Happy New Year, Southern California Conference family. 2023 is already here. Wow. We are again in a new year. What can we say about the year just gone? What can we say about this new upcoming year, 2023? How can we assess this? This task reminds me of one thing. My car, my wife's car, your car has three mirrors: the rearview mirror inside, the driver's side mirror outside on my left, and the passenger side mirror on the right.
The rearview mirror usually is convex, is curved, rounded outward, and it gives a wider view. The driver's side mirror is pretty much flat and provides an accurate sense of the distance of the cars behind. However, it gives a narrow view. The passenger side mirror also is convex. Actually, it has a legend there. It says, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear,” which is not real.
This reminds me of an incident that I experienced some years ago. Many years ago, I was driving on a freeway in California, and I recall vividly looking at the rearview mirror. A yellow Chevrolet Camaro behind me unexpectedly began to spin during the traffic. I don't know how he moved from one side to the other side and he didn't hit any other car, but he went and he smashed the other wall.
My rearview mirror made me aware of what happened in the past. My first reaction was, “Wow, the Lord really protected me!” and it made me reflect how providentially I have been kept safe. So, now as we look back in 2022, we have a year in review. We began 2022 with great expectations and confidence. Actually, the previous year, 2021, had been a good year in several areas.
Health-wise, we already knew how we were dealing with COVID. We learned how to keep social distance, be among ourselves and, also, we also had the vaccines. In finances, many received incentives from the government due to the pandemic challenges impacting the economy. Talking about finances, by the way, our Southern California Conference treasurer, Kathleen Diaz, already thanked us for the financial support our conference received, and I want to join her in thanking you for believing in our mission and vision that this conference has. Our mission, I repeat, is “We exist to exalt Christ” and our vision is “Embracing community in Christ.”
Let's go back to our review of 2022. Out of the blue, in February, the war between Russia and Ukraine changed the worldwide dynamic, affecting not just the economy of these two countries and the neighboring countries, but also in other countries, actually globally, we were affected. Also, the people's movement from one place to another, from these two countries to others. This massive exodus impacting all the nations, not just the neighboring countries, but even in America, Latin America, and other places. All of this is something that we did not expect. As we were closing last year, 2022, we also realized that a trio showed up again: COVID in a new format, flu in another format, and also shingles came up in a different format. Some are concerned. Others, they have talked about finances as well and also in the environment, and the weather is going to be pretty much the worst in cold and also in heat. In spite of all these challenges, also I want to mention something.
Last year, the Southern California Conference had positive things that happened. A year ago, we pretty much had the grand opening of the media production studio when we had new professionals coming in and helping us to communicate with you in a better way and more frequent. So thank you, Michelle, thank you, Araya, thank you, Lauren, for helping us to communicate better with our friends, brothers, and sisters.
Churches have been growing. A couple of them were organized and established. Also, we have been, our workforce now has been, also reinforced in a way that pastors, now, they have been taking responsibilities, and also people here in the office have been now taking positions that have been empty during the last two years during the pandemic.
As we look ahead in 2023, we have a year on the horizon, and as we read how this year is going to be, as we hear sad news, we have nothing to fear about the future unless we forget how the Lord has led us in the past. Also, Paul says this in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Oh, to His purpose. So then this makes me think that my life needs to be aligned to God's purpose.
As we begin this new year, I invite you to turn your eyes upon Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith, and with the same confidence that Paul excel and exclaim, I invite you to reflect on what he says in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ to all generations, forever and ever.” My friends, may the Lord bless us all and our loved ones as we begin this New Year in 2023.
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