Oak Hill UMC Gives Away 300+ Stuffed Animals during Christmas Party

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More than 300 teddy bears, kittens, puppies, rabbits, lambs, and two angry birds–were given to Oak Hill-area children at an annual Christmas party hosted by the Travis County Community Center on Saturday, Dec. 8.

Members of Oak Hill UMC led a group of more than 40 volunteers that included social workers, Travis County law enforcement officers, and, of course, Santa.

A total of 115 families with 340 children participated in the event and were given gifts. Gifts also included:

  • pajamas for almost 100 children

  • 20 gift cards for teenagers

  • more than 200 coats for children of all ages

  • 200+ bananas and cutie oranges donated by our friends at Central Market

  • 240 breakfast tacos

  • gallons of orange juice and coffee

  • almost 20 dozen sugar cookies

Together, Oak Hill UMC and the local agencies shared a morning of radical hospitality with our brothers and sisters in the community.

Written by Don Kerr


Coker UMC Host Christmas Gift Giveaway

“What is so heart-warming about this is that it isn’t ‘us' donating to ‘them’ we are all in this together. Some former food pantry clients donate items and some current food pantry clients volunteer on the day of,” Jenn Clauser, director of Communications said. "Congregation and committee members donate & volunteer too, knowing that if God ever called them into hard times there’s loving help right here."

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UMW Hosts Climate Justice = Just Energy 4 All

United Methodist Women and Moms Clean Air Force hosted the Climate Justice = Just Energy 4 All conference at Coker UMC: San Antonio on December 1 to raise awareness and discuss how climate change is impacting the nation and the city.

Activists and Methodists shared ideas and discussed solutions to the ever-changing climate crisis, especially in the wake of the Fourth National Climate Assessment.

UMW Executive for Economic and Environmental Justice Elizabeth Chun Hye Lee wanted to bring the annual meeting to San Antonio because of the health impacts of fossil fuels on communities in Texas, as well as promote the Just Energy 4 All campaign.

“In the United States, we are only four percent of the world’s population, but we emit 25% of greenhouse gas emissions,” said Lee. “There are about 100 companies responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1880. There is environmental pollution. Unfortunately, it’s on the bodies, backs, and livelihoods of communities of color: African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, and poor communities. When we are caring for God’s creation, the Earth, we also need to seek justice.”

UMW is planning on installing solar panels at The Holding Institute in Laredo to help offset rising costs for central air conditioning.

DeeDee Belmares, a Texas Field Consultant for Moms Clean Air Force, works closely with UMW and offers tours of fracking sites. The emphasis on justice is also important for their activism.

“Just in Bexar County alone, there are 33,000 cases of asthma,” said Belmares. “The EPA put Bexar County in nonattainment. Local children are breathing air that is not good for their little lungs, and it’s also not good for our senior citizens.”

Eloisa Portillo-Morales, the City of San Antonio’s Sustainability Planning Manager for the Office of Sustainability, highlighted the city’s efforts to adapt to climate change.

“We currently have seven days a year of over 100 degree temperatures in San Antonio. By 2040, we expect to have 30 days a year of over 100 degree temperatures. What does that do to our community?” said Portillo-Morales. “We’re doing this while still seeing a population growth of possibly over a million people by 2040. It impacts everybody, but it doesn’t impact everybody the same way.”

Last June, the San Antonio City Council passed resolutions to support the Paris Climate Accord and to become a compassionate city. The Climate Action and Adaptation Plan is being developed with 90+ stakeholders.

UMW is encouraging local chapters to deliver letters to Ford dealerships and urge the company to keep clean car standards, even as the EPA has rolled back those requirements. They are also urging oil and gas companies to reduce emissions. During the event, participants signed letters to Chevron, one of the largest natural gas producers in the world, and their new CEO Mike Wirth to follow through on No. 4 of “Guiding Principles on Reducing Methane Emissions” which Chevron signed onto earlier this year:

Advocate sound policy and regulations on methane emissions: support policies that incentivize early action, drive performance improvements, facilitate proper enforcement, and support flexibility and innovation.

Belmares invited Public Citizen activist Briauna Barrera to present her story about working with public officials and the community.  

“It’s scary, but I also think its immensely hopeful,” said Barrera. “A huge part of my work is building relationships with people so that they know we are not struggling alone. I’m invested in your well-being as much as my own. Once that trust is established, maybe we can redirect that fear toward more focused action with a target or goal in mind.”

Rio Texas Pastor Joins Migrant Caravan in Mexico

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Rev. Gavin Rogers, an associate pastor of Travis Park United Methodist Church, San Antonio, recently traveled to Mexico City to join the migrant caravan as they were continuing their journey.

