So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Galatians 6:9-10

Yesterday was Pentecost, and the day before that was San Gabriel Presbytery’s first Zoom-based Presbytery meeting. As we reflect on the many languages spoken on the day of Pentecost, several have noticed that in today’s context, “language” can mean many things. These last months, this time of Coronavirus, have made us much more aware of new technologies—Zoom, Facebook, email, phone— and modes of expression—speaking, singing, watching body language, touch—by which we communicate with each other.

In our Presbytery meeting, we experienced several new ways of communicating. In worship, we heard a few of the languages of our Presbytery, with a Call to Worship for Pentecost in Spanish, Filipino, Thai, Taiwanese, and English, and a virtual choir singing in Korean, Spanish, Taiwanese, and English. We welcomed Rev. Dr. Michael Spezio of Scripps College as a new minister member. Michael has integrated his theological training with his scholarship in neuroscience, focusing on neurodiversity and how we can appreciate and relate well to people who have been labeled “disabled.”

Thanks to Zoom we also had a running conversation via chat, and so we heard from the breakout groups that most churches are exercising caution about coming back into your sanctuaries, reflecting on the new learning—and new participants—you have seen through online worship. Those who responded said you will be taking several weeks or months before coming back in. (This is prudent, also, because the State and County will be reevaluating this allowance in three weeks, so there may be changes come June 16.)

And we were able to hear from and talk with Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, whose positive energy came across clearly from Boston, giving us words of encouragement and prophetic wisdom as we consider our calling as the Presbyterian Church (USA).

We also received an offering for ICON, the Inland Communities Organizing Network, as they organize community members for affordable housing in the Pomona area. If you want to learn more about ICON, go to, and you can give by going to and using the drop-down menu to give “to Presbytery Offering.”

Not only was the meeting Zoom-based, we utilized for the first time a new Facebook account, where we could livestream events such as Cindy Kohlmann’s message and Q&A—and we can also store and access a recording of Cindy’s talk, as well as videos that were created for and since the Presbytery meeting.

I cannot thank enough our Presbytery leaders who put countless hours, expertise and love into making this Presbytery meeting a truly inspiring and hope-filled experience: Diane Frasher, Ally Lee, Jennifer Ackerman, Lauren Evans, Beau Wammack and musicians from Calvary Presbyterian Church, and of course our moderators Karen Sapio and Deborah Owens.

This meeting was a needed oasis for me, as we continue to walk through this time that has become even more painful than dealing with the Coronavirus. As we have been dealing with the uncertainty of this unknown, we were slapped, maybe gut-punched, with the all-too-certain reality of racism and violence, most recently illustrated by the violent and totally unjustified deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. One cannot view the way Mr. Arbery was hunted down and shot, or how a police officer kept his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd for almost 9 minutes, with his hands nonchalantly resting in his pockets, without knowing that the lives, the very humanity, of these children of God were totally ignored. There is so much to say about this, and yet words cannot fully express the pain that has erupted into demonstrations and sometimes violent acts of protest and fury.

The sad thing is that for many, this pain is not new; in fact some recall Fannie Lou Hamer, who described the vicious 1963 beating in a Mississippi jailhouse that left her with severe kidney damage,

a blood clot behind one eye and a permanent limp. She said about that, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.” But for every generation, and for all who for whatever reasons are not aware, it’s important to speak, and communicate, from various perspectives. Over the weekend many presbytery leaders have been engaged in sharing thoughts and concerns, resulting in a video cry of lament and also many letters, including one from former San Gabriel executive, Ruth Santana-Grace, speaking from her Latinx experience, and a beautiful message to Detroit Presbytery from their Associate Executive, Charon Barconey, who speaks as a church leader and as an African-American mother of two young black men.

CNN commentator Don Lemon said, almost as an aside, that one way to learn more about what’s happening in this world is to make friends with people who are different from you:

If you are Black and you don’t have a White friend, get one, and tell him what’s on your mind.

And if you’re White and you don’t have a Black friend, then get one, and let him tell you what is on their mind. Because that is the only way we’re going to solve this.

Actually, I think there’s real truth to that. I remember many years ago watching a news item about a famous actor who accused a young man of assault. The actor happened to be White, and the young man was Black, and from Pasadena. While watching the report which assumed the young man’s guilt, my mother said of the young man, “That’s not true. I know his family, and I know he isn’t like that.”

How well do you know people different from you? Do you know them well enough to know better than to trust the lies and misconceptions that spread like a virus among us? Do you love them enough to care what happens to them and their families? Do you take the time (and maybe courage) to see and show your love for other children of God beyond the walls and myths that have been used to divide us?

In our Presbytery, we have people from so many different backgrounds and perspectives, we have a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other in this family of faith, knowing that however different we may be, we stand on the solid common foundation of our mutual love and faith in Jesus Christ. May we continue to build these relationships that enable us to be a shining beacon of light in this dark time.

Empowered and bonded in the Spirit,



Reflection: Reopening?

Reflection: Reopening?

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”

John 20:19

This last week nearly every state in the country has practiced some form of “reopening,” following its own set of phases and preconditions to determine the safest way to allow for more mobility and business interaction.  You can review the slide presentations for the State and the County.

I believe this has led to massive confusion.  Guidelines are developed state by state, sometimes by city and/or county, and they are not consistent.  I happened to go to an outdoor shopping area, to pick up some food at a very small takeout restaurant, who had two other customers, neither of whom were wearing masks.  Actually, I felt most uncomfortable with one customer who was “wearing” a mask, pulled down around his neck so that he could speak vociferously and constantly as he moved back and forth around the food counter, at one point almost bumping into me.

The State of California allows for some variance in county guidelines.  So, for instance, though the State allows for curbside retail business interactions, San Francisco does not.  Though the State hopes that schools and colleges and universities may welcome students back to the classroom by late summer or early fall as part of “Stage 2,” Los Angeles County is including schools as part of “Stage 3.”  And while the State lists FOUR phases, Los Angeles County lists FIVE—but on closer examination, it seems that “Stage 5” is simply the declaration of “fully normal operations,” whereas the State includes the opening of concerts, conventions, and live audience sports events as the “end of stay-at-home order.”

For churches, this has been confusing because, for instance, Los Angeles County does not mention in-person worship services.  However, the State does, as part of Stage 3, along with hair and nail salons and movie theaters.  Since the County lists salons and theaters in Stage 3 (along with schools), I believe that in-person worship is not allowed until “Stage 3,” and the State or the County are NOT giving any indication of a date for reaching Stage 3.  Though I hesitate to anticipate anything since things change from day to day, I would expect that Stage 2, which has just started, will be settled and analyzed for Coronavirus increases before Stage 3 is considered.

The County continues to state, in an overview of the May 8th revision, “All indoor and outdoor public and private gatherings and events are prohibited.”  And even though some retail shops have been allowed to open, they are not to allow customers inside the store.

As each sector reopens, the County has set protocols which will be tailored to its specific circumstances.  I expect that when it is time for churches to begin in-person worship services, guidelines will be developed along these lines, including things like (not a comprehensive list):

  • Protecting and supporting worker health and safety: supplying face coverings and requiring they be worn by all people coming onto the church campus
  • Ensuring appropriate physical distancing: blocking off seats/pews so that household groups are 6-10 feet apart from each other
  • Ensuring proper infection control: sanitizer dispensers everywhere; restricting self-serve food; reducing or eliminating contact in passing the peace, offering, and communion; restricting group singing or use of wind instruments; thorough cleaning of shared objects or spaces
  • Communicating with the public: educating and gently enforcing proper protocols
  • Ensuring equitable access to services for vulnerable populations: ensuring that all people are included in worship, including those who may still be discouraged from attending group events, such as people who are over 60 or have chronic health conditions.

At some point we may attempt to publish clear guidelines for reopening, but the guidance from the community has not yet settled, and I would hate to add to the confusion by making multiple changes in the time before in-service worship is allowed anyway.  It does seem wise to provide worship that is accessed remotely for the foreseeable future.  Several churches have already received requests that online worship continue even when in-person worship is restarted, and that would be great if churches can provide for both.  Some churches may choose not to meet in person for a while, even if the ban is lifted, depending on the needs of their people.  Last Tuesday, the pastors had a lively discussion of ways to make their worship services even more accessible, to people who do not have access to a computer, so people can listen to worship by telephone.  It is workable, and in one of our churches, half of the members participate in worship by phone.

Even as we face more peer pressure to consider “getting back to normal,” I hope that we remember our work as Christians is not to simply go along with the crowd, nor is our faith dependent on access to a sacred building or ignoring safety considerations.  In light of this time of Coronavirus, the familiar appearance of the risen Christ to the disciples reveals a couple of important details:  the disciples chose to protect themselves from perceived threat by locking themselves in the house—and yet, Jesus came in.

