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Monday, January 12, 2015

Pastorgraphs: “Blessed Assurance”

E-Vangel Newsletter
January 12, 2015

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center

“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205
Pastorgraphs: “Blessed Assurance”

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Haitian earthquake, one of the most devastating disasters of all time. An estimated 220,000 people died and another quarter million homes were destroyed in one frightening moment.
Last night, I was honored to speak to our Haitian congregation. As ministers are prone to do, I took a quick head count, and lost count at 60. That was partly due to a dozen or more children, all not born five years ago, moving about as precious children do.
Jean Elize Durandisse, lay pastor, and I met earlier this week to plan the service, which included Holy Communion. He asked that I retell the story of how the Haitian Methodist Ministry of San Diego came about for the benefit of many new members of his congregation. I also shared the “2020 Vision”, asking them to plan their own BIG dream for where they hope to be in another five years.

It was on March 6, 2009, almost a year before the earthquake, that I met a group of about 20 young Haitian adults who came to San Diego, fleeing oppression and corruption in their homeland. They had received death threats from the gangs who were enlisting Haitian youth into their web of violence, drugs and prostitution. Most of them were members of a Gospel music group, Louange a Dieu (LAD) which roughly translates from Creole “Praise to God”. They were being effective in sharing God’s love that led many Haitian youth into a life of faith in God and away from gangs. (See the picture: “My Children” left to right, Patrick, Micheline, Jean Elize, me, Yrise, Antoine, and in back Michel.)

It did not take long to discover LAD is very talented. Their unique blend of Gospel music with Caribbean harmonization is appealing. My favorite song is “Blessed Assurance”. I’ve asked them to sing it at my funeral, when and if they are able. That is because Fanny J. Crosby, a blind hymn writer, wrote in the lyrics:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

What better thing could be said at the end of life than a person’s story and song was praising our Lord all the day long. For me, that “foretaste of glory divine” allows me to live in “blessed assurance”.

You see, it all intersects with my “children”, the Haitians I met almost six years ago. When they call me their father or dad, they mean it. Many of them lost their fathers long ago, some in the earthquake. And when I call them my children, I mean it too.

I recall that on March 6, 2009, I was quite weak from cancer surgery and 35 bouts of radiation treatments. When I got the call that a group of Haitians wanted to meet with me, I almost declined. I was saving my energy to attend the Russian Methodist convocation that same night. But since I had to pass the church on the way to Mission Valley, I agreed.

This is my story; this is my song. God came to me in the form of some strangers (immigrants), and I did not turn them away. I welcomed them into my church, my home, and my heart. Nothing will ever be the same.

“Oh, what a foretaste of glory, divine!”

The Haitians have grown personally, numerically and spiritually. All of the original group have learned to speak English, received training for essential jobs (working in hospitals and nursing homes), are self-supporting, tax-paying members of our community. Most importantly they are helping others. Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) said we helped them serve over 300 Haitian refugees who came to San Diego. A few weeks ago, the Haitian Methodist Ministry prepared a hundred food boxes for the homeless and hungry people living on San Diego’s streets.

Filled with His goodness, lost in His love,
Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
“Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.
~ Fanny J. Crosby, “Blessed Assurance” (1873)

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