Fulfill His Mission, Fulfill Your Ministry

Dear Awana and Sunday School Teachers,

February 2021 was a difficult month for us with the continuation of the COVID pandemic, a beloved pastor resigning, and the record winter freeze. We know that challenges in life occur often, but rarely do so many major events occur within such a short period of time. These are times when our faith in God can really be tested. These are times when it’s easy to find strength on our own or seek human consolation. But, God reminds us in Deuteronomy 31:6 to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Not only will God never leave us, He is also with us as we continue to fulfill His mission. In the case of ACC Kids and Awana, I want to encourage you with the following Bible verses.

2 Tim. 3:16 – 4:5 (ESV)

3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

God has put every one of you in a unique position to use God’s Word to teach, rebuke, correct and train the kids at ACC. Each week, you prove your readiness in guiding our precious ACC Kids in God’s Truth, not just in word but also in deed. I consider all of you shepherds and evangelists doing the work of ministry. So, I encourage you to keep steady in your walk with the Lord that He may use you to fulfill the ministry that He has called you. 

Thank you all for your faithful service to the Lord and to our kids… Bless you!!!

Teacher Francisco

Trusting in God’s Names in the New Year

Dear ACC Families,

The year 2020 will end in a few hours and we will embark on 2021 with a renewed vision and hope that the New Year will be better than the one we are leaving behind. Because social unrest, the Presidential election, and the pandemic dominated most of our 2020 concerns, many of us struggled to some extent with hopelessness, relationships, mental health, physical health, finances, and other important issues. Whatever life stage you are in, 2020 was a difficult year.

In 2021, America will have a new president. A new presidential administration and its decision-making will affect our daily lives. A COVID-19 vaccine will become more readily available throughout the year. We may be entitled to a few more stimulus checks. Some of us will find a new job or change jobs. Other surprises will be on the way.

But depending on how you viewed the year 2020, 2021 may be worse for some of us. All of the struggles I mentioned above could become even worse or could be compounded with even more issues. There is no guarantee that things will be better.

While it’s easy to trust in our own abilities and the people in our lives to make things better, we were never supposed to rely fully on them. We always should rely fully on God for everything.

Our ACC Christmas Eve service focused on many of the names of Jesus and what those names mean to us. Those names bring comfort and assurance from our Lord. We must always remember what Jesus means to us as Emmanuel (God with us), the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd, Wonderful Counselor, and Savior. In the coming year, let’s continue to reflect on these names. But, I’d like to add a few more names as we enter the year 2021 with much uncertainty, anticipation, and curiosity. Whatever our needs, whether financial, health, or other concerns, God doesn’t just provide the answer, HE is the answer.

PROVIDER (Jehovah-Jireh)

For some, it’s easy to expect our family, employer, the government (stimulus checks, tax returns) or even lotto tickets to rescue us from financial struggles. That should not be so. The Bible, in the Old and New Testament, makes it very clear that God is our provider of every need.

Genesis 22:13-14 (ESV)

13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

HEALER (Jehovah-Rapha)

Jesus is often referred to as the Great Physician. While people are not fully healed from all illnesses and diseases, it’s not because Jesus is not able to heal anymore. We live in a fallen world. But we can continue to pray for the sick because we know that God can and does heal. There is also a distinction between being healed by medical professionals and God healing us through medical professionals. Even after medicines, surgeries and treatments, God is still working on our bodies to heal us.

Exodus 15:26 (ESV)

… saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.”

Matthew 8:16-17 (ESV)

16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

PEACE (Jehovah-Shalom)

It’s understandable that we have stress about our health and the health of our family members, especially during a pandemic. When companies are laying off employees and businesses are closing, it’s easy to worry about where our next paycheck will come from. Finding peace may have been difficult in 2020 and can carry over into 2021, but our God is also the God of peace.

Judges 6:22-24 (ESV)

22 Then Gideon perceived that he was the angel of the Lord. And Gideon said, “Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” 23 But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” 24 Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites.

John 14:27 (ESV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

On behalf of my family, we wish you all a Happy New Year and let us all continue to trust in our Almighty God to provide for our needs, health, and peace.

Teacher Francisco

Thank God He Said “NO”

In this season of Thanksgiving, we often thank God for all His many blessings in the form of human relationships, prosperity, property, and other opportunities. It’s not hard to see the people and the things that God has blessed us with. When God answers our prayers the way we hope, we easily rejoice. Praise flows much easier.

