What Are You Thankful For?


About 20-25 years ago, between 1996 and 2001, my two children, Eric and Melissa, were in kindergarten at Crescenta Valley Adventist school. The teacher, Mrs. Dusty Castro, an excellent Christian Seventh-day Adventist teacher, invited parents to attend a special program in the classroom. So I signed up to attend and I went. In the classroom, she had different charts and posters, but there was one that caught my attention. It was the monthly themes of the year, especially the last two months of the year—thankfulness for November and generosity for December. It was November, about one week before Thanksgiving. And you know what? Educators have a unique strategies and techniques to teach their students, and I recall vividly that after telling the nice, wonderful story of the first Thanksgiving celebration, she asked her students, "What are you thankful for today?" And one by one, each child said why they were thankful.

Today, I'm going to use the same technique that Mrs. Castro used. Ten months have passed in 2021, our second year of the pandemic. While, incredibly, we're in November, this year we've already had a variety of experiences—some enjoyable, others painful, some meaningful or meaningless. I have a question for you: What are you thankful for today? Let me share with you what I'm thankful for right now. My first two on the list: I am thankful for a loving and caring God and also for a lovely family that I have, my wife, my companion in life and ministry, and my wonderful children.

And I am thankful and humbled for the privilege of being your spiritual leader here in the Southern California Conference. Yes, I said spiritual leader. I didn't use my title president, which describes my function. But being a spiritual leader is a role which, by the way, is the first item in my job description. I'm thankful for being a spiritual leader of wonderful, committed Christian people in Southern California Conference.

Finally, this year, we could start visiting churches, and this year, as of today, I have visited 26 churches. I have enjoyed worshiping and also delivering God's Word to churches, to the members and celebrating the blessings God has put upon them in many ways. I praise God for what's happening in the churches. Since I cannot go through all the 158 churches, I'm going to pick only five churches: one per region. In the L.A. Metro Region, the Armenian Church was organized in February of 2020. In our Greater Los Angeles Region, the Normandie Avenue Church, we praise God for the 20+ members that have been added to this lovely Christian church. Thank you, Pastor Chatman, for the ministry that you're doing. In the Asian-Pacific Region, our Los Angeles Tongan Church was dedicated in the month of September, free of debt. Praise God for the sacrifice of these members. In the Hispanic Region, our El Camino Cristo church has had an evangelistic effort led and organized by Pastor Jaime Heras, who is the region director. In the West Region, Pastor Isaac Nevarez, the pastor of the Palmdale Church, has a wonderful bilingual ministry that he is doing in that community.

Here in the office, I want to express appreciation and gratitude to each one of our colleagues who are leading the departments. The Asset and Risk Management. The Auditing Department that is led by Ewan Wonoprabowo. The Communication and Media Production Department, led by Lauren Lacson. During this time, they have been doing an excellent job because this was the only way that we could communicate with members and also with our communities. The Education Department, led by Dr. Harold Crook. Thank you—not just for those who are in the office, but also to the principals, to the teachers, who, every single day, are also in contact with our students. Our Human Resources team—thank you to our team for the work that they're doing. Marco Topete in Literature Ministries. Since last year, he couldn't really go and knock doors here, for this year, he got an idea and he decided to take those students to out of the state and do ministry somewhere else. And this was a fantastic ministry that he led. Also trust services and development and fundraising led by Linton Manier and John Huynh. Thank you, friends, for your ministry. Youth ministry, Pathfinders, Adventures and Camp Cedar Falls, Pastor Kevin has been the instrumental leader in making this ministry more revived in our conference. Thank you for that ministry. For young adults, Iki Taimi also has been trying to encourage others to do ministry in a way that they have not done before. Actually, young adults right now are planting a church within a church at the Temple City church. You will receive more news in a few days about that.

Also in my close circle that I interact with on a weekly basis includes the reading directors. Thank you for my fellow administrators: Sam Lee, Royal Harrison, Jaime Heras, Danny Chan and Greg Hoenes. Last but not least, my fellow executive officers: Pastor John H. Cress, Kathleen V. Diaz and Elder James G. Lee. The four of us, we meet every single week to pray for each one of you, for each one of the members, each one of the churches, the pastors, the teachers, the schools and the departments.

These are the wonderful people I am grateful to work with. Now, I invite you to listen to this song by the Heritage Singers: "God's Wonderful People." How thrilled we are when we get together with these wonderful people. Let's pray that that day when Jesus comes, all of us, we can be with Him and these wonderful people that we enjoy here on Earth. Blessings to all.