To the People of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, and to the ends of the earth, Fulfilling our charge to “To guard, transmit, teach, and proclaim … the apostolic faith as it is expressed in Scripture and tradition, and … to interpret that faith evangelically and prophetically” (BOD, 2016, ¶ 414.3), the bishops in the Western Jurisdiction will offer messages of faith each week of Lent, with the prayer that God will strengthen the Church for its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The Lord is your keeper…..The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. – Psalm 121

The Psalmist speaks as one who has journeyed with the Lord. There is no doubt in his mind or spirit that God is faithfully with him. He can see God, feel God’s sustaining grace, rest peacefully in the Lord who keeps watch over him when he is awake and when he sleeps, protecting him from the struggles that come by day and by night. He is confident that God is always with him.

Recently I met a modern-day Psalmist; a woman who said, “Let us pray to God to shield us so that those who seek to harm us will not be able to see us.” She is an immigrant, sojourning in a foreign land seeking to sustain herself and her family. Thinking of immigrants in the US who have for many generations lived in the shadows of society, I was saddened at first by the woman’s prayer because I assumed that she was speaking of going deeper into those dark and perilous places of shadow. But as I listened more carefully to her words and thought of the immigrants I have come to know, I suddenly realized that she was not speaking about going further underground in a society that has pushed her to dark places. She was speaking of God who does indeed protect and shield the sojourner.

I do not know of anyone who suffers more than the immigrant or the refugee. Today 65 million persons, men, women and children, are displaced in the world. The common experience of refugees is that they will spend over 20 years in refugee camps before finding a place to call home again. Too many of these refugees are children. Over 11 million undocumented immigrants are living in the US without protection from abuse and oppression.

I have met many refugees and undocumented immigrants and am always amazed by their faith. They believe that God is their help. There seems to be something about being completely vulnerable that allows one to see that even mountains of despair and anguish bear witness to the Creator. They know of what the Psalmist speaks when he says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills– from where will my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”

As I have sought to walk alongside undocumented immigrants and refugees and listened to their stories, I have heard horrendous stories of pain, suffering and loss. But even in their pain, suffering and loss these brothers and sisters of ours will say, “God is always with us.” Their witness has blessed me and all who stop and listen.

In this Lenten season, may our prayer for one another be the confession of the Psalmist, of the refugee and the immigrant, “The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, California-Nevada Conference

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