Tuesday, March 28, 2017

From This Valley

CALL TO WORSHIP


Part of the worship service that I enjoy is the call to worship.  I attended the Wesley United Methodist Church in Harlingen TX on March 19, 2017.  



Pastor Jeana Leann Martin provided this call to worship based on John 4.  La Posada Providencia is part of this congregation’s ministry.

Leader:            Jesus Christ encountered an outsider at a well and did not turn away!
People:           He met her where she was!
Leader:            God, encased in human flesh, saw a need and offered living water!
People:           Jesus met her where she was!
Leader:            He offered her living water, freedom from al that bound her!
People:           Jesus met her where she was!
Leader:            Jesus, God poured out, sees us, hears us…Jesus does not turn away!
People:           Jesus meets us where we are!
All:                  Thanks be to God! Amen!


The Valley

I have met Jesus here!  As a “Winter Texan”, I did many things.  I enjoyed the warm weather.  However, serving immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers was the reason for my coming and remains my focus.  I am discerning next winter’s mission ministry

A Lenten Reflection speaks to these issues.


Leaving La Posada Providencia

Bittersweet

Parting is such sweet sorrow” is a line from the play Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare; Juliet is saying good night to Romeo. Their sorrowful parting is also “sweet” because it makes them think about the next time they will see each other.

Leaving La Posada is also a sweet sorrow.  My soul is filled with pleasant memories of everyone here. 



The “sweet” part of the reality here is that although we may never see each other again we go in the loving providence of God.  Everyone experiences God’s love in tangible ways as La Posada “welcomes the strangers: in accordance with Matthew 25. 
God Loves each of us and is on our side


Layers

I first posted this poem to my blog in 2013 as I departed from my service with World Council of Churches in Jerusalem.  Now, another layer is added


United Methodists in the Valley

During my time in “The Valley,” it was my joy to visit fourteen different United Methodist Churches.  This was a connection with a purpose, bringing information about La Posada to the congregation members.  Much work is being done on behalf of refugees. 

How fun it was to see congregation members come to La Posada for tours and to hear of their plans to volunteer.  Congregations took up special offerings for La Posada.  It is inspiring to see these United Methodist congregations answering God’s Matthew 25 call to welcome the stranger.

Women United Methodist Women Deaconess, Cindy Johnson, attended churches with me as her schedule allowed.  She also volunteers at La Posada each week.  Her language skills are an advantage.   I had the joy of speaking at one of the UMW unit meetings.  Seeing good being done for La Posada through women’s groups was an added blessing.


Going Home

I have the option of going home.  This option is not the reality of the asylum seekers at La Posada. 


When I served in Harrisonburg, VA last winter, this poem was recited at one of the events.  In my opinion, it should be required reading.  It was written by Warsan Shire  she is a Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London. 



Returning Is a Process

I am thankful for my daughter-in law’s help.  She is my go to GPS guide.  On the way, I stopped in at the offices of the Rio Texas Conference Mission Vitality Center in San Antonio.  I learned a lot.  Perhaps you can join me in considering some possible future mission ministry as a “winter Texan.”

I am finishing this paragraph in Oklahoma City, OK.  My GPS did not find the hotel.  Gale, from home used street view and led me here via a long phone conversation.
I am here to take a course offered by UM Path 1.  The course is training to understand ethnic diversity and reach multiethnic populations.  Developing cultural competence will help me as I serve people for around the world.

Trusting God and the prayers of many people, I will drive in from somewhere in Indiana to attend the 2017 Keep Making Peace event in Lansing, MI on April 1.  Lansing is only an hour from my son and daughter-in-law, Ed and Gale’s home.  They have invited me to spend time with them after the event. 

Finally back in Traverse City April 2.  Then I really get busy!