Rogers wanted to get to know some of the people traveling toward the United States, hear their stories, and better understand why they are risking so much to leave their home countries.

Read more in the San Antonio Express-News. 

WATCH KSAT-12 ABC TV News: Rev. Gavin Rogers: Many are Christian evangelicals

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Several United Methodist Churches served as voting sites on Election Day.

Churches in Austin used the day as an opportunity to offer radical hospitality to voters. By early morning on November 6, over 70 people were in line to vote at Memorial UMC in northeast Austin.

“We put out coloring pages for the kids and got chairs for everyone to sit in who couldn’t stand that long”, said Rev. Cynthia Kepler-Karrer.

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By later in the afternoon the lines were still strong and United Methodist volunteers brought water, food, and snacks for the voters and their children. Down the road at Parker Lane UMC, more lines formed as people waited to vote and pastor Rev. Matt Edison was onsite to offer assistance to the polling workers who needed access to a copier and other supplies.

He reported over 1,100 people came to vote.

By Tuesday evening, Oak Hill UMC continued to receive voters; the humidity brought lots of mosquitoes and so volunteers handed out mosquito spray and refreshments to those waiting outside.

As one worker said, “The election results aren’t in yet but we’re going to go ahead and call the race for ‘the most cookies baked to hand out to voters’ for the Oak Hill UMW!” The church’s communication team also worked ahead of time to ensure information on mission projects and Christmas worship services were available for visitors.

Other United Methodist churches offered opportunities for prayer as a way for persons to find their center in God in the midst of a turbulent election season. Trinity Church in Austin advertised, “If you’d like to pray or meditate on Election Day, our sanctuary will be open Tuesday 9AM - 6PM. Come light a candle and hold voters and candidates in prayer.”

At First UMC, Austin; leaders planned a time of prayer the day after the election. It is advertised as a time of prayer for those elected and those celebrating, for those most impacted by the decisions, and for those disappointed.

In a pastoral letter to the congregation, Senior Pastor Rev. Taylor Fuerst wrote, “If you are angry or anxious, determined, hopeful, or just plain exhausted, God meets you today in the midst of turbulent times. Isaiah’s words are an anchor for me, and I hope they are for you, too: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior - Isaiah 43:2-3)”

Written by Capital District Superintendent Rev. Teresa Weborn





Capital District ERT Teams Assist with Flood Recovery

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Dripping Springs umc Certified Lay Minister linda snow

Members and friends of First UMC, Austin; including Rev. Taylor Fuerst and Rev. Cathy Stone; assisted as Early Responders in Kingsland with Rio Texas Disaster Response. 

Members of the Dripping Springs UMC response team, including recently Certified Lay Minister Linda Snow, spent a day in Horseshoe Bay mucking and gutting homes as a part of the recovery efforts.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas hard in 2017. We are still—and will be for a long time—helping survivors recover. Then came flooding in the valley, after that came Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, Hurricane Michael in Florida and just recently the Hill Country Flooding. 

So many people need our help and our love. If you would like to help these folks, consider signing up for the January 12th ERT (Early Response Team) training at Dripping Springs UMC.
Go to https://riotexasresponse.org/ert-basic to register. 

For questions or concerns, please contact Ginnie Street at 512-203-7730 or training@riotexasresponse.org

Camp Awesomeness Calls Tweens to Ministry

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During the late days of July 2018 “tweens” gathered at Slumber Falls for Camp Awesomeness for fun, faith formation, and fellowship.

Camp Awesomeness explored how God calls everyone in to ministry for the building up of God’s kingdom. We are all called to the work of building God’s kingdom, and all of us have gifts to help in that work. In our time at camp tweens from the West and Hill Country Districts learned about hearing God call them to work and how to find their paths to answer those callings. 


We had 24 campers from all over the Hill Country and West Districts who listened to God’s call to come and claim the voice God gave them to speak and serve in the Church. We thank God for all who worked hard to plan this camp and to make it work, including: John Paul Spurlock, Leigh Lloyd, Bethany Graham, Cynthia Deaton, Mark Deaton, Glenn Luhrs, Celia Halfacre, Bailey Spurlock, and many others. 


Camp Awesomeness will meet again at Slumber Falls from August 8 – 11, 2019. Our theme will be listening for God and learning about spiritual disciplines. Look for more information about registration soon. 

Written by Rev. Celia Halfacre

Interested in serving on a camp design team or starting a camp in your district? Contact Rev. Dr. Tanya Campen, 
tcampen@riotexas.org

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Sierra Vista UMC Children's Camp Learn about "The Jesus Way"

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In early August, Sierra Vista United Methodist Church’s Children’s Ministries hosted its annual children’s camp at Butman Camp and Retreat Center in Merkel, Texas. This year, middle-school youth were also invited to participate. As a result, 93 elementary and middle-school kids–as well as 34 staff–enjoyed five days of fun, fellowship, and faith formation in the Big Country.

