Just wanted to send an update on recent activities.
With Emily's help we did find a donated sewing machine a few weeks ago. Since then, several other families have asked for sewing machines, so we're on the look out for anyone willing to donate sewing machines.
A few weeks ago a family I've known for a while had requested bunk bed mattresses; since we were not able to find bunk bed mattresses via donation, I went ahead and purchased some from Walmart. They fit the bunk bed frame perfectly and now these kids are not sleeping on the hard wooden bunk bed slates - I can only imagine how relieving that is.
We had some back and forth about helping an Afghani who is struggling financially and we agreed that instead of giving him money for rent we'd be more comfortable purchasing him a HEB gift card - I'm hoping we can do that for him this month and I'll follow up with guys about that later.
I was on the lookout for a bedroom dresser/vanity that an Afghani guy named Fahim was looking for. A colleague of mine had one to donate so I met up with Fahim on Saturday and we picked that up and delivered to his apartment, that was a cool donation because his wife requested that special item (she is due in April, so I'm going to stay close to them to make sure they have what they need for their baby when she arrives).
Saturday afternoon I met up with Ramin who has been my main liaison with the Afghani refugee community. He caught wind of a man who was donating a bunch of furniture from his apartment, so Ramin, my brother, and myself cleared out said apartment and took the furniture to the shed. The shed is now 100% full, and Ramin has assured me that he'll find Afghani's who can use the furniture and when he does we'll hook them up.
A lot of people have asked me what is happening since the current political environment has not been bringing new refugees to the country. My answer to this is: I'm aware that there are about 1,500 Afghani families in Austin that came within the last 5 years. Our ministry has helped approximately 25-35 of those families, which leaves plenty of refugees in Austin who, although they are not brand new to the country, are still struggling. Ramin (who I mentioned above) is a tremendous resources and uses his networks to identify families that are still living in apartments with no furniture - I assume there are probably between 500 and 1000 Afghani families in Austin that are still living with no beds, couches, and limited cooking utensils. We continue to identify and assist these families and the Trump refugee ban has not slowed us down in this regards.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support this work. Please let me know if I can provide any additional details about anything. I know at some point we'll want to regroup and create a clearer game plan for going forward, so please let me know if/when you'd all like to meetup and we can come up with plans for the next year or so of refugee ministry.
The Reverend Victoria Mason, Deacon
The story of the three Wise Men is very interesting on many levels. At first, it is a curious account of three foreigners, scholars, who wanted to determine whether their studies of the stars, particularly a special star, was correct. They chose to travel to the land where they believed they could get answers. Their journey is an example of an act of faith – an act motivated by academic curiosity.
It’s also an example of how there are many ways to find God. In this case, curiosity. We remember the shepherds who left the sheep behind in the field and went to Bethlehem because the angels told them of the Messiah's birth. In this case, they had a sign.
Each of us here had a reason to come to Jesus for the first time – perhaps it was simple curiosity, or maybe there was sign or maybe some other incentive. I remember the story of a young man who was in prison and had no hope. He found Jesus when he started reading the pages in his Bible.
The confrontation of the wise men with King Herod, who served the Roman Empire, gives us an insight of the political context. Herod was afraid when he heard that the sages were searching for the recently born king of the Jews. His position of power depended on having control of the government of the Jews. The Roman Empire was a government of conquerors and this possibility of a Jewish king created a serious threat.
With this perspective of the story, we need to remember that the Jews believed that the Messiah would lead them to the freedom of the oppression of the Roman Empire. They believed that the Messiah would be a great military leader and a righteous king – much like King David. But Jesus' ministry was not like that. Jesus' ministry was countercultural – he incarnated the power of love, healing, justice, and inclusion. It is a testament to these powers that Jesus' life and ministry was stronger and more durable than the power of the Roman Empire.
In the end, the encounter of the wise men with the child, Jesus, gives us insight into the Kingdom of God. The homage of the Magi means that other people of various nations and religions, can know the Glory of God. That God is the king of all the world, not just for one group of people, in this case the Jews.
Also, we remember that Jesus' family was not rich. Bethlehem was a village, a very small and humble town. And, here were three people of wealth, education, and status of honor, kneeling to this child, paying homage and giving him very expensive and rare gifts.
I think they underwent a transformation in their lives. Not only that could they understand that they needed to avoid Herod and return to their country by another way, but also that their hearts were overflowing with the Glory of God.
In the Old Testament, "the Glory of God" in Hebrew meant "the Presence of God." And when anyone was in the Presence of God, they were was transformed. Remember what happened to Moses when saw the Glory of God? His face “shone from having spoken to the Lord. ... he put a veil on his face” because people could not look at him directly. Well, it makes sense that the Three Wise Men were also transformed after seeing Jesus.
Can you recall a time when your life seemed changed when you came to Jesus with a prayer? A time when you experienced relief? Or a sense of peace? Maybe you didn’t feel the change instantly; maybe it happened over a period of time.
For example, there was a period of time in my life when I flew to various parts of the country often. I started experiencing the fear of flying. I needed to change this, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone. With prayer, I devised a visual image of putting my fear in a wooden box and handing the box to Jesus. I used this image every time I got on a plane and was preparing for the take off. I can tell you there were many times when I grabbed that box away from Jesus when the ride got bumpy. But I always admonished myself to give the box back to Jesus. It was a couple years after I started using this image as a prayer that I realized that I no longer had the fear of flying.
Every time we pray, especially in those darker moments of life, we are giving God the gift of ourselves. We are offering our whole self to God. And when we do that, we are in the Presence of God.
And through this story of the Wise Men, we can believe -- believe that our prayers to God are like their journey to Bethlehem. When we pray, we are looking for the King of our hearts. We're following the star of hope. We're looking at the glory of God. And in prayer, we are transformed. In prayer, Jesus gives us power – the power of love, healing, justice and inclusion. And in this power, we are able to face any problem and overcome our fears.
We can know that the Lord always walks alongside us at every moment of every day. And we can to move forward with confidence that God is helping us carry our burdens.
Thanks be to God!
As announced at all services this past Sunday; in 2020 we are starting a new prayer list and establishing new policies for the Prayers of the People.
You may request prayers for yourself or for somebody else if you have the person’s permission. These requests will be on the list initially for up to four weeks. If you would like prayers continued after four weeks, call the office or submit a second request card. Such requests can be renewed twice, for a total of 12 weeks. After 12 weeks names go to a long term prayer list and are prayed for by the women’s group: the Daughters of the King.
There are cards in the Narthex to submit a name and/or you can call the church office at 512-836-3974.
Prayers may be requested for illness, surgery, deaths, new babies, decisions, wisdom, or other needs. Requests will be prayed for, out loud, at Sunday services. All worshippers are encouraged to take home the weekly bulletin and pray during the week for those listed.
If you have any questions, please contact the Reverend Ann McLemore at the church office or call 769-257-2377.
Report from The Reverend Victoria Mason, Deacon, on the 2nd Annual Summit on Border Ministries; held in Phoenix Arizona in late November 2019. Click HERE for a text-only version of this material suitable for use with text readers for the visually impaired
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