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El Primer Milagro

Juan 2: 1-11. NVI

Al tercer día se celebró una boda en Caná de Galilea, y la madre de Jesús se encontraba allí. También habían sido invitados a la boda Jesús y sus discípulos. Cuando el vino se acabó, la madre de Jesús le dijo. Ya no tienen vino. Mujer, ¿eso qué tiene que ver conmigo? respondió Jesús. Todavía no ha llegado mi hora. Su madre dijo a los sirvientes.

Hagan lo que él les ordene. Había allí seis tinajas de piedra, de las que usan los judíos en sus ceremonias de purificación. En cada una cabían unos cien litros. Jesús dijo a los sirvientes. Llenen de agua las tinajas.
Y los sirvientes las llenaron hasta el borde. Ahora saquen un poco y llévenlo al encargado del banquete les dijo Jesús.

Así lo hicieron. El encargado del banquete probó el agua convertida en vino sin saber de dónde había salido, aunque sí lo sabían los sirvientes que habían sacado el agua. Entonces llamó aparte al novio y le dijo.

Todos sirven primero el mejor vino y, cuando los invitados ya han bebido mucho, entonces sirven el más barato; pero tú has guardado el mejor vino hasta ahora.
Esta, la primera de sus señales, la hizo Jesús en Caná de Galilea. Así reveló su gloria, y sus discípulos creyeron en él.

Mujer le dice Jesús a su madre es muy posible que estaba tomando distancia, porque el tiempo se estaba acercando y deseaba que el dolor de madre al mirar a su hijo ser rechazado, acusado y crucificado en una cruz, humillado en medio de criminales, esto puede ser posible. También su tiempo no había llegado que después de su muerte resucitaría de entre los muertos y se restaurara en Dios Padre y toda la gloria y esplendor de Dios se manifestara en El.

La madre de Jesucristo tenía toda la confianza es su hijo que haría algo, ya que también había la preocupación por los recién casados, si no había vino no habría prosperidad.

Vino: Bebida común en Palestina producto de la fermentación del jugo de uva. En la vinicultura, se echaban las uvas en Lagares donde los hombres descalzos las pisaban para exprimir el jugo. La primera fase de la fermentación comenzaba unas seis horas después de exprimir las uvas. El zumo se echaba en tinajas (Jer 13.12) o en odres (Mt 9.17) para su fermentación. El hecho de que la Biblia apruebe el uso del vino fermentado no debe inquietar a los cristianos. El problema radica en el uso desenfrenado del vino que resulta en la embriagues, la Biblia condena rotundamente la borrachera, pero no ordena la abstinencia total, excepto bajo ciertas circunstancias religiosas y culturales (algunos traen a colación aquí la preocupación por el hermano débil, (Ro 14.21). En fin, la ética escritural reconoce que el vino (como también las relaciones sexuales, comida, las emociones, el dinero, y otras cosas) se presta tanto para el uso legitimo como para el abuso pecaminoso.

Convencidos de que el vino es un don de Dios, los autores sagrados describen la prosperidad en términos de abundancia de trigo y mosto (Gn 27.28) requieren el diezmo del vino (Dt 12.17), prescriben para ciertas ofrendas una libación del vino (Nm 15.7), y afirman acerca de la vid alegórica que su mosto alegra a Dios y a los hombres (Jue 9.13). El salmista enumera entre las bendiciones de Dios <> (Sal 104.15). Jesús suministro ciento veinte galones de vino en las bodas de Caná (J 2.9s) y uso vino en la ultima cena con los discípulos (Cena del Señor. Pablo receto a Timoteo << un poco de vino por causa de su estomago y también de sus frecuentes enfermedades>> (1 Ti 5.23). Sin embargo, los peligros del vino también se señalan en los pasajes que cuentan las vergonzosas historias de Noe. (Gn 9.20-270, de Lot (Gn 19;32-38), y de David (2 S 11.13).

El vino simboliza la sangre de Cristo (Mt 26.28) elevado la figura a su cumbre. Por otro lado, estar llenos de vino se presenta como opuesto a estar llenos del Espíritu Santo (Ef 5.18. Hch 2.13-16. Nuevo Diccionario Ilustrado de la Biblia Wilton M. Nelson & Juan Rojas Mayo. 2013 por Grupo Nelson, Pg. 1193-1195.

El mundo está enfermo, hay una ola de enfermedad de la mente, el alma, y el corazón. Hay violencia doméstica, mental, física, drogas, alcoholismo, crimen, abusos sexuales, laborales. Discriminación en las escuelas, trabajos, tiendas, Iglesias y en los hogares, la gente se llena de depresión crónica y muchos viven así el resto de sus vidas, y muchos llegan al suicidio que es su único escape.

Un doctor me dijo que la enfermedad mental es la más difícil de tratar, si están enfermo del corazón o algún órgano vital pues hay trasplantes, pero de la mente no te pueden quitar el cerebro y ponerte otro, y ellos tampoco pueden curar el pasado de las personas, solo en uno esta la cura si la deseamos y reconocemos que tenemos un problema.

También he escuchado que cambies las cosas que puedes cambiar y acepta las que no puedes cambiar, es muy fácil decirlo, pero qué difícil es hacerlo.

