Whenever I listen to the news a sinking feeling comes over me—division, contention, rivalry, hostility, destruction and despair seem to dominate the discussion. The steady barrage has an impact and for too many people hope begins to wane. The sense that nothing will ever be better can paralyze even the best intentions. A “why bother” outlook on life begins to cloud people’s thinking and darken their perspective.

As believers, we should listen to a different news source, a different information perspective that impacts our understanding. We need to have our thinking influenced by a different reality. What I am referring to is HOPE.

I have enjoyed observing the people of the Dakota Conference. They are a people of HOPE! Bad weather, difficulties and setbacks are just a part of life. The people here keep moving forward, planting when things are less than ideal, harvesting in the snow, looking out for one another during blizzards. Dakotans just keep going. I love that honest, realistic, yet hopeful outlook on life. Today may have its challenges, but tomorrow is going to be better.

We as Adventists have historically been a people who look toward a better tomorrow. We have proclaimed “the blessed HOPE” from our inception. At the same time, we have realized that people need a HOPE that is tangible and that helps face the challenges of life here and now. HOPE is a both/and proposition. We live with HOPE today because of the HOPE of eternity we hold.

Here in the Dakota Conference we have taken the word HOPE and are using it as an acronym to describe our goals, what we are striving toward. I would like to share that with each of you.

H stands for our HOMES. The home is the foundation of a solid society. Homes are where life lessons are taught, where worship is demonstrated, where values are instilled. Strong homes demonstrate appropriate interactions and curb destructive tendencies. As our homes go, our communities go. Many of our homes are facing tremendous challenges. We want to find ways to strengthen our homes.

O stands for OUTREACH. All around us are people in need of solutions. They need to know they have worth and value, as well as a purpose to exist. They need to know that they are not some biological accident, but rather a unique and important individual made in the image of God. Many people do not think Scripture addresses their current needs, but have they ever really looked? We need to be answering the questions people are asking. We need to be creative. We need to go and share with others the wonderful things God has done. We want to reach people more effectively for Jesus.

P stands for PRAYER. Several years ago I read the following: “When we work, we work. But when we pray, God works.” There are things I am able to do, but I am unable to do the things of eternal worth. I cannot change hearts. I cannot change thought patterns. I cannot break the chains that bind, but I know Someone who can. Prayer is the power we desperately need permeating across our land. We want to make prayer a vital reality among our people.

E stands for EDUCATION. Our schools, and the students who attend, are so important. Faithful teachers come alongside parents to instill values and principles for life. They give a gift of incredible value. We want to make Adventist Christian education available to as many as possible.

We are a people of HOPE. All we do is designed to focus on one thing and one thing alone—the soon return of Jesus. That is my HOPE for tomorrow.

Dr. Mark R. Weir is president of Dakota Conference and a graduate of Union College. He and his wife Judy have three children and one grandchild.