Dalia Valencia remembers the pain of losing her husband last September after his battle with COVID-19. Just six months later her eldest daughter died tragically of an accidental overdose from a painkiller. If that wasn’t tragic enough, she learned on the day of her daughter’s death that she, herself, had been diagnosed with cancer.
Despite the pain and loss, Dalia shared during the North American Mission Board Send Luncheon June 13 in Anaheim that her faith in the Lord has sustained her through it all.
“With all of this, we continue looking to the Lord,” said Dalia during the luncheon. “God is good. God is good.”
NAMB President Kevin Ezell and Pete Ramirez, executive director of the California Southern Baptist Convention, interviewed Dalia, a member of Iglesia Bautista Bethel in Soledad. Ezell surprised Dalia who is going through cancer treatments with the announcement that her mortgage will be paid for one year. Ezell also announced a car will be provided for her son whose car was sold to help the family pay the bills. Ron Ellis, president of California Baptist University, also announced scholarships for her son and younger daughter.
Dalia’s pastor, Juan Castellon, joined her on the stage as Ezell shared about the church’s ministry among migrant workers and presented the pastor with a check for $25,000.
Ezell said, “This is what Southern Baptists are about. You’re looking at it. Thank you for all you do.”
The annual luncheon kicked off with Christian comedian Tim Hawkins and testimonies of ministry efforts throughout the nation. These ministry works include NAMB’s efforts to reach college students through campus ministry.
Shane Pruitt, NAMB’S next gen evangelism leader, shared how college students are being reached through campus ministries throughout the country.
“Students’ lives are being changed,” said Pruitt, who noted many of today’s college students are struggling to find meaning and are questioning the need for God.
But NAMB, he noted, is seeing opportunities to come alongside students on college campuses and reach them in their brokenness with the gospel.
While there can be initial resistance to the gospel, Pruitt noted, once students “go all in, they go ALL in.”
“College students are not looking for a cool leader,” he added. “They are looking for a real leader.” The same gospel that worked 2,000 years ago, he said, works today.
Last December a student at Dallas Baptist University, Shelby Houston, also received devastating news that no daughter would want to receive. She found out that her father, a police officer, had been killed in the line of duty.
Houston shared her story during the luncheon. She shared how her dad had impacted her life and how he had helped lead her to a relationship with Jesus Christ.
During the funeral for her father, Shelby spoke about how she had forgiven the man who had taken her father’s life and how she hoped to one day share the gospel with him.
Shelby recalled at the luncheon that only the Lord could have given her the strength she needed to speak the way she did during the funeral service.
“That eulogy wasn’t me,” she said. “It was Jesus.”
Since then, Shelby shared, many have reached out to her about her response to the loss of her dad. Some have since given their lives to Christ, and she also spoke to a group of inmates about grace and forgiveness.
Reflecting back, Shelby shared how her experience was painful, and she misses her father, but she can’t help but believe her dad would say it was worth it so that people’s lives could be transformed for Christ.
“It was worth it to tell people about Jesus,” she said with tears.
View more photos from the Send Luncheon here.
For more stories from the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, visit thebaptistpaper.org/sbc2022.