As a result of the generosity of campers’ families, Sierra Vista’s Finance Committee and congregation, the West District, as well as the campers’ own churches, 59 San Angelo kids, 14 kids from the Kerrville area, nine children from Robert Lee, eight kids from Miles, 2 campers from Bronte, and one from Santa Anna were able to study and learn about living “The Jesus Way.”

Those youth and adults who took off work and dedicated their own valuable time and love to the smallest in God’s kingdom were also pivotal to camp’s success: Kyle Arnold;

Susie Bonner; Amber Bosworth; Tanya Campen; Jan Chitsey; Haley Ditmore; Stephanie Dobbs; Riley Duke; Inga Elliot; Will Felts; Angel Flores; Feliciano Giovanni; Tina Glass; Carson Green; Sandy Harris; Bailey Harvey; Holly Herrington; Holden Kohles; Kendis Leech; Karlee Lindy; Rey Manuel; Caitlin and Caroline Marshall; Gracie McMillan; Jillian Moore; Avery and Jaron Ochoa; Jean Ann Owens; Brandon Sabotka; Stacy Sprinkle; Matt Tafoya; Stan Whites; and Tucker Young. Blessings and thanks!

Also, dates for next summer’s camp have already been set: August 4 through 8. Mark your calendars!

Interested in serving on a camp design team or starting a camp in your district? Contact Rev. Dr. Tanya Campen, tcampen@riotexas.org.

Written by Kelly Duke

UMC congregations are working hard building affordable housing and hope in San Antonio

Windcrest UMC, Universal City UMC, and Colonial Hills UMC are all a part of the Ecumenical Genesis that sponsor a Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio home every year. They come together with other churches and faith groups to fully fund and help to build an affordable home for a family in need. Together they raised $57,000 and all the volunteers for 7 weekends to build right alongside the Olvera family and make their dream of homeownership a reality.

Celebrate and see all that is happening at the Dedication on November 17th at 10 am. All are welcome! Music, food and fellowship will be available as we dedicate 10 new affordable homes. The site is right next to Bethel UMC at 259 S. Acme road.

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio, check out our website at HabitatSA.org. If you are interested in getting your congregation involved, call 210-223-5203 x 148 or email FaithRelations@Habitatsa.org.

Written by Trisch Moy, Faith Relations Associate

Immigration & Border Ministries Vision Summit

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People from all walks of immigration ministry met recently at University UMC in San Antonio to collaborate at a September 21-22 Immigration and Border Ministries Vision Summit.

Leaders from Justice for Our Neighbors, Methodist Border Friendship Commission, Interfaith Welcoming Coalition, the Holding Institute, Manos Juntas, Outreach Vitality of the Rio Texas Conference, and the Eastern Conference Methodist Church of Mexico were some of the participants learning from each other’s work.

Each organization had a chance to share and listen to the ever-changing issues surrounding the immigration crisis. 420,000 Central Americans are crossing the border annually.

“We are trying to help develop strategies without adding another layer of bureaucracy,” said Abel Vega, Outreach Vitality Director. “The purpose was to hear border ministry response work, strategies, and challenges to reflect our biblical mandate, church’s response to this work, and to envision Rio Texas’ holistic response to strategies of this work.”

Other organizations across the border are trying to provide holistic counseling and care for women and children abused while migrating across Mexico to the border.

Ephraim Guerrero, an immigration attorney for CONAM (National Commission of Migratory Affairs) and the Eastern Conference Methodist Church of Mexico, is fundraising to open a shelter in Monterrey to help provide for 15 victims of sexual assault and human trafficking.

“We are trying to get resources to have our own shelter because women and children are being directed to the government,” said Guerrero. “They can bring us these women and children so we can assist them in psychological, administrative, and legal ways.”

The meetings are hoping to spur a church-wide resource map where immigrants can find shelter, legal aid, or food supplies along the journey to the border.

“I think it is important to follow-up on a map, especially for migrants on their way to their sponsor,” said Susan Hellums, Border Mission Coordinator for the El Valle District UMC. “What was important is we got together and sat at the same table together. The process was very good. We learned about a lot of ministries that we can put on a map.”

As partnerships and connections develop in the later months through ZOOM video conference meetings, more places of interest and resources may be pinned for an immigration resource map.

“We are hoping to answer this question: What actions do we need to take over the next two years that will demonstrate greater impact and connection of our immigration response and border ministry realities?” said Vega. “I think these connections will strengthen and increase impact to our neighbors.”

