St. Matthew Blog

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

A Statement from the Bishop and Appointive Cabinet

Desert Southwest Conference - May 1, 2022

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: 

- Romans 12:4-6a NRSV
 
Grace and peace be with you all this day. As United Methodists we, the bishop and the members of the Desert Southwest Conference Appointive Cabinet, have been in prayer for our pastors and our United Methodist churches and would like to share a statement of faith and grace. Our Conference has a commitment to be a ‘big tent’ church. We recognize that we do not all think or believe the same. We have differences in understanding of scripture. We have different gifts that have helped us serve countless communities in ways specific to the needs in those places. We speak many languages, come from many cultures, and hold differing theological perspectives. And yet, amidst our differences, there is one God who activates and enlivens us as disciples of Jesus Christ, sending us out into the world as bearers of Christ’s love.
 
As United Methodists, we continue to aspire to be a more just, loving, and inclusive force in the world. Yes, we have failed in this calling many times and we have the work of repentance and restitution to do. Yet we believe with intentional effort and with God’s help we will become the beloved community God created us to be, living more faithfully into our identity as God’s people. We have the ability to end the harm done to LGBTQIA+ siblings, to communities of color and our immigrant congregations, to those who live with differing conditions, and to creation itself. As an Annual Conference we made a commitment to end harm when we adopted our Vision Statement which reminds us all:
 
God calls us to be a Courageous Church:
loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope.

 
As United Methodists, we believe we are stronger together. Our diversity is a gift from God, one we have not yet fully claimed. We need not fear our differences. Instead we believe we are called to embrace our differences in a way that models what unity in Christ looks like. We believe that unity does not require uniformity. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us how much we need one another. The pain and sorrow experienced through the pandemic has been overwhelming, yet we have risen to the challenge, and in the process we did not ask first what someone believed before deciding whether or not we would serve with them. We have stood shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and have been the Body of Christ in powerful ways. As United Methodists we embrace a church built on loving relationships rather than uniformity in thought and action.
 
Washed in the waters of our baptism, as United Methodists we will walk in our commitment to love one another in grace-filled ways. We will be liberal, evangelical, progressive, traditionalist, middle of the road, conservative, centrist, or something else and together we will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
 
As your Bishop and Appointive Cabinet we value each and every one of you as a precious child of God. We believe that every church in Desert Southwest Conference is an important part of this shared work. There is a place, through God’s grace, for us all.
 
Let us all be the Hope,
 
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Rev. David McPherson
Rev. Dan Morley
Rev. Javier Olivares
Rev. Matt Ashley
Rev. N. Susan Brims
 
#BeUMC

Please pray for the persecuted Church – Who I’m Praying For This Month - May 2022

"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 blog material is moving to a monthly format:

"Does an informant live in my village?" That's a question many Christians in India might consider as they walk to church or meet with other followers of Christ in their home. Informants for the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) live in nearly every village in India. They watch for and report on the activities of Christians, often leading to attacks by large groups of Hindus. When Christians are attacked, many of them decline to press charges as a way of showing forgiveness to their attackers.

Hindu extremist groups and local governments have sought to "purify" India by making it entirely Hindu. These people and groups seek to appease Hindu deities by eliminating Christians, and they view Christian converts as traitors to the Hindu homeland. They have demolished and burned churches in India, disrupted worship gatherings, vandalized crosses in graveyards, and have beaten and jailed many pastors, some of whom are martyred each year.

Christians have been arrested and detained for up to three weeks after being falsely accused of "forcing" Hindus to convert to Christianity. When they have access to legal assistance, Christians are often able to post bail or show that the charges are unfounded.

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - April 28, 2022

“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

Dhan Lama lives in Nepal. His decision to follow Christ caused deep divisions in

both his Buddhist community and his family. His wife left him and took their

children with her. Villagers cursed him, threw stones at him, and threatened his

life. But Dhan Lama persisted in his faith — and even led several other

villagers to Christ.

