For me, 1981 must stand out primarily for the additions to our staff. Gregg Heinsch came in January, Glenn Ogren in February, Cory Dahl in June and Bruce Leafblad in September. In addition, Neil Grover was a special gift of God as custodian. Arlene Pyche in the office and Larry Kittle in maintenance came on part time. Together with David and Tom and Julie and Elsie and Florence and Leah we enjoy a wonderful fellowship in ministry.
Next, it must be the year of unprecedented financial generosity. Not only did you blow the top off the budget, but you also paid every expense so that the $9,500 from the Foundation could be designated for over-and-above projects. That would have been great by itself, but this was also the year of Project '84 and you gave over $60,000 to that. 37.5% of that has been sent to the Conference Decade Growth Fund. The rest is earmarked for roof repair and site development. It was an astonishing year. The grace of God is beautiful to watch.
Next, 1981 must be the year of innovations in ministry. In March we began two Sunday morning worship services. The deacons met monthly instead of bimonthly as previously. A class for new believers was begun—Starting Over. A ministry to area children ( called Friendship Builders) was begun by Carla Christenson. Toshavim began a Friday evening gathering for college and career people. An early fall emphasis on "small togetherness" has resulted in over 150 people gathering regularly in small groups for prayer and mutual edification. Glenn Ogren started a new Sunday School class called "The Becomers" and he began a ministry of visitation and outreach teams on Monday evenings. Monthly "Popcorn with the Pastor" sessions grew out of our spring leadership retreat. Our first annual "Fesitval of Thanksgiving" filled the church on a Sunday evening with a 125-voice choir and 400 other participants. And the Bethlehem Star became for many a valued channel of information and instruction.
Bethlehem snapped back as a Conference leader, sending 15 delegates to the annual meeting in Omaha and the largest delegation of the state to the annual meeting in Rochester. This was a fitting celebration for the grandmother church as she celebrateer her 110th birthday—Centenial-Ten—on June 21 and 24.
To top it all off the Lord added 118 new members in 1981—71 by baptism (including 61 Laotians).
For me personally the year has been, as always, a year of joy in the Word of God. O that I had more hours to study its riches! It has, toward the end, been a year of increasing prayer. As 1982 begins there is no question in my mind what will make this a harvest year or not. It will be a harvest year if we pray for it earnestly and persistently. If we don't, it won't. The question is not, Will God give? The question is, Will we ask?
This is the word of the Lord for 1981: "Always pray and do not lose heart" (Luke 18:1). Please keep me in those prayers that my faith fail not and that the Word "run and be glorified."
Together in the labor of prayer,