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Lower United Methodist Church
December 9, 2020

 

A voice is crying out: “Clear the Lord’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!”
 Isaiah 40:3-5

It was past midnight when I received the call. The opposite gangs were at war with each other, again. As a result, a minor had been killed and the mother was devastated. “They need your help, pastor”, the person told me on the phone, “but be careful because the gang is monitoring everyone who comes in or out of the house. Last night they stabbed his cousin when he came to tell the Mother what had happened.”

Now I had two families that I have never met before but needed comfort and pastoral care. The next day, as I went by the community pantry to get groceries for the family of the deceased, I noticed a group of gang members right in front of the house across the street. I came back with four bags of groceries and parked in front of the house. I could feel the eyes of the gang members watching every movement I made. Slowly I took out the bags from the trunk, making it obvious they were filled with food and made a few trips to bring them all into the house.  

The Honduran mother was devasted by the loss of her son to the gangs but very appreciative of the food. As I sang for her in Spanish and prayed for her family she began to cry. “You are a very brave woman,” she said. “The gang is watching our house, and no one can come in or out.” She told me about her nephew who had been stabbed and I asked if I could go to visit him in the hospital. She gave me the information but again reminded me to be very careful.

That same evening, dressed in my clerical collar and a big cross, I went to visit the nephew at Fairfax Hospital. Coming from the Catholic tradition, he was surprised to see a female pastor but kindly invited me to come in. In a corner, there were three members of his gang keeping watch in case someone would want to finish the job.

I pretended I was not scared and asked him what happened. He began to tell me and show me the three stab wounds that the doctor has mended. “Thank God he didn’t stab any important organs, he missed the heart, the liver, and the stomach. Can you believe it?” “Yes, I can,” I said with confidence. “I am glad you realize that it was thanks to God.” He looked at me strangely because he didn’t say those words on purpose but as a cliché phrase. I knew that, but I used the opportunity to speak about Christ.

“There is a reason why you are still alive; the Lord has guarded your life for a purpose. This is the time for you to decide what are you going to do with your life from now on: will you continue on the path of violence or turn around and begin to serve the Lord?” “Serve the Lord?” he said laughing. “The Lord has nothing to do with me. He doesn’t want someone like me.” “That is not true,” I said. “ Who do you think sent me to visit you and let you know he has saved your life for a purpose? God has a plan to use your life to be a blessing for your community and the people that you love. This is the time for you to turn around your life while there is still time.”

I knew I didn’t have much time to talk by the way the members of the gang were looking at me and slowly getting closer. So, I raised my hands and began to pray out loud as if I didn’t realize how serious this was getting. I prayed for his recovery, I prayed for his family, I prayed for his soul. Then I put my hands on each head as I prayed for his friends, for forgiveness, for mercy. After I blessed them, their attitude had changed, and they thank me for coming by and praying for them.

Even though I never saw them again, I know that night something happened in their hearts and somehow the light of God has shined in their souls. I have learned that no matter how dark or violent the situation becomes, we can still make every effort to “make a level highway in the wilderness for our God” and point people to Christ so everyone can see the Lord. 
 
Rev. Ileana Rosario
 

Prayer List Updates

Please remember these people
in your prayers:
Lee Rosser
Chris Waltrop
Patricia Ellis
Wes Holland
Karen Parker
Carolyn Cox's Granddaughter Carlie
Kathleen Kruse's Nephew Kenneth
Raymond Benson
Family of Joe Nelson
Dalton Brownley's Grandson Randy
We pray for our Church and Community to have a meaningful Christmas

Advent continues as we prepare for Christ's birth...
Each Sunday our children will light the traditional Advent wreath as we focus on the anticipation of Christ’s birth leading up to Christmas and in the expectation of his second coming. 

Christmas Eve Services
 We will offer two services: the first outside by the crosses at 6:00 pm and the second one inside the sanctuary at 7:00 pm. 
All are welcome, of course, but due to the pandemic, please register for the 7:00 pm indoor service by contacting the church office at (804) 776-6250 or by e-mail lumc@va.metrocast.net
 
Consider scheduling recurring electronic contributions in the new year. To sign up, see our website: www.lowerumc.org.

Help us continue being a place of worship and blessing for the community with our many programs, missions, worship and outreach. Thank you for your faithful support!
Last week's offering:
$6,211.64
Needed for weekly budget:
$4,130.00

Our offerings to date:
$177,781.64
2020 Budget:
$214,754.00
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