Thoughts to ponder:-

"Even in the moments when our very being is shouting out that we must rest, hide, or quit, we are called to be like Mary….to rise up, to commit to the long work of justice and healing, even in the face of our own insecurities, fears, and fatigue.”
From An Ignatian Solidarity Network Series: I Come To Do Your Will


From the Valley


 “Now, to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:21-22

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Serving Community at La Posada Providencia

Services Provided for Asylum Seekers















Sisters of Divine Providence founded La Posada in 1989. Since then, over 8000 individuals from 81 countries have been served.

La Posada’s mission is to provide shelter in a residential setting with dormitories.  Many additional services are offered as needed.
·       Communal meals: both meal preparation and dining are done together with the La Posada staff and other residents of the shelter.
·       Communication resources: access to phone, fax, email, Facebook, and postal services
·       Case Management: involves access to legal aid, health care, social services and relocation assistance.
·       Language instruction: lessons with an instructor or CD/video, plus individual and group conversation practice.
·       Cultural integration: includes assistance with shopping, travel and communications, filling out paperwork, dealing with government agencies, medical offices and businesses.
·       Life skills: involves computer literacy, financial basics, health and nutrition, employment readiness and property maintenance.
·       Experience in a sustainable lifestyle: organic gardening, recycling, residential energy-efficiency measures, and well water application.
·       Emotional Support: compassionate listening, guidance and mentoring; access to faith groups (religion/denomination of choice)
·       Local transportation is offered to health, legal and social services offices, learning centers, shopping, bus station and airport.
·       Clients also benefit from extensive community collaborations, including legal, medical, dental, pharmacy and counseling services.
As you read this list, I hope you are able to identify some places where you think you might help!  Please contact La Posada if you want to be a part of welcoming and serving the “stranger cdplaposada@lppshelter.org.”

Hospitality

 In January 2017, not only was I welcomed to La Posada, I received hospitality in the  home of the Sisters of Divine Providence.  I stayed in the third bedroom of a mobile home on the property of La Posada.  Each of the sisters has many different responsibilities.  They willing do all that needs to be done.    

The sisters are amazing women of God!  They make themselves available 24/7 as circumstances require.  I learned a lot from their conformity to Christ’s image.  Christ gave up heaven, and gave his all for the good of others, for our good!  Conformity to Christ’s image is how the sisters live.  They give themselves for the “strangers” who come to them at La Posada. 

Sister Zita

Sister Zita is the director.  She is also the residents go to person in their dorm.  She chooses to have her room in the women’s dorm so she will be sure to be available if needed. 

Sister Zita is thankful for the inspiration she gains from the hope displayed in the people.  She states, "I am blessed by the people.  They have left everything.  All they have are the clothes on their backs, stripped of everything except their hope.

When she came in 2008, she brought a plaque that now hangs at the door of Casa Belin.  It is a reminder from Hebrews 13:3, ... Be not forgetful  to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” 


Sister Zita does special things, like creating this Pinapple Upside Cake, so other can feel the special love that Divine Providence creates at La Posada.



Overseeing a wonderful lunch for a group of student volunteers 









Sister Zita’s energy, executive and administrative skills are keeping this whole enterprise functioning and heading it a successful direction.  Sister Zita’s collaboration with community groups is an asset to the causes of justice in The Valley.

Sister Margaret

Sister Margaret has many responsibilities.  She came in 1995 and for some time was the only Sister in residence here.  She now is responsible for the facilities and grounds.  The yard and garden are part of her teaching opportunity for the residents.  The organic garden supplies many of the vegetables for our meals.  This first picture was taken in January, a lot has been harvested, but there is more to come.






































Sister Margaret identifies one of her most joyful experiences here at La Posada as, “Seeing the changes in the faces of the residents as they realize someone cares for them and loves them."


Sister Margaret does a lot of the transporting and most of the grocery shopping.

Sister Therese 

Sister Therese is part of the Holy Spirit Convent.  The foundress of the Holy Spirit Covenant stated the following.  “Why should we fear?  Our treasury is Divine Providence which supplies the universe and is never exhausted.”  These Sisters are called to be women of faith and trust.  To reach out to the marginalized, especially for those denied respect for their human dignity.


