I hope that all of you had an opportunity to have some rest and renewal this past summer. I can share that I had some wonderful moments with family and friends, but I also had some amazing experiences that fill me with hope and high expectation for our ministry together in the months to come.
In mid-summer I celebrated a 125th anniversary with Harris UMC in Honolulu. They began as a ministry to Japanese immigrants and as part of their anniversary celebration they renewed their commitment to immigrant families through a Saturday immigration conference that included church and community members and leaders, representatives from state legislators’ offices, immigrants who gave their witness, and a panel that I was fortunate to serve on with a committed immigration lawyer. Out of this day of work a son of our Hawaii District Lay Leader whose immigration status has been precarious is now receiving the help of state legislators. I am grateful that Harris UMC still remembers its roots and its call to serve in the name of Christ who was himself an immigrant in an unwelcoming world. I pray that because of the ministry of this church and others, immigrant families will be helped to come out of the shadows of our country’s broken immigration policies.
I also had the opportunity to preach at the 100th Anniversary gathering of the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists, a national organization that gathered at our Riviera UMC. I joined them at their last worship service thinking that by that time they would be tired and ready to go home. Instead I found a group of Holy Spirit-filled brothers and sisters who had obviously been blessed by their gathering and were still celebrating God’s goodness. I was particularly moved by the young people, our own California-Pacific Conference young people among them, who led the service that last night of their gathering. They led with tremendous passion and such a clear sense of what it means to be servants of Christ Jesus that I left that moment with a renewed spirit and great hope for the church.
More recently I preached at Wainae UMC. It is one of our economically poorest churches, but one rich in faith and commitment. On the morning that I preached we baptized 5 children and 4 adults, and there were others who came forth and said that they wanted to be baptized at the very next opportunity! Our pastor in Wainae thanked God for the birth of baby Titus, for when he was born his parents said to their pastor, “We have to have our baby Titus baptized.” This simple request led others to say, “We want our babies baptized as well.” And then one adult stepped forward and said, “Pastor, I have never been baptized, but I am committed to the church and I too want to be baptized. Then out of the joy of the moment three other adults stepped forward and said, “We need to be baptized too!” I felt the spirit of the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8 who said to Philip, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” Joy came over him after Philip baptized him and joy was what I experienced in Wainae, just because one said, “We need a baptism!”
My visit to the Los Angeles Strength for the Journey camp was just as much a blessing. I found one hundred men and women afflicted by HIV/AIDS and over 35 compassionate leaders on a marvelous hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean participating in workshops, classes, and much conversation. It was a hot day but a welcomed ocean breeze brought us comfort and the assurance that our Creator was with us. Throughout the hours that I was with this group of our brothers and sisters I kept hearing how the camp had blessed them, giving them hope, companionship, much needed help and even faith. For 26 years our Strength for the Journey camps have made a significant difference in the lives of persons who suffer, and often suffer alone. I was reminded of Jesus as he reached out to those who suffered alone. I know that Jesus has led our Strength for the Journey leaders. I hope others of us will join them in the months and years to come so that this ministry may be strengthened.
Finally, I also found a bit of time to see two great movies, 42 and The Butler. The reference to Methodism in 42 made me want to stand up and ask how many in the movie theater were Methodists! I was ready to lead them in a cheer! I cried through most of The Butler, but even through tears I was so very proud of our brother the Rev. Dr. James Lawson, who is featured in the movie because of his non-violence work in the effort for civil rights in this country. How we privileged we are to have Dr. Lawson among us as a mentor and guide.
It’s been a great summer. I have seen God at work and United Methodists being salt and light for the world. I couldn’t be more blessed! I pray you are being blessed as well.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño