September 29, 2013

Pastoral Letter

Greetings my friends,

This past week, our country has been hit by severe flooding in Colorado; our metro area has been hit by wildfires; the Syrian conflict rages on; and there was a terror attack in a mall in Kenya. Sadly, these natural disasters and human crises are nothing new on our landscape. Our world, our neighbors, our communities are suffering; this we know. But, we are a people of a loving, caring God, and we know that we can make a difference in the hurting of our world as God's children one and all. And, as United Methodists, we do make a difference. Sometimes, I think that as a local church of the larger United Methodist church, we lose sight of the difference that we make -- both locally and globally. This past week, I had the blessing to meet with our Service Team, a group formed to help us live out our call to action as disciples of Christ. Together, we started to take a look at the many and varied ways that our congregation serves in the name of Christ -- both ways that are time-honored traditions such as the CROP Walk (Oct. 20) and ways that may be recent responses to our community’s needs such as the Thanksgiving food drive (Oct. 27 - Nov. 20). This team's work is to help identify, organize, promote, and support the ways that we serve as Christ's disciples here at Los Altos, allowing folks across the church ways to step into serving and growing in the image of Christ. It was exciting to be a part of this forming team and the work! I look forward to their guidance and leadership of our ongoing service work. The team members are Steve Yoho, Darrell Kumamoto, Bob Carpenter, and Tim Ruegg.

Sometimes, it's such a good thing to look at what we've done and are doing here at Los Altos, but also it's a good thing to be reminded of what we do across the world as United Methodists. Visit UMCOR.ORG to learn about our Committee on Relief, and how much our church does! We respond to natural and international disasters. We are in Colorado now, and we are still in New Orleans, Haiti and Japan. We offer immediate response and we stay for the long haul. We have "Volunteers in Mission" who organize response teams across the country to help when disaster strikes. Here's a recent reflection from a homeowner that was hit by Hurricane Sandy last year, and helped by UMCOR:

Richard Gates (not his real name) stands inside his 1910 home in Crisfield, Maryland, gazing at a new floor and freshly painted walls. He lost his wife to leukemia five years ago. Then, in October 2012, Hurricane Sandy swept eights inches of water into his home.

Gates had never seen anything like it in his life. “I’ve lived in this house for 40 years and no hurricane had ever come into the house,” he said, “I couldn’t believe it.”

After coping for more than a week with no electricity, he began taking stock of the serious damage surrounding him. One day, he noticed a team of volunteers working on a house down the street. Through them, he found out about the United Methodist Peninsula-Delaware Disaster Response Team, administered through the Peninsula-Delaware Conference and supported with funds from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

Working through the disaster repair response team’s case management process, Gates was able to form a recovery plan, which ultimately included a team of volunteers from Pennsylvania who repaired his home and, at the same time, boosted his spirit.

“I told them I wanted to say ‘thank you’ - but thank you just isn’t enough,” he said.

The help that Gates received is US making a difference. Our financial, year -round giving from our hearts as United Methodist helped to make Gates experience happen, and so much more, all year long, all around the world. Sometimes, in our little corner of the world, it’s easy to get swept up by the flood of it all. When we do, I would encourage us to remember Jesus’ servant heart, and the hope of the resurrection, which our Los Altos UMC Service Team is working to share broadly, and our United Methodist Church is sharing (on our behalf) with the world through immense relief efforts.

Your Sister in Christ,

Pastor Melinda