Sister Therese has been at La Posada ten and a half years.  She also has many responsibilities.  She guides the students and volunteers in the classroom.  She is careful to keep each client at the appropriate level in English Class.

Sometimes just watching the children while the mother's study.


She acts as a client mentor.  She listens to their stories and is a presence in their lives.  She is the only sister fluent in Spanish.  While seeing that chores are completed in the dorms, she is successful yet compassionate. 


Sister Therese states, “God blesses me every day through the people I meet and the faith they exhibit; good, amazing and challenging.  Their presence enriches my life.  They challenge me to trust in the providence of God who continuously guides our lives and provides for all of us.” 


Sister Therese is an immigrant from Ireland.  Sister Therese’s Irish roots made St. Patrick’s Day celebration especially fun.  She taught about the life of St. Patrick and we watched a video in English about the St. Patrick’s life.  Everyone enjoyed the celebration in the afternoon after English class.




Earth Care and Concern

Sister Therese teaches the composting.  The garden benefits from emphasis on creation care here at La Posada.  

Other Volunteers

Marlene has been coming to La Posada for four years.  She stays for six months when she comes.  She serves many hours each day, always willing to do what needs to be done.  Her motor-home is parked on the grounds.




Blanca comes every day.  She is fluent in Spanish and English.  Her language skills are a big help in the classroom. 













Periodically Sisters of Divine Providence come and serve.  Sister Janet recently spent two weeks here.  Her friendship was a joy for all. The sisters and volunteers appreciated her teaching and help.

Marlene, Blanca, Sister Janet and many more volunteers were a joy for me to serve with during the last three months.

Everyone Is Special

Celebrate, Celebrate Celebrate!

Making joyful memories for all involved is what La Posada does very well.  Clients, Staff and volunteer birthdays, departures, and special holidays are celebrated. 


Sister Zita serving at the parties, making sure everyone feels special at La Posada.  
Celebrations recognize God’s image in each, celebrating the dignity to every client. 


Office

Office work is my comfort zone.  I was glad to get to help at times in the office, filing.  This is an example of one of the kinds of services needed at La Posada Providencia.  If you know your ABC’s, there is service in the office waiting for you!

The office at La Posada plays a VERY important role.  Monica, asylum seekers main contact, has been at La Posada 16 years.  She is the “go to” person for asylum seekers in their efforts to stay current with the government requirements in their important process.  Although not an attorney, Monica helps keep clients informed of the processes agencies with whom they will need to interact.

We recently celebrated Monica’s birthday.  




A feast goes with many celebrations.


A VOLUNTEER OR GOD’S SERVANT?

A thought from a Facebook entry was a challenging question to me.  (However, when I saved it I did not realize I had cut off part of the “address.”  I cannot get back to the post; sorry I cannot give credit to the author.)  The idea of the post was to think about the difference between a volunteer for God and a servant of God.

The suggestion was to ask ourselves which label applies.

A volunteer does things they like to do; a servant does what God calls them to do.
A volunteer asks if a task will fit into their schedule; a servant adjusts their schedule to fit.
A volunteer does things their way; a servant does things God's way.
A volunteer may say, "I've put in my time already;" a servant has no time limit.

Romans 6:19, “so now, offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Quote to Ponder

"When the church hears the cry of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that give rise to and perpetuate the misery from which the cry arises."
-Blessed Oscar Romero



Each of our actions in our 24/7's is spent interacting with and in the systems of our cultures.  We each have an opportunity to live God's love into our "corner of the systems."  

Let's "hear," "see" and act through God's Love for all perspective.






Sunday, March 12, 2017

United Methodist Connection

The United Methodist Women Connection  

United Methodist Women Deaconess, Cindy Johnson, was my contact that smoothed the way for me to serve at La Posada Providencia, wwwlppshelter.org.  I connected to her by way of a different United Methodist Women, Cindy Saufferer.  I had med Cindy Saufferer on the 2012 UMW Ubuntu Journey to Sierra Leone.  She was in MI attending the 2016 North Central Jurisdiction Quadrennial in Grand Rapids, June 2016 when I was discerning my next volunteer in mission journey. Part of the 2012 Sierra Leone Ubuntu Journey team members Vicki behind, Rita on my right and Cindy on my left.