This time allows us—forces us—to reform our understanding of worship, faith formation, and community.  We believe that God is everywhere, so worship may occur anywhere, and providing for worship and faith formation at home is in fact a good thing.  Community is not just who we see on Sunday mornings in the church building; there are many people who are hungry for the Good News of Jesus Christ who for whatever reasons will not come into our Sunday morning services in the sanctuary—perhaps they are the mission field we’ve been reading countless studies about.

One of the most difficult things is honoring life events without gathering as a people.  This has been especially hard when people pass away, separate from their loved ones, and we cannot gather to celebrate their life as a group.  This last week, my mother’s oldest friend passed away, and on May 3rd, Rev. Charles “Chuck” Hammond died.  Chuck was a pastor of Trinity Presbyterian in Pasadena in the 1970s, and was elected General Assembly Moderator in 1980.  A memorial service will be planned when we can gather in worship and thanksgiving for his life and ministry.  While both passed away quietly at home, with family present, we pray for their families, along with all families who are mourning loved ones.  Let us find ways to remember them and the ways they have been a blessing to us.

In Christ’s peace,



Caring for Our Communities in Response to COVID-19

Caring for Our Communities in Response to COVID-19

Dear San Gabriel Presbytery family,

This has been a stressful and confusing time as we all try to come to terms
with the rapidly-changing guidelines regarding Coronavirus. The current
thinking is for all of us to sacrifice our busy lifestyles for the continued
health of our community, especially those who are most vulnerable. To that
end, and since we cannot know who is carrying the virus and thus risking
spreading it, it is important to consider how to restrict direct interaction
with others as much as possible, at least for the next month or so.
This weekend the Presbytery Executive Commission is considering whether
to cancel the March 28th Presbytery meeting; if so, we will announce in the
Monday Morning Update.

Please consider the following for your churches:

  1. Whatever you do, please consider the elderly (65 and older) and
    those with compromised health (heart and lung problems, diabetes,
    those taking medication that suppresses immunity or have
    compromised immunity). This means not only limiting physical
    exposure, but making phone calls and other ways to make sure they
    do not feel forgotten.
  2. The State of California has limited gatherings of over 250, and the
    City of Los Angeles is warning against gatherings in confined spaces
    of over 50. Remember to keep at least 6 feet away from each other
    when possible, and wash your hands whenever you can.
  3. For many of our churches, in-person worship is being curtailed, as
    well as most meetings. Several sessions are deciding to suspend inperson
    worship for Lent; others are looking for other ways to pray
    together by phone or email; others are still offering in-person
    worship but adding livestreaming and strongly encouraging people
    to stay home and joining via livestream. Click HERE for information
    on livestreaming (midway through the article).
  4. Many churches are suspending communion (or having only servers
    handle the elements and using individual cups), and offering plates
    should not be passed from person to person.
  5. Please look for ways to help others who are being more severely
    impacted. Make sure your church’s staff are not penalized for taking
    sick leave. Consider ways your church can support families with
    children whose schools have shut down, or elders who are isolated or
    worried about their retirement communities. Pray for and seek ways
    to help the most vulnerable neighbors, such as the homeless.
  6. Consider offering online giving for those who want to continue
    regular tithing. Your bank may offer an option for online giving or
    you might choose to use Paypal. Also, the Presbyterian Foundation
    can help you set up online giving.

MORE INFORMATION is available through the attached resources and
links. LA County has a section with resources in many languages, including
Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, etc. Go to, scroll down
to “Information For” and click “Other Specific Audiences,” which includes
“Faith Based Organizations.”

10:00 am to share questions, concerns, ideas, and best practices with sister

Click here for the details on the ZOOM call.
Click here for a video on how to join a ZOOM call.

Blessings and constant prayers of thanksgiving and concern for your
caring leadership.


Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Guidance for Faith Based Organizations

PC(USA) Resources for Churches Coronavirus: Faith, Not Fear

Human Rights in the Philippines

Human Rights in the Philippines

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.

Romans 15:25-26

Among Presbyterian leaders, we often refer to our “connectional” nature.  This connectionalism informs all levels of our church:

  • We assume and encourage decision-making and mutual accountability by groups over individuals
  • We gather local churches into presbyteries, and encourage participation in ecumenical and interfaith efforts for the good of the local community
  • We send presbytery commissioners to synods and to the General Assembly, which meets every other year to discern the mission and leadership for the national church and provides guidance to churches, presbyteries, and synods
  • We participate in global ecumenical mission through formal gatherings such as the World Council of Churches and World Communion of Reformed Churches, through relationships with mission partners in different countries, and in individual relationships with local churches in other countries.