Enraged by Dhan Lama’s bold witness, neighbors set his house ablaze one night

when he was sleeping. After fleeing the burning house, he remembered he had left

his Bible inside.

He dashed back into the house to retrieve his only copy of God’s Word, but he was

too late. His Bible was gone, and he suffered injuries trying to rescue it from the

flames. The next morning, all that remained of Dhan Lama’s home was a pile of

stone and ash; even his crops had been destroyed.

After hearing about his situation, front-line workers replaced his household items,

including his Bible, and helped Dhan Lama rebuild his home.

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - April 21, 2022

This week I’m changing the focus. There’s so much in the world to pray for. There

are so many horrors that we’ll never be able to pray for them all. Not because God

can’t hear but because we have limited capacity to see what is going on. This week

I want to turn our eyes inward – to pray for those of us who are suffering the wrath

of ignorance – and those of us who cannot see our own ignorance.

Every nation has a history of belittling immigrant culture. Humans seem to like

making fun of and putting down things they don't understand. In the U.S.,

immigrants were (and are) picked on for their speech, habits, dress and appearance.

But for the most part, eastern and western Europeans, German, Swedish, Italian,

etc. were able to assimilate in subsequent generations and become homogeneous.

People with different physical attributes (skin color, eye shape, hair, etc.),

however, have no choice but to pass those extra-ordinary attributes on to their

progeny. Ergo, homogeneity is not a solution to the issue of inequality for

everyone. Scripture, while not a rule book, shows God's displeasure of sin. And

ALL -isms are sinful because they marginalize God's children. If you read the

Second Testament (New Testament or Good News) one must understand that to be

Christian requires considering equality as necessary for God's plan. Our

constitutional writers understood that declaring that all have the right to life,

liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All of this does not demand that each of us be

perfect in our acceptance. Rather, it challenges us to be the people that God knows

we can be. How much more pleasant is it to walk in the way of life than to stumble

in the darkness? At Judgement Day, I want my conscience to be as free as possible

of all that I had previously adopted from the world as necessary and important.

Like the follower present when Christ was betrayed, I want to run away from this

world with a soul naked and pure and ready for that new body God offers. I'm

pretty sure our new bodies will possess many hues and attributes save one, the fear

of someone or something different.

And so, I’m praying this week for all of those on the right side – and the wrong

side – of privilege. I’m praying for those on the right side – and the wrong side – of

indifference. I’m praying for those on the right side – and the wrong side – of

justice. I’m praying that God’s will, not mine, be done.

Please pray for the persecuted Church – Who I’m Praying For This Week - April 7, 2022

“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

A recent video from some Bible-smuggling work in the Middle East showed

several men with large packs on their backs crossing a remote mountain pass to

bring Bibles into a country where many Christians are unable to obtain their own

copy of God’s Word.

Why would these men risk imprisonment or worse to bring Bibles to other

Christians?

Jesus spoke often about love — about the priority of loving God with all of our

being (Mark 12:30), about loving our neighbor (Luke 10:27) and, finally, about

loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, John 13:34–35, “A new commandment I

give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to

love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you

have love for one another.”

These mountain-trekking Bible smugglers demonstrate, through their amazing

sacrifice, their love for their fellow Christians, people they have probably never

met. Their example inspires and challenges us to love not only in word but also in

deed (1 John 3:18). What does that mean for us today?

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - March 31, 2022

“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

Paing studied to become a Buddhist monk in his homeland of Myanmar but left

Buddhism and placed his faith in Christ. While trying to share his faith, villagers

punched Paing in the face and called him and his wife vulgar names. Even his

mother told him that the pride she had felt for him had turned to shame. “That was

one of the hardest things that I experienced in my Christian life,” Paing said.

He adopted a more intentional strategy for sharing the gospel with Buddhists in

nearby villages. He decided to begin by offering his help as a handyman. Then,

after doing odd jobs for an individual or family for a week, he would share his

testimony.

After word spread that a former monk and other villagers had placed their faith in

Christ and been baptized, more than 100 people armed with axes, stones and

slingshots descended on Paing’s home one evening. He and his family were not

home at the time. The angry villagers smashed their windows, broke down the

doors and destroyed the family’s Bibles and other Christian books. Instead of

retreating in fear, the new Christians grew even stronger in their faith.

“Since that evening, they all decided that they will have to get ready to die for

Christ,” Paing said.

Although Paing and his family continued to experience persecution, he said it

taught him to forgive more easily. “The Bible teaches us to forgive 70 times

seven,” he said. “I definitely have to forgive, but sometimes it is difficult.”

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - March 24, 2022

“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

In 2000, Andres sensed God calling him to share the gospel leave and his

successful furniture-export business and move to one of Colombia’s dangerous

“red zones.”

Everyone he shared his plans with pleaded with him not to go. His pastor told him

nobody ever comes out of that town alive. And his father was even more blunt,

giving him half the money he’d need to buy his own coffin. Still, Andres was

confident he was doing God’s will.

Soon after moving to the new town with his family, Andres started preaching.

Armed guerrillas, members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia

(FARC), confronted Andres. “You need to leave because no one here is going to

convert,” one of them told him. “This town belongs to us.” Andres let the guerrillas

know where they stood in relation to God, “I’ll leave when He who sent me tells

me to go.”

Andres, his wife, Juanita, and their children have been affected by the continual

stress of living and working among the FARC, who threaten them. But they

continue to serve. Andres requests prayer for his family, specifically for their

refreshment, protection and the ability to reach people with the gospel. He also

asked that we pray for a new church he hopes to plant in a nearby area.

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - March 17, 2022

“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

When we look at the horrors of the world, we can become overwhelmed. However,

there are happy endings. Consider the following: Americans and others around the

world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th. Amid displays of shamrocks,

leprechauns and other symbols from Irish lore, many participate in festivities and

drink not a little green beer in the name of St. Patrick.

However, most of those celebrating don’t know the true story of this bold witness

for Christ, a story of kidnapping, slavery and forgiveness.

According to the autobiographical Confessio of Patrick, when he was about

sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates from his home in Britain and taken as a

slave to Ireland, looking after animals. He lived there for six years before escaping

and returning to his family. After becoming a cleric, he returned to northern and

western Ireland. In later life, he served as a bishop, but little is known about the

places where he worked. He is credited with converting to Christianity a society

practising a form of Celtic polytheism. By the seventh century, he had already

come to be revered as the patron saint of Ireland.

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - March 10, 2022

Please pray for the persecuted Church – 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

While we follow the horrible events in the Ukraine, others across the globe are

suffering similar fates without the media coverage that this new war brings.

Millions of our Christian brothers and sisters in Africa have suffered greatly,

including tens of thousands who have been driven from their homes while

watching their possessions and livelihoods disappear amid a radical Islamist dream

of a global caliphate. The Fulani, an African people composed largely of migrant

herdsmen, have come to be viewed as infamous villans within a larger story.

Radical Islamists among them have carried out an extended campaign of

kidnapping and butchery across several nations with significant Christian

populations.

Armed extremists among the Fulani are indistinguisably mixed with other

tribesmen who travel widely, freely and unpredictably across West and Central

Africa. While more formal extremists may have identifiable features (uniforms,

armies, etc.), the radicals among migrant herdsmen are invisible and unpredictable.

They could be simple herdsmen or militants planning a raid.

All Fulani are NOT Islamic extremists, or even Muslims. God is moving

powerfully among the Fulani tribe, which now includes many Christians.

I pray for those who have found Christ and led other Fulani to become our brothers

and sisters for eternity. And I pray for those who suffer under threat of loss in

Africa and throughout the world.

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.)

Our Commission on General Conference

Our Commission on General Conference decided this week that our next General Conference will be held in 2024. I imagine this means that, for now, the policies and positions espoused by the United Methodist Church, and by the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, will remain more or less status quo. As for us at St. Matthew, we will continue to worship, serve, and fellowship together across unity and diversity as we have always done. Our call to ministry and mission to and with all people in the name of Christ, in connection with other United Methodists around the world, and in ecumenical solidarity with Christians everywhere, remains.



You can find the statement from the Commission, as well as a response from Bishop Cynthia Harvey, President of the Council of Bishops, in the press release at https://www.unitedmethodistbishops.org/newsdetail/general-conference-cancelled-16384635

Please pray for the persecuted Church – Who I’m Praying For This Week - March 3, 2022

Please pray for the persecuted Church – 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

Islamist suicide bombers attacked multiple churches in Indonesia on a Sunday

morning. More than a dozen people were killed and many others severely injured.

When a small house church in Iran read the translated stories of some of the

survivors, Iranian family members in a small house church were compelled to

respond. The persecuted believers in Iran prayed for their persecuted brothers and

sisters in Indonesia, then took up a small offering for them and wrote a note of

encouragement to let them know they’re not alone.

“Their stories touched our hearts and encouraged us to step up to forgiveness. We

thank God for their heart and how they are deeply understanding of God’s love

and forgiveness. We are encouraged that they are remaining faithful to Him. We

want to declare with all our heart that we are united in the body of Christ. We

hope and pray that whenever you face trials of many kinds, remember that you are

the hands and feet of the body of Christ that pave the way for the advancement of

His kingdom.”

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, Christian believers far outnumber those who

would persecute us. For that reason, they fear us and our influence. Our prayers

and our Savior are for those who remain faithful. But we are not against those who

fear. On the contrary, we should pray FOR those fearful hearts that tread on the

lives of those whom they don’t understand. Pray for those in Indonesia, Iran and

Ukraine who suffer and who cause suffering.

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - February 24, 2022

Please pray for the persecuted Church – 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

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are over. As more people hear about the

persecution our Christian brothers and sisters face there, the country’s Communist

Party leaders will take notice. They know the number of Chinese Christians far

surpasses the number of Communist Party members. So thank you for your

prayers.

But China is not the only Communist nation persecuting our brothers and sisters in

Christ.

Vietnam - While Christian worship is legal in Vietnam, the government actively

restricts worship and views believers and churches as a threat to its power and

control. Minority tribal groups, such as the Hmong, face the harshest persecution,

while Christians in urban areas experience pressure and harassment. Despite these

challenges, churches continue to grow as believers faithfully share the gospel.

Laos - With the exception of members of the Lao Evangelical Church, Christians

in Laos are persecuted by the Communist government in conjunction with

Buddhist monks. Some in Laos, particularly government leaders, view Christianity

as a foreign religion and a tool used by the West to undermine the Communist

Laotian regime.

Cuba - Despite a change in leadership in 2018, the Cuban government continues

its unrelenting pressure on Christians. The government remains committed to

communism’s atheistic ideology and views churches as a threat to the revolution

begun by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in the 1950s.

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - February 16, 2022

“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

I’ve focused on this before. But the Olympic Winter Games are now in full swing.

You may be watching several events each day, cheering on your favorite athletes

as they pursue a gold medal. Or maybe you’ve chosen not to watch an Olympics

hosted by China’s oppressive Communist regime.

Either way, you are invited to join Christians in more than 130 countries who are

using these Olympics as a daily reminder to pray for persecuted Christians in

China.

I’m hoping to be helpful offering two specific ways you can pray for Chinese

Christians during the Olympic Games:

1. Pray for the safe distribution of Bibles in every part of China.

2. Pray for the spread of the gospel among participants in the games and among

local, provincial and national Communist Party leaders.

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - February 9, 2022

“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

Churches in Cuba face unrelenting pressure from the government, which remains

committed to communism’s atheistic ideology and views churches as a threat to

the revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in the 1950s.

Amid this opposition, our persecuted Christian family members continue to share

the gospel in obedience to Christ and His Great Commission. Last fall, more than

100 new believers received baptism in one Cuban church. Yet as this church

rejoiced, the Cuban government was tightening restrictions elsewhere, forbidding a

house church of more than 1,000 members from gathering for worship services.

Still, God’s kingdom continues to advance in Cuba despite efforts to eradicate any

witness for Christ.

“In the middle of threats, the church in Cuba continues.”

–a front-line worker in Cuba

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 – Who I’m Praying For This Week - February 4, 2022

“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

While we continue to pray for the persecuted church in China, a voice comes out

of the Central African Republic. Following more than nine years of civil war in the

country, Christians continue to suffer brutal attacks from both militant Islamic

rebels and opposing militia groups that identify as Christians. And increasingly,

our brothers and sisters in Christ are driven from their homes or even killed.

Since the fighting began, more than 1.2 million people in the CAR have been

displaced by violence. Roughly 600,000 refugees live outside the country, while

another 600,000 live in camps for internally displaced people (IDP) within their

own country.

But front-line workers who met recently with local pastors say they are hopeful for

the future of the church there. God is providing. In one town, a group of pastors is

discipling youth to help develop future church leaders. Since the area’s lone Bible

college was closed during the conflict, the men have started meeting in an

abandoned home for missionaries.

“One of their greatest concerns amid the conflict is the next generation of the

church,” said Jeremy Malkin, VOM’s regional leader for West and Central Africa.

“The fact that their goal is to make disciples … is such an encouragement that [the

church] is not going to be pushed out,” Malkin said. “It is pushing back, and the

gospel is going to continue to move forward.”

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.)

Updates for December blogs - January 26, 2022

Following a hiatus in December for Advent and Christmas, I am following up on the entries below about General Conference (GC): one from me on Dec 1, and one from our Bishop, Grant Hagiya, posted to this blog on Dec 5.


The Commission on General Conference has not yet made a decision about whether or not General Conference will take place as scheduled in person in Minneapolis from August 29-September 6 of this year. 


Various groups have weighed in on a possible vaccination campaign for all our GC delegates around the world. The Wesley Covenant Association offered to help fund and coordinate such an effort, while other groups found the plan to spend a lot of money to vaccinate a few individuals of priority distasteful, advocating instead to continue United Methodist efforts to fund a larger, more equitable campaign for all peoples in the areas where our delegates live and serve. Some Central Conference (international) bishops found the WCA vaccination plan to have "marks of colonialism," while others rejected the idea that the plan could be considered colonial. A good summary is available here: https://www.umnews.org/en/news/bishops-others-denounce-wcas-vaccine-plan


The Commission on General Conference will announce a decision about holding GC this year by March.

Please Pray for the Persecuted Church-January 25, 2022

Please pray for the persecuted Church – 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

This week I’m focused on Pastor Wang Yi. He is serving a 9-year prison sentence

for leading a large unregistered church in Chengdu, China. He was open about his

ministry, even posting sermons on YouTube. He was also open about his loyalties.

He made it clear that while he loves his nation, his first loyalty is to Jesus Christ.

Pastor Wang, his wife and his church has been continually harassed. They are

among millions of Christians in China who are suffering persecution for

proclaiming Christ. As you watch the Olympic Games, remember to pray for them.

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-January 21, 2022

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

This week I’m focused on two boys who participated in a VOM-supported sports and Bible study program in Lebanon. They have recently experienced emotional healing through the ministry. One of the boys came from a background of domestic violence and struggled with aggression; the other boy battled feelings of neglect and rejection because of his home life. Through the Bible study program, both boys have overcome these negative feelings. They have also found a place of belonging and acceptance through the ministry at a football academy program, where their team recently participated in a tournament and won first place. “It took time for us to pray for them, spend time with them, and now they don’t feel lonely anymore, but as if adopted to a family,” a front-line worker shared. Pray for God to continue to work in the hearts of these boys so they grow closer to Him.

Please pray about Christian persecution in Lebanon.


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