Parochial Report for the 30th Annual Meeting of the Western Classis –R.C.U.S. [For 2014]
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! (Ps. 107:1-3, 8).
Yes brethren, who could have planned, reasoned, or “dreamed” that in one short year or so, our LORD would bring about so many different changes within our church family- Ebenezer Reformed Church; That throughout this one year we would see, know or experience so much goodness and mercy from His hand, but we did.
To give you all an idea of what I am talking about, and to account for the temporal as well as the spiritual well-being of the congregation, here is a sampling: Who would have known that we would have one of our oldest & dearest members, Mrs. Laura Vaux go home to be with her precious Lord soon after her 93rd birthday to dwell with Him forever in His heavenly home, but she did! Who would have thought that we would have one dear 91 year old, (Mrs. Dorothy Holland, residing in our local Rest Home Facility), join with us in membership as she made profession of her faith in Jesus Christ? But she did! Who would have guessed God’s beautiful purpose to have two of our dear older members (80 plus years and counting), Mr. Robert Merz & Mrs. Vivian Baze, join together in holy matrimony! But they did! Yes, and who would have thought that we would have one of our dear sweet sisters in the faith, fall and break a vertebrae in her neck, but at 79, Mrs. Dolly Kirschenmann did, and thankfully, her heavenly Father is still proving His goodness and mercy to her, in the midst of this affliction! And that’s just with our 79 year olds & counting folk!
For also dear delegates, in God’s good providence, we also had four of our young men join together in marriage with their sweethearts! Mr. Aaron Merz to Leandra; (end of 2013); Mr. Matthew Velasquez to Erin in March; Mr. Elliott Kirschenmann to Amanda in May & Mr. Brent Kirschenmann to Carol in September! Yes, who would have or could have planned all of this goodness! But, our Lord was not finished, for we also had two of our young men become engaged to their sweethearts: Mr. Zane Velasquez to Miss Jenna & Mr. Clint Kirschenmann to Miss Stacy!
Then as our Lord would have it, in His remarkable providence and goodness, He also gave two new little additions to our church family; one by way of adoption, and another by way of birth. Mr. Caleb Ryan Spitzer, son of Jake & Cheri Spitzer; was welcomed into the Ebenezer family this year as his adoption was finalized in August; and little Miss Payton Marie Parsons, daughter of Jeff & Shelby Parsons, was born into this world and welcomed into our church on December 29th!
Moreover as the year unfolded, in God’s beautiful timing, we had the blessed privilege and joy of seeing three of our covenant youth confirmed in the faith once delivered unto the saints; Mr. Tim Bender, son of John and Debbie Bender; Mr. Silas Henderson, son of Paul & Tina Henderson; and Miss Emma Spitzer, daughter of Jake and Cheri Spitzer! All of them made a profession of their faith in Jesus Christ, as they became communicant members of Ebenezer Reformed Church! Yes, and on that same Sunday, we also had the wonderful privilege and joy to witness a public profession of faith in Christ by our newest member, Mrs. Chris Ash, (Pamela Spitzer’s mother, and Emma’s grandma) at the beautiful age of 78! Even now we are blessed to have four covenant children in Catechism Classes.
Finally then we were privileged to receive the wonder, power and absolute goodness that our Lord showered upon our congregation, when He stirred up this 95 year old Ebenezer Reformed Church to seek out and call a Missionary Pastor to begin (plant, establish, start) a Hispanic reformed church here in Shafter, California! And what a blessing it was and is for the Lord to bring to us the Rev. and Mrs. Valentin (Betty) Alpuche, and their children, Moises, Jade, Matias, and sweet little Grace! WOW! How can we begin to comprehend the enduring goodness and mercy of our LORD to the children of men!
Rev. Alpuche was examined and sustained in our March 2014 Classis meeting; they arrived in June; Rev. Alpuche was installed in July, and the rest, as we say, shall be the Lord’s glorious history!
For as Valle de Gracia begins to take shape, and His sheep are drawn together, we acknowledge and confess our humble gratitude to our sovereign God for the encouragement and strength that we have received thus far from our brothers and sisters throughout the R.C.U.S., and especially from our brethren in Bakersfield. The Rev. Tracy Gruggett, the Consistory, and the members of Grace have been a source of immense joy and strength!
