy thing. My mother went through a situation like this at home. Although her parents were both Christian, it was still difficult living with a Seventh-day Adventist mom and Pentecostal dad. 

Wanting to see how common this is, I decided to research it online. According to a Pew Research Center study done in 2016, “roughly one-in-five U.S. adults were raised with a mixed religious background.”

The research center also discovered that 48 percent of children who grew up in a two-religion household are more likely to follow their mother’s faith. 

While researching this information, I remembered that my roommate, Shirali Pathak and her older sister, Prianca, grew up in a mixed religious household. They were raised by a Seventh-day Adventist mother and Hindu father.

“My dad not only wanted us to keep his values, as well as my mom’s,” said Shirali.  “We had a choice to make.” 

 Sabbaths were fun for Shirali. Being able to go to church and enjoy Adventures/Pathfinders is a memory that she’s fond of. The majority of her schooling has been in the Adventist education system. Prior to entering college, her father did not mind that she was in an SDA school. 

The issues arose when Shirali and Prianca decided to come to Southern.

“My dad was very against it ’cause he wanted us to be home, and he didn’t understand why we wanted to continue going to an Adventist school,” she said.

Because of this, supporting Shirali and her sister financially for school has fallen on their mother, she said.  Although it is difficult sometimes, when the topic of religion comes up, Shirali remains thankful that her father is understanding and respects her decision of being a Christian.

Do Christian artists feel limited by their beliefs?


In the video above, Madeline Mace, junior fine arts major, describes her journey with art and shares insight into the inspiration behind her pieces.

By Natalia Perez

This week, I interviewed four Southern students on their backstories as creators, and how their religious affiliation or cultural/societal gender roles have affected — or not affected — their creative process and expression.

Barry Daly, senior religious studies major, is an imaginative and detailed artist. He has been creating as a photographer for seven years.

Tell me a bit about you as an artist.

B: “For the majority of my life, I’ve tried my best to create from my imagination through writing, storytelling, and filmmaking. When I was starting out I would draw [inspiration] from everywhere, and as a result, I was able to draw emotion from my subjects that many other photographers could not. At this point in my creative journey, I draw from minor details in conversations, certain body language, details in movies, music, or other forms of entertainment.”

For more on Barry’s work, visit


Audrey Fankhanel, junior international studies major, has been especially flourishing as an artist during her year abroad in Italy. She creates through writing, photography, painting, and designing.

A: “It is hard to become an artist. It’s something that is innately within you. I have been creating since before I can remember. I have a portfolio for every year of my life, each filled with short stories and paintings. However, I still struggle with calling myself an artist because by claiming the title I feel a huge responsibility and pressure to create.

I am most inspired by nature, but my works are not directly about nature. I’m fascinated by the rhythms and patterns found in every aspect of the natural world, from the orbit of an electron to the ever-expanding universe. This life is so unpredictable, but these natural laws are perfect and never changing, and if that isn’t evidence of a God then I don’t know what is.”

For more of Audrey’s work, visit


Kristen Vonnoh, senior journalism-publishing major, has a special flair in her writing that matches her personality. Her writing interests include faith, fashion, and music among other things.

K: “I guess my writer’s journey began when I made a blog in fifth grade documenting horribly written short stories. I never really considered calling myself a writer until college, and even now I typically call myself a journalist. But I suppose “writer” is all-encompassing, which I like.

I definitely tend to be the overly dramatic, overly romantic type, so I draw creativity from pretty much everything honestly. Whether it’s a super mediocre cup of coffee or a TED talk I just heard, my mind is constantly absorbing ideas for my writing. That and my journalism professors have given me the wonderful advice to always, always, always be looking out for interesting stories.”

To read Kristen’s work, visit
To read her blog, visit


Jordan Putt, Southern alum, is a soulful and heartfelt creative. On April 21, 2018, he released an EP called “Honest to God,”  available on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp, and all music online-streaming sites. His album is a meditation of God, humanity, imperfection, and faith; and it’s the culmination of almost four years of sporadic writing. His music reads like a love letter to a best friend.

J: “I’ve been interested in music for as long as I can remember. Since I was old enough to pull myself up onto the piano bench, I would pretend to play music on it. I got my first guitar when I was 10, and it’s been a love affair ever since. I draw inspiration from my own experiences and feelings, as well as whatever I happen to be listening to at the moment. I think one of the things that has helped me become a better musician is listening to music from as wide a variety of musical genres and eras as I possibly can. I get a lot of inspiration from hearing what other people have done and trying to assimilate that into my own playing and writing.”

To listen to Jordan’s EP, visit

Here’s more of what the four artists had to say on this topic:

Do you feel limited by our religion or do you feel it enhances your creativity?

B: “When I was younger, I really believed that anything was possible within the confines of the church. As I have gotten older, I’ve consistently encountered judgment and opportunism. For the longest time, I had no idea why so many made the decision to leave the church. Often times, church-goers don’t take the time to really show love and support artists. Ultimately, I don’t believe that religion and belief limit me, but the people who “control” them do their best to shame creatives into fitting in the box they’ve built.”

A: “Growing up surrounded by the Adventist culture in Loma Linda, California, I absolutely have felt limited creatively. My spiritual beliefs enhance my art more than anything else, but the religious culture in which my beliefs reside creates a bubble of “appropriateness” that SDA’s are expected to operate within.”

K: “I 100% believe my relationship with God fuels my creativity. Understanding the gospel and my freedom in Christ has only allowed my creativity to flourish. And I think the key in all of that is a relationship with God—the ultimate Creator.”

photo courtesy of Jordan Putt

J: “I feel less limited by my beliefs than by what I think my audience will tolerate. My beliefs go hand in hand with my experiences and who I am as a person, so as long as I stay true to myself in my art (which has always been my goal), I won’t even think about creating something that goes against my beliefs. However, I do think that there are a lot of taboos in Adventist culture as it relates to doubts, struggles, and questioning. I have felt like there’s a lot of pressure to put on a good face and appear secure and content all the time, even when that may not be the case. This can be especially true for people who have been raised in the church.

