For over a year, we have been mired in a pandemic as well as an economic meltdown, and we have been facing challenging issues of racial disparity and fairness. While these issues have dominated much of our attention and emotions, we can also look back and see how God has led us. Even though we would like to somehow magically erase these ordeals, we have not only learned a great deal but also gained much during this year.
The pandemic won’t end suddenly, with bells tolling or a ticker-tape parade; instead, life will proceed cautiously back to the familiar. Although things will not be exactly as before, it will be important to remember the “sacrifice of praise” (Hebrews 13:15) that has been so abundantly shown by God’s people. There have been innumerable churches, schools, individuals, and conference ministries and events that have sacrificed and served their communities. The stories of some have been told, but others may not be recognized until Jesus says, “My good and faithful servant.” To all, we say thank you for what God has done through you to bless others.
Miracle on Dodge Ridge
A man is alive today because of the actions of 16-year-old Ben Ronneburg, who was described as “heroic” by the local newspaper, The Union Democrat. A member of the Adventist church in Sonora and an eighth-grade graduate and former student of Mother Lode Adventist Junior Academy, Ronneburg had quite the miraculous experience on Thursday, January 28.
Justin Calbert, a former college snowboarding champion, had frequently taken the precipitous 20- to 30-foot jump called The Face Rock at the Dodge Ridge Ski Area. On this day, he instead went headfirst into an eight-foot powder bluff below. Fortunately for him, Ronneburg was about 100 yards away and raced to traverse the hill diagonally, with powder up to his neck. Quickly digging, he found Calbert’s head and discovered that he wasn’t breathing and had no pulse. Ronneburg began CPR—something he learned when he was in Pathfinders—and was later assisted with the effort by a Modesto firefighter. The rescue effort to get him out was difficult, but Calbert, once clinically dead, was able to come home days later from a Modesto hospital. There are plans for all those involved in the rescue effort to meet sometime in the future. For now, Ronneburg said, “I’m definitely grateful that God put me where I was at that point in time.”
Fight the Hate ministry
Although the Fight the Hate (FTH) was briefly mentioned in the February issue, so much more can be said about this remarkable ministry. Janet Abbey, the founder and a member of the Mountain View church, was inspired by Ellen White’s statement that youth could be trained to hasten Christ’s coming. (See Education, p. 271.) Using Isaiah 58 as their guide, FTH’s purpose is to address social justice and perform actions of love through outreach and service.
There are many facets to this ministry that allow young people to show God’s love. However, one of the most recognizable events is the food distribution outreach. Now affiliating with 32 partners throughout seven Bay Area cities, including eight local Adventist churches and two schools, FTH has distributed 48,000 boxes and bags of food during the pandemic to approximately 192,000 people. These free grocery drive-through events happen each week at one of the partnering Adventist churches.
“Fight the Hate has been an impactful ministry in the Silicon Valley,” explained Mark Howard, pastor of the Sunnyvale church. “Over the years the methods have changed, but the goal of showing Christ’s love in practical ways has remained the same. I appreciate FTH because it seeks to stay relevant.”
This huge food distribution program requires many volunteers. For example, one of the several forklift drivers is Pastor Dennis Tello of the Cambrian Park church. Drivers unload 30 pallets of approximately 1,500 to 1,700 boxes of food, which are then redistributed. Each box can generally feed four people for two to three days. Volunteers, such as the students from Mountain View Academy and Miramonte Christian School, help to load the bags. Even first-graders are involved by counting the oranges for each bag. Other churches and community agencies such as Google help with generous donations and volunteers.
Kimberly Thomas, assistant to the city manager in Mountain View, recently stated, “The city team, who are working on community food access and coordination, are so grateful for the work done by Janet Abbey and her team of volunteers at Fight the Hate Ministry. Their amazing team has ramped up quickly and been committed to reaching as many Mountain View residents as possible with their program during this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis.”
Templeton Hills Community Garden
This garden has garnered more news since the article about it in the November Recorder. Having opened one month after the pandemic started, the Templeton Hills Community Garden celebrated its one-year anniversary on April 18. This community outreach has now been featured in several local newspapers (Paso Robles Press, Atascadero News, and New Times) and was noted in the NAD Newspoint in early March. The Pacific Union also highlighted it in All God’s People on March 27. As Pastor Zac Page will tell you, “We are just amazed at what God has brought together. He has opened many doors, and is so merciful and faithful!”
Central California Conference
By signing up to receive notices of events on the various social media applications and/or checking out announcements on the CCC website, it is possible to keep up to date on what is happening throughout the conference.
For instance, past events included the CCC Couples Retreat and panel discussions on justice in February. In March, Robert Wilcox, pastor in Porterville, was ordained. Two churches, Sonora and Shafter, celebrate their 100-year anniversaries during April.
Watch for later coverage of the partnership and ministry that Adventist Health provides in our conference. Look up the encouraging GLOW testimonies on the conference website. And last but not least, take note of the exciting announcement on this page, with more information to come later, about the upcoming virtual Soquel Camp Meeting in July. That is certainly something you will not want to miss!
As Ellen White wrote, “When we give ourselves wholly to God and in our work follow His directions, He makes Himself responsible for its accomplishment. He would not have us conjecture as to the success of our honest endeavors. Not once should we even think of failure. We are to co-operate with One who knows no failure” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 363). As we slowly emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic, the churches and members of the CCC are realizing what they have gained from the experience—that God’s work continues and even thrives if we are willing to “give ourselves wholly” to Him, no matter the circumstances.
Fresno Spanish church
On Monday evening, March 22, the Fresno Spanish church suffered a devastating fire that caused significant damage, including the destruction of thousands of dollars of food that was to be distributed. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Pastor Justin Aguilar is grateful that no one was hurt.
Because the Corcoran church distributed food boxes to the community during December and January, Pastor Joel Valdez reports, “Thanks to the Lord that some families now are interested in Bible studies.”
By Deloris Trujillo