Inter-America’s Segment Leadership Development Conference this year gathered more than 630 church leaders from across the territory for a three-day conference in Miami, Florida, July 9-11, 2018. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

July 17, 2018 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens/IAD

This year’s Segment Leadership Development Conference (SeLD) drew hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist leaders from across the Inter-American Division (IAD) territory for organizational training in Miami, Florida, July 9-11, 2018. Church administrators, pastors, educators, department heads, church elders and laypersons sharpened their skills to be more innovative and effective as they carry the vision and mission of the church throughout their workplace.

IAD President Elect Dr. Elie Henry (left) speaks to the SeLD delegation, while David Poloche of ADRA Inter-America translates. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

“You came from all the corners of the Division to be enriched by the learned experience of so many church experts and specialists so you can have great success in your leadership,” said Dr. Elie Henry, president-elect for the church in Inter-America.  “We want this SeLD conference to help you turn your new skills into noticeable development where you lead.”

Themed “A Leaders: Transformed, Innovative and Effective”, the conference featured more than 30 speakers from the Adventist world church, Loma Linda University, the North American Division and the Inter-American Division. The more than 630 delegates took part in general sessions and dozens of seminars on effective church management, conflict resolution, ethical leadership, motivational techniques, statistical reporting and more.

“Development is equipping human resources for present and future so that’s what the SeLD Conference is intended to provide,” said Pastor Balvin Braham, assistant to the IAD president in charge of leadership training.  It is not so much textbook leadership that the conference brings, said Braham, but more about leadership by experience within the culture of Adventism.

Pastor Balvin Braham, assistant to the IAD president for leadership developing training. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

“We believe that it could be travesty for us as an organization to be removed from that which makes us a distinctive group of individuals called by God for the end of times,” said Braham.

It’s about keeping the organization on course with the founding principles and purpose for mission fulfillment. “If we are not careful we could lose it so easily, so moving forward in the same direction is key as an organization.”

“Leadership today won’t be in leadership tomorrow, the church must be planning for succession,” added Braham. “This kind of leadership training with a world view provides insights and concepts as to where we should be going as an organization.”

For Dr. Cheryl Rolle, the conference was another opportunity to gain more leadership knowledge now that she is assuming the role of administrator. Rolle became the first female to be appointed as union executive secretary in the Atlantic Caribbean Union in May. The appointment is historic across the IAD union territory as well. Rolle is a commissioned minister, a third-generation Adventist with more than 29 years of church service as an educator, principal, union department director and most recently associate secretary to the union which oversees the work in The Bahamas, Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos. Her new responsibilities will lead her to study more church policies and oversee dozens of employees and secretarial staff across the church conferences and fields.

Dr. Cheryl Rolle, executive secretary of the Atlantic Caribbean Union. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

One key message from Dr. Karnik Doukmetzian, general counsel for the Adventist world church, reminded her in order to ensure church policies, leaders must know them thoroughly.

Attending The SeLD conference for the second year in a row allowed her to recount the many mentors who enriched her leadership growth and provided respect and affirmation. She particularly identified with Andrews University President Dr. Andrea Luxton’s presentation on the characteristics of successful women in organizational leadership and how male leaders provided room to grow.

“I was given latitude and room to grow and to explore my leadership capacities so really I have not had persons who I have worked under who didn’t allow growth,” said Rolle.

Dr. Andrea Luxton, president of Andrews University. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

The circle of support by the leadership of the church and the emphasis on depending on God for wisdom and knowledge to perform her duties toward fulfilling the mission, have been one of the highlights during the conference.

Passing on the knowledge and skills in the church territory where she serves is a priority in the coming weeks so that every worker is on board moving efficiently together, Rolle said.

Wade Winston Tobin, a principal of the British Virgin Islands Adventist School, and part of the largest delegation of 88 leaders from the Caribbean Union, said he took in every word, every moment of each general session and the half a dozen seminars he attended.

As principal of the 352 student and staff he has managed over the last seven years on the island of Tortola, the SeLD conference this year has exposed him to policies at higher organizations that help to guide the church. “This broadens my knowledge to use with the local laws to be more effective as a leader,” said Tobin.

Wade Winston Tobin, principal of the British Virgin Islands on Tortola. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

“To really see the direction we are going, rub shoulders with colleagues who are going through similar challenges, and see and feel the spiritual commitment to the church organization helps me sharpen my skills and mindset,” added Tobin.

Tobin said he goes back to his staff to implement new approaches to improve strategies, refine the current organizational culture at the school and shorten the gap between the older and the younger leadership in the church.

Pastor Luis Paredes of East Venezuela said the SeLD conference is an essential part of the development that he needs every year in order to provide the kind of leadership to the changing demographics in his country.

Paredes has served the church for 21 years and is currently the president of the South Central Venezuela Conference in Maracay, where he oversees the work of 31 ministers as well as more than two dozen office staff.  “One of our biggest challenges in leadership is catering to the growing and migrating membership in our territory,” said Paredes. Discipling new members and training new leaders is part of a daily reality, so leadership development training is done once or twice a month on Sundays.

Pastor Luis Paredes, president of the South Central Venezuela Conference. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

“I believe that all can be built or destroyed by leadership so it is essential to continue moving forward committed to fulfilling the mission of the church,” said Paredes.

The spiritual leadership seminar by Dr. Angel Manuel Rodríguez, former Biblical Research Institute director, resonated with him as he leads amidst the economic crisis facing his country.  “We must keep the message clear, fulfill the mision and keep the unity of the church,” Paredes said.

Empowering leaders to carry the values, beliefs, vision and mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout Inter-America has been core of leadership development, according to Braham.

Pastor Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

“SeLD is about helping individuals improve on the job, because we have a constituency that has great expectations for our leaders,” said Braham. “Everything we do as a faith-based organization has to be done based on corporate leadership principles but with the added dimension of the spiritual element,” said Braham.

Inter-America’s SeLD Conference next year is scheduled to take place July 8-10, 2019.

To view the 2018 SeLD Conference schedule and speakers, go to

View a photo gallery HERE

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