  I praise God that Cindy from MN gave me the contact info of Cindy of TX.  The rest of the story you have read about on previous blogs and stories from here will continue until March 27, 2017.


Texan United Methodist Churches

Along with my service here at La Posada Providencia, I have had the privilege of visiting many churches in the Rio Texas Conference in particular in the El Valle District.  


Praise God I was able to share about the Matthew 25 work here at La Posada.  I am VERY encouraged being able to interact with the United Methodists in the Valley.  I have a new label, Winter Texan.  It makes me wonder where someone with that label will serve next winter.


Today, March 12, 2017 

1st United Methodist Church of Weslaco, TX



My heart is full of praise to God for my church experience today, 1st United Methodist Church of Weslaco, TX.





  





This church has answered the call to love God and serve people. 







The CALL TO WORSHIP at the service today ministered to my journeying heart!

Leader:            We are called to go to places that we don’t know.
People:           We look to the hills for our strength.
Leader:            Our strength is in God who always goes with us
People:           We walk in faith.
Leader:            Come, let us worship the God who calls us and who walks beside us throughout the journey

Two couples from Michigan greeted me during the “Pass the Peace” portion of the service.

The thoughts and challenges of the sermon were a blessing to my soul.  The sermon, spoken in English, was translated as the sermon progressed.  The sermon’s call to action contained an important reminder that we are made alive with God’s breath.  The Holy Spirit is ready to resurrect the dead places in each of our lives.  As we experience the breath of God resurrecting the dead places we are sent out to the world.

An added joy was finding out that today's donations in their  special blessing box offering was designated for La Posida Providencia. 



It was fun to see the playground at the church being used by many!

Mission teams from out of town will be staying and serving this week as this church reaches out to their community. 

I was invited to and enjoy a potluck with all, Good food and fellowship! 



Praise God with me for the many United Methodists Churches that have welcomed me and support La Posada Providencia with their prayers and donations. 


Extra Volunteers

This is Spring Break at collages throughout our country.  What a joy it is to experience young people from several different colleges who come to serve asylum seekers on their Spring Break.  

The college students and the asylum seekers learn from each other.  They listen and learn from Sister Margaret.

Pondering the potential for God's very good in the lives of these college students and asylum seekers is exciting!







Pray for Refugees and Those Who Serve Them.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Intention


Our Wesley Heritage


“Think and Let Think,” John Wesley. 


Current Contemplation

You may have already heard or read that I chose the word “INTENTION” for my 2017 focus. 
Below are some of the questions I am asking myself. 
What was God’s intention for humanity at creation? 
What is God’s intention for me in the next minute, hour, day, week month….? 
As I read scripture, I ask what the intention of the writer is.  How did the people who first read this passage understand its intention? 
Are any of these understandings intended for my society?  What changes do I need to make in my sphere of influence.

February Flowers

That is a long way of saying I intended to post this in February.  I want to show off God’s February beauty at La Posada.

















February Fun with a Future

We gathered at the annual fundraiser, Hands and Hearts, for Support of La Posada Providencia. 




La Posada clients posing for a picture during the 2017 Hands & Hearts fundraiser.
Our 2017 Hands & Hearts Brunch and Auction showed La Posada Providencia’s board, staff, volunteers and clients how far reaching and committed the support is to “Welcoming the Stranger and Making a Difference” in our community.
More than 300 supporters attended our annual brunch, held Saturday, February 4, at La Sierra Event Center, in Harlingen, Texas.
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers as thereby some have entertained Angels unawares.” This message from St. Paul (Hebrews 13:2) also was the event’s welcoming message chosen by Program Director, Sister Zita Telkamp, CDP. It is one of her favorite scripture quotations and is posted on a plaque greeting clients and visitors as they enter our main building at La Posada.




