Ryan Thorstenson/young adult
In the past year, God has blessed me with a great Bible study to join and get involved with. When I first came to East Hills I didn't get involved with any groups for a while and it had left me lacking in people to connect with. Then Pastor Jesse invited me and my girlfriend to the young adults’ Bible study and it has been great learning more about the Bible and connecting with others.
In this coming year I pray to have more of a personal relationship with God. To not only learn about God and praise Him, but to get to know Him better, as well.
2013 was a good year for my family and me. I am blessed because my parents had the ability to send me to three months of physical therapy for my knee. I can now walk up the stairs at school and my home without my knee hurting. I am also thankful to all the friends I made this last year. I am looking forward to doing volleyball camps in the summer and trying out in the fall. I also hope to make more friends when I get to the high school in the fall.
The things I am grateful for from 2013 are the things we take for granted year after year and never notice how important they are until they are taken away from us: my family, the roof over my head and the opportunities offered to me that other teens might not be so fortunate to have. So many children in the world are living without both of their parents, or without a sturdy house they go home to every night, and many will never be able to experience the same freedoms I am offered. It’s these little things we never really think about that made 2013 great.
I go to church because I love to learn about the Bible and how I can make myself a better Christian. The way that Pastor Nick and Pastor Jon preach about the Word of the Lord is motivating and encouraging. Singing is another reason why I go to church. I love expressing my love for Christ through song. The words are extremely up lifting, and the worship team is very talented when they are performing. Just being at East Hills has changed the way I live life and respect others as well as their opinions.
In 2013 God taught me (again) that He is sovereign. I had ‘known’ that He is sovereign. I had 'known' that He tests us, to grow us and enlarge our faith. But this year I realized that God wants us to pass those tests! The test is not somehow trying to ‘do us in.’
Sometimes I’ve naively, perhaps even glibly, told God I wanted His will in my life. But then when His will comes and it’s a season of testing, I’ve been known to suddenly resist, to even grumble and not accept what He brings. I’ve not been truly surrendered to Him. I wanted His will for my life, until His will wasn’t what I wanted for my life.
I more completely learned that as a believer I am safely, securely held in His all sovereign hands. That means whatever comes or goes in my life has been lovingly filtered through His fingers. He has allowed it to come or go, because every-thing must have His permission, precisely because He IS sovereign. He knows far better than I what will bring out in me the greatest reflection of Him. And that is the goal of a believer’s life journey of faith. True faith can trust Him with life’s circumstances, because He knows how to obtain the greatest reflection or image of Christ in my life.
I think this year has been about learning to trust God alone and realize my failures can be turned into lessons that help me grow. Without the hard times I would not be so grateful for the grace God has been showing me in my walk with Him. As for the coming year just that I will continue to seek God first and allow him to continue to change me and that I would want that.
Tina & Matt Black
2013 started out very rough for our family. What was hoped for did not happen. My great idea turned out to be not as bright as I had originally deemed “Awesome.” I was dismayed and felt rejected. All doors that had appeared open for me to start a new business had now all shut in my face. Several thousand dollars later and no job to account for, I fell apart; my dream came crashing down. BUT GOD! God held our hand, even though we could not feel his touch. We were completely thrown off our course. What did I have to show for nearly 3 years hard work? Nothing, not even my pride. We struggled to find confidence. I struggled with guilt for my family and our income. BUT GOD! He was there, whispering in our ears, that all would be alright. Although we didn’t hear His sweet voice, we held on, gripping the steering wheel , as if we were being sent on a roller-coaster (which I hate). We were disappointed. We were angry. Not knowing what our future held for us made us weary…and we still do not know. We are taking each step as cautiously as we can. We know God is guiding us, although we cannot see His presence. We made it nearly a year on one income, we still have our home, and we still have each other…that is enough for us.
