Looking back at what was, dreaming of what is to come

I’ve made it a practice to use the end of each year to look back on the stories we’ve told in the Texan about all that God has done over the previous 12 months. They are different in so many ways, but the same in one main aspect: They all tell the stories of how God is moving through our family of churches. 

As we say goodbye to 2023 and begin to look ahead to what God will do in the year to come, here are just a few of our favorite stories from the past year:

A long journey, paved with steps of faith (April)

What comes to mind when you think of the first day of school? Back-to-school shopping? School buses? High school football? Misael Rodríguez, Hispanic pastor of Hillcrest Español in Cedar Hill, described his upbringing in Cuba in our April issue and presented a different back-to-school routine with which he became familiar. 

At the beginning of each school year, the principal of his school would walk past every classroom, identify the Christians, and ask them to stand up so they could be teased and taunted by their classmates. “I remember one time we were put in front of 500 students on campus so they could boo all the religious kids,” Rodríguez recalled, “but I didn’t give up my faith.”

Rodríguez’s brave tale provided a sad-but-powerful reminder we often take for granted: There are countless people in this world who are truly persecuted for their faith in Christ. 

‘God’s moving on campus’ (June)

The collegiate ministry of Fredonia Hill Baptist Church in Nacogdoches took a spring break mission trip to New York City to participate in community outreach and a vacation Bible school. One of the young women on the trip—who would later admit her motive for going had more to do with experiencing New York and less to do with service­­—ended up giving her life to Christ.

Now on fire for Jesus, the young woman returned home and shared with her small group what God had done for her on the trip. As a result of her testimony, two people were saved. Another trip participant led someone to the Lord via text message. The gospel continued to spread and, before long, 17 students at nearby Stephen F. Austin State University were baptized. God can take something so small and turn it into something truly great. 

‘Not defective, but effective’ (June)

I rarely read something that freezes me in my tracks, which is why the story of Whick Turner, pastor of First Baptist Church in Christine (about an hour south of San Antonio), was so memorable for me. In our monthly What’s Your Story feature in June, Turner’s testimony began with him describing how he went from temporarily filling the pulpit at the church to becoming its full-time pastor. Then old Whick drops the following bomb out of nowhere: “Some church members say they can hardly tell I’m blind.”

Wait … what? 

The article filled my mind with wonder (“How difficult must his sermon prep be?”), but it challenged me. We can be so good at coming up with excuses not to serve the Lord. Instead of using his blindness as an excuse, Turner not only serves faithfully, but uses his circumstances to encourage others to do the same.

Our prayer is that these stories—and the ones to come—not only encourage you, but bless you as you consider the work of our mighty God during this holiday season. 

Digital Editor
Jayson Larson
Southern Baptist Texan
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