I love silent auctions; they are even more fun when the money goes to a good cause.  The item I purchased at the auction will enhance hospitality at my home.  You are invited to come and enjoy it with me.  I will be back in Traverse City, MI on April 2.


Saying Yes to Missions

Many of you know I said yes to be an Individual Volunteer in Missions in 2012 and went on my first assignment when I turned 70.  I am now on my fifth assignment.  I have been “reconverted” more than once on these journeys!  I have been “fixed” in areas I did not even know I was broken. 

Jesus Christ calls us to LIFE.  We are promised not just life, but abundant Life. 


We all are on an adventurous journey! 


Part of God’s original intention for humanity, is love and fellowship in relationship with God and each other.  Serving at La Posada Providencia, being a part of the lives of asylum seekers has allowed me to understand and grow toward God’s intention. 


Evidence of God’s providence is front and center here!


 

Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:2-4 stated a reality about his ministry.  His words reflect a truth I see here in La Posada.  The asylum seekers are letters from Christ to me.  I see the results of the Spirit of the living God, writing on the tablets of these human hearts. 

Let’s open our hearts to see what God is doing in the world.
Let’s open our minds to understand what God’s intention requires us to do.

Galatians 5:6 

The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.



Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reflections

Anointed for Service


In 2013 my pastor, Dianne Doten Morrison of Christ UMC sang a song during an anointing service for my first mission ministry.  She sang again at the anointing ceremony led by Pastor Colleen Wierman of Grawn United Methodist Church in December 2016, as I prepared to serve at La Posada Providencia in San Benito, TX.  The Holy Spirit continues to use the truths of the words of her song in my life and service.

L'chi lach to a land that I will show you.  
Leich l'cha to a place you do not know. 
L'chi lach on your journey I will bless you. 
 And you will be a blessing, you will be a blessing, you will be a blessing. 
 L'chi lach.

The song is based on Genesis 12:1 when God says to Abram, “Go forth to the land I will show you.”  Hebrew words, L'chi lach meaning, "Go forth" and lech l'cha meaning "Go for yourself.'  This is because when God sends you on a journey it is not only a journey for God.  It also contains the meaning of a journey of self-discovery, self-direction and personal choosing.

Our Journeys

I praise God for this journey.  God’s intentions for each of us is beyond our imaginations.  My devotions this morning from E. Stanley Jones’ book The Way to Power and Poise (page 79) emphasized the necessity of giving our all.  “For God can only give All to all.  We offer “some” and expect God to overlook the reservation and give us all.  But the heavens are silent.  They open with only one key-all.”

My Ongoing Calling

Blogging as I Go

In July of 2013 when I started my GBGM Volunteer in Mission experiences, I created my blog and named it www.considerourcall.blogspot.com.  I am so thankful for you who read this blog as we consider our calls together.  My heart is warmed by the love and Spirit of Hospitality extended to me in so many places by so many people during my journey.

Refugees




Since 2013, God’s Holy Spirit has show me the plight of refugees during my journeys.  I served with and for refugees in countries overseas and refugees from many countries in the US. 







My call, our call it to serve Jesus by serving those in need.

Refugees in Traverse City


In November 2016, my interest in refugees expanded as I attended conferences in Lansing about refugees in Michigan.  I discovered that Traverse City, my hometown, had recently been designated as a city to resettle Unaccompanied Minor Refugees.  Bethany Christian Services in Traverse City has the task of finding foster care homes for these youth.  Call Bethany Christian Services if you want to help 231 995 0870 in the foster home aspects of this process.

Working closely with Bethany Christian services, Northwest Michigan Welcoming Council (NMWC) has been formed.  You are invited to be a part of this important group.  Their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/NWMichiganWelcomingCouncil/.  If you would like to be in the email loop for this group send a note to: nwmichiganwelcomingcouncil@gmail.com

Now I'm a Winter Texan

Before starting to serve refugees at La Posada Providencia in San Benito, TX, I did not know the term Winter Texan.  Winter Texans answer God's call by serving at La Posada.  February flowers are beautiful.

