Blessings. Providence. Abundance.
I believe that each of us reading this would acknowledge that we believe God provides, at least in principle. Yet so often in our day-to-day reality, it is easy to live as if whatever is going to happen depends upon me. I must get up; I must go to work; I must do my job; I must pay my bills, and on and on and on.
While I could speak into those assumptions (and please believe me when I say that in my own life, I am striving to be more conscious that it is God who wakens me day by day), it is God who has provided me with my work opportunities. It is God who has given me the skills and insights needed for my job. It is God who has entrusted to me resources that can be used to care for my financial necessities and on and on and on.
For me, perspective is vital. Everything I have is a gift from above. I must remind myself of that regularly, and as I look back on my life and reflect on God’s provisions, all I can say is, “Thank you!” Yet there have been those times when God’s abundant provision just overwhelms. Overflows. Has been lavished out.
One of the biggest needs within our churches is people. Not simply individuals who attend, but ones who are willing to be involved with ministry and lead out. In many churches, there is a shortage of people willing to say, “Here I am Lord, send me.” That same challenge exists when it comes to people responding to the call to pastoral or educational ministry.
We have a growing need within our denomination for pastors and teachers. As I talk with other conference presidents, the number of open pastoral districts is significant. There are schools that could not open because teachers could not be found. That is our reality. Yet in that scenario, God has provided. Abundantly. Over the past several months here in the Dakotas, we have seen this displayed. At Dakota Adventist Academy, God sent so many wonderful, dedicated people within just a couple of months. With our pastors, God has sent new pastors in the past 15 months, with four joining us last May. God has sent wonderful people our way.
As I reflect on this, I am coming to certain convictions. First, we must honor God in all we do. That means integrity, transparency and accountability must be obvious in all that we do. Second, what is entrusted to us we will use carefully and faithfully. Our Dakota people are some of the most generous in the country, and we will use those gifts to make a kingdom difference. Third, when blessings come, use them to bless others. We have had several financial windfalls, and this will help meet needs so that people can be blessed.
Stories abound of God’s provision here in the Dakotas. Looking forward, we want to ensure that our academy has a solid financial foundation. As a conference, we allocate the highest percentage of our annual budget compared to any other conference in North America, to support our academy. We have generous alumni but still need another revenue stream. We are focused on growing our endowment fund. Since January, this fund has gone from just over $550,000 to almost $3,500,000. This is nothing other than God’s provision.
We also want to intentionally focus on reaching people in our growing population areas, particularly Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Dakotas are some of the fastest-growing states in America—people moving in are seeking new opportunities. They are also people who need to better understand both the love of Jesus and the hope we hold for eternity. We want our youth and young adults to experience church life in ways that are vital and relevant to them. In too many places younger members are either absent or uninvolved. Not here. In the Dakotas, if you can drive a tractor as a minor, you can serve in significant ways in the church as well.
In a world that so often seems shaky and uncertain, we have an opportunity to be a people of stability and security. We have the chance to be church families where mission and ministry are the focus, where service to others is the norm.
We want to be a people who extend the blessings, the providence, the abundance of God toward others so that one day, we will hear the words of our Savior say, “Well DONE! My good and faithful servants.”
Mark R. Weir, president of the Dakota Conference, is a Union College graduate with a background in pastoral work, teaching Bible, serving as an academy chaplain, and holding various administrative roles. He has a passion for history, travel, bird watching, and collecting vintage Adventist literature. Mark is happily married to his Maplewood Academy sweetheart, Judy, and together they have three children and two grandsons.