St. Matthew Blog

Special updates and thoughts from Brooke, our Senior Pastor and Rev. Jim Ek, retired Elder.

Please Pray for the Persecuted Church-January 6

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13.3 NRSV


This week I’m focused on Afghanistan. The good news of Christ reached Afghanistan by the second century, but today there are no church buildings. Cultural and religious opposition to the gospel as well as significant security issues remain great challenges. Sadly, most Afghans have never heard the gospel, do not know a Christian and have been indoctrinated to follow Muhammad’s teachings without question. 


Both local and national governments are highly antagonistic toward Christians. Afghan Christians cannot worship openly. They must worship in homes or other small venues, and evangelism is forbidden. Christians and seekers are highly secretive about their faith or interest in Christianity, especially following a surge of arrests in the past decade. Beatings, torture and kidnappings are routine for Christians in Afghanistan. Afghan house churches continue to grow. A small number of Christians are martyred every year in Afghanistan, but their deaths generally occur without public knowledge. A few are also in prison, but imprisonment is not common. Christian converts from Islam are often killed by family members or other radicalized Muslims before any legal proceedings can begin.

Please pray for the peace, protection and provision of believers and their families.

Please Pray for the Persecuted Church-Week 4

Who I’m Praying For This Week

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13.3 NRSV

Alimujiang Yimiti: A former Muslim, he became a Christian and has been active in the growing Uyghur church. In 2007 Chinese government officials closed his business accusing him of using it as a cover for “preaching Christianity.” In January 2008 he was arrested for subversion. He remained in custody even though his trial showed insufficient evidence. 

Over the years, there have been several more trials and retrials for various charges. The last was in 2011 where after which officials admitted to his wife, Gulinuer, that they had decided his fate before the trial. He is serving 15 years at hard labor.

Gulinuer and her two children are only allowed to visit for 15 minutes every three months. She said he needs prayer for prison life since he encounters many who are antagonistic. She also requests prayers for her children, who have suffered during Alimujiang’s long imprisonment.

There are many more. Will you pray for them? Contact Jim Ek for further information (chaplain_jim@yahoo.com) or:

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM)  www.persecution.com/prayer

(Also, St Matthew UMC has a prayer chain. Call the office for more information.)

Please Pray for the Persecuted Church-Week 3

Who I’m Praying For This Week

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13.3 NRSV

Huldah lives in India. She met her husband, Abraham through a pastor who knew of her passionate desire to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Abraham was a Bible college graduate and ministered in the area. They married and moved to a nearby village.

Over time, Huldah and Abraham adopted two children. He served as a pastor for two decades ministering to the poor and marginalized alongside Huldah. He led several Bible study groups in the surrounding jungle. Then, on the evening of May 1, 2018, he failed to return home.

Abraham’s burned out jeep was found the next day with his body lying next to the vehicle. The police told Huldah that more than 20 masked Maoist rebels had abducted Abraham and his driver on their way home. Christians who knew him think radical Hindus who opposed his work persuaded the Maoists to kill him.

Huldah stepped in as the leader of Abraham’s church. She started three new house churches in the village and continues to share the gospel. She said a hunger for God’s Word is becoming apparent as more villager come to Christ. 

Huldah asks that we pray not only for her ministry work but also that her passion for the ministry will remain strong.

There are many more. Will you pray for them? Contact Jim Ek for further information (chaplain_jim@yahoo.com) or:

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM)  www.persecution.com/prayer

(Also, St Matthew UMC has a prayer chain. Call the office for more information.)

Please Pray for the Persecuted Church-Week 2

Who I’m Praying For This Week

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13.3 NRSV

Eugenia Montejo Gomez lay on a gurney in searing pain from the machete wounds on her back and shoulders. Behind a curtain, her 12-year-old son was being treated. Outside the clinic a mob of villagers yelled at the disheveled 15-year-old boy who had committed the attack. They threatened to burn him.

Eugenia, along with her husband and three children, live in what are known as “end of the road” villages in Chiapas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the south and east by Guatemala. It is isolated from the rest of Mexico both geographically and politically. 

Leftist rebels called Zapatistas (after the Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata) have claimed Chiapas as their territory. Evangelicals like Eugenia are seen as a threat to their control over villagers.

Villagers were quick to defend Eugenia because she was helping people in the impoverished community by distributing small care packages (provided by VOM) as well as distributing Bibles and encouraging local Christians. The care packages are appreciated by Christians who are banned from local shops.

A VOM contact, Ruth, rushed to the hospital to be with the Gomez’. When the angry villagers appeared ready to burn the attacker, it was Ruth who restrained them saying, “If you kill this man, everyone will hold Christians responsible. They will use it against us undoing all of our good work here in the communities. Give him to the police and let them deal with it in a proper way.” They did.

It took Eugenia a long time to recover physically and mentally from the attack. For months she was afraid of leaving her house, worried that she might be attacked again. Yet, neither she nor her family wants to leave the area. They know they’ve been called to the “end of the road” to reach those who don’t know Christ and to teach new believers about his message of forgiveness. 

There are many more. Will you pray for them? Contact Jim Ek for further information (chaplain_jim@yahoo.com) or:

The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM)  www.persecution.com/prayer

(Also, St Matthew UMC has a prayer chain. Call the office for more information.)

Please Pray for the Persecuted Church-Week 1

by Rev. Jim Ek

“Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” Hebrews 13.3 NRSV

Min-jae owns a small coffee shop in South Korea. When VOM visited him, he stopped talking when someone else entered the shop. He knew he could never be too careful even outside North Korea where he was from. Spies often cross the border into South Korea to find defectors and report their names to the North Korean government who then punish their relatives still living in North Korea.


Min-jae became a believer while visiting a friend who took him to church. He said he fell in love with the Bible and all of its “weird” stories! Preparing to return to North Korea, he was asked to accept a shipment of 10 hidden Bibles. If border guards caught him with even a few pages he could be tortured or killed.


He declined but later remembered he had given his life to Christ and it was no longer his own. He decided to trust his Lord. But he was so frightened that he would not distribute them once home – until one day he heard a man in his village whistling a Christian hymn, “The Trusting Heart to Jesus Clings.”


Min-jae did end up in prison. Not for smuggling Bibles but trying to defect. Him and his entire 27-member family. After 7 months he was released. In 2014 he defected to South Korea. This week, I’m praying for Min-jae and his family.


There are many more. Will you pray for them? Contact Jim Ek for further information (chaplain_jim@yahoo.com) or:

The Voice of the Martyrs  www.persecution.com/prayer

(Also, St Matthew UMC has a prayer chain. Call the office for more information.)

General Conference Update from Bishop Hagiya

December 5, 2021


I continue to receive requests to share an update concerning the postponed General Conference and Western Jurisdictional Conference. I realize that this is an anxious time for everyone in our church. Not only are we reeling from the COVID-19 threats, but our whole church has been on a massive holding pattern for over a year. It has been a tough time for everyone, and that includes the entire global population!


Over the next few months, I will share what I can about the state of The United Methodist Church, and I realize that I will not have many answers. The truth of the matter is no one knows what will happen next, and this fact should sober all of us.


First, let me address what we know about General Conference. The only one who can decide on holding the General Conference is the Commission on General Conference, a global elected body of laity and clergy tasked with the oversight for the General Conference. Their leadership and staff have been meeting regularly to determine if it is possible to hold our General Conference in 2022. They are exploring every angle to this very question. At this time, they still cannot determine with assurance if this is going to be possible. They are juggling hundreds of considerations. One of the major issues is getting Visas and safe travel for our Central Conference delegates. Since the Central Conferences make up over 40% of the General Conference, it would be impossible and unethical to hold it if they could not participate. As the Delta variant continues to rage worldwide, the ultimate safety of our members continues to be a significant hurdle to physically meet in Minnesota or anywhere else in the world.


I have tremendous respect and confidence in the leadership of the Commission on General Conference. I know that they are working diligently every week to answer whether we will be able to meet or not. We can only wait in patience as they do their work, and as soon as they make a definitive decision, they will let all of us know.


My challenge in writing this briefing is how to tie in this season of thanksgiving with the latest information of our general church. One thanksgiving that I regularly lift to God in my daily devotions and prayers is the faithfulness of all of our churches, laity, and clergy during such a trying time as this. I thank God for all of you who are doing everything you can to keep your churches and communities afloat and viable under the COVID-19 conditions. You are the heart and soul of our entire church, and I am proud to be a part of such a dynamic and faithful community. However, it is to God and God alone to whom we must give our thanksgiving and praise. God is the one who is not letting us down and continues to guide and empower our ministries!


So, during this important thanksgiving season, let us turn to God for hope and vision. It is time for us to take stock in all that we have, not what we lack. God will give us all we need to get through the challenges of this hour and the hours to come.


Let me close with that great inspiration from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians:

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at

harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an

opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those

of the family of faith.       –Galatians 6: 9-10

Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant

General Conference Update in Summary

December 1, 2021

by Pastor Brooke
Our world-wide denomination convenes a General Conference, with clergy and lay representation from every Annual Conference, every four years (quadrennially). The General Conference is the legislative body for our United Methodist connection. Following a specially called General Conference in 2019 (for more information and commentary on this, please see my blog post from March 19, 2019 https://www.stmatthewmesa.org/about/pastors-blog/update-on-the-desert-southwest-conference-response-to-general-co), the quadrennial General Conference scheduled for 2020 has been postponed until at least 2022. Much uncertainty remains about whether the General Conference will be able to convene in 2022, with vaccination requirements and travel restrictions likely still to be in place, and with delegates coming from various parts of the world, including regions with less access to vaccines and/or to processing necessary paperwork for international travel. It remains to be seen whether the General Conference will convene prior to the next regularly scheduled quadrennial meeting in 2024.


There is likewise no way to know what legislation will look like at the next General Conference, whenever it meets, as the members of the General Conference decide what to prioritize, make amendments, etc in real time throughout the General Conference. I will, however, take a brief look at some of the possible legislation before the next General Conference in a future update, after Advent.


In the meantime, we at St. Matthew continue to be who we are and do what we do in Building Community, Exploring Faith, and Serving Others. If you are interested in staying up on denominational news related to General Conference, please add the URL below to your bookmarks, as it is updated regularly. In the current page configuration, recent news is near the top of the page, and if you scroll down, you can find FAQs that explain more about how the General Conference makes decisions, how delegates are selected, etc.


https://www.umnews.org/en/landing-pages/general-conference-news-and-commentary