Alejandro Cacho/young adult
Is there such a thing as "the greatest blessing ever?” If so, I think the one I received in 2013 would be on the podium to take that win. Up until February of 2013, the extent of my religious beliefs was a cross with some man named "Jesus" hung in the living room of my parents’ house and a Bible that I had never seen opened. Twenty years of going to church and calling myself a "Catholic" had meant almost nothing to me. Going to East Hills and being around the church (it’s people) hadn't brought me "back" to faith, but it had opened my eyes toward it and being alive for God. Because I am, in fact, here for God.
Julia Jorgensen/young adult
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a year where you look back and realize the amazing things God has done in you, but for me, 2013 was that year. I can see the person I was last January—broken and hurt, lonely, and trying so hard to let go of bitterness that had been building up for years. I was holding so tightly to my plans and my desires.
But, when I finally loosened my grip and let God in, He began to heal me. Suddenly I began to see that He had a better plan all along. I simply had to wait for His timing—as hard as that can be sometimes. Throughout this last year, God has healed my brokenness and brought amazing people into my life. He has brought me joy that can only come from Him. He has proven, once again, that He is so faithful to provide. So, this year, I’m going to keep working on letting go of my tightly gripped plans and trusting His way for my life.
2013 brought to my life many blessings! I was blessed with having such a great group of girlfriends that I pray and play with. My family and I were also blessed with good health including my 93-year-old grandmother who still lives at home by herself! In 2014 I look forward to exploring my new relationship and continued connection with my family and friends.
2013 was full of shining moments for me. Reflecting back on the year, I could easily write an envious list of blessings. Being hired as a camp counselor at Camp Meriwether and being named inspirational staff, attending basic training for Sea Cadets and being selected for honor company, touring on board the U.S.S. Nimitz, zip lining and visiting Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and I can’t forget turning 16 and getting my driver’s license and car. I am extremely grateful for every one of these blessings and know that God has laid an amazing path before me to follow. However, my true blessings come from the people in my life. This year, I was blessed with meeting Josh and Wendy Droke. Josh is not just my youth pastor; he is also a great friend and listener. I will never forget the Wednesday night Wendy’s car froze over and we had to go rescue her. We ended up having “group” at Starbucks and just hanging out and talking. Through Josh and the youth group, I was able to meet my fellow Strumigos, Alex and Wayne, and get to occasionally rock Sunday night worship with them. Youth group also helped me to develop a deeper friendship with Cameron McKinney as we traveled together to Fusion Camp. So many life-long memories were made on that trip like fixing the “check engine” light on the church van. My final blessing I want to share is my Aunt Diane. You may think it strange for me to say that I am blessed with watching her battle with cancer, but I am forever changed by being a witness to her faith in God. Aunt Diane says that she knows where she is going and is not afraid. She counts each day as a blessing from God and enjoys every minute and memory made from that day. She is an inspiration to me and everyone her life touches. Aunt Diane, Josh, The Strumigos and Cameron all remind me of the verse from Matthew 5:16,
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.” My prayer for you is that in 2014 your light will shine bright for those your life touches.
This past year my family was blessed with a happy, healthy great nephew named Silas Johnson; he was born on September 24, 2013 and the blessing is doubled in that the new family lives only an hour away so we can visit often. It’s so wonderful to have a baby in the family again. We are also blessed by having no major health issues in the family. We are so blessed to live in the Pacific Northwest!
In October 2013, Matthew and his teammates in 7th grade football learned that hard work and focus pays off in a big way. They earned an undefeated season of 6-0. I have learned to take opportunities to spend time with family and friends; to get out and experience all the Pacific Northwest has to offer. This lesson came about when I invited my younger sister to explore the Historic Columbia River Highway with me this past October. She agreed and we had a great time. Life is better when it’s shared.
There have been many blessings in 2013. One was having a good group of friends who challenged me to grow spiritually. Another was God's provision for all of my needs. Health, too, was a blessing. In 2011/2012 I had a bad back, but it was doing well last year. Another blessing was when many of you joined me in my work by being pen pals with my students. And just the opportunity to live and work in China was a blessing in itself. This coming year I am looking forward to teaching some new students and completing some new projects.