As a gear in this great connectional machine, I enjoy the greetings sections of Paul’s letters, when he celebrates connections between churches and church workers, and asks for prayers for churches in other areas.  This is a core function of the presbytery, and part of my hope in writing this column is to tell the story of our member churches, and to highlight concerns and joys of the wider church.  And our MMU always starts with a request for prayer for one of our member churches or ministries in San Gabriel Presbytery.

In our upcoming Presbytery meetings, we highlight our connectional nature in multiple ways.  On March 28th, we will hear from Mickie Choi and René Myers from our national church, and we will consider two overtures to be presented to this June’s General Assembly.  On May 30th, we welcome GA Co-Moderator Rev. Cindy Kohlmann and commission our commissioners Jennifer Ackerman and Maria Cacarnakis.  Throughout the year, we are referencing the Vision 2020 Team’s proposal that we strive to fulfill our mission as the PCUSA to be “Prayerful, Courageous, United, Serving, and Alive.”  In March we will consider what it means to be Courageous, and in May it works nicely to welcome the Co-Moderator and give thanks for being United in Christ.

Today and next week I wanted to highlight the overtures that are being presented to us for consideration on March 28th.  You can reference both by clicking these links:

 Today I am focusing on the Philippines, and specifically on the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, our sister denomination in the Philippines and the mother church of many of our own members.

Some of you may know of our long and deep connection with the Philippines.  Presbyterian missionaries were among the first Protestants in the islands, coming after the end of the Spanish-American War in 1899.  In 1901, Presbyterians founded Silliman University, the first American school in the Philippines.  In recent years, two of our GA Moderators are of Filipino heritage, and are both based in California:  Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow (2008-2010) and Rev. Dr. Neal Presa (2012-2014).  In our own presbytery, two of our congregations have Filipino-majority memberships:  Filipino Community United Presbyterian Church in Azusa and Eagle Rock Presbyterian Church in Eagle Rock.  And our own CRE Bong Bringas, Presbytery Moderator in 2016, serves on the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board.

But you may not know about the struggles experienced in the Philippines in recent years.  Poverty, natural disasters, and human rights violations have severely impacted the quality of life.  Resolutions were passed by the General Assembly in 2006 and 2008 to ask for prayer and partnership with the UCCP, and to decry human rights violations in the Philippines, including the murder, abduction, or torture of dozens of UCCP pastors and leaders since 2001.  Currently, their violence and harassment has been given open governmental support, most recently in November 2019, when the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, of which the UCCP is an active member, was included on the list of “front organizations of local communist terrorist groups” by the Department of National Defense.  Police are now openly arresting pastors and church leaders with false accusations of attempted murder.

Frankly, when this overture was sent to us for consideration, my initial thought was it’s a no-brainer for our presbytery to concur with it.  But then I realized how little attention has been given to this issue by national media, the church, or myself.  So this is an opportunity for us to give thanks for our strong relationship with the people of the Philippines, to learn about the needs they are facing, and to step forward in love and support with our Filipino family, here and in the Philippines, as they seek God’s help for peace, justice, and health for all their people.

Let us pray for our sisters and brothers in Christ in the Philippines, and all who love and are concerned for them.




Reflection: It Takes a Village

Reflection: It Takes a Village

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ . . .

Ephesians 4:11-12

Last week I mentioned that Steve Wiebe and I were on our way to Adelanto to be at a court hearing for our Cameroonian friend Bertrand.

So we did get there on time, and felt good that there were only two cases scheduled for that courtroom that morning.  The first case was a father of three daughters.  His wife had come to the USA from El Salvador with the two elder girls long ago, and now they are all US citizens; the third daughter was born here.  The father came in without documents to join them, and was detained.  This was to be his last court hearing, and the oldest daughter said they expected to hear either that he would be released, or deported.

After four hours of tense waiting, the family came out in tears.  They said the judge, who was “mean,” told them they had to come back in March for another hearing because they didn’t have all the documentation in order.

