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

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.

Read More

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

Reflections on Tornillo July 29, 2018

Reflections on Tornillo July 29, 2018

by Rev. Laura Merrill

I was so grateful when Rev. Owen Ross invited me to be a part of the team allowed to enter the Tornillo detention facility to lead worship with the immigrant kids held there. So many people have wished there were something they could do in response to what we’ve seen happen with unaccompanied minors and especially immigrant children separated from their parents at the border, and I felt truly privileged to have the chance to stand in that place.

Read More

Campus Minister by day, Knifemaker by night

J. Alex Ruiz’s life has drastically changed since he began blacksmithing as a hobby in 2014. He competed in three brutal rounds of knifemaking for the hit competition show “Forged in Fire.” He forged a horseman’s ax on the History Channel during a May 29 final round broadcast.

“A horseman’s ax, which is an all steel weapon, was on my to-do list. But not with a camera crew around me and money on the line.”

The judges gave the four-year hobbyist the nod for best weapon after testing it on an ice block.

Prior to the show, he was featured on the Knifemaker Showcase for Winter 2017 edition of BLADE Magazine.  

Now that his international notoriety is at a peak, he wants to make sure people know about the United Methodist organizations that helped shape his growth as a person and a blacksmith.

“I want to make sure I can give back with the skills I have accrued and the fortune given to use them,” said Ruiz. “I have stayed with Campus Ministry because it became less of a place to hang out as a student and more as a family.”

He joined the former San Antonio United Methodist Campus Ministry after attending several “Hot Potato” discussions. As program coordinator at Wesley San Antonio, he continues the Methodist mission by bringing college students to UM Army sites for Hurricane Harvey relief work.

“I didn’t think I would become a staff member after attending my first ‘Hot Potato’ discussion in 2012. But here I am.”

WATCH: Kens5 Story on Alex's Blacksmith Shop Volundr Forge

Rio Texas College Students and Young Adults Help with Harvey Recovery

Thirty college students, young adults, alumni, and supporters spent an entire week helping ongoing Hurricane Harvey recovery earlier this summer. Students from Texas State, San Antonio, Texas Wesley, and other young adults spent five days working on four homes in the Rockport area with UMARMY and the Costal Bend Disaster Recovery Team.  

Each work team was led by a college student. Teams rebuilt homes still damaged after Hurricane Harvey. One team replaced damaged siding, installed new flooring, repaired cabinets, installed a new dishwasher, and painted for an elderly couple in Bayside.

The homeowner offered her appreciation at a client dinner, “I want to thank God for sending this group to help me.”

Another team worked in Holiday Beach with survivors forced to sleep on the living room couch for the past year. The team installed drywall in the couple’s bedroom, repaired the bathrooms, and helped in the dining area.

Another team installed drywall on ceilings and walls for an Aransas City resident forced to live in a hotel for the past year.

Worship and prayer was a central focus of the week. The mornings started with a group devotion and evenings ended in worship. Students shared lunch with survivors at the work sites and reflected on how God was at work. 

“Every visit [by these student] is like a ray of hope,” said one Harvey survivor. “Everyone brings different gifts to the glory of God.”

The college and young adult team were supported by the leadership of camp director Rev. Suzette Thorpe Johnson of Texas State United Campus Ministry. Worship and event programming was provided by Texas Wesley and Texas State UCM. Meals were led by Servant Church, safety by First UMC San Marcos, site management by Bethany UMC, and the client dinner was provided by Rockport UMC. The camp was made possible by the planning and support of UMARMY and the gracious hosting by Asbury UMC and Rev. Tom Tarver.  

The week allowed student to live out their faithful witness as a connected United Methodist ministry.

"The joy and love that I got from participating in UMARMY this year, truly shows me the way God works in our lives to help those around us" said Texas Wesley alumni Robert Stockman. Students built relationships, helped those in need with dignity and grace, enjoyed time with each other, and grew personally in their faith of Jesus Christ. 

