Dear Nestor Family, 8/14/19
I wanted to share something that has really bothered me for a while. Last week as I heard about the shootings in El Paso and as the days passed and I learned from the news that the person who committed this barbaric act said, ” I want to get rid of as many ‘Mexicans’ as possible”. As the days pass, this unsettling feeling made me write these lines, so please bear with me.
Once people start referring to humans as nothing and think they can take away their dignity by insults, mockery, verbal abuse and such, somehow, beyond civil standards (not even touching Christian values), the inhumanity of these thoughts and actions are not only evil but sickening beyond imagination. Imagine then the level of inhumanity, desecration of life when somebody, as in the case of El Paso shooting, takes the life of people because their origin or color of their skin.
These kinds of thoughts and feelings, that some people are better than others because of their place of birth or because of the color of skin are not new, especially where we live. The political rhetoric has ignited a new wave or “unquenching fire” that feeds anger, xenophobia, hate, retaliation, and a false sense of superiority, not only in front of the law but in front God.
As a native of Mexico and with strong family ties and culture to that country, this situation is not only sad but scary. As a pastor in a congregation in the middle of a community where more than 70% are Hispanics, this situation is upsetting and troubling. Even more so when we are developing a new ministry to bring the Gospel in Spanish.
But being sad, scared, upset, or troubled does not prevent me (us) from the scripture, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Rom.12:21
Personally, I have experienced expressions of hate, mockery, and retaliation because of my color, my origin, and my accent. I don’t wish for anyone to experience this and that is why, despite other actions that you might take to address the issue of xenophobia and ethnic violence in our society, I invite you to “overcome evil with good” starting in our place of worship at Nestor United Methodist Church.
So, what can we do?
I previously shared with you the email from our District Superintendent (and it is attached here as well) where he is calling on all congregations to procure and provide a “community of acceptance that values the unique gifts which with God has endowed each person, each race and each culture.”
I not only join this effort but invite you to join as well, to seek out relationships among our church members based on our common vision and our shared spiritual journey. I urge you to begin at your home church, but also extend this into our community, to begin a new era of relationships of kindness and conversation. Let’s focus on the big issue of a Gospel that is for everyone! Let’s explore new ways to share how this Good News that was sealed with Jesus’ blood can transform hate into love, and where we see people of all kinds, origins, or races as human beings made in God’s image.
Let us be in prayer…
The Big Five – Our Commitment to God and the Congregation
During the last Annual Conference our Bishop, Grant Hagiya; invited congregations to come together and discern, discuss, and even dream about the kind of church that we want to be in the future. We as a congregation are joining this process in order to be renewed and reach that place where we fully and completely rely on God’s guidance and let God’s will and purpose be made real through us, with us, and even despite us.
Now, as part of this reflection process, I think a good way to start would be to review our church’s plans and dreams, and in order to do that you are receiving a little survey that I ask you to fill out and bring to church. If you already responded, many thanks and if you want to add something else, you are welcome to do so.
Another aspect that I thought important in this process is to revisit and review the commitments that each of us have made when we became members of this congregation: prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness, I will call these new member commitments “The Big 5”.
We are in the middle of a sermon series I am calling “The Big 5” where we are revisiting those commitments that we made as members of this congregation. These commitments keep the church of God moving as each one of us grows in our spiritual journey.
We want to become people of prayer, active participants in worship and activities, offering to God our gifts and talents, contributions and tithes. In response to these actions bringing fruit as we are involved in active service to our neighbor and respond to the call to make disciples of Christ.
I invite you to follow the sermon series, read the emails, and reignite your commitment to pray, to be present, to be a cheerful giver, and to share your faith in words and deeds.
See you Sunday in church!
Pastor Luis and his family wanted to thank you for your prayers and support as we begin our 7th year of ministry in this congregation. We thank God for the opportunity to serve him and expand God’s kingdom on earth from this corner of the world that we call home.
It is summer! Not that the workload is less but it is summer, and we relax a little. So, I want to share the following lines as an honest attempt at humor…
A Tribute to a Faithful One
I tip my hat to you, old and faithful, little dirty white coffee maker. You have finished the course of your journey! You suddenly took your last breath one Saturday morning, ironically on Garage Sale day! The strength of your circuits could not finish your task of making yet another pot of coffee… your last one.
When did you come to us? Who cares! Because until the last drop of coffee that you warmly dripped into the coffee pot, many people tasted a sip of your transformational work of art from some ground coffee beans mixed with water and fused by the warmth of your energy!
No! You were not the star coffee maker. You didn’t show up at special functions or even for the traditional Sunday morning coffee. You were mostly a backup and kept in a corner. But you were there, ready and waiting. We knew where to find you when we needed for you to provide a tasty hot beverage for an occasional committee meeting or an informal reunion. You were particularly and especially appreciated on those cold early mornings when it was still dark, and you provided a wake-up cup of coffee for a random sleepy shelter volunteer!
Yes, you were there, never complaining that nobody cared to clean your stains that evidently became part of your personality. Because you! Yes, you, old and faithful little dirty white coffee maker. You were unique, and YOU WILL BE REMEMBERED (and of course, replaced for a newer, cleaner, eco-friendly model). But still! You will be remembered for years to come!
Prayers for Wisdom
During this month of June, we will have our Annual Conference in Redlands CA. This is our Conference’s main meeting where many different issues are addressed, along with times for study, legislation, worship and renewal.