To learn how you can help with immigration and border ministries, please visit our immigration response page.

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District Superintendent: Academia & Alianza de Pastores Equip Leaders for Hispanic Ministry

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I am so excited and blessed by what is happening in the Rio Grande Valley. We are investing in our lay folks and doing so in Spanish. At the new El Valle District Ministry Center in McAllen, we are halfway through a two-month Academia, a series of Saturday sessions covering theology, preaching, outreach strategies, and more.

106 lay leaders enrolled in Academia with the help of 17 United Methodist Churches and missions. They filled the ministry center during each of these Saturday sessions which includes child care for small children, and a Spanish class for folks wanting to learn.

This is part of a larger district focus and commitment to doing bilingual ministry in a new way. As a conference, I think one of the most important things for us to intentionally do is to engage with new peoples in new places in our communities with new energy. Here in the Rio Grande Valley, that happens to be 85% Hispanic.

I want to thank the alianza de pastores here in the Valley and El Valle District staff for making these wonderful sessions happen. Rev. Maribel Vasquez along with other EVD clergy have provided meaningful leadership guidance in putting together Academia.

“My goal and hope is the birth of five fresh expressions, or Hispanic ministries that will emerge from this great project completely in Spanish for lay leaders of the El Valle District,” said Rev. Maribel Vasquez, who leads the alliance of clergy in the district.

This is important work because as a church we must authentically and intentionally engage our commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ in this growing and dynamic mission field. Furthermore, we are praying that the energy from Academia will serve as catalyst as we purposefully look for new opportunities to connect with new people in Spanish!

We have to connect not only in Spanish but to our entire community.

The future and the hope of fulfilling our mission as a church implies that we have to intentionally reach and develop authentic friendships with our Spanish-speaking community.

We continue to pray for new ministries in our conference.

“See that I command you to strive and be brave; Do not fear or be dismayed, for Jehovah your God will be with you wherever you go,”
-Joshua 1: 9.

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Peace,
Rev. Dr. Robert Lopez
District Superintendent, El Valle & Coastal Bend Districts

Church Supplies Water for Neighbors Strolling Through Neighborhood Park

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Kerrville, TX––Elm Creek Park, which runs adjacent to Methodist Encampment Road in Kerrville, attracts many neighborhood residents who walk the trails either with their dogs or for exercise alone. Residents use the passive workout equipment and many enjoy a respite on one of the park benches. 

When St. Paul’s UMC Pastor Rev. Randall Hilburn noticed a “regular” park participant having some difficulty bending to reach the water fountain, he mused, “There must be a better way.”

Shortly thereafter, a church committee, with City approval, placed two Styrofoam containers with ice and water bottles at opposite ends of the park. Church members have continued to restock about 20 bottles each day. To ensure cleanliness in the park, the members check for “throw-away” bottles and have found no discards.  

The response has been overwhelming, reported Hilburn.

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“People have put thank you notes in the containers, we’ve received office calls thanking us and one day, a woman brought a case of water to the church office to express her appreciation for the project,” he said.  Workers reported receiving water bottles donated by a neighbor near the park while another said she had received “quite a few sweaty hugs,” as she refilled the ice chest.

Pastor Hilburn, citing John 7:37 (“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me.”) said it has been easy enough to apply that scripture literally, and “we are gratified to know we’ve met a need in our neighborhood.”  The ministry, which has run from May until Labor Day, will resume Memorial Day 2019.  

St. Paul’s UMC is at 135 Methodist Encampment Rd., Kerrville.

Written by Dolores Schroeder

District Superintendent Shares Message About Border Experience

District Superintendent Shares Message About Border Experience

El Valle and Coastal Bend District Superintendent, Rev. Dr. Robert Lopez, recently experienced a ride-along with border patrol agents. The patrol took a route along the border very near his home. What he experienced continues to shape his understanding of our common ministry at the border.

He shared the following message with some of his colleagues later the same day:

It was one of the most meaningful and impactful experiences I have had in ministry. I am still processing everything I saw, but I came away having a deeper understanding and appreciation for the complex and multi-layered aspects of what is happening here.

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Refugio Woman Receives New Home

80-year-old Adelia Resendez lost her 30-year-old Refugio home during Hurricane Harvey last year. After being denied by several other agencies, an ecumenical effort helped Ms. Resendez secure funding and volunteers to build her new home.

Rio Texas Disaster Response along with the Coastal Bend Disaster Recovery Group presented the keys to her new home last week. Others included Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and the Christian Public Service.

This is the first home build of many for the Coastal Bend region.

WATCH Ms. Resendez's story on ABC South Texas Kiii-TV

To learn how you can help or volunteer for Hurricane Harvey victims, please visit riotexasresponse.org