But, what about the times when God seems to say “no” to us when relationships don’t work out, when jobs are lost, or when we lose a family member? It’s much harder to praise God. However, in our loss, we can see that God’s blessings are still there if we realize that God still hears our prayers and He is still in control.

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When I was still single, I tried to ask several women to go on a date with me. Most of them said “no”. If there was a relationship, it didn’t work out. God said “no” many times.

I worked for one telephone/media company for 23 years before joining the ACC staff. I was laid off twice during that time. The first time was in 1999 when they reduced our department from 14 to 7 employees. The other time was in 2015 when our department had to reduce staff because people no longer use telephone books/yellow pages. God said “no” twice.

My mom died in Feb., 2018. On Thanksgiving weekend of 2017, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had already spread to her brain. My mom declined to have surgery or treatment. The doctors gave her 3 months to live. She died almost 3 months later. God said “no”.

Throughout these many disappointments in life, it was easy to feel sad and “drown in my sorrows”. But, over time, I learned that some mysteries of God can only be understood when He rejects certain things that our hearts desire because He has something better. God says “no” because He is saying “yes” to something better.

When I see my wonderful wife, Ming, and how unique she is to me, I am very thankful. Both of us grew up in Spain and our families know each other. Not just our parents, but our aunts and uncles know each other. I can count very few people in this world that share the similar life experiences that my wife and I share, even before we met. While we are not compatible in everything, God answered my prayers for an extended family that gets along well. We both enjoy trying food from all over the world. We enjoy travelling and have many similarities. She is the opposite of me in many ways that compliment my personality and temperament.

All of this would not have been possible if the women I met in the past had said “yes” to me or I held on to relationships that were not what God had intended for my life. It was hard to be rejected and to struggle in singleness well into my mid-30s. But, I look back now and I am very thankful for the family that I have.

When I got laid off in 1999, I had only worked for 3 years after college. My future was still uncertain and my job skills were not very career-specific with a Communication/Advertising degree. I was happy with my first job, but what would I do after my layoff? It turns out, I was able to find a new job in the same company in a different building and department. 

The new job required me to 1) train people, 2) write training manuals and 3) understand the software in the new department. I had no prior experience in any of those 3 areas. There were much more qualified candidates for the new job. I didn’t have any social network with the company to have someone help me get this new job. Also, I got a raise and the new work building was closer to my home and the church where I was also serving at the time. The new job turned out to be a huge improvement in every way as I learned new skills that I still use today as a children’s pastor. Praise God!

When I got laid off in 2015, I was able to find another job in the same company. While my salary was significantly reduced, I was able to learn the internet business and how to manage websites. I am now able to update the Children’s Ministry pages on ACC’s website. God said “no” in my career many other times, but He always has a greater plan in mind.

My family and I were very sad when my mother passed away in 2018. My mom never complained in her final 3 months and was very grateful for her full life. She was happy for me and my siblings because we are all married and have children. She kept praising my dad for being such a great helper when she was in hospice. God kept us together as we continued to trust Him. He reminded me that my mother accepted Christ almost a year before she passed away. That reminder gave me tremendous peace and I realized that she would be in a much better place with no more suffering after she passed away.

In the 1990s, there was a popular Country song called “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks. The chorus goes like this:

Sometimes I thank God 
For unanswered prayers 
Remember when you’re talkin’ 
To the man upstairs 
That just because he doesn’t answer 
Doesn’t mean he don’t care 
‘Cause some of God’s greatest gifts
Are unanswered prayers

The song lyrics aren’t completely accurate. God always answers prayers, but He doesn’t always say “Yes”. A lot of times He says “No”. But, the heart of the song is that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to. Although we may be disappointed in God’s answer to our prayers at first, I hope we can all eventually see that God has a better plan and purpose for us even if our prayers are often short-sighted. We must be patient to allow God to work in our lives.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Praise God during the Thanksgiving holiday for all His many blessings, including the times He says “no” to us.

Here’s a great article about teaching our children to have gratitude:
10 Ways to Build Gratitude Into Our Children’s Hearts

Happy Thanksgiving to all and please stay safe! Have a blessed holiday.

Teacher Francisco