If from the moment you read this newsletter until Annual Conference we don’t hear anything different, on July 1st I will be starting my 7th year as your pastor. As with the beginning of any new year, the moment invites us to review our congregation’s ministry and explore new possibilities.
It is important to mention that we are closer and closer to reaching a deal with CORE for the Senior Housing Project and, although the actual building of the project will take time to start, we can start planning around the fact that in the near future we will have a big ministry that will beautifully transform our church campus and provide new opportunities for ministry.
In the meantime, we need to prepare different areas of our ministry. During June and July, I will be meeting with individuals, committees and ministries to discuss how each and every ministry is trying to reach our mission of being “a nurturing place for ALL, making disciples for Christ”.
At the moment, a good way for each one of us to support this church is with our prayers! Pray for the UMC, for our Annual Conference to have wisdom in every decision, for our beloved Nestor UMC. Pray, so we can close the deal with CORE, pray for each and every ministry of our church including the new worship service in Spanish. God willing, we will see the fruits of our prayers and labor.
There is gratitude in my heart for the support and prayers for me and my family, prayers that enable us to continue ministry in this place that we call church and in this community that we call home.
See you Sunday in Church.
On the Road to Calvary
As we have been walking through Lent following Jesus, we have found profound lessons and inspiring examples of how Jesus put his faith into practical actions of love, compassion, obedience and grace. We might say, “Well, that was Jesus the son of God, that was easy for him.” But as we consider and look at the mystery of his God/human nature, we can see hints of how difficult this road was for him, especially as we approach Jerusalem and the Holy Week.
“Not my will but yours.” The God/human nature of Jesus cannot be explained as a dual personality, that is, two persons in one. It is a mystery indeed, but what we can see is the human struggling with human issues, for example the misunderstanding of his disciples, the merciless attitudes of the authorities, and the indifference of the religious people to share his message of mercy and love.
At the same time, we see the Godly nature of Jesus as he “walked the talk” and through his lessons, examples, and practical actions, showed that he certainly was the son of God!
As we approach Jerusalem, we will inevitably get to that point when we start walking with Jesus on the road to Calvary. By then we will see Jesus in an attitude of complete obedience and surrender to the will of God.
What have we learned from this season? What have we learned on this road to Jerusalem? My prayer is that as we approach Calvary, we are ready to understand the will of God and to surrender ourselves to His will.
See you Sunday in church,
The Way Forward
As I’m writing this article, I’m connected via internet to the historic General Conference of the United Methodist Church in St. Louis MO. After a long study of “The Way Forward” commission, several options were suggested by the commission regarding the issue of human sexuality, and this special General Conference will decide which way to go forward. You can read more about the issues at http://www.calpacumc.org/ or at http://www.umc.org/topics/general-conference-2019-special-session
John Wesley said, “We think and let (others) think.” We are around eight million United Methodist people in the United States and another four million in different countries around the world. Twelve million people have a lot of ideas and opinions! Churches face unique situations and multiple factors in their places of ministry that determine the way the church should move forward. While things are still being decided, nobody at this time knows what the aftermath of this General Conference will bring to our beloved UMC as a whole.
One of the most frequent questions is… how is this going to affect the local congregation? That is exactly what we will see in the future. For now, I can say that as Nestor UMC, in the last 5 years we have been dealing with our own issues and conflicts, our dreams and vision, our possibilities and challenges.
We continue to look for new ways to serve and do ministry. The CORE Nestor project has been approved by the District, so our prayer is that doors can be opened for the financing for this project. At the same time, we recently “cast the net” and started a new worship service in Spanish, responding to the fact that almost 75% of the population around our campus is Hispanic. It is proven that when you start a new ministry in a church (and particularly a new worship service) the other ministries also benefit as there is more exposure and interest from the community. This is not a recipe, but I’m a firm believer that if we are faithful to our mission of being a nurturing place for all, making disciples for Christ, God will bless the intention of our hearts and the work of our hands.
Finally, I’m blessed to see the response of the congregation with donations for several ministries that the Methodist Church of Mexico has for deportees. We also have several members in our congregation that are volunteering at the Safe Harbors ministry in San Diego, providing support for refugees.
My prayer is for wisdom, vision and that God might bless the intention of our hearts and the work of our hands.
See you Sunday in church,
Days of New Beginnings
As I am walking in the intricate streets of the old city of Jerusalem. I arrive to an apparently regular street that looks like any other street, but then I see that this street goes up… up to Calvary.
This is the traditional Via Dolorosa, the street that it is believed Jesus walked, carrying the cross to Calvary. Along the street you can stop at certain stations that commemorate both the three passages that happened in the Bible as well as others that are traditional and believed happened that day.
It is Friday afternoon, so part of the city has slowed down because of the Jewish Sabbath. There is a feeling of quiet, reflection, and meditation. During this pilgrimage, the Bible readings that I have read many times have a special meaning as I can put together places, people and events. Events both of sorrow and pain as well as of joy and hope.
That is one of the lessons I have learned from this pilgrimage. The road is still uncertain and many times goes uphill. Am I willing to walk this way? Although it can be hard, there’s so much joy and hope at the end of the road. We have a message that in the end happened “on the third day”. It was a day of new beginnings!
Shalom. See you Sunday in church!