This ministry has been serving refugees and immigrants in the valley for 27 years.  Statistics have been updated, La Posada has provided refuge for more than 8500 people in crisis from more than 80 countries worldwide . 

They are fulfilling Scripture’s mandate Matthew 25:35.  To learn more, view their web page https://lppshelter.org and watch the video on the web page.  In addition, check out their Facebook Page, https://www.facebook.com/LPPShelter/ to see the work God is allowing here.  If you are a Winter Texan, or from the area call and schedule a tour of La Posada, 956 399 3826.

This is an amazing ministry.  I have never seen anyone work harder than the sisters here, Sister Zita, the director, and Sister Margaret are sisters of Divine Providence. Sister Therese Cunningham is a Sister of The Holy Spirit.  They are on duty 24/7.  I have learned a lot from their examples, their hospitality and their love, for the refugees, each other and me.

My Daily Joy!

Time really goes fast.  I have been here a month already.  My daily schedule involves being a helper to Sister Therese, originally from Ireland in the classroom.  She plans lessons for students at many different skill levels.  It has been fun for me to see students progressing.  It is fun to see people from many different nations working hard to learn English!  For some English is their third or fourth language.  

Last week I worked with a women in her 30’s who she speaks three languages, but had never written her name.  Praise God with me for the joy of teaching and seeing amazing results.  

Sister Therese does a great job of exposing the refugees to United States culture.  It is a thrill to hear our class say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.  To watch the refugees carefully raise and lower the flag each day.

Hospitality: Stories, Stories and Stories!


Meal times are special times.  Eating together as a family gives everyone time to get to know each other to share stories.  The numbers here fluctuate, but friendships develop quickly.  


Before and after each meal we work together to prepare and clean.  

Of course some would rather play in the cupboard than eat.  It was a joy seeing this little one take his first steps.


Connections

Praising God for connections made here.  Another volunteer that comes once a week mentioned that she works for an agency here in Texas that shelters unaccompanied minors.  They were looking for organizations hoping to move the minors in their shelter into foster family homes.  Bethany Christian Services is now connected with upbring, https://www.upbring.orgIt was fun realizing God was using me to making connections between my service here and what is happen for refugees in Traverse City.  Experiencing God!

Offering Opportunities to Be Blessed

I am working closely with a United Methodist Deaconess, Cindy Johnson.  I attended her church in Brownsville the first Sunday I was here.

  She volunteers here at La Posada one day a week.  Together we are reaching out to churches in the area.  We are bringing the needs of the refugees and the mission needs of La Posada to the churches in this area. The potential of blessings because of "Yes" to volunteer ministry at La Posada.


How fun it is for me to feel the Sisterhood of United Methodist Women Units as I visit groups here in the valley.    



The Wall at Brownsville

So VERY Sad!





Saturday, February 4, 2017

NO SIDELINES

PARTICIPANTS


We are called to participate! 

Romans 12:1-2
1 Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 Do not be confirmed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

It is important to allow God’s Holy Spirit to renew our minds.  As Ephesians 4:23 states, “to be made new in the attitude of your minds”

In our “Christian” United States, this has been and continues to be Scripture’s call to each of us.

E. Stanley Jones’ Abundant Living on page 288 notes these prayer thoughts.  “God, as we begin the adventure of living out each stage of life, give us insight and imagination that we may make each stage distinctive and beautiful. 
Help us not to waste our time in useless regrets, or in reaching for the moon:  but help us to beautify the hours as they come and go, and to press the “signet ring of Eternity” upon each passing moment, Amen,”

La Posada Providencia Participants

We invite you be off the sidelines, be involved with La Posada as we serve immigrants and refugees.  

Join the ministry of La Posada.  Let's answers our call  to love our neighbors as ourselves.





May God continue to open our eyes, hearts and minds so we see what the Holy Spirit is doing in all aspects of our lives, cities, nation and world.