Published Feb 21, 2023
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My Pastoral Colleagues,
I thank God for a new year to serve him even more so that his Kingdom continues to expand throughout our state of California. Those who were able to attend the annual meeting of our convention in Sacramento heard our Executive Director, Pete Ramirez, say that if we all work together, we can make a greater impact in reaching many souls for Christ. We know that we live in a state where there are 39 million people who need to hear the Gospel message. According to the 2021 census, more than 15 million Hispanics live in our state. We have much to do for the Lord’s work throughout the state, specifically in our churches’ communities.
As servants of the Lord, we must acknowledge that it is our responsibility to see and hear what is happening in our community. When I see areas in my community that are neglected or abandoned, it makes me very sad to know that there are also people in the community who live without hope and are spiritually lost. When I also hear of their physical, economic, mental, and emotional needs due to their circumstances, I know we cannot simply ignore them. The Gospel commands us to share with them the Living Hope that we have in Jesus and, at the same time, help them with their pertinent needs by demonstrating the love and compassion of our God.
In the book of Nehemiah, we read how Nehemiah reacted when he heard the situation of his Jewish brothers in the province where the city of Jerusalem is located. Nehemiah sat down and wept. He fasted and prayed, asking God to give him favor before king Artaxerxes so that he could go to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. He wanted to go and rebuild not only the city but the lives of those who lived there. When the king saw the great sadness that Nehemiah had on his face, he asked him what was wrong with him. Nehemiah responded by telling him that he wanted -with all his heart- to go to Judah and rebuild the city. The king granted his request, and Nehemiah knew God’s gracious hand was upon him, making this a reality.
I use the story of Nehemiah because of what he had in his heart. He heard how his Jewish brothers in the community were suffering, and by going after them, he saw firsthand the condition of the city. He saw how the walls were torn down, and the gates were consumed by fire. Nehemiah did not stay with his arms crossed but took the initiative to begin the reconstruction of the walls and doors. We know that one of the greatest needs back then, and today still, is to feel safe and protected. Nehemiah knew that the work had to start there so that they would feel protected against their enemies. The truth is that the reconstruction project would not be easy because they would encounter many challenges. Their enemies mocked them and threatened to kill them, thus making them fearful. But with the wisdom that God gave Nehemiah, they succeeded in rebuilding the walls and gates.
The whole city was rebuilt at the end of it all, and the opportunity presented itself to bring the people the Word of God. In the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, we read how all the people gathered together “as one man” to hear Ezra, the prophet and priest, read the book of the law of Moses. All were attentive to what Ezra read from daybreak until noon. Here we see how their spiritual needs were being met. This is still so true today in our respective communities, where there is so much spiritual need.
The fact is that their lives were being spiritually rebuilt once it reached Nehemiah’s ears. God used the condition of this desolate city and the suffering of those who were there to awaken what was already in Nehemiah’s heart. Those who have attended my evangelism workshops know that there are different methods to evangelize and reach people for Christ. We all acknowledge that God has called us and charged us to fulfill the Great Commission. For 2023, I want to challenge you with a method called “Reconstruction Evangelism,” which I have put forth based on the book of Nehemiah. I also want to introduce you to a process that God uses throughout the Bible for us to succeed in rebuilding people’s lives. As Nehemiah did, let us seek God’s presence with fasting and prayer to give us his favor. Let us encourage our brothers to work together because it is a combined effort. Let us not be afraid but, instead, move forward by staying focused on the goal of presenting the gospel to every person in our community. God will back us with everything we need as we make this evangelistic impact of reaching our state’s 15 million + Hispanics.
Yes, we can!