May 15, 2018
The first week of this month was very important for our conference leadership and pastoral team as we sought to address the upcoming missional and financial challenges our conference faces in our changing society and church membership.
On Monday, April 30, our Special Pastors’ Meeting focused on ministry and the finances needed to carry out our mission in our conference. As Officers of the Southern California Conference, we wanted to share our concerns about how to face new challenges and seek input from our pastoral team. We had a very good dialogue, and new approaches were discussed.
On Wednesday and Thursday, we had a productive Administrative Committee (ADCOM) Retreat (the four Executive Officers, the five Region Directors and the Superintendent of Education) where we reviewed our recent development and impact of evangelism and church growth.
Cinco de Mayo and ONE House events have one thing in common: attract people to celebrate. However, at the same time, both are very different: The first one highlights a nationalistic spirit among people of all ages while the second one emphasizes unity and harmony among senior youth and young adults of diverse cultures and backgrounds across our conference. On Saturday, May 5, two of the SCC Officers, Orville Ortiz and I, had the opportunity to join for worship and relevant talks with our conference young adults who gathered at the Alhambra SDA Church.
The worship experience in the morning was uplifting, and the message presented by pastor Dilys Brooks, Loma Linda University Chaplain, based on the biblical story of the prodigal son reminded the young adults that our Heavenly Father loves His children regardless of what they have done. He always accepts them to restore them at home. After lunch (not Mexican food even though it was Cinco de Mayo), there were 11 different relevant talks by experts on hot topics for our young adults, including entrepreneurship; financial freedom; addictions; dating; relationships & sex; human trafficking; and more. Pastor Many Arteaga, Kalēo SDA Church Pastor, closed the day with an affirmation that Jesus wants them to make the difference wherever they are.
KUDOS AND A MILLION THANKS to our SCC Senior Youth and Young Adult Ministries Committee for the excellent organization of this event and for putting this program together. If you want to know more and connect with ONE House on social media, visit https://www.onehousesocal.com or follow @onehousesocal on Facebook & Instagram.
The pace of the second week of this month was faster, beginning on Sunday afternoon attending the funeral service of a pioneer of the Hispanic work in Los Angeles: Pedro Gutierrez, member and elder of Central Spanish church since the 1960s. He was a real warrior for the Lord and His cause with an evangelistic spirit; he spent afternoons and evenings giving Bible studies twice a week after his regular work hours. Many were baptized as result of this missionary work, and that afternoon, most of them joined the 1,000 people audience that gathered to support his family and to say: “We will meet you when Jesus comes.”
Then I rushed to LAX to fly that night to Baltimore to attend the 3rd Adventist Bioethics Conference held at this time at the new North American Division headquarters in Columbia, MD. This two-day event was very insightful regarding this topic of ethics in the context of medicine, theology and religion. This was my first exposure to this type of conversation between Seventh-day Adventist scientists and church leaders about current bioethics challenges we are facing as a denomination. If you are interested in this topic, visit https://adventistbioethics.org/about-us.
Wednesday and Thursday were two full days of meetings at La Sierra University campus, beginning with our Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee meeting in the morning. Our Union leadership presented reports about the church growth, finances and education programs developed within our Union territory, including the election of Elder Alberto Ingleton as the Union Hispanic Ministries Coordinator, effective September 1, 2018.
In the afternoon, several reports were given at the La Sierra University (LSU) Constituency Session, including the president’s, audit and finances, nominating committee and bylaws committee. We are pleased with the new programs LSU has established, but overall, we praised God for the Christ-centered education presented to the students. A couple students gave their testimonies about how they became Seventh-day Adventist as result of the ministry done at LSU. One of them was baptized along with his father and his grandfather on the same day at LSU campus. Praise the Lord for Adventist Christian education.
Thursday, we had the LSU Board of Trustees meetings. Dr. Randal Wisbey gave the State of the University along with the faculty senate and spiritual master plan reports presented by other LSU officials. Then the four subcommittees reported on the areas of Advancement and Marketing, Budget and Finance, Student Life, and Academic Programs and Personnel.
I ended my busy week by preaching at the two worship services the Palmdale SDA Church offers to the community: one in English and the other in Spanish. This church has had this bilingual ministry for at least 20 years. These two congregations have served as a model as to how to minister to their changing community and maximize the use of their facilities. Esther and I were blessed as we interacted and mingled with the members in the fellowship meal and the Q&A time we had with those who wanted to ask more about church and conference life.
I left encouraging those cultural diverse church members to see the picture the Apostle Paul shared about the Christian church when he wrote to the Ephesians: “But now in Christ Jesus … both have access by one spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:13, 18).
Your brother in Christ,
Velino A. Salazar
Southern California Conference