To see more photos for the week in mission visit  https://www.facebook.com/pg/ucmtxstate/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1968990396467574

To connect with college ministries visit https://riotexas.org/campus-ministry/

To learn more about UMARMY go to http://riotx.umarmy.org

Written by Rev. Todd Salmi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reflection on Annual Conference 2018 from Lay Leader Ralph Thompson

 Ralph Thompson is a member of Grape Creek UMC: San Angelo and Conference Lay Leader

Ralph Thompson is a member of Grape Creek UMC: San Angelo and Conference Lay Leader

Several people at Annual Conference 2018 reminded me of statements that they had heard me say, either in a speech or in a sermon, as far back as fifteen years ago! Those encounters reminded me of the power of “moments” and “events” in the shaping of our personal faith and the ways that it is manifested. It is those special moments that have the greatest impact on how we learn and grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Among the most significant “moments” experienced along my Christian journey are two that I first heard two decades ago from Rev. Austin Frederick and Carol Loeb, former district superintendent and conference lay leader respectively. As I look toward all that the United Methodist Church will be challenged to consider in 2019 and beyond, I find what these two leaders shared to be quite pertinent and worthy of reintroduction.

In an exhortation before the Annual Conference, Rev. Frederick challenged us to “Keep the main thing the main thing!” As a local church and District Lay Leader, I took advantage of every opportunity to remind congregations to “keep the main thing the main thing,” as we/they dealt with issues that could potentially divide the local church.

The “main thing” for the Rio Texas Conference and the entire Body of Christ is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I would ask, “Are you (we) having this dispute SO THAT, through its outcome, God may be glorified through Jesus Christ?”

“So that”, a conjunctive phrase found throughout the scriptures, especially the New Testament (2 Thessalonians 1:12, 1 Peter 4:11 and John 11:4 to name a few) is often overlooked in the actions of the Church. Regardless of the dispute, the desired outcome should logically lead to building up the Kingdom of God by making disciples of Jesus Christ. To me, at least, all else is secondary, even minutia.

In what may have been her final Conference Lay Leader address to the Annual Conference, Carol Loeb repeatedly referred to the phrase, “It’s not about us [me]!”

I believe that Carol was urging us to look beyond ourselves as servant leaders of the Church. It takes prayer and a LOT of discipline to NOT make decisions that primarily please ME!

“What would Jesus do?” is another way of focusing outward in our decision-making. When I take time to reflect, pray, and read the scriptures, I am surprised at how many times my gut instincts are not aligned with God’s Word! And, what further astounds me is how often God’s Word is RIGHT…like…ALWAYS!

From the issues at our borders to the #MeToo Movement to the concerns to be petitioned before the General Conference; we who call ourselves United Methodists and Christians will make decisions that will affect our local congregations and mission fields, the United Methodist Connection, and millions of people around the world!

Regardless of the outcome of our conferencing and deliberations, “we will always have the poor with us” (Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7). The question is whether or not the United Methodist Church will be spiritually healthy enough to adequately respond to the issues of this world, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

So, for all things Methodist, I urge each of us to keep the main thing the main thing and remember that it’s not about us!

Ralph Thompson
Rio Texas Conference Lay Leader

 

 

 

Worship Service Marks 25th Anniversary of Cesar Chavez's Death

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Twenty-five chrysanthemums were placed near a portrait of César E. Chávez at San Antonio: La Trinidad UMC during an evening worship service to commemorate the 25-year anniversary of his death.

Bishop Joel Martinez, Retired: United Methodist Church, led the ecumenical worship service with La Trindad Pastors Rev. John Feagins and Rev. Raquel Feagins. Father David Garcia, Archdiocese of San Antonio: Mission Concepción, provided an invocation and prayer to the faithful friends of César Chávez.

“We give you thanks because of the way in which César lived; which was a way that was humble, but at the same time dynamic,” said Father Garcia. “It was simple, but at the same time he lifted up so many people to a whole new life. After 25 years, we are at a new moment of history; a new era with new challenges.”

Former United Farm Workers Texas Director Rebecca Flores emphasized the hard work of migrant farmers with a table of vegetables, fruit, and campesino tools.

“We could not have a service without recognizing that César Chávez dedicated his life to the people who work on the farms to bring our food to our tables,” said Flores. “César and Dolores Huerta started a revolution to change a system that existed for centuries. They fought a billion-dollar system that treated workers like tools to be discarded, broken. A system that called people ‘hands,’ ‘braceros,’ never a human being.”

Bishop Martinez shared a joint letter from the César Chávez Foundation and the United Farm Workers of America; as well as from the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Then he blessed a candle that was subsequently sent to the Chávez family to recognize “the gift César was to all of us and to the people we will never know, some of whom are now in the heavenly choirs.”