Jun 27 2019

Pastor Mike at Aztec Methodist Church

God has been speaking to me about trying to place myself in the shoes of others over the last few weeks.

For example, Dorie’s witness about the Wired Word Sunday school class talking about the bible in China. In China there are officially sanctioned churches which operate under supervision of government agencies. They are limited in their outreach. But there are also underground churches that try to present the gospel in more detail, and based on scripture. The government tries to crack down on these churches and the meetings they hold. The lesson was based on a foreign man who taught a three day seminar in China. Some 22 people attended from around the country. They told him that if the meeting was discovered by the authorities, he would be expelled from the country and not allowed back in, but they would be imprisoned for 3 years. Yet they came and sat on the floor for those days, and shared 15 bibles among them. He noted that many of them seemed to have memorized large portions of the scriptures. One woman noted that the government can take away printed bibles, but “they can’t take away what’s hidden in your heart.” The Word is so precious to these believers that they take risks to learn and memorize the bible. Can we identify with that?

Another of God’s revelations to me came in a news release about a program called the “Ration Challenge”. This invites people to live for a week on what the average person living in a refugee camp receives as a weekly ration. This consists of about a pound of rice, a pound of chickpeas, a pound of lentils, a pound of flour, a can of cooked beans, a small measure of cooking oil, and a tin of sardines. The idea of the challenge is to put ourselves in the place of one of the more than 50 million people worldwide who live in these camps, and to encourage giving to help support them.

Then there are the stories this week about the horrific conditions in which unaccompanied children were being held in Clint, Texas. This one really hit home because I served the Church in Clint for 7 years, though that was before there was a Border Patrol detention facility in town.

That is only a part of the overall crisis on our southern border. The government is doing its best to process a huge number of asylum seekers, and when processed they are released into communities along the border until they can obtain transportation to a more permanent residence while they await their hearings (now backlogged for several years). In those border cities, there need to be shelters where people can stay for a few days. 

In our annual conference, the El Paso District has stepped up to help meet the need for shelter. Three churches, Tobin Park in El Paso, El Calvario in Las Cruces, and First UMC in Deming have opened their doors to these people. But they need much assistance. They can use volunteers, hygiene items, and food. In particular El Calvario (a church much smaller than we are) has been hosting up to 80 families a week for several days each. The district is seeking to establish two new major efforts. A larger permanent shelter facility on the site of the former Houchen Community Center (which has been closed for several years). They are also seeking to become a Justice for our Neighbors (JFON) site. This is a Methodist program to provide legal assistance and other support for immigrant families. 

How can we become involved in supporting these ministries? How can we identify with what God is doing to reach out to some of the “least” among us.