El Primer milagro de Jesús fue convertir el agua en vino, para que hubiera alegría y abundancia en las bodas de Caná y tomo una copa de vino en la última cena la simbolizo como su sangre que iba ser entregada para el perdón de nuestros pecados y nuestra salvación y nos llevara a la alegría eterna que solo Su sangre puede ofrecer.

En cambio, el amor de Dios se manifiesta plenamente en la vida del que obedece su palabra. De este modo sabemos que estamos unidos a él, el que afirma que permanece en él debe vivir como él vivió (1 Juan 2.5-6).

Hoy cuando pasemos a tomar la comunión recordemos el primer milagro o una de las primeras señales que hiso, que solo en El encontraremos la paz y el amor que buscamos y le pidamos que sane nuestro cuerpo, mente y corazón, que encontremos un nuevo amanecer, un nuevo comienzo.

Oremos

Dios Padre todo poderoso hoy te pedimos por todas las personas que necesitan un milagro que han esperado por muchos años, te pedimos por todas las personas que viven en la depresión o viven atrapadas en un vicio y necesitan ser sanadas, danos esa alegría que solo tu puedes dar ya que tu eres la vid verdadera que nos lleva a la felicidad eterna.

Amen.
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez

Recibiendo El Espiritu Santo

Hechos: 8:14-17.

pastor con paloma blanca

Después de la gran persecución contra la iglesia en Jerusalén, y todos, excepto los apóstoles, se dispersaron por las regiones de Judea y Samaria. Unos hombres piadosos sepultaron a Esteban e hicieron gran duelo por él. Saulo, por su parte, causaba estragos en la iglesia: entrando de casa en casa, arrastraba a hombres y mujeres y los metía en la cárcel.

Saulo, que más adelante seria Pablo, perseguía a los cristianos por celo y por pensar que, hacia lo correcto, ya que era judío, y la doctrina de los Discípulos y los cristianos hacían lo opuesto de las enseñanzas judías.

Los que se habían dispersado predicaban la palabra por donde quiera que iban. Felipe bajó a una ciudad de Samaria y les anunciaba al Mesías. Al oír a Felipe y ver las señales milagrosas que realizaba, mucha gente se reunía y todos prestaban atención a su mensaje. De muchos endemoniados los espíritus malignos salían dando alaridos, y un gran número de paralíticos y cojos quedaban sanos. Y aquella ciudad se llenó de alegría.

Ya desde antes había en esa ciudad un hombre llamado Simón que, jactándose de ser un gran personaje, practicaba la hechicería y asombraba a la gente de Samaria. Todos, desde el más pequeño hasta el más grande, le prestaban atención y exclamaban: «¡Este hombre es al que llaman el Gran Poder de Dios!»

Lo seguían porque por mucho tiempo los había tenido deslumbrados con sus artes mágicas. Pero, cuando creyeron a Felipe, que les anunciaba las buenas nuevas del reino de Dios y el nombre de Jesucristo, tanto hombres como mujeres se bautizaron. Simón mismo creyó y después de bautizarse, seguía a Felipe por todas partes, asombrado de los grandes milagros y señales que veía.

Cuando los apóstoles que estaban en Jerusalén se enteraron de que los samaritanos habían aceptado la palabra de Dios, les enviaron a Pedro y a Juan. Estos, al llegar, oraron por ellos para que recibieran el Espíritu Santo, porque el Espíritu aún no había descendido sobre ninguno de ellos; solamente habían sido bautizados en el nombre del Señor Jesús. Entonces Pedro y Juan les impusieron las manos, y ellos recibieron el Espíritu Santo.

Al ver Simón que mediante la imposición de las manos de los apóstoles se daba el Espíritu Santo, les ofreció dinero y les pidió:

—Denme también a mí ese poder, para que todos a quienes yo les imponga las manos reciban el Espíritu Santo.

¡Que tu dinero perezca contigo —le contestó Pedro—, porque intentaste comprar el don de Dios con dinero! No tienes arte ni parte en este asunto, porque no eres íntegro delante de Dios. Por eso, arrepiéntete de tu maldad y ruega al Señor. Tal vez te perdone el haber tenido esa mala intención. Veo que vas camino a la amargura y a la esclavitud del pecado.

Rueguen al Señor por mí —respondió Simón—, para que no me suceda nada de lo que han dicho.

El 19 de agosto del 2021 me encontraba en Atotonilco El Alto Jalisco México de vacaciones. Muchos de ustedes saben que fui casado y que hubo 1 hijo y un aborto de una niña en mi matrimonio, que están sepultados junto al cuerpo de mi mama, y pues mi padre y abuelos ya fallecieron también. Como es costumbre cada que voy a México les llevo flores al cementerio.

Un poco después, antes de retirarme, me quede pensando que muchos emigrantes cuando regresan a sus países de origen y van a encontrarse con sus hijos, padres y abuelos, hay mucha alegría y celebración.

Yo voy al cementerio. Honestamente me sentí olvidado por Dios y no podía entender porque a mí, porque mi vida de juventud fue diferente a los demás. Me sentía solo, pero no lo estaba, estaban conmigo mi sobrino y uno de mis ahijados.

Me acerqué a servirle a Dios a los 35 años al 100/100, para combatir mi depresión y soledad. Reafirme mi bautismo y mi compromiso de ser un servidor de Dios y un discípulo de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, En Cristo Vive en el Maguey, Atotonilco El Alto

Mi fe es fuerte, muy fuerte, desde el 16 de noviembre del 2016 cuando empecé a servir formalmente como pastor en la Iglesia Metodista Unida y le he estado pidiendo a Dios que me llene del Espíritu Santo para sentirme mejor y hacer la voluntad de Dios con más firmeza.

El día que estaba en el cementerio, que tuve una crisis de soledad y queja a Dios, me sentí solo como un bicho en el universo, caminaba de regreso entre las tumbas donde mucha gente a llorado y sigue llorando cuando deja a sus familiares ahí.

De repente una paloma blanca caminaba y se cruzaba en mi camino, abrí los ojos y pensé que tenía que tocarla para que Dios me bendiga y me llene del Espíritu Santo y recordé que Jacob lucho con Dios y no lo soltó hasta que lo bendijo.

Pensé lo mismo y fui detrás de ella hasta que me aleje de mis sobrinos, le hable a la paloma y vino a mí, la tome en mis manos y le pedí a Dios que me bendijera y me llenara del Espíritu Santo, la puse junto a mi pecho y ore, la levante al cielo para que volara y no lo hacía incline la mano y voló dejando una sensación de ardor por 3 días.

Puede ser una coincidencia o una bendición de Dios en medio de mi soledad y cuando la tenía cerca de mí, mire que era un pichón (paloma blanca).

Hoy en día le sigo pidiendo a Dios lo mismo, que me llene del Espíritu Santo para hacer mi trabajo mejor sin olvidar mi hermosa experiencia.

Muchos podemos creer en Dios, en Jesucristo como Nuestro Salvador, En el Espíritu Santo que Jesús envió para que nos consolara y nos acompañe hasta el fin del mundo.

paloma blanca se va volando

El Espíritu Santo es un regalo de Jesucristo, que no se puede comprar, como lo quiso hacer Simón el hechicero, para beneficiarse o para gloriase. No porque es un regalo de Jesucristo para nosotros y estar conectados con El y con Dios Padre todo poderoso para hacer el bien, íntegros de corazón y representar a Jesucristo como sus discípulos amados.

Mis queridos amigos y hermanos en Cristo, hoy les pido que abran su corazón y reciban el don del Espíritu Santo y los acompañe, hasta el fin de sus vidas, y lo pasen a sus hijos y a toda su descendencia con el amor que solo Dios puede dar.

Amen

Pastor Gerardo Vázquez

01-09-2022

La Posada

Únase con nosotros para:

La Posada
jueves 12/23/2021 a las 6 p.m.
Comenzaremos en la iglesia de la calle 5a y Santa Clara St. Caminaremos a Saint James St. hasta calle 6a

A las 7p.m.

cuento de navidad, servicio de Adoracion y despues una deliciosa comida. ¡Ven y unete a nosotros!

La Posada

Join us for our:

La Posada
Thursday, 12/23/2021 at 6 p.m.
We will start at the church on 5th and Santa Clara St. We will walk to Saint James St. to 6th street

At 7 p.m.

A Christmas story, Worship service and then a delicious meal. Come join us!

**** The event will be in Spanish. ****

The Queen of the House

On May 9th in the United States we celebrated Mother’s Day. This celebration, as we know, is on the second Sunday of the month of May. In Mexico and Latin America it is on May 10th, and it is celebrated on that day even if it is on a weekday. In Mexico the celebration begins the night before with music and flowers. The young high school students agree to bring the music with whatever equipment they can find—a speaker or the stereo of a car or truck belonging to one of the parents of a student— and the party begins.

During the next day families begin to prepare meals to celebrate the Queen of the House. If there is enough money, her children and her husband take her to a restaurant for lunch and then take a walk to enjoy the day as a family. If the mother has already passed away, flowers are brought to the cemetery to decorate the grave. Also, it’s usual for the family to get together to prepare the mother’s favorite food and eat it in her honor.

Unfortunately, last year’s celebrations were not very good. The pandemic hit the world, and the family economy was affected by the lack of work. Restaurants weren’t open, families could not meet, and cemeteries remained closed. There were no family visits, there were no flowers, and the students did not come out to bring music.

This past Mother’s Day was a little better. Restaurants began to open with security measures, flowers were available to buy, and cemeteries opened their doors to those who wanted to visit the graves of deceased mothers. There were restrictions; however, families could bring flowers, and many who were already vaccinated were able to be together again, thank God!

Personally, I feel a great admiration for my mother. She was an exemplary woman with a strong character. She never allowed herself to be overcome, no matter how strong the storms in her life were. She fought until the last moment of her life for her children. I remember that even though she had lost her sight, before going to sleep she would tell me to turn off the light. One time I didn’t turn it off to see what she would do. I could see her raise a fragile hand, tired from the dialysis treatment in the hospital and from having half her body paralyzed by a variety of strokes. She still raised her hand to bless her children—who live in this country and in Mexico—without us seeing her. That’s why she asked me to turn off the light. It was a moment for her to be with God. Her request was for privacy, since I slept in her room in order to take care of her.

You have probably noticed that I often mention my mother’s sayings in my pastoral letters and at some point in my sermons. I do it because my mother has not died for me. She still lives in my heart. One day we will meet in heaven, and I will hug her again.

You may or may not know that, although I am a man, I am actually a feminist. I strongly defend the rights of women and have great respect for them. We are all children of women. Also, our Lord Jesus Christ wanted to be born of a woman. He cared for His own mother, the Virgin Mary. When He was ready to return to His father, He did not want to leave her helpless. He entrusted her to John, His apostle whom He loved so much, to take care of her.

In Cristo Vive (my church in Mexico) and in San José First Church, the Hispanic congregation is made up of 90 percent women. These are mothers of families, who come to these places with their children to pray and praise God, like I did with my mother.

My final reflection is that we should celebrate our mothers and all women in general. They are the most beautiful thing that God has created, and we must respect, empower and love them. May God bless the woman, the Queen of the House.

Pastor Gerardo Vázquez

Open Pantry

In 2014, under the leadership of Rev. Shinya Goto, the Church started a new program to have more connections with the neighborhood and to make ourselves known. An opportunity arose when the Catholic Cathedral of San José found it necessary to close their food program. They proposed to Rev. Goto to take it over in order to continue to serve the downtown area in this way. Since I spoke Spanish, he contacted me and asked if we could do this. He said the beneficiaries would be Hispanics/Latinos who live around the church. My answer was yes, if donations would be available from various organizations. It turned out that donations came from the Roman Catholic Church, Santa Julia, Casa de Clara (a Catholic shelter), and from the Cristo Rey Roman Catholic School. In addition, Panera donated bread, and Wesley UMC Church made some monetary donations. Due to the large demand the program began to grow for our unsuspecting neighbors who were requesting help. With some difficulties we began to maintain our program called “Open Pantry”.

Reverend Shinya and I went to the Second Harvest Food Bank for help. They denied us more than once, because at that time they wanted us to send people to their nearest distribution centers. I told them that people would not attend because of their fears of sharing personal information. Also, they did not want to present themselves as a burden, because they believed it would negatively affect them further in the process of regulating their immigration status. They had felt more assurance when help was offered by the church.

Ray Castellon had been seeking help for sources to obtain groceries and decided to take the position of director of the program. He collected staples and produce, while other members of the church collected the bread from Panera. Casa de Clara volunteers shared food products. As the number of recipients grew, it became difficult to supply everyone with what was needed. Many times we had to split cabbages in half to serve more people.

open pantry volunteers

At the beginning of the pandemic our work became even more difficult, since we could not continue meeting to bag the products. We had to stop for awhile, so we disconnected from our mission companions; however, we continued by purchasing and distributing gift cards from supermarkets, so that people could go to buy what they needed most. Then, since the situation was not easy for Latinos, little by little we began to deliver basic products such as rice, beans, and eggs. Since concern for our Latino/Hispanic members was urgent, Reverend Jeffrey Hall and his wife Jennifer came up with the idea to go out and do personal shopping at the markets for those who could not do it.

Finally Ray Castellon came up with a solution for the dilemma. He returned to the Second Harvest Food Bank to ask for help again. I did not think their help was possible, since we had already tried, as I indicated at the beginning of this message. However, after meeting all their requirements, information and paperwork, the answer was yes, due to the crisis faced by the community in this pandemic.

The products would come already packed in a box and by category. Each family would receive a box of fresh produce, one of dairy products, another of basic products such as rice, beans and oil, plus a bag with chicken, fish, or meat. We helped the food bank to access those in the community— Latino/Hispanic members and non-members of the church—who requested help.

The Church had started a ministry of the Latino/Hispanic neighborhood. Now the ministry is directed by those who at first benefited from it. The result is incredible growth of the Church due to friendship with the community. Many volunteers have left, since we started. I will not mention their names, so that I do not miss one and cause offense by omitting someone. April 21st was Ray Castellon’s last day with us.

Ray is looking for another church to help in other neighborhoods in the city as a volunteer and do what he likes—helping others and the homeless. Ray’s passage is a good example of discipleship and leadership: teaching others to do good and then putting them in charge before going out to another neighborhood or city and doing the same.

Thank you, brother Ray, for your leadership and support to the community. May God always bless you and give you many more years of life so that you continue to do good. Also, members of Cristo Vive in the colony of El Maguey in Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco, Mexico wish you the best for your mission visits to El Maguey, where they will be waiting for you to greet you again.

The Hispanic/Latino congregation of San Jose First UMC and Cristo Vive A.C. wish you the best in your new journey, brother Ray Castellon.

open pantry coordinator

Taking the leadership as coordinator of the Open Pantry program is the young Marcos Garza. Marcos is 24 years old, of Mexican-Guatemalan origin, fully bilingual in Spanish and English, and an electricity student at San Jose City College. With a good heart to continue this work, Marcos and an energetic group of Latino volunteers who are church members are taking the 7-year-old program very responsibly. It’s a lot of work to provide groceries for 100 families twice a month!

Welcome Marcos Garza to the team of The First United Methodist Church of San José, California!

Blessings,
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez

Conscience and Responsibility

On March 26th I received my second dose of Pfizer to protect me and others from the coronavirus. I, like many Latinos, was not sure about getting vaccinated, although I knew it was very necessary.

Usually I do not like to take medicine, because I believe that my body creates its own immunity. My grandmother’s advice was that it was not good to take many medicines, because, even though they helped some conditions, they could also affect the body in bad ways. She also said that natural medicine is better, since it comes from certain plants which have natural chemicals that can help us. There are an infinite number of home treatments, herbal remedies that help a lot. These remedies have been used successfully by ancient Latin American natives to present day populations.

Today’s conditions are not like those in my grandmother’s time. There is already a lot of air and water pollution. Diseases like the coronavirus are becoming more resistant to medicines, and natural medicines are not enough.

This story of my grandmother is very similar to those of many Latinos, where the grandmother is highly respected. In many Mexican households’ families believe that the matriarchy is very strong. Once women reach the age of adulthood, they are highly respected, and they are obeyed. There is no stronger authority than a grandmother who has already gone through many difficulties and has developed a strong and respected character. Grandmothers can be sweet or very nagging, but respect for them is strong. Married grown children, whether women or men, teach their children to obey their grandmother.

For those who interact with these matriarchal communities, it’s important to realize why they don’t intend to get vaccinated. Because of their culture, they believe that a natural medicine will help them. In addition, there is the sad reality that Hispanic families do not have money to go to doctors and to pay for medicine. So, they must rely on home remedies.

Since receiving my second dose of the vaccine, I have been posting my experiences on social networks and praying that people will take one more step and lose their fear. As I’ve mentioned before, religious leaders, along with grandmothers, are also respected by the community, and they follow their recommendations. I have taken the liberty of promoting the vaccine and reminding my parishioners that home remedies are not enough. In each Facebook broadcast I am reminding listeners that I have already been vaccinated, and nothing bad happened to me. As a result of the inoculation, I am prepared to resist the coronavirus. I also tell them that if we get vaccinated and then contract the disease, it will not kill us so easily. Also, getting vaccinated is just one more way that we can take care of our grandparents and older adults. This is a good example of showing our love for them.

Mi Vacuna del Covid-19

Apparently my message is working in San Jose, because every day that goes by someone in the Latino congregation tells me that s/he has already been vaccinated. I celebrate the decision and ask them to encourage their family, friends, and neighbors to do the same. Thank God my councils are working here! The Latino congregation members are getting vaccinated and so are my brothers and their families here in California. That makes me very happy.

In Atotonilco and its surroundings there are no tests to detect the coronavirus. Where they are available, people have to pay for them. Also, there are no vaccines available. It is a tremendous crisis as people die from lack of information, tests and vaccines. People have not only lost work but family members as well. Also, many Latinos do not make the decision to quarantine, since they need to work to survive. Grandma’s remedies are not enough to avoid contracting the disease. Unfortunately, I have already lost three family members to Covid—a nephew and two cousins in Mexico—and also many acquaintances.

I am also concerned about the congregation of Cristo Vive in El Maguey and for my older brothers and their families in other parts of Mexico. My concern also extends to all people who live in Latin America, since they do not have the same opportunity as those of us who live in the United States.

I remember that my mother used to tell me that God said, “help yourself and I will help you”. We are not supposed to leave everything to God. To Latinos and to the entire English-speaking congregation I recommend that they get vaccinated since they have the opportunity. Protecting ourselves from this disease allows us to be well and to take care of those we love the most—our children, grandparents, and relatives. In this country we are blessed to be able to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the vaccine. This is a good time to reflect and become aware of what is happening. Because of the vaccine, fewer people are dying. We have the opportunity; we have to take the responsibility to take the vaccine.

I invite you to post your experience when you get vaccinated, so that more people will follow your example of listening to your conscience and taking responsibility.

Blessings.
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez

Times of Reflection and Meditation

We are going through very difficult times worldwide. It’s not only in the United States and in Mexico that we are suffering in this pandemic, living separated from our family, friends and loved ones. I think the whole world is enslaved by the pandemic.

Human and economic losses, bankrupties of small and large companies, and compulsory social isolation puts many people in a tremendous emotional crisis. Anxiety is leading many couples to divorce, since they are forced to be together for too much of their time. In the worst case scenarios both adults and children are affected if they share a home with other families. And problems multiply when people are thrown out of their houses for not being able to pay the rent.

Hope in Uncertain Times quote by Oprah Winfrey

Unfortunately, I have personally seen these situations when receiving calls from people in the middle of a crisis. Thankfully, I have been able to contact several social organizations to help me find support for these Hispanic/Latino families in San Jose. Organizations such as Sagrado Corazón (Sacred Heart), Friends of Guadalupe, Santa Clara County, and different family shelters have been able to supply the help needed to keep people from living on the street. Food for families has been supplied by the Segunda Cosecha (Second Harvest) food bank.

Those who are suffering in El Maguey are receiving help from SJ First Church and the Methodist women and also the leaders of Cristo Vive, all great warriors with noble hearts, who have been supporting the community. I have been able to see—in the middle of my time of prayer and meditation—the hand of God protecting His people. Of course, several people who I know from Atotonilco and El Maguey, as well as some relatives of our congregation members, have died. But prayer and faith keep us standing .

We have been going through Holy Week which, for me, is very special. One of my favorite days is Palm Sunday, when Jesus humbly made his triumphal entry mounted on a donkey. He was accompanied by the multitude of devoted people, who spread their cloaks on the road where Jesus Christ would be passing. More people joined this beautiful procession, waving branches of trees and full of hope that Jesus would save them. They shouted, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”.

Another special day is Maundy Thursday, where Jesus invited His beloved disciples to the last supper that he would have with them. This event instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. He not only invited those who wanted to follow Him, but also the one who would eventually betray Him. He humbly washed everyone’s feet, teaching them service and the way they could serve the world. Jesus did it with humility, being faithful and obedient to God.

On Good Friday Jesus fulfilled his mission and the will of the Father. He died on the cross for the sins of the world, giving His life for us. He was charged with the sins of humanity, those of the past, present and future, so that we do not lose ourselves but instead have eternal life with Him. God gave us the spirit of life with his breath in creation. Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we are not alone. He cares for us and protects us.

Through Jesus Christ we will return to the Father. He gave us the breath of life, and to Him we will return, thanks to Our Lord Jesus Christ. This resurrection Sunday we celebrate His coronation in heaven. He sits at the right side of the Father as heir of all that we see and also of all that which is invisible to us. He will be waiting for us, since, by believing in Him, we are saved.

Sisters, brothers and friends, for more than a year of pandemic caused by the coronavirus we have been living our life on our own cross. I imagine it as a very dark night; just like during the crucifixion of Our Lord, the world got dark at three o’clock in the afternoon. But we believe that we will soon come out of this crisis. The vaccination process is advancing, and little by little the economy is opening up. We are coming out of this gray cloud that is over our world.

My mother used to say that when the night is darkest it will soon be dawn. Let’s not lose hope. Let us meditate and reflect on everything that Our Lord Jesus Christ had to go through and came out triumphant. We will also come out victorious; we just have to believe, have faith, and put our burdens in the hands of God.

Happy Easter!
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez.

Times of Change

I remember a saying that my mother used to repeat: nothing is forever, everything has its time

My memory makes me look to the past, reviewing my call and the part of my life on August 17, 2007 when Cristo Vive began. I felt the call to unite my community in El Maguey, to eat together, to read the Bible, and to be one in Christ. My house was a very humble dwelling, made of dirt. The garage of my house was not covered, so we were out in the open. I was equal to, maybe even poorer than, my debt-ridden and hopeless neighbors. But I wanted with all my heart to do something for others, since I had been left alone, as you may know, and did not want to live without a purpose. My motive was and is to help my neighbors, wherever I am. Most importantly, I wanted God to walk with me to make things right.

In January 2010, my neighbors from the El Maguey and Atotonilco neighborhoods got together and officially registered the Iglesia de Cristo Vive with the Secretary of Foreign Relations of Mexico. Sometime later agents of the Social Services of the State of Jalisco came to approve the facilities of Cristo Vive and to ascertain that this church and its leaders were ready for this great project. Our aim was to help the poorest; however, the irony was that we didn’t see that we were very poor, too.

When the social workers arrived, they could not find the location of Cristo Vive, and they were going around in circles. The small group of people waiting for them—mostly women and children—were nervous, because we needed the registration. Without it the local church could interfere so that Cristo Vive could not be independent and Protestant.

I heard about a truck that was driving around the village, so I went out to see who it was. Here they were . . . these frustrated social workers who could not find us and were now in front of us. I told them, “Here it is! I am the president of Cristo Vive.” Astonished and with great respect they greeted us. I imagine it was a surprise for them. They visit other organizations, which are usually located in huge buildings and are run by entrepreneurs. What they had in front of them was a group of poor people in a humble house wanting to help the poor.

They entered the house and we shared with them water and fruit, which was all that we had to offer. They received it with much respect and gratitude. I apologized and told them to forgive me, because the house was very poor and had a dirt floor. But we wanted to help people, and we wanted the name of Cristo Vive for our organization. They told us not be ashamed. They said this type of project bears better fruit than others, because you have the intention and the courage to undertake something new. They also pointed out that later they would return, and by that time Cristo Vive would have its own building. They couldn’t say when, but only that it would happen, because they believed in us. They made their report and left.

A month later a small group of people from Cristo Vive joined me on a trip to the office of Social Services in Guadalajara, the state capital. The purpose of our visit was to get documentation which would provide recognition of Cristo Vive as a non-profit organization serving the community.

Since that visit, Cristo Vive has changed a lot with God’s blessing. It is located at the intersection of two streets. One is Columba Domínguez Street which extends to the main entrance of El Maguey. The local government has paved it, since it was in very bad condition. The school is across Ester Fernández Street, opposite the library side of our building. We’ve been holding our festivities and anniversaries on Ester Fernández Street for several years. But over the last 8 months we’ve had the generous support of San Jose First Church and the Methodist Women’s Group. We use that street, since it is spacious, but in the live broadcasts on Facebook it looked very neglected. With the help of God, I think that the local government felt sorry for how the street appeared as we carried out our activities. In the last three weeks they have been cleaning it and installing new hydraulic concrete there. Our neighbors and members of Cristo Vive are the most benefited, since when it is finished, it will be in better condition for our services and celebrations. The elderly will be safer, since chairs will be set on a firmer place. In truth, that street is our patio or esplanade for Cristo Vive.

There is no doubt that God chooses where He wants members of the community and neighbors to meet: at the corner of Calle Columba Domínguez and Ester Fernández in La Colonia El Maguey (and including neighbors from Atotonilco El Alto), as well as on North 5th and Santa Clara Streets in San José, California.

God’s timing is perfect. It only takes time, faith, and love for the neighbors to have a place to meet to worship Him. The social workers did not doubt that Cristo Vive is the right place for the neighborhood to meet and live in harmony. It works because of the hand of God and every one of those who participate with their financial support and volunteer work.

Changes are often sad and hard, but many times they are necessary. Nothing is forever, and everything changes. You just have to trust God’s timing and believe and live to achieve a dream of helping those who need it most.

God bless you.
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez-Padilla

A History of Immigrants in the United States

The North! When I was a child in my bed at night in the dark, I listened to my parents talk about The North (the United States). They talked about life here in the United States where many people emigrate to have a better life. They travel north to work, and they save money to return to their villages, buy a house, start a business, get married, and everyone is happy. In the morning when my mother awoke, I told her that when I grew up I would go to The North and buy a big house for everyone. She would get excited, but then fearfully she would tell me that in The North people get eaten, and that they no longer return to their villages. They get lost, as she lost her father when she was seven years old.

In Mexico when a person leaves his town for the border by bus, he begins to feel discrimination in his own country, since there are many Mexican emigration checkpoints with federal and customs agents. Adding to this discomfort is the danger caused by organized crime people who roam throughout the country extorting and assaulting men and women who travel. They go around looking for Central American centers or other places where immigrants cross the border looking for the American dream but end up being assaulted and abused. Victims are from many countries, including Mexico. I know this, since I was one of the many who experienced the expertise of those robbers and extortionists.

When immigrants finally arrive in this great country, they are dazzled by the wealth that is evident. Even bathrooms are beautiful, and one cannot escape the joy of knowing that there is immediate hot water for bathing just by opening the shower faucet. There are wide streets and so many parks and recreation areas. The first illusion is that one can find a job and earn money to pay for food and to send back to the family to pay debts caused by borrowing money to travel. Existing in poverty is the norm for many who live that way in their countries due to lack of opportunities.

Many times people arrive and cannot find a job. They do not speak English and only know how to work hard so that no one can say that they are lazy. Many immigrants are ashamed and proud and want to earn a living and pay their own way. Also there is a common belief that if someone is ever cared for by the government, he will not be able to become legalized. Or, if he entered the country without documents, employers may exploit him by paying very little for his labor and treating him like a slave who lives day by day and is poorly fed.

Many people do not know that immigrants pay federal and state taxes; yet, ironically, they will never benefit from a retirement pension, since they do not exist for the government. The IRS gives them a personal identification number (ITN) so that they pay taxes, and immigrants pay them to avoid getting into trouble. Many do not ask for any help from the government, since they live in anonymity.

So, the American dream is starting to get very difficult to achieve, since immigrants have to live in hiding from the police, gangs, and immigration agents (la migra). In addition, some of them suffer from racism, because some people think that they abuse the system. They are considered as criminals, because that is what is heard from some politicians in the media.

The search for the American dream stops. Many immigrants cannot return to their villages, because the years of looking for the dream have already passed. That reality does not arrive due to the low wages they earn. Individuals marry or get together with someone like them so as not to feel alone and to support each other. Children are born and raised here, and some yearn to return to their countries of origin.

Among groups of Latinos there is a lot of resentment due to profiling. Many Central Americans who crossed Mexico by road suffered from the abuses I mentioned earlier, and they think that all Mexicans are the same. They do not befriend Mexicans unless they know them well. There are some couples where the man is Mexican and the woman is Guatemalan or vice versa or from other countries where their children have 3 nationalities: Mexican, Salvadoran and American. If the father or mother of the family is detained by immigration authorities, one wonders where these children will be going. They also live in fear; they do not know how to explain that they don’t speak English, and they cannot say that their parents have no documents.

Many live in houses or apartments where there are more than two families living together in order to be able to pay the large rents. The parents live without health insurance for a variety of reasons: they cannot pay for it; they do not qualify due to their immigration status; or because, fearing discovery, they do not get registered.

In the countries of origin parents of these immigrants grow old and often die and do not have the opportunity to see their children who traveled North for a better life, one they could not achieve. Likewise, immigrants grow old, and their American citizen children grow up and do not want to return with their parents to their countries. They no longer know Mexican culture, they do not speak Spanish well, and there is no work for them. On top of this, they are stuck in a country where opportunities are limited by their lack of documentation, and they can no longer leave. I remember my mother saying the North eats people.

So, where can immigrants feel protected, not judged, condemned, or attacked?

Answer: in the churches since they are the houses of God. Well yes, but there are some churches where they cannot live their faith or participate in the traditions of the church. Many women are single mothers or live in a free union because they have not been able to marry. This is because they may live with someone who cannot marry because one of them is divorced. Or they are from the LGBTQ community. None of these groups can receive communion or the sacrament, because their theology says they live in sin.

Communion chalices and wafers and bible in rainbow colors

Being able to receive communion gives the recipient the confidence of being close to those who do not reject him or her, including Our Lord Jesus Christ. I like to visit churches to see the participation of the people. After looking into some Protestant and Catholic churches, I’ve found that some priests and pastors deny the sacraments to these people. What broke my heart one day was that during communion in a Catholic church in this area I saw women with the desire to receive communion lined up towards the priest. Before they reached him, knowing they could not take communion, they crossed their arms to at least signal to the priest that they wanted to receive his blessing. For me, looking at that is humiliation where the whole church can see that they do not take communion, because they are not worthy to do so.

The life of immigrants in the United States is not easy, and many times the American dream becomes unattainable.

My reflection on this story is that we are all immigrants in some way, since we, our grandparents, and/or our ancestors traveled to this great country looking for a better life. Jesus Christ invites us to open the door to our churches since He and many of the great characters of the Bible also were immigrants.

Blessings.
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez-Padilla

God’s Mission in El Maguey

The love for my call to the service of God is the best thing that could happen to me. For me, it is a privilege to serve God, since his blessings are immense.

During this pandemic, many very sad experiences have emerged with loss of work, education, family reunions, life of a family member, and the social contact that we need to live as humans. Fortunately, technology has helped us to be in touch with our loved ones and with the world.

With the grace of God, I decided to preach on Facebook to the Hispanic/Latino congregation of San José First UMC. The people of Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco, were added to our broadcasts and were able to learn more about our church and Methodism. The addition of this group brings more love and solidarity with our neighbors, even if they are far from us and we don’t know them in person.

Pastor Gerardo leading worship service

With the love and kindness that characterizes our heavenly Father, He did the miracle of touching the group of Methodist women and members of our Church to express solidarity with the Cristo Vive church. In fact, the entire El Maguey community has been generously supported by them with grocery bags for the last 6 months.

I felt the need to go to El Maguey, not only to bring food to the tables of the families there, but I also decided to take my vacation time with them. In the midst of a pandemic I knew that it was not the safest thing to do, but I felt the security of God’s will. There were many people waiting for me to arrive, so that I could pray for them and reaffirm their faith on the second Sunday of January. Among those waiting was Luis Ramírez, one of the young people from El Maguey and a member of Cristo Vive. His mother, María Isabel, and his brothers have been attending Cristo Vive for more than 10 years. Luis was going through the terrible disease of leukemia, and every transmission day he connected and asked me to praise God and to ask for him to be well.

On December 10th he and his mother sent me a photo of the results of his medical exams. He was free of leukemia! It was a tremendous joy for them and for me to see that miracle. There was only one step left: Luis took his final week of daily chemotherapy in the mornings and afternoons to ensure that the cancer would not return.

He finished the routine, but after taking it he started to feel bad again. He knew that I would arrive on December 28th and he was waiting for me to pray for him again. On Saturday, December 26th, he gladly wrote to me that he was waiting for me with open arms. Luis’s condition began to get serious, so they took him to the hospital in Guadalajara. There they found that the last week of chemotherapy had resulted in the burning of his lungs, kidneys and the platelets that produce blood. Everything happened very fast. They tubed him so he could breathe. When I arrived at the Guadalajara airport, I decided to go to the hospital to see him; however, when I was renting a car I got the news from María Isabel that Luis had died.

I went to Atotonilco and spoke with María Isabel by phone, to get informed of the time she would arrive with her son’s body, so I could grieve with the family. They arrived at the funeral home at midnight with the body of 18-year-old Luis. I went there to see him and offer the praises to God, that—night after night on Facebook—he had asked me for. I could see in his face that he was peaceful, knowing that I was able to pray for him before he went to his grave.

It was devastating for his parents and for me. I am a man who speaks of faith and miracles, yet Luis died. We embraced each other and became stronger in dealing with the great loss. Both María Isabel and her husband, Javier Ramírez, in the midst of their pain, treated me with respect and love, since I shared the pain with them, with the family, and with all of Luis’s young friends. For me it was an experience that I still cannot explain. I watched hundreds of people, young and old, crying and suffering for the loss of Luis, while at the same time letting myself be led by me as a pastor and friend, singing praises and praying for the family. To me, a possible explanation is that God sent me to be with them to provide love and pastoral care.

Three Kings Day (Epiphany) January 6th

Holy Magi caravan with children gathered round

This was a special day which, for the first time in the community of El Maguey—and I dare say in the entire region—a caravan with the Holy Magi made its appearance. The Magi were represented in costumes by Juan Carlos Anaya, Eduardo Anaya, and Pedro Vázquez. To make this possible, these three and a huge group of volunteers toured the El Maguey neighborhood, (sections Pascual Rojas, and Madre Luisita) where the girls and boys went out to see this festive sight. They received sweets and soccer balls that filled the community members, both young and old, with joy. Christmas carols enlivened the night with smiles and hope, alleviating the stress that people carried during this pandemic. Also, with First Church’s donations, the blessings of God, and the leaders of Cristo Vive, we were able to distribute grocery bags to 200 families in El Maguey.

On January 10th, the day of the baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we began our healing and faith renewal service, scheduled according to the safety protocols in El Maguey with masks and antibacterial gel. On this very important day for Methodism and Christianity, children, youth, adults and the elderly—and without fail María Isabel Aguirre, mother of our angel in heaven, Luis Ramírez, and his family—appeared at this important service directed by Pastors Juan Carlos Anaya and Gerardo Vázquez. The pastors, their servants and the leaders of Cristo Vive all contributed to a service full of faith and love for our neighbors, and praying for the members of San José First, since we are one in God.

I want to express my gratitude in the name of God for all those who made this possible, since it is the call of God to love and respect each other, to cry, to laugh, and to celebrate in union, since that is how we grow stronger.

May the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit descend upon us. Amen.

Pastor Gerardo Vázquez-Padilla