What that meant was Bertrand’s hearing was rescheduled to the next day.  Unfortunately, neither Steve nor I could come on Tuesday, so Bertrand was going to court with no attorney or supporters.  But he is a very resourceful person, so had spoken with friends about how the hearings go, and he had Scripture, so he kept the following text in his heart and his mind:

[Jesus said,] “When they bring you before the synagogues, the rulers, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11-12

That evening—during the Presbytery Executive Commission meeting—I got a call from Bertrand.  He said the judge apologized to him that his hearing was delayed, and then asked some questions based on his declaration, especially about the NGO he worked with.  They used a web search to confirm the legitimacy of the NGO, and his connection with it.  The judge said she was sorry that she was banned from granting asylum, and gave him another form of leave, with her own blessing that God continue to guide and protect him.  Because Bertrand waited in Tijuana (for three months!) until the Border Patrol allowed him in, he did not have to pay any bond, and was to be released the next day!

So Bertrand called the next day, Wednesday, during our Presbytery staff meeting.  Now it has been said (certainly not in THIS presbytery) that there’s no need to contribute to shared mission giving, because it only goes to pay Presbytery staff, and what do they do with their time, anyway?  So let me share what your staff and Presbytery friends did in the second half of this last week.

Bertrand was being released that afternoon, and it was expected for someone to pick him up by 6:30 pm, at Adelanto.  He had heard about a group who was arranging for pickups, but he couldn’t reach them.  ICE gave him one (completed) office phone call, and that ended up being me.  Now it was 4 pm, and given east-bound rush hour traffic, we knew it would take 2.5 hours just to get there.  And here’s my confession of my Californian bourgeois life—not only were my dogs at the groomers, my little electric car didn’t have enough battery power to get to Adelanto!

Kristi Van Nostran started organizing for the release, and gave us the voice of experience.  Ally Lee gave me her car key to drive to Adelanto, and offered to house Bertrand.  And thank God for family as well as staff, as my nephew agreed to pick up the dogs.

Hitting the road immediately, I got to Adelanto right at the time for Bertrand’s release.  By that time it was 42 degrees in the high desert, and Bertrand was wearing a sweatshirt that Adelanto gave him.  His bag had been taken in Tijuana the night before he was allowed entry into the US, and since they took him straight to Adelanto, they gave him clothing and toiletries during his detention—but who wants a prison jumpsuit in public, and they wouldn’t let him take his toothbrush.  So he was released with a white plastic trash bag with the jacket he was wearing when he came in, his Bibles, and little else, and that was it.

Thursday was busy, and he spent the day with Steve Wiebe. I have to share the sweetest moment when we arrived at PPC.  As Bertrand and I walked into the office, Elder Ellen Harkin was volunteering at the front desk, and she smiled and said, “You must be Bertrand!  Welcome!”  It was like the voice of heaven blessing Bertrand, and I got to witness it.

The only thing Bertrand asked for was a haircut.  Ally knew that the chair of Knox’ immigrant ministry is a barber, so she and Steve arranged to get his haircut, as well as other needed supplies.  Kristi contacted the circle of support organizations to arrange for Bertrand to get a cell phone and a ticket to North Dakota, where his sponsor lives and where he needs to report next week.  Kristi got him a ticket through Miles4Migrants, a non-profit that works with people who donate their unused frequent flyer miles.  And Steve and Kristi got to witness the heartwarming phone call when Bertrand spoke with his sponsor, a family member who somehow settled in Grand Forks, North Dakota.  Kristi and Brian Lee said farewell as he left for his new life.

Through the lens of this one person among thousands, I hope you get a glimpse of this largely invisible network of people seeking to offer welcome and safe passage to so many.  Last week I mentioned Claremont’s Refugee Ministry Team, who have been active in this network, as has Knox.  I know that Pomona Pres and Mideast Evangelical, as well as all our Latinx churches, have given safe harbor and support for people fleeing violence in the Middle East and Latin America.  And for Bertrand, I thank God for the people of Knox and Pasadena Presbyterian, and for my staff colleagues of San Gabriel Presbytery.  Thank God for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, whose grant pays for Kristi’s work, and for Pacific Presbytery, who helped us get the grant.  Thank God for all of them, and thank God for your support.  And continued prayers for Bertrand as he settles in his new home, and for all who are still seeking family and safety in this world.

At the same time this was happening, another staff member, Lauren Evans, has been with the family and at the bedside of long-time minister member and former interim executive presbyter Rev. Barbara Stout.  Barbara, former pastor of Trinity Presbyterian in Pasadena, fell and broke her hip last a week ago, and her health seriously deteriorated since.  Barbara went very peacefully home to her Lord on Saturday night at 11 pm.  Please pray for Barbara‘s family, and give thanks for a lifetime of love and ministry.  We will send details about the celebration of her life as we get them. 