Indeed dear brothers, there were many other providential happenings throughout this past year, wherein this church family has experienced the goodness and mercy of the LORD; Yes, even in all of the surgeries, illnesses, trials and afflictions, deaths of loved ones, as well as all of the other joyful and new things which made up a part of this past year, it is truly comforting to know, and also proper that we acknowledge and confess openly that our Lord truly worked out all things for our good, and all according to His loving purposes! What a blessing it is to be able, and enabled to confess that our Lord is sure and faithful, trustworthy and very merciful, long-suffering and full of grace. Indeed dear delegates of the 30th Classis meeting, what a year it has been for Ebenezer!
Specifically in regards to the temporal condition: As the treasurer and other officers will attest, the Lord once again has been faithful and very good to us, and His people here have responded in kindness and generosity toward the works, both in regards to Ebenezer & Valle de Gracia, and unto the many calls for help financially through the U.S.A. and the world. [Los Angeles, Lancaster, Philippines, Africa, Pakistan, Estonia, and other places I’m sure]. We continue to be encouraged and challenged from our Lord, in regards to our giving, that we might always keep in mind that we will never out give God, if we continue to give to Him, His due! Malachi 3: 1 “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house and try Me now in this, says the LORD of Hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”
In regards to the spiritual condition of Ebenezer, That is, as far as the work of the Holy Spirit continues here, it has been expressed to me more than once how grateful everyone is for the Lord’s grace and mercy as He has seen us all through another year. We have cried, both tears of joy and sorrow, laughed, argued, and perhaps ‘fought’ a little over certain things, but in all of these times, the Lord continues to work out His own particular purposes that He might receive all of the praise, honor, and glory, and beloved, might continue also His work of reforming and conforming our lives more and more into the glorious image of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is with a grateful heart that yours truly give thanks to our God for all who have continued to uphold in prayer this church family, her pastors and families, her officers and families, as well as all of the saints and their families, as we all “pilgrimed” through 2014. The faithful prayers & praying of God’s people, by His design, is bringing forth much good fruit! As noted in the statistical reporting, we have gained nine (9) communicant members, and we are seeking for the Lord to add more to our family as 2015 unfolds before us.
On a personal note this year, after hearing a personal story told by Elder Larry Lynch of Grace Reformed Church at Lancaster, CA., (A north L.A. County Sheriff), while he and I were visiting our mission work, Rehoboth, in Cerritos, CA, I was challenged to ask myself (and our congregation) a very simple, yet profound “faith check”. “Is our ‘faith’ this real? This important to us on a day to day basis?
For you see folks, the “faith’, the doctrines or teachings & the truth that we have been given by God’s sovereign grace in His Word, and as formulated into Creeds and Confessions, is a treasured faith, a priceless faith, a beautiful & powerful faith; a faith worth fighting for; a faith worth living for; a faith worth dying for; and yes, a faith that really means something, and has meaning as well as much comfort, strength and hope for us, for our families, and for this very needy world which God declares, still lies under the sway of the wicked one! I John 5: 19
Yes, our faith means something and is something because the Author and Finisher our faith is the Sovereign Lord and Savior who is calling the shots, (literally for Larry), and for also us! He is likewise serious about receiving the honor and glory due His name; And He will use whom He will use, and do what He will do, whether folks are on board with His plans or not.
So I encourage us to continually & entirely be dependent upon His power and might, His goodness and mercy, and trust His Word, for He who has spoken is trustworthy; Wherefore as we move ahead with all of the projects, plans, and hopes or ‘dreams’ we have, within our families, within our various church families, as well as within our beloved denomination, the Reformed Church in the United States! (& yes, I love to say and confess a denominational bias or loyalty, which it seems, is so religiously incorrect these days), let us, as humble soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ, be found faithful & truly thankful for all of His abundant goodness and mercy to us, yes, even in the midst of trial & affliction, as well as when things seem to be going abundantly well and ever smoothly. Keep our eyes O Lord, focused on the Prize!
Rev. Paul H. Henderson
Rev. Paul H. Henderson