Monday, September 14, 2015

Visitor from the Vatican and his Words of Wisdom

The long awaited visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia is almost here. In my lifetime there has not been a more popular Holy Father of the Roman Catholic Church. He has won the hearts of the world because of his emphasis on the poor, his reforms for the church and his humble way of walking in the world. I celebrate his arrival along with millions of others and pray for a successful and faith-filled “World Meeting of Families” that will be happening next week. How good of the pope to visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility during this visit! He sets the tone for his theme “Love is Our Mission” by reaching out to those on the margins of life.

Recently Pope Francis called all of the faithful throughout Europe to help refugees fleeing from “death from war and hunger.” According to CBS News, he announced that the Vatican’s two parishes were taking in two families of refugees as a role model. Pope Francis said it was not enough to simply say, “Have courage, hang in there.” He encouraged every parish and community to take in one family.

His words are for us too. We need to reach out with support. According to Rev. Jack Amick, from the International Disaster Response of UMCOR we have sent nearly $2 million in grants and the UM Board of Church and Society is circulating a petition calling for the Obama Administration to increase the number of refugees that the US will accept. Many of our sister churches in Europe are giving aid to this overwhelming crisis of human need.

Please take a special offering for this at your churches so we might assist those who are providing such life-giving support. Funds can be sent to the conference treasurer and earmarked for “International Disaster Response Advance #982450. Let us honor the visit of the pope by being in ministry to the poor in Europe in a tangible way.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Healing Communities: A Journey into Prison Ministry

People ask me how I met my husband and the answer is simple: we met at Asbury Theological Seminary, in Wilmore, Kentucky, as incoming students in the fall of 1977. I was from Baltimore and he was from Texas, and we met at the new-students picnic.

What people don’t know is where Mike and I had our first date: it was at the men’s correctional institution in Lexington, Kentucky. What a romantic couple! We both volunteered to teach a Bible class at the prison, and since I had a car, I drove us.

Off we went to this forbidding-looking cement building with numerous layers of barbed wire fencing. I went with apprehension since I had never been in a prison before; but I agreed to do this because of the clear mandate of Matthew 25:36: “I was in prison and you came to me.” Going with this nice young man from Texas was an added bonus.

Deep emotional and spiritual pain

That night my eyes were opened to the vast need in this area of ministry.  The inmates were living in crowded conditions with limited services, and there was deep emotional and spiritual pain.  The visitation was as important as the Bible study class, because the inmates wanted so much to talk and have someone listen to them.