Heather-Dawn Small passes at the age of 66. [Photo: Tor Tjeransen / Adventist Media Exchange (CC BY 4.0)]

General Conference

Remembering Heather-Dawn Small: A Legacy of Faith and Service

Women’s Ministries Director leaves a lasting impact on the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Adventist women worldwide.

United States | ANN Staff

On the evening of January 2, 2024, Heather-Dawn Small, a dedicated leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, passed away, leaving a legacy of faith and an indelible mark on the hearts and lives of those she touched. She was 66 years old.

Small was re-elected in 2022 to the role of Women’s Ministries Director, which at the time of her death she had held for over 18 years. Ted Wilson, president of the Adventist Church, posted across social media, “Heather-Dawn diligently served the world church as Women’s Ministries director for many years. She was supportive of helping women become involved in evangelism and assisting the church in outreach and community activities. Heather-Dawn was very focused, through the Lord’s guidance, in making a difference in the life of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church using the talents and dedication of the women of the church.”

Heather-Dawn Small speaking during a General Conference Session. [Photo: General Conference Communication Department]

Heather-Dawn Small speaking during a General Conference Session. [Photo: General Conference Communication Department]

Life of Service to the Church

Small began her journey working for the Adventist Church in Trinidad and Tobago, where in September 1995, she served as the administrative assistant to the President of Caribbean Union College (presently University of the Southern Caribbean). In October 1996, she was called to serve as the Children’s Ministries director for the Caribbean Union Conference (CUC) as church leaders took notice of her gifts in leadership and love for others. 

Two years later, Small was elected to serve the CUC Women’s Ministries department. In reflection of her lasting legacy of distinguished service both in the CUC and for the global church, Dr. Tobias Kern, president of the CUC, shared, “Sister Heather-Dawn Small's ministry embodied dedication, honesty, and integrity, resonating with the mission of the SDA Church and advocating for the welfare of women worldwide. Her presence was a source of solace; she exuded humility, embodying benevolence, care, kindness, and approachability. She served as the spiritual compass for the women under her care, offering counsel that was embraced due to the genuine love she radiated to all within her sphere of influence.”

Heather-Dawn Small presents new associate director for Women’s Ministries during the 2023 Annual Council. [Photo: Lucas Cardino / Adventist Media Exchange (CC BY 4.0)]

Heather-Dawn Small presents new associate director for Women’s Ministries during the 2023 Annual Council. [Photo: Lucas Cardino / Adventist Media Exchange (CC BY 4.0)]

In 2001, Small was called to serve her World Church family as Associate Director of Women’s Ministries alongside Ardis Stenbakken. Stenbakken shared that after rooming with Small at a retreat in the Caribbean, she could sense her passion for Women’s Ministries and was happy to nominate her to become her associate director. Stenbekken said, “Heather-Dawn was not only a colleague but a friend. I will miss her, as will the millions of women around the world who knew she loved and cared for them. Her husband Joe and her children were a real focus of her life, and my thoughts and prayers go out to them. When I retired, I was so happy she replaced me; she took Women’s Ministries to a new and higher level of nurture, empowerment, and outreach.” 

Upon the retirement of Stenbakken, Small was elected to serve as Women’s Ministries Director during the General Conference Session in 2005. Her career at the General Conference (GC) was not just a job but a calling. She lived her three-fold passion daily: to ignite a fire for evangelism in women, inspire ministry to others, particularly young women, and spread the joy that sustained her through life's challenges. Stenbakken shared, “Heather-Dawn’s favorite word was ‘joy,’ and oh, what joy there will be when we millions of women—and men—are able to meet her again in heaven.”

In October 2009, Small partnered with ADRA, to launch enditnow®, the Adventist Church’s most ambitious initiative to mobilize members to learn and speak out against abuse and violence globally. Micheal Kruger, president of ADRA noted, “Heather-Dawn’s dedication to protecting and uplifting women through enditnow is completely in line with the dedication she showed in her ministry, as well as her personal gift for empowering the women around her and throughout the Church. ADRA is proud to be part of the legacy of enditnow, but Heather-Dawn made the program what it is today. Her work has ensured that violence against women will not be ignored and support for those affected will continue.” Since 2009, the Adventist Church observes the fourth Saturday of August as enditnow® emphasis day, encouraging church members to go into their communities to promote abuse awareness, empowerment to victims, and support to those whose voices have not been heard. 

Small loved the role that she served in. She enjoyed traveling as this allowed her to do one of her favorite things–visit her “sisters” across the world. Galina Stele, GC Women’s Ministries associate director, also expressed, “We will remember Heather-Dawn Small as a visionary leader dedicated to the Adventist Church and Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. Traveling around the world, she became a well-known and loved church leader, passionate about making a difference in women’s lives, especially in the lives of young women. She was a faithful proponent of women’s education and a strong advocate against any form of violence against women, children, or other people. Heather-Dawn was very kind, loving, and creative. She purposefully chose joy as a vector of her life and mentored others to be joyful workers in God’s vineyard. We are looking forward to that day when Jesus comes and wipes all tears from our eyes, and we will see her radiant smile again!”

Small also enjoyed hearing the testimonies of those she met with of how God was moving in their lives. She felt a burden to help women understand who they were in Christ, and wrote, “There are many challenges I face as Women’s Ministries director for the women of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. One major challenge is helping women realize their worth and purpose in Jesus Christ. So many women I meet feel worthless because of life’s challenges and trials. Helping these women realize that in God’s eyes they are valuable and that He has a purpose and calling for their lives is an important part of my ministry.”

General Conference Women’s Ministries Director Heather Dawn-Small reminds the thousands of women to continue making a difference in their communities in mission on Sep. 28, 2023. [Photo: Guatemala Union]

General Conference Women’s Ministries Director Heather Dawn-Small reminds the thousands of women to continue making a difference in their communities in mission on Sep. 28, 2023. [Photo: Guatemala Union]

Reflecting on Heather-Dawn's impactful life, Audrey Andersson, general vice president overseeing Women's Ministries, remarked, "Heather-Dawn helped shape Women's Ministries over the past 18 plus years. She was a sister, mentor, friend to many around the world and leaves a legacy of service which will continue to be a positive influence on each person she has met. We look forward to seeing her on the resurrection morning, when the pain, sickness, and separation caused by sin will be no more."

Raquel Arraias, who served alongside Small for 17 years in Women's Ministries stated, "Heather’s Dawn’s death has left a hole in our hearts. We were encouraged by her fearless spirit. We were supported by her voice in favor of the voiceless women. We were strengthened by her faith and blessed by her unique talents in leadership. We now feel so much poorer because of this tremendous loss, but her legacy will continue. She left an irreplaceable footprint on the hearts of our sisters around the world. So, sleep fast my dear precious friend and partner in ministry, sleep fast. Jesus is coming soon."

Personal Life

Small obtained her B.A. in English from Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA. While serving as GC Women’s Ministries director, she completed her MA in Leadership with a minor in Pastoral Care to Women from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon in 2015. Upon her death, she was a candidate for a doctorate degree in Intercultural Studies.

Heather-Dawn Small is survived by her loving husband, Pastor Joseph Small, their children Dalonne and Jerard, and the countless lives she touched.

Wilson expressed deep sorrow, “May the Comforter come especially close to her husband … and the entire Small family as well as those who are part of Women’s Ministries worldwide … and the entire world church. We have a great hope in the soon coming of the Lord when those in Christ who have died will rise first to meet Him in the air! We look forward to seeing Heather-Dawn at that glorious reunion with our Lord.”

arrow-bracket-rightCommentscontact