For me, the anxiety that comes from being vulnerable and open about those questions or struggles can sometimes cause me to feel limited in what I feel comfortable talking about because of how I think it may cause my audience, especially the more conservative segment, to perceive me as a person.”

What do you think differentiates traditional feminine art from masculine art?

B: “I believe that the biggest difference is that most often it’s much easier for women to show emotion, and they are most often more willing to be vulnerable because for them art is healing.”

Madeline Mace displays dried flowers hanging from her ceiling in her art studio. A project representing traditional feminine art.

A: “Traditionally, masculine art has dominated feminine art, and this is mainly at the fault of the consumer. Male artists are given unwritten permission to be provocative and enticing. Their works tackle big ideas and complex emotions. Meanwhile, females are associated with creating “pretty” paintings or fun business logos. There are many female artists creating just as great works as males, but you will never hear about them. This goes for the Christian church as well, especially if you look at preaching as an art form. How many mega churches do you see being spearheaded by women? How often do you hear of a great female theologian outside of the context of an “inclusion” seminar?”

K: “I’ve always found this idea interesting because while there are universal feminine and masculine characteristics, much of it is also determined by culture. As a woman going into the field of journalism, I definitely recognize the “masculine” aspects of the craft (i.e. analyzing, collecting data and documents, etc.) and honestly I love it because it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to engage with a different aspect of my mind.”

J: “I think art that we perceive as feminine usually tends to deal with softer, more traditionally feminine themes — love, family, etc. What is generally perceived to be masculine art usually deals with things that are traditionally male themes or traits, such as aggression, strength, security, etc.”

If you're a Christian artist, do your beliefs inhibit or enhance your creative process?

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La Familia: The Latino Experience at Southern Adventist University

By Natalia Perez

The interactive map and slideshow below feature the population of Southern’s Latino students whose citizenship is outside of the U.S., along with stories from students who are second-generation immigrants. 

Last semester, I and a team of ladies from the Southern’s School of Journalism designed and assembled the content for the Latin American Club’s first magazine, “Unidad Latina” (Latino Unity). The purpose of the magazine is to both celebrate the Latin American students of Southern and connect them with Southern’s alumni and the surrounding community. Although LAC has traditionally celebrated Latino culture through LAC events and especially on LAC night, this year we’ve opened a new avenue of expression through the written word.

Throughout this first issue, as well as the map above, you’ll find that many stories hold prominent themes of strength, family, and remembering home. In light of the various struggles Latinos face in the U.S., we find joy in celebrating our cultures together, and we’d love to celebrate them with you.








Listening to my Cuban grandmother wasn’t always easy. But I loved her.

Anaelys Trochez

When I think about the Seventh-day Adventist church, one of the most important people that comes to mind is my Cuban grandmother, Nancy Mestre. She inspired me to be a better Christian.

Every morning, mi Abuelita (Spanish for “my grandmother”) would always pray for anyone who crossed her path in life. I learned most of my beliefs and values from her.

But there were times I wish I didn’t listen. Abuelita and I had different views within the church. I was struggling to see God as a loving being. She had legalistic views  and I did not agree. As a result, it shaped my views (both negatively and positively) about being a part of a church.

Here’s a challenge: Think about the people you associate with in church. Are the majority of your friends outside or within your generation?

I asked that question of myself and realized that the majority of the people I spend time with at church are youth and young adult members of the church. I only spend time with the older generations when I have to — like in Sabbath morning church services and church board meetings.

I realized that I am not intentional about speaking with someone of a different age.

Why? Because of past negative conversations with older church members, their actions (or lack of), and personal stereotypes.

In the Journal of Applied Christian Leadership, Clint Jenkins and A. Allan Martin published a dialogue called Engaging Adventist Millennials: A Church Embracing Relationships in the spring of 2014.

In this article, they reviewed a study completed in 2013 by the Barna Group to investigate how congregations can be more effective in maintaining engagement with those born between 1980 and 2000.

They surveyed Millennials who were (or had been) part of an Adventist congregation to understand their collective experiences and attitudes. The study details six perceptual grievances that Millennials tend to harbor against “the church” as a cultural institution. These grievances hold that the church is (1) intolerant of doubt, (2) elitist in its relationships, (3) anti-science in its beliefs, (4) overprotective of its members, (5) shallow in its teachings and (6) repressive of differences.

Jenkins and Martin noticed that maintaining engagement among young adults is through positive experiences and relationships with older Adventist members and church leadership. They realized that intergenerational relationships are vital and can be the reason Millennials stay or leave the church.

I found this to be true. A close friend of mine does not attend church because church members disliked her bold choice of hair color. Another young church member feels discouraged about planning programs to which only a few attend and some don’t show up at all.

I remember attending a church board meeting where older church members were reluctant to participate in youth group activities because they felt out of touch with our generation.

According to the study,  establishing supportive intergenerational relationships, expressing forgiveness and acceptance and sharing experiences might be ways to build a bridge between the generational gap within the church.

Mi Abuelita, my beloved grandmother,  passed away Jan 6th  of this year, just four days after my 21st birthday. As I reflect on our relationship, there were many times that I let our differences be an excuse for us not getting along.

I wish I understood sooner that we were both broken individuals trying to be a Christlike. I miss her smile and most of all, I miss her prayers for me. She would always pray for my studies and education. I am where I am because of her early morning prayers.

I challenge young people (myself included) to establish a friendship with someone outside their generational group. Talk, pray and support them whatever way you can.