Lake Region pastors commissioned in 2019 at Camp Wagoner, Cassopolis, Michigan.
The quadrennium started off like most others in the history of the Conference. Plans were crafted and adopted, and mission and ministry were being passionately pursued to the glory and honor of God when the novel coronavirus burst onto the scene in early 2020. As the quadrennium comes to an end, COVID-19 is still affecting how we engage in mission and ministry. What is incontrovertible, though, is that God, who is our Help in ages past and our Hope for years to come, has not deserted us and never will (Matt. 28:20).
Early in the quadrennium, the Lake Region Conference relocated from the building on the South Side of Chicago that had been the Conference office for over 50 years. Our new headquarters, located in Mokena, Illinois, has had a positive impact on the morale of employees. It brings freshness, light and energy to what we are all about, which is transforming and enriching communities. Acutely aware that God does not dwell in buildings made with hands (2 Cor. 5:1), we are aspiring to be faithful stewards of God’s blessings.
Our aim for the first half of this quadrennium was “Christ Alone”; for the second, we are striving “To be Like Christ.” Making disciples and growing healthy congregations continue to be the focus of our mission, and our vision is to be a united conference of churches actively engaged in mission and ministry when Jesus Christ returns. Our goals are wrapped up in the concept of C.H.A.N.G.E. (Christ, Holiness, Accountability, Nurture, Growth, and Education).
Each year, Lake Region focuses on a particular ministry, with all other ministries partnering in the pursuit of a common focus. For example, in 2020 we focused on Public Affairs and Religious Liberty (PARL), using as a theme, “Everyone Counts, Everyone Matters.” The turbulent year provided ample opportunity for reflection and action on three significant realities—COVID-19, racial unrest and tension, and the election campaign, especially the race for the White House. Under the courageousness, visionary leadership of our PARL director, we succeeded in presenting services and programs that challenged members to be change agents in their communities (Matt. 5:13‒16).
The multicultural footprint in our Conference continues to grow larger, especially as it relates to our Hispanic community. In 2020, we welcomed an Ethiopian, a Filipino and a Korean congregation into our sisterhood of churches. All Hispanic pastors have engaged in evangelism during the quadrennium, with a Union-wide meeting capping off 2020. The Small Groups concept is succeeding remarkably well among our language groups. At the end of 2020, 128 small groups were operating among our Spanish-speaking churches.
In spite of our wholehearted support of Adventist education, our schools continue to struggle. The end of this quadrennium finds us with fewer schools than we were operating at the start of the term. Even so, we are committed to doing all we can to educate God’s children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and we solicit your prayers to that end (Isa. 54:13).
Youth and Young Adult Ministries have flourished during this quadrennium, especially since the arrival of the new director of the department in mid-2019. Under his dynamic leadership, an honors program for Pathfinders and Adventurers was established that, as the saying goes, went viral. The program is now patronized worldwide. To date, thousands of young people have received an honor in the program which is now run by the Lake and Mid-America unions.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, we did not have a camp meeting in real time in 2020. Our churches, for the most part, streamed their services virtually, and education was delivered remotely. When we went into the sheltering-in-place mode, we feared that stewardship would suffer. Yet, the faithfulness of our members has been evident. Tithe receipts in 2020 were slightly higher than the year before, a testament to the fact that when we are weak, God is strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
We salute our employees for their resourcefulness and flexibility, without which we would not have been able to serve effectively. Almost without exception, our partners in mission and ministry have gone the extra mile, adjusting to changing dynamics willingly and ungrudgingly.
To be like Christ is our ever-present aim. It should be the aim of every disciple of His. In these unusual and unprecedented times, we are striving to show the world what Jesus is like, including being at peace in the midst of our storms (Mark 4:35‒41).
Garth Gabriel, president, Lake Region Conference