Dear Friends,

By the time you receive and read this El Portal article, we will be in between Christmas and New Year. Before celebrating the New Year, let’s reflect on the past year. How would you characterize 2013 for you and your family? Below are some of my thoughts in review.

In the latter half of 2013, we experienced change and difficulty. In September, we had a change in the organist position. After a couple of months of substitutes, we hired Midori A. We also faced the projected pipe organ completion costs for 2014. That amount is anticipated to be $100,000. Hence we voted to list and sell the parsonage, which is currently in escrow. The sale price wound up being $650,000. Further news came that we were in deficit and struggling to make our budget. Thus these months produced some anxiety and stress.

To balance these changes and difficulties, we had some positive bright and shining moments. With regard to the new staff hire; the choir, the section leaders, and the congregation were happy to welcome Midori, husband Jay, and two sons. Incidentally Jay and I attended the same school in Iowa, Westmar College.

Also, by God’s grace we managed to conduct a successful stewardship campaign. The final result is that we tallied 104 pledges to the general fund for a total of $221,288, which is approximately $10,000 more than 2013. Financial Secretary Sue reported that 30 pledgers increased their amounts from last year. For the sanctuary renovation loan, we secured $62,454 in pledges for 2014. As in previous years, to supplement the loan payments, we will rely on donations from our Trustees, Endowment, and the West District Union.

In November, in response to the typhoon in the Philippines, we gathered for a prayer vigil, packed and shipped 12 large balikbayan boxes, and raised close to $9,000 to be distributed via the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

In December we conducted the Alternative Christmas Fair, the Children’s Pageant, the Filipino Christmas lunch, and sent nineteen carolers to shut-ins, who were also served Holy Communion.

In spite of the changes and difficulties, we maintained our joyful worship, our compassionate outreach, and pledged our commitments for 2014. We hope and trust that God will continue to uphold us and bring new blessings and new opportunities. Happy New Year!

— Pastor Bob