By Randy Bowman, Conference Treasurer
From 1 Thessalonians 1:3: “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Off and on over the past couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on my feelings from this year’s annual conference. As with seemingly many things these days, my thoughts intertwined both personal and church, both worry and hope.
On the personal side, some of you may know that my mom has been living with my wife and me for the past 5 months. Mom is no longer able to care for herself. Constant concern about feeding her, cleaning her, and most importantly sustaining her emotionally as she faces significant physical and mental declines of aging, have all taken a significant toll. There are many days when I feel overwhelmed. But I have been able to endure, knowing that things don’t always get worse. I have been supported greatly by people all around me. Some friends, but mainly my two sons and, of course, Susan. And most importantly, Jesus continues to be with us through it all. Sometimes he feels more distant than other times, but we know he is always there. And that gives us hope.
These thoughts of endurance and hope were certainly applicable two weeks ago at Annual Conference. I would spend the days at the Renaissance and the nights back at home with my mom. And the feelings I had about my mom’s situation were very similar to what I felt about the church as I listened, observed, and participated in the conference.
I am concerned about the many social justice situations that we face seemingly every day. And I feel a heaviness when I worry and wonder what will happen after next February’s special general conference. What will we look like as a denomination and conference? Again, there are many days when I feel overwhelmed. But then I am picked up through endurance, through people around me, through the comforting presence of Jesus.
For example, while I sat at annual conference worrying about the church, I saw how our people responded with love to care for people through our three annual conference mission projects. It is almost unbelievable to see that since annual conference registration opened in late April, we have raised over $42,000 for Arizona Justice for Our Neighbors, the Inn Project, and I CARE for Tonga cyclone relief.
When I see that presence of Christ in so many people, I know that His church will be fine. We may have some tough times, but we will endure. He gives us that hope.
Endurance. Hope. The people around us. Jesus. What more do we need?
Now, for those of us interested in the numbers, our year-to-date apportionment contributions through June are shown in the following graph:
For the first 6 months of 2018, our churches contributed 41.8% of their apportionments. As you can see from the detailed report, this was 1.2% above last year and 1.4% above our average apportionment contributions through June for the last ten years. Three of our districts show improvement from last year. The East District is down slightly. At this rate, we project an overall year-end apportionment contribution percentage of 87%-90%.
Remember that apportionments are a way to look beyond just ourselves. Please do all that you can to help our churches and our ministries continue to change lives by contributing apportionments as fully as possible in the last 6 months of 2018.
Thank you all for your commitment; it truly provides the financial stability for our connectional programs to work.