Some of you know I've been in San Diego attending the U.M. Board of Discipleship's School Of Congregational Development (with a few days of vacation tacked onto the end!). I've enjoyed all the sessions I've attended, especially the opportunity to hear Father Greg Boyle speak - Father G is the Jesuit priest who founded & runs Homeboy Industries where over 10,000 former gang members from East Los Angeles (the gang capital of the world) find jobs, hope & new life each year. The story Father G tells is absolutely the greatest story of transformation I've ever been privileged to hear. You can get a flavor of this wonderful ministry on homeboyindustries.org. It is quite remarkable!
In addition to the classes and sessions I've attended, it's been an incredible experience to spend time in San Diego & to interact with many clergy and laypeople from the California-Pacific & neighboring Conferences, many of whom have Mexican backgrounds (one District Superintendent told the story of her grandparents crossing the border while her grandmother was in labor. Her father was born, she said, in a bar - a doctor was called to sign his U.S. birth certificate - and they did it, she said, so he would have religious freedom. It was a time when public worship was punishable by hanging - can you imagine?! Her father became a pastor & returned to Mexico to care for the least & lost and he started over 60 churches!)
One of the clergy in this afternoon's seminar spoke about the heartbreaking ministry their church & others have been engaged in over the past couple of months. They're located close to the U.S.-Mexico border where there is a legal site (and detention center) for refugees entering the U.S. to apply for asylum. Apparently the process is extremely slow in recent weeks, and families who've walked hundreds of miles with tiny babies & young children have arrived to find that they must wait in line for 7 days or longer. The area churches are ministering to them each day by bringing food, water & other basic necessities.
As I sit here in my hotel room writing, I realize I am approximately 4.5 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. Up until now, the plight of these Central American families who are fleeing violence & injustice has felt like a problem that is far away. Suddenly it feels very close. But the love, tenderness, care & commitment of local churches relentlessly caring for & trying to lift some of the burden for families they don't even know & will never see again warms my heart.
There is never a shortage of work for God's people, is there? I give thanks to God for the hearts of people everywhere who are busy doing the tough job of standing with people in need - and this week, I'm praying especially for those who care for young men & women who've been involved in gang violence and those who are caring for families from Central America who are desperately trying to save themselves & their children. I hope you'll join me in that prayer.