Over the weekend of April 8 and 9, 2022, alumni, students, parents, and staff of Milwaukee Seventh-day Adventist School (MSDAS) celebrated 50 years of Adventist education at their current location on the north side of the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Event organizers created posters with class photos or other information from each of the last 50 years, as well as recognizing earlier photos, facts, and stories from the school’s history at two earlier sites. While celebrating 50 years at its West Mill Road location, the school actually began as the Milwaukee Mission School in 1898, housed on the first floor of a two-story building that served also as home to both German and English Seventh-day Adventist congregations. In 1943, in the midst of World War II, the school was relocated to 29th Street and renamed, Milwaukee Junior Academy.
In 1970 the new school was built on its current location through God’s blessing and the combined resources of three Seventh-day Adventist churches, the Milwaukee Central, Milwaukee Northwest, and Waukesha congregations. Today, along with these original churches, the school is supported by eight constituent churches, including Milwaukee North Hispanic, Maranatha Hispanic, Milwaukee Central Hispanic, Waukesha Hispanic, and La Hayes churches which are part of the Wisconsin Conference, and also the Milwaukee SDA Hispanic Church, of the Lake Region Conference.
The weekend celebration began on Friday night with students from both the North and South Campuses presenting a special vespers program. All grade levels were involved from Kindergarten through grade 10 with special musical numbers, devotional messages, skits, and reciting of Bible memory verses. Finally, all 185 current students joined together under the direction of Music Teacher, Davina Fingerson, for a multi-part rendition of the song, “May Your Kingdom Come.”
One of the most unique moments of the evening was when long-time Science and Physical Education teacher, Alberto Torres (who is from Puerto Rico), Business Manager Amir Gulzar (who is from Pakistan and later served as missionary to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa), and Administrative Principal Tim Erich (who was born in South Korea to missionary parents, later lived Singapore, and spent a year of college at the Adventist seminary in France) led out in recognizing the significance of the school’s important multi-cultural background. While asking members of the audience to share their native languages, it was discovered that attendees or families from 18 different language backgrounds were represented at this event.
On Sabbath, hundreds of alumni and current members of the school family attended multiple services throughout the day. The lively Sabbath School lesson study was led out by Michael Jakobsons, an alumnus from the 90’s, who came all the way from Ohio. Special music was provided by one of the newest members for the MSDA school family, Kristen Kerbs Erich, who shared a vocal solo of the song, “Shepherd of My Heart.” Kristin is the wife of new MSDAS Administrative Principal, Tim Erich.
Between Sabbath School and church, members of the school board shared information on options for expansion of the school program. Myoung Kwon, pastor of both the Northwest and Waukesha Seventh-day Adventist Churches, reminded attendees to have faith that God can bless beyond our expectations. Pastor Evelio Miranda, Wisconsin Conference Hispanic Ministries Coordinator, encouraged all to be open to whatever direction the Lord leads as we consider future opportunities for our growing community. One of the many reasons for considering growth options was the sad news that at the beginning of second semester, due to lack of classroom space, 15 students who wanted to attend MSDAS had to be turned away. This breaks the hearts of staff, school board, and church members alike, and has all involved wondering what steps can be taken to expand the provision of Adventist education in the Milwaukee area.
The Sabbath morning church service opened with a warm welcome by Wisconsin Conference President, Titus Naftanaila, and additional introductions were made by 50th Anniversary Celebration committee member, Diane Maitland. During the program, time was set aside to recognize individuals from the different decades of attendance. Three alumni were present who were members of the very first class to graduate as the new campus was being completed 52 years ago! These special guests were, Holly Slomski, Suzanne Kordas, and Jill Kasischke. MSDAS School Board Chair, Dawn Steffen, also celebrated the immense contribution of Paul Freeman, past school board chair and long-time board member, for his many years of service. Happily, Mr. Freeman continues to faithfully serve on the board! Additionally, the school recognized the continuing contribution of Mrs. Cindy Willer. Before beginning her service as North Campus secretary and receptionist, Cindy, and her husband Mr. Dan Willer, often with the assistance of their children, carried out custodial, grounds, and maintenance duties for many years. This is Cindy’s 29th year of service to the school and to the students who love and appreciate her so much! What a blessing she is!
During the church service, special music was shared by MSDAS alumnus and recent Wisconsin Academy graduate, Miss Hannah Fingerson. She inspired those present through a vocal solo with the song, “Thy Will.” The sermon message of hope and reflection was presented by Pastor Debbie Rivera. Not only is she the administrative pastor of Ellicott City Seventh-day Adventist Church in Maryland, but Pastor Rivera was a teacher at MSDAS for a number of years in the 1990’s and still has close ties to friends in the Milwaukee area.
During this inspiring weekend, the blessings didn’t end with the church service. Under the leadership of Pastor Evelio and Noemi Miranda, Hilda Reyes, and Carlos Melendez all constituent Hispanic churches provided a delightful lunch. Following Christ’s example of service, meals, drink, and dessert were all brought right to each and every table by members of Milwaukee South Hispanic Company, led by Pastor Miranda and Lay Pastor Juan Diaz. What a wonderful example of personalized generosity of service!
After lunch, board member and alumnus Tim Krawczyk with teacher Alberto Torres led a memory-filled tour of classrooms and the school facility. This was followed by an uplifting gospel concert by musical artists Terry Howard and Mark Ringwelski.
The success of the weekend was due, in large part, to the planning and efforts of the members of the 50 Anniversary Committee, which included Diane Maitland, Holly Slomski, Suzanne Kordas, Tim Krawczyk and former Pastor Sheldon Bryan. Attendees blessed through this event especially appreciated the hard work and cheerful service of Office Manager Lisa Doorley, School Board Secretary Candy Jakobsons, School Secretary Cindy Willer, and Teacher and Sound Technician Alan Petersen who went above and beyond in their efforts to help make the weekend a blessed experience.
As always when God’s people come together in a spirit of cooperation and praise, the weekend 50th Anniversary Celebration included the making of many more wonderful memories, and provided an opportunity for hopeful contemplation of the future as God leads in the next 50 years of Adventist Christian education in the Milwaukee area.
Tim Erich, Principal of Milwaukee Seventh-day Adventist School