Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for me. Uniquely American and thoroughly Christian, Thanksgiving was birthed in the hearts of those who needed much. When the Pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving, they did so at the end of a year in which half of them died. Plymouth Rock received 102 Pilgrims, but by Thanksgiving only 51 were still alive. Still, they feasted for four days with their Native American friends, grateful for what God provided. Then, Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, just days after he delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19. With the blood of soldiers watering the ground in the North and the South, Lincoln called upon the nation to set aside a day to thank God for His blessings. Remarkable!
As I look forward to Thanksgiving, gratitude fills my heart as I reflect back on collaborative ministry that we enjoy in the Northwest. Consider a few matters for which we can be thankful.
First, rejoice that we reached more people for Christ, and the baptismal waters were stirred more frequently in our churches, than they were the previous year. Pastors and churches are facing great challenges, but your obedience to Christ and labor for Him is changing eternity for thousands of people in the Northwest and the mission fields beyond. Thank God for this!
Second, in the past year new work was started among those speaking English, Nepali, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean, joining almost 30 different languages represented in our NWBC churches. By working together, we have become the most linguistically diverse network of churches in the Northwest. In our annual meeting last week we prayed for Christian Phan, pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Renton (Vietnamese), and Raju Subedi, pastor of International Church in Beaverton (Bhutanese), each of whom is the nationally elected leader of their respective fellowship of churches. It is an honor and a blessing to partner with such men. Among our pastors are those who have led the national Korean fellowship of churches, the national Romanian fellowship of churches, and the national Ukrainian fellowship. Thank God for this!
Third, we ended October at 99.9 percent of budget through the first ten months of 2015. With a strong final two months we could make budget for the first time since 1997. Thank you for your sacrificial generosity to support missions through CP. The very reason for our existence as a convention is to provide our churches the means to collaborate in missions and evangelism, and your faithfulness in giving enables us to do that. In addition, our Sylvia Wilson/Northwest Impact Mission Offering is up 23 percent over last year. You still have two months remaining to donate to Northwest Missions in support of Disaster Relief, Evangelism, Church Planting, and Leadership Development in the Northwest. Thank God for this!
Fourth, at our annual meeting last week in Portland we elected outstanding new leaders. Steve Bryant, a layman from Highland Baptist, Redmond, OR was elected President. Matthew Savage, the pastor of Journey Church, Everett, WA was elected first Vice-president. And Josh Martin, worship pastor of Resonate Church, Pullman, WA was elected second Vice-president. I look forward to working with these fine men. Pastors Dale Jenkins, Bryan Toll, and Frank Johnson each served two years in the aforementioned offices, and they each served us exceptionally well. Thank God for this!
Fifth, regarding your NWBC staff, I am grateful to report that David Gass will join our staff on February 1. You will learn more about David and his family in the next couple of months, but I want to mention him now so that you will lift David and his family up in prayer. Nora is his wife and Parker and Halle are their two children. David will serve in Regions 1 and 2 as a Church Health/Evangelism Catalyst. He will also assist convention-wide with our East Asia mission partnership. For the past 13 years David and his family have served with the IMB in Asia. Some of you have met him at the EA1Day events we have done. David and Nora are two of the returning missionaries that we have been praying for as the IMB reduces staff. David volunteered to leave the IMB and join the NWBC. We thank God that He led the Gass family to the Northwest. They are moving from Taipei, Taiwan.
For these reasons, and many more, we thank our heavenly Father. I trust that each of you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving! It is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest!