Blessings at the Border
This annual trip distinguishes the TAC from most other conferences. Participants share highlights from the Cabinet’s seventh mission trip to the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico.
Five hot days at the border? While Associate Pastor Rev. William Lucas of West University UMC was slightly reticent about the trip initially, by the time he returned, he was compelled to preach about it.
With temperatures still 90+ degrees in early October, William joined a group of young clergy, district superintendents, the Conference Cabinet and Center Directors along with Bishop Scott Jones and Lay Leader John Esquivel on the seventh annual Cabinet mission trip. “We are one of very few conferences that has developed this approach to missions and building relationships between the Cabinet and our provisional members,” notes Rev. B.T. Williamson, assistant to the Bishop. “We leave as new acquaintances each year and return as colleagues after spending time getting to know each other on work projects and in reflection and prayer. Each year the group also returns with a greater awareness of border issues facing Texas.”
Pastor William sensed the bonds strengthening among the group during the experience, and he also flashed back to a recent sermon series on servanthood at West University UMC. Sharing that revelation with his congregation a week later, Pastor William admitted, “I don’t often do what I say I need to do. I feel a lot like Paul in that respect. This realization hit me last week when we were serving some of the poorest people in the Valley.”
The first house William worked on had an addition on the back that was falling down. “Even the outer walls were covered in particleboard, which doesn’t work as exterior walls for houses,” he shares. “The roof leaked and unplanned skylights were seen in the roof and the upper walls. We were able to roof the house and seal, as best we could, the walls of the only bathroom for a family of six.”
He was particularly moved by the group’s trip to Mexico to visit the ministries of Manos Juntas, a ministry sponsored in part by collaboration between the United Methodist Church and the Mexican Methodist Church. Shares William, “Guillermo, a Methodist missionary who runs all of this on the Mexican side, has an amazing vision and ability to network, pulling together people and resources from anywhere he can find it. He also changed the entire model of Manos Juntas from U.S. mission teams coming and doing a bunch of work that never really fixed systemic issues to U.S. mission teams and members of Mexican churches and communities working together to empower the needy.
Willie shared with the group of pastors the one passage of scripture that continues to inspire him: Exodus 4:2. Pastor William says, “Willie repeated that passage at least a dozen times that day, and I haven’t been able to shake what he said because I realize we always ask for more, but as God said to Moses and says to us, ‘What is in your hands? You have enough.’”
Adds William, “God has given --and is giving us-- all we need to do that. We have enough time. We have enough money. We have enough experience. We have enough courage. We have enough. And now we have a responsibility to use what God has given us to share God’s love and mercy with the entire world.”
At the outset of the trip Pastor William began to realize, “This is Gospel work, it’s messy, and, at first, I didn’t want to do it. But I’m so glad I did because I got to participate in what God is doing through the churches and ministries in the Valley.”
The river is always a place of peace and calm for Rev. Heather Gates, pastor to students at Moody UMC Galveston. During the trip, however, she admitted it was tough to stand at the Rio Grande and see all of the border patrol and police vehicles and know that the Rio Grande is anything but a place of peace. “The immigration issue is a very complicated one,” she shares, “and I’m grateful for all of the work done to protect the border. After meeting and talking with some of those that have made the journey to the U.S., my prayers are also with them. This is one of the many issues in our world where I have no answer to it, but hope that God’s love prevails.”
Lindsay Smith St. Stephen’s UMC, adds, “On our trip to the border, I was able to see, with my own eyes, the beauty of humanity's resilience in the face of great challenges. I saw the hope of Christ in the faces of women, men, and children who are seeking a better life for their families, and I am thankful to have had this opportunity.”