Six years ago this May I moved to Houston and was invited into the home of my friend and fellow community member, Nusura. We shared brownies and a bowl of strawberries the first time we hung out. We sat on her couch and we tried to use Google Translate to talk. But we mostly just sat there and giggled like 5th graders.
It’s been one for the books for Houstonians — Hurricane Harvey revealing epic devastation 51.88 inches of rain all-at-once brings while also calling out our Very best. Astros claiming World Series championship and Houstonians exploding with pride and joy. Snow falling all night long and sticking to the ground and all of us reconnecting with our inner gleeful child.
Houstonians are bringing the kingdom of God here in our city as it is in heaven. World Series Champs, c’mon somebody! Really though — Jesus says we bring heaven to earth when we dump all our energy and resources into loving God and loving people.
Acts 2 explains the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the twelve apostles—there was a sound of rushing wind, there were tongues like fire that rested on each person, and they were given ability by the Holy Spirit to speak in all languages present so the diverse gathered crowd understood what was being spoken. Bystanders were amazed, perplexed, and even judgmental of what was happening.
Last Wednesday, with courage, we gathered for our first weekly community meal to share food, fellowship and the love of Christ with our Fondren neighbors. Nobody knew what to expect – including us! But luckily, God did, and the Holy Spirit was definitely in the room. The diversity of backgrounds, ages, races, etc. was an expression of what I personally believe heaven will look like.
So therein lies the question – how did people from all over the world end up in an apartment in SW Houston?
We announce with great joy Fondren Apartment Ministry updates—God is at work and Westbury is responding!
NEWEST MEMBER Westbury UMC welcomed Eric Mukuba to the apartment ministry team! Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eric hails most recently from Dallas/Fort Worth and has joined the team as he feels called to minister with refugees. He offers his gifting with languages to the ministry (French, English, Lingala, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swahili).
Sisters and brothers, I am humbled and overjoyed to join you in ministry. I thank you dearly for your warm welcome and enthusiasm for the newly-budding community ministry down on Southwest Fondren. I’m blessed to call Westbury my home and you my family.
Fly to see heavens and wave for the life you had lived in Fly and don’t look backward there’s many chances you’ve had been given Go with the wind, drive with the sound, give up on the habits, by it you’ve been driven Steal a second to shoot your head, remembering the last tears your dropped Take away your cracked heart, and give away people you’ve loved Fly away and hug angels made of lights, forget about humans you’ve hugged
I can't tell you when it first occurred to me, but somewhere in the early years of adulthood I realized that I was simply incapable of treating Advent as a season of Waiting. To be clear, my inability to wait is not due to an overage of Christmas Spirit leading me to deck halls and binge on maple syrup like Buddy the Elf. It's not building excitement or anticipating cherished time with family.
I ask myself, ‘What was it like?’ for my friends who came to the U.S. without speaking English, with very little financial resources, fleeing violence, dealing with various physical and emotional traumas . . .
I have practiced immigration law for almost two years now. I spent my first year practicing law back on the Texas/Mexican border—in Harlingen, TX representing unaccompanied minors in immigration court. The majority of these young clients could not WAIT. They could not wait to flee the violence in their home countries. Waiting would have led to their death. So they fled. Alone, unaccompanied, and afraid. Their trips consisted of days on foot or without food and water, rationing a sandwich over five days. Or jammed into the cargo-carrying trailer of an 18-wheeler, hiding to avoid being detained and returned home, only to start the week long journey over again.
Advent generally is a time of waiting for a noble guest. However, with the coming of Jesus, advent points to a time of waiting for a man of the cross, a Palestinian Jew from the periphery of society. Paradoxically, it is interesting to me to watch the immigration debate in this country happening even in this season. Christians in their debate easily remove Jesus from the discussion.
I am often terribly impatient. More often than I care to admit.
I am guilty of multi-tasking, driving over the speed limit, reading a book when waiting in an office or line. I try to practice meditation, and some days I succeed, while most other days, I fail to settle down long enough to sit in stillness and waiting.
Pheros is a hollow-eyed 19 year old Syrian living in his family’s temporary housing in Marj, Lebanon, near the Syrian border. I met him on a recent trip to Lebanon. He lives with five siblings and mother and father in an unfinished concrete structure with two rooms amidst rows of tents full of other Syrian refugees.
My Syrian friend Yana* got married to Farid* just three months before she was resettled in Houston. Farid was unable to come over with her because he has not yet been approved for resettlement; they met after she had already started her application process with the United Nations, and were consequently on different timetables. Yana felt heartsick leaving Farid behind in Turkey.
Of my experiences with refugees, one of the most definitive was waiting in the emergency room with one of our friends. I received a text late in the morning that she headed to the ER, but we knew neither what hospital she was in nor her condition. After maybe an hour of trying to get in touch with her, we finally discovered—to our great relief—where she was. Apparently, she experienced so much pain the night before that she could not sleep. I headed to the hospital, and prayed that I would locate her quickly.
Often, while we are waiting, our mind is fixated on that moment in the future when the waiting is over. When you’re expecting a child, you spend hours daydreaming about seeing them face to face for the first time. If your spouse had some tissue removed to be biopsied, you just want to get to that moment when the results are in and the waiting is over. Refugees who have languished for years in camps long for the day that they receive the news of where their new home will be. We want the days to pass quickly. We want to rid ourselves of the anxiety of waiting and the feeling of helplessness.
Advent is a season of waiting, anticipating the coming of the Messiah and preparing ourselves to celebrate God’s presence among us. Probably because of my recent move to Texas, this year I find myself focusing on that last part: When will God make his home with us?
Since leaving my childhood home, I have lived in three different states, even another country. Every time I moved, whether for school or work, I had to start over. After each move, I hoped and waited for the time each new place would become home. At the same time, I mourned the loss of my old home, wondering when I would get to return. Even now I hope and wait and mourn.
My friend Eric fled West Africa to relocate to South Africa. Eric loves music and one of his favorite songs is called "Africa" by Toto. One day I asked Eric why he loved this song so much. He explained that the woman they are talking about in the song was to him a metaphor of his home being a distraction and the rest of Africa the place where he will find more beauty and salvation.
The immigrant experience is of course diverse but one theme that I have seen firsthand in my own network is that of waiting on the American immigration system. Two of my friends from church got married, Ashley* was documented and Mike* wasn’t. They had a beautiful wedding and they purchased their first home together.
With great understanding, Wisdom is calling out as she stands at the crossroads and on every hill. She stands by the city gate where everyone enters the city, and she shouts: “I am calling out to each one of you!
We often view prayer as just the talking we do with God. It's that time we carve out, wherever it is during our day, that we talk to God as we need, drawing closer to the Divine in the process. Prayer is doing, prayer is saying. Or so we think. We don't often see prayer as those times in our lives when we don't know what to say to God, the Holy Spirit taking over in ways we don't understand. We don't often see prayer as that time when the silence between you and God is deafening, causing you to wonder if God is there. We don't often see prayer as listening being placed above talking, as consistently waiting on God in our lives. But it is.
I have spent many days going for walks with my friend, a friend who had fled the Congo in the hope of creating a new life here in Houston. But there was one particular conversation that grabbed my heart.
We were walking along Gulfton Avenue on our way to the closest grocery store, when out of the blue he started...