Friends on the Journey of Faith,
Blessed Ash Wednesday to all of you!
I find myself in Mutare, Zimbabwe attending a meeting of the Africa University Board. Though far in physical distance, I feel so very close and connected to you. You are in my daily prayers and you are celebrated even here!
We just heard a development report and our own Los Altos United Methodist Church was honored for its 14 years of support for AU students through scholarships. Los Altos has made it possible for 42 students to gain a college education, transforming their lives, the future of their families, their congregations and even their nations. Praise God!
I keep thinking of and praying for all of you with a grateful heart. I am so privileged and blessed to serve as your bishop. You encourage my faith, inspire my hopes, and strengthen me as I seek to serve Christ Jesus with faithfulness.
On my way to Mutare I had to take three airplanes and fly two nights, and one long day, then travel by bus for another 5 hours! It takes me 32 hours to get here, and while always tiring, it is worth it because of the opportunity to collaborate with other United Methodists from across our world-wide Church, and particularly with African United Methodists in this amazing institution that is bringing healing and hope not only to the continent of Africa but to all our world in its brokenness.
It is also worth it because of the manifestations of God’s Holy Spirit that come in new ways through experiences in new contexts of life.
On the second night flight I took to get here, I could not sleep and felt the stiffness that comes from sitting too long in a cramped airplane seat, so I got up to walk a bit. I walked to the back of the airplane, did some stretching exercises and then began to walk back towards my seat. The plane was dark with only the lights from the small television screens other insomniacs were watching movies on, and an occasional reading light.
I walked slowly through the darkness to not trip and then suddenly and unexpectedly out of the darkness I saw a little girl walking towards me.
She could not have been more than 2, beautiful in a little sweater, skirt, tights and tennis shoes. Her hair was braided with colorful beads imbedded in the braiding. As if she knew me, she stretched her hand out to me inviting me to take it. I hesitated for a moment looking around for a parent, but she was all alone in the darkness. I asked her if she was lost. She did not respond verbally but looked directly at me and came a little closer extending her hand to me more insistently.
I took her hand wondering what I would do with her. I needn’t have worried. As soon as I took her hand she turned and began to lead me forward down the airplane aisle. I soon realized she was trying to make her way back to her seat and to her parent and needed some company in the dark. I was so deeply moved by this little girl’s trust in me to accompany her well, back to her parent.
Ash Wednesday initiates our Lenten journey back to God our loving and faithful parent. This day reminds us that as disciples of Jesus our Lord who gave his life for our salvation, it is critical to consider whether today we find ourselves together with God or perhaps have strayed. Sin has a powerful way of pulling us away from the path that God has shown us in Jesus, separating us from God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and even the Church our earthly family.
I am prayerfully contemplating what sins of commission or omission might be separating me from God and how I am going to walk back to God. The little girl on the plane who asked for my hand and asked me to walk with her has given me insight for the Lenten journey ahead.
She has taught me that we need one another on the journey. I helped her find her father with whom she was traveling, but she helped me as well. She reminded me that we are all connected by God and in need of each other’s help especially when we find ourselves separated from God our parent.
A child without sin made me yearn for a Church and a world where we can trust one another even when we do not know one another. Her trust made me feel trustworthy and led me to even more deeply want to extend myself to walk with others on our spiritual journey back to God.
Ash Wednesday may need to be a day when we alone consider our personal condition, but the journey back to God is one we do together.
I encourage us to seek ways to walk with one another on our Lenten journeys. After all, we are called to be one with Christ our Lord and one with each other for the sake of being God’s people in the world.
So, in the words and the name of the Church, I invite you therefore to Observe a Holy Lent through:
Take each other’s hand, trust one another, extend love and support to others, and receive it as others extend a hand, love and support to you, especially as we walk through any darkness we may be experiencing.
Just as it was for me with the little girl on the airplane, I can tell you, it will bring you great joy!
Blessings on your Lenten Journey,
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
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