2020 has been unlike anything anyone expected. Loved ones have fallen ill, jobs have been lost, and injustices have escalated. We have all had to adjust to an ever-changing reality, and for many, mental and spiritual health are suffering. It’s no secret that we could all use some encouragement.
With this in mind, the Southern California Conference (SCC) executive leadership met this summer to plan a first-ever conference-wide digital event: a week of encouragement. “By interacting with pastors and members, we the officers became aware of the eagerness of members to return to worship in person because they were having anxiety and experiencing loneliness,” said Velino A. Salazar, SCC president. “Others were experiencing depression and spiritual coldness.” Elder James G. Lee, SCC executive vice president, recalled a similar online revival event held by another conference, and the idea was born.
The event took place every evening August 1-8 on YouTube and Facebook Live. Four speakers delivered powerful messages of encouragement throughout the week. Emil Peeler, pastor of the Capitol Hill church, delivered the first and last messages, focusing on the availability of God and the wonder of prayer. Keith Jacobson, pastor of the Carmichael church, shared messages highlighting God’s command “do not fear.” Roger Hernandez, ministerial director of the Southern Union, shared uplifting, practical messages on the value of proper mental health practices for leaders in ministry. Sung Kwon, executive director of Adventist Community Services, spoke on the importance of community outreach and the role of the church in accomplishing God’s redemptive purposes.
Members and employees of SCC also shared inspiring testimonies each night. Angel Nair, San Gabriel Academy Elementary principal, recalled a friend she had met only once who reached out to her during quarantine about her newfound interest in the Bible. “We’ve been able to have phone Bible studies for the past several months,” Nair said. The programs were followed by a virtual Zoom prayer room, where attendees could call in for special prayer with the SCC prayer team. The prayer room was a powerful part of the program in which attendees could further their experience and seek a deeper blessing. “Our first experience with a SCC Zoom Prayer Room revealed to us that the Holy Spirit is not put off by technology,” said Janet Lui, SCC prayer ministry leader. “As we joined together in breakout prayer rooms or collectively in our virtual prayer chapel, we sensed that God was near. He was listening, encouraging hearts, and replacing fear with faith. We still serve a miracle-working God. He is only a prayer away.”