I know it is a cliché to say this, but I am amazed at how fast five years can go by. Here we are preparing for another constituency meeting for the Mid-America Union Conference, and I just don’t know where the time has gone.
As I reflect on the past five years, much has taken place which has brought changes to our world…both good and some not so good. In the past five years, our country seems to be more divided than ever, especially around politics. We went through several contentious elections together and, unfortunately, we weren’t as gracious and kind to one another as we should have been. As a result, relationships have been bruised or broken, families quarreled, and, unfortunately, some of our churches were also damaged as a result.
Who can forget the George Floyd moment when time seemed to stand still on that awful day? I don’t believe we will ever be the same individually or as a country again—which is not a bad thing. I hope that through this tragedy we learned, grew and became more Christlike, accepting everyone as loved, cherished sons and daughters of God.
Then who knew five years ago we would suffer through a pandemic, which closed down church and in-person school for many weeks!
While thinking of these challenges we faced, a Bible text comes to my mind immediately. Rom. 8:35-37 reads, “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, ‘For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.’) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
What a promise! And honestly, we saw this promise fulfilled right before our eyes these past five years. It has been nothing short of a miracle to watch how our church families rallied around their pastors and teachers. Every week, my wife and I attended a number of worship services with churches who made sure worshiping together still took place, even if it was online. Faithful members went out of their way to return their tithes and offerings to keep our schools, churches, and ministries functioning, even if remotely. There is no doubt the Lord had His hands upon us, sustaining us and giving hope and peace, even during the darkest hours. Like Paul, I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
In this president’s report, I want to focus on the people who really make ministry happen here in Mid-America. My work as president is more about supporting the leaders around me than anything else. And let me tell you, I am a blessed and I know it because I am surrounded by some of the best leaders in the North American Division.
Let me start with thanking our conference presidents. Our six presidents are effective, spirit-filled workers for the Lord. They lead their team of pastors, teachers, departmental directors, and office staff where the rubber meets the road in ministry. They are a joy to work with and are always advocating and doing all they can for their frontline workers. They love their ministry teams, and you can tell it by the way they talk about them and pray for them.
Next, I want to say a few words about the people I am blessed to work with here in our Mid-America Union office. I am grateful that my fellow officers hold me accountable to the mission of our church each and every day. Dr. Hubert Morel is new to our Union, and he hit the ground running as executive secretary. His experience and love for people and the church make him a joy to work with. Troy Peoples, Mid-America union treasurer, has skills most of us just don’t have. He is excellent with numbers and has done a superb job helping to keep the union fiscally sound.
In addition, I would like to acknowledge Pastor Gil Webb, who served as executive secretary during the first four years of the quinquennium. Pastor Webb served in this union his entire 45 years in ministry. What a gift he was in our office and field, and we wish him and his wife, Pat, the happiest of retirement days in the years to come!
Our departmental directors also give their all to their various roles. Each has committed to serve this constituency by being attentive and responsive to the needs of each of their counterparts in our conferences. I urge you to pay close attention to their reports on the following pages of the outstanding ministry that has taken place here in Mid-America as our Savior has worked through them.
I also want to say a word about Union College. Without a doubt, Union College is one of the greatest assets we have in Mid-America. The training and education going on there truly blesses every corner of our union. Dr. Vinita Sauder and her team do an outstanding job guiding the higher education ministry taking place there.
PLANNING AND PREPARING
As I look ahead to the next five years, I see so much promise for our church here in the heartland of America. First, did you know the International Pathfinder Camporee, which has been held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, since 1999, will be relocated to Gillette, Wyoming? Yes, nearly 60,000 people will gather from around the globe to be a part of this amazing youth event. I can’t wait for all those young people to experience our part of the world! Secondly, the world church is coming to our territory not once but twice in the next quinquennium—to St. Louis for the General Conference Session in 2022 and again in 2025.
As exciting as these events are, still the most profound ministry will be happening in Mid-America at our local churches and schools spread throughout our territory. The truth is our pastors and teachers are there day in and day out, working alongside our members to provide opportunities to encourage one another and bless those in our communities with the good news of what Jesus has done for each of us.
The General Conference has a new slogan they are using throughout the world for the next several years: “I will go!” The North American Division has adopted that theme along with the phrase “Together in Mission—I will Go!” In Mid-America, we whole-heartedly embrace both of these rallying cries, along with our own simple banner of “Yes, Lord!” This is really just a prayer we invite each one to pray. It is a prayer of willingness to work together in mission and to go wherever the Lord calls us to serve. Whether it is to a mission field on the other side of the globe, or in a children’s Sabbath school room in Neligh, Nebraska, each of us is a needed member of the body of Christ—called into service for Him and for others.
What would the next five years look like if each one in Mid-America just simply said, “Yes, Lord!” I am yours. “Love me, guide me, fill my soul, Yes, Lord, take full control.” Just imagine…