What an incredible unity and Spirit that has moved fresh upon Hillcrest. Many of you have expressed to me that you sense there is a new spirit, attitude, and outlook at Hillcrest, and I could not agree more. It seems that God in His mercy and grace has chosen to move in many ways in the life of the Hillcrest family.
The times of worship have been Christ exalting. Our Lord’s words from the Sermon on the Mount in our study of Matthew, entitled “Jesus Our King,” have been encouraging, exhortative, and engaging. The many decisions that have been made to follow Christ as Savior and then to follow Christ in the waters of baptism have brought great celebration in our times of worship (more than forty since October 1, plus more than forty being counseled and mentored for baptism). The baptisms of some of our international college students brought tears of joy and celebration and have allowed Hillcrest to touch the ends of the earth at home.
In early November, we welcomed Ryan Mason to the Hillcrest family and staff as our Minister of Education. Since that time, he has hit the ground running, and I am not certain if he has stopped to breathe. Ryan is currently equipping our Decision Counselors, developing a complete mentoring strategy and program, and encouraging and equipping our Sunday School leadership team and educational staff.
We will be opening our newest educational building on Easter Sunday. This building has a large room that will seat approximately 175 and an overflow area that can be used for additional seating or as a buffet or serving area. The building will open none too soon, especially for our College Ministry, as the Lord has blessed Hillcrest once again with fifty to seventy-five students on any given Sunday.
Finally, and maybe it should have been first, and no doubt much earlier, I want to express my thanksgiving to the Lord and to each of you for being faithful stewards. In the middle of December, I sent a letter out regarding our budget needs and year end giving, and you responded! For those of you who do not recall, we increased our 2012 budget $250,000 over 2011. At the time of the December letter, we were nearly $185,000 under budget, but due to your incredible response of generous giving, we reduced that budget shortfall by just over $50,000, as we closed the 2012 budget only $131,560 under budget.
Also, you need to know that our total gifts during December were outstanding, especially since we were not in a capital funds campaign, with total receipts being $407,483. The amazing thing is that we have experienced probably the best first quarter of giving in my nearly 22 years at Hillcrest. As of March 10, 2013, our total receipts are $478,219.59, and we are $9,031.77 over budget year-to-date. Because of your spirit of giving, we are able to fulfill our commitments to our missions budget and missionaries, and, in our most recent Finance Ministry Team meeting, our leadership moved to finish paying off Who Is Willing (WIW) to our trust funds. For those of you that have not been around long enough to know about WIW, this was our capital funds campaign for our $4 million building program that included our student and children’s ministry buildings.
When all is said and done, I want to thank you for always being faithful and encouraging, but I ultimately praise God from whom all blessings flow! As our cornerstone states: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21, NKJV)