Reflection: Spreading the Word

Reflection: Spreading the Word

See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand!

Galatians 6:11

I am writing this column after watching the Oscars.  Even though I have not seen the film “Parasite,” I got emotional seeing the joy of the filmmaker Bong Joon Ho and his colleagues, reflecting Korea’s great national pride in the film’s historic wins.  Reportedly, no Korean film has even been nominated for an Oscar before this year, and no Best Picture Oscar has been awarded to a non-English-language film. 

I guess I am proving some of what Charlene Jin Lee shared with us at this weekend’s Winterfest.  In her insightful, gentle way, she gave the participants many new understandings about the challenges and benefits in engaging more directly with people from other backgrounds, or as she suggested, “loving one another deeply.”  I am grateful for Charlene and all the presenters on a variety of topics, and for the hospitality of Arcadia Community Church; many people commented on how beautiful the sanctuary is and the welcome of the staff and volunteers.  I am especially grateful for the Education (now EEE—Education, Equipping, and Empowerment) Committee, especially Winterfest co-chairs Deidra Goulding and Pat Martinez-Miller, and EEE chair Jennifer Ackerman.

There were moments at Winterfest when people gave us a glimpse into their worlds, and it was touching and enlightening when they did.  It gave just a taste of how much more deeply we can experience God’s way as we hear the stories and insights of others.  And as we learn more about and from each other, we care more for them and what is important to them.  So even though the Republic of Korea has achieved economic success and I have joked how culturally cool all things Korean are, I was thrilled to see the country experience such unprecedented praise for their art.

Coincidentally, I was in an interview with a pastoral candidate, and when asked how he might help the congregation heal from past wounds, he simply said he would listen to them.  In a similar way, Charlene and others have encouraged especially dominant-culture people to be more intentional in listening to others in order to gain their perspective.  But it is also an awesome way of showing respect and offering healing love to the other to just listen.  One Winterfest session had the group hearing and responding to a poem from an accomplished poet who has been granted asylum.  The poet was deeply touched to be heard and acknowledged by the group members.

Often we think we must have the right thing to say, or do something when we know someone has a need.  But sometimes the greatest gift is to listen.  I have mentioned meeting a young man named Bertrand who is at Adelanto, and I keep wondering if I should be doing more, or if he expects something from me.  He telephones me once in a while, and once sounded concerned about the way court cases are being handled.  I asked him what I can do, and he said nothing, he just wanted me to know.  I think it just feels better that there’s someone out there he can call once in a while.

Recently Bertrand sent me a letter, and in the letter he gave the names of people in his prayer group at Adelanto.  I took copies of the letter to a gathering of the Refugee Ministry team at Claremont Presbyterian Church so they could hear the voice from someone at Adelanto, and I asked them to pray for the people in the prayer group.

Bertrand called me later, because he was surprised and moved that someone from Claremont took the time to write to him.

Someone else took the letter and gave it to Kristi Van Nostran, who took the names of the detainees in the prayer group and put them into the database for possible future visitors.

And I gave a copy of the letter to Steve Wiebe, with whom I had gone to Adelanto (through one of Kristi’s monthly group trips), when together we first met Bertrand.  Steve and I are going to Adelanto early this Monday morning, because Bertrand has a court date.  I ask your prayers for Bertrand and all the people facing the judge on their own. 

I mentioned this to a woman at church yesterday, and she offered $100 to help this person she’s never met.

As the message of this young man’s hand-written letter was spreading, I started to feel like we are reliving the distribution of the apostle Paul’s letters.  I love Galatians 6:11 because it’s so real—Paul commenting on how bad his handwriting is.  It’s a reminder that several if not all of the epistles, or letters, are just that—actual letters from Paul (sometimes from prison himself).  I can imagine people taking it on themselves to share his letters with others, and for the word to spread enough to become part of the canon of the New Testament.

We now have many channels for communication—so many that we may feel overwhelmed.  But whether you are approached in a meeting or phone call, a letter or email, even a tweet or a text, may you take the time to listen deeply to those who are sharing authentically.  And may we share a word if it expands our appreciation for life in God’s world.  As we listen, and appreciate, we will grow in our love for each other, and grow closer to more of God’s children.