Stories from Belize, Vanuatu, Barbados, Texas, California, Malaysia, North Carolina and Australia.

The national spelling bee in Belize was won by Jaheel Warrior from Bethel Adventist Primary School in the town of Toledo last Friday (June 3). Spelling bees had been held across the Latin American country to winnow down the competition to the 12 best elementary school spellers and these 12 competed for two hours until it got down to two boys. As Channel 7 television filmed the event sponsored by Coca Cola, the deciding word was douane. It is a little-used French term for a customs house where import-export taxes are paid, but the young man spelled it correctly, reports Love FM Radio.

Two Adventist women were recognized for their contributions to Vanuatu society with awards from the Australian High Commission, an inter-governmental regional agency, reports the latest issue of the South Pacific Adventist Record.  Mary Garae from the Potoroki local church received the 2016 Andy Lynch Award for helping families in four villages recover from Cyclone Pam by donating 15 sewing machines so that women could begin small businesses. Ketty Napuat from Bethel Church on Tanna Island was given the Hanson Mataskelekele Award in recognition for her work as Secretary-General of Torba Province, a role that involves running public services and rural development for the provincial government.

King Street Adventist Church in Barbados celebrated its 125th anniversary last week, reported the Nation News. It is the mother church for the Adventist faith in the Caribbean nation. The chapel was crowded with more than 300 people for a sermon by Pastor Everette Howell and a performance of Bel Canto by Dr. Norma Niles.

A high school soccer star from Kemp, Texas, has signed to play soccer and be a student at Southwestern Adventist University next fall, reports the sports page of The News. Adrian Argueta had offers from college and universities in West Virginia, Massachusetts and Minnesota, the newspaper stated, but signed with the Adventist university where he has been accepted as a physical education major on scholarship. “On the field Argueta was an unselfish player who led the team in assists for the season,” wrote sports writer Ryan Moulds. “He was also third on the team in goals scored.”

Nearly 90 percent of voters in Tehachapi, California, voted in Tuesday’s election to approve a ballot initiative that allows Adventist Health to take over the local public hospital, reported both the Kern Golden Empire and Tehachapi News. Adventist Health is the health ministries agency of the denomination operating Adventist hospitals and clinics on the West coast of the United States. It is the long-time owner of San Joaquin Community Hospital in the nearest city, Bakersfield. The Adventist agency will provide the funding to complete a new 25-bed facility which will upgrade the quality and capacity of the healthcare institution and open by early next year.

All of the students from Sabah and Sarawak in the 2016 graduating class at the Adventist College of Nursing and Health Science in Penang, Malaysia, have completed their courses successfully, reported the Daily Express yesterday. The class totals 62 graduates with 19 from the Sabah-Sarawak region. The graduates will receive either a Diploma in Nursing or an Assistant Nurse Certificate, depending on which program they were enrolled in.

A lawsuit seeking to end religious discrimination against an Adventist truck driver has been filed by United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government agency announced Wednesday (June 8). The litigation charges that Greenville Ready Mix Concrete, a North Carolina company based in Winterville, refused to provide a religious accommodation as required by law and then fired Michael Cole when he was baptized in 2014 and refused to continue to work on Sabbaths. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers in the U.S. to attempt to make reasonable accommodations for the sincerely held religious beliefs of their employees.

The reasons for church growth and decline in Australia will be the topic of the Sydney Adventist Forum on Sabbath afternoon, June 18, in the Level 2 Conference Room at Sydney Adventist Hospital. The average annual growth rate of the Adventist denomination in Australia has been less than the population increase for more than a decade and across all Christian denominations in the country, 70 percent of the children growing up in the church drop out as young adults. The research on why this is happening will be presented by Dr. Philip Hughes, senior research officer for the Christian Research Association. He is also a research fellow at Edith Cowan University. The event will begin at 3:30 pm local time and is part of the Avondale College Lecture Series.