November/December 2018 Newsletter
Greetings and peace to you in the name of Christ Jesus. I pray that this letter finds you well as you prepare for the busiest, yet exciting season. Some of you have heard that I recently went down to the border of US/Mexico and was arrested. In this newsletter, I write to you to share my account of what happened and why I decided to do what I did.
Since its inception in 1848, the US/Mexico border on the Pacific Coast has always been a place where bi-national families came together to meet. In 1971, the First Lady, Pat Nixon inaugurated ‘Friendship Park’, a half-acre, bi-national park, as a good gesture to improve the relationships between the communities from Tijuana and San Diego. The situation at the border took a turn for the worse following the attack on September 11, 2001. A fence was erected and bisected Friendship Park, limiting the contact between the families. With increased anti-immigrant policies, even a secondary fence was created.
Amidst the tension, Reverend John Fanestil and other United Methodist pastors have been conducting communion worship services every Sunday at the border, under the watchful eye of the Border Patrols. These services gave opportunities for families separated by the border and our immigration policies to come together for an hour on Sundays. On December 11, 2012, the very place I was arrested, Bishop Carcaño celebrated Las Posadas with Reverend Jorge Domingues, our Executive Director of Connectional Ministries, Reverend Fanestil and hundreds of people from many Christian denominations.
In the recent years the US/Mexico border has seen escalating tensions as more and more people, especially from Central America, have arrived to seek asylum. This rise in the number of migrants, an average of 175 unaccompanied children per day, according to Customs and Border Protection, is directly tied to the rise of gang violence in Central America.
The two most notorious of the gangs, with memberships of 10,000 to 13,000, were started in the US. The period from the late 70s to the 80s was known as ‘Central American Crisis’. Central America was ridden with civil war between Pro-Soviet communist-leaning forces and US-backed forces. The US poured in millions of dollars every day to feed the war while the civilians fled by the masses and began arriving in the US. It was in the rough neighborhoods of Los Angeles that Central American refugees learned the ways of gang life to protect themselves from other gangs and formed MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) and the 18th Street Gang (Calle 18, Barrio 18).
The US Government eventually rounded up these gang members and deported them back to Central America where there was limited police presence. This resulted in gang memberships exploding, and criminal activities spreading through every facet of their society, including crimes such as murder, corruption, extortion, drug-trafficking, kidnapping, human-trafficking and smuggling. What is known as the ‘Violent Northern Triangle’ in Central America, which includes El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, has the highest homicide rate of not-at-war deaths in the world today. Though the exact number is unavailable, I heard it is as high as 90% for murder cases in that area that are uninvestigated.
Today, the majority of migrants arriving at the US/Mexico border are in search of basic safety. For most of them, they choose between being subjected to the gang control, or fleeing. The US should, at the very least, feel partially responsible for the levels of violence in Central America, and those seeking asylum. Instead, the response of the US authorities have been to delay and deny the asylum process, separating migrant children from their parents, and finally this year, on November 25th, the US border patrols fired tear-gas on migrants; a substance banned in warfare.
On Human Rights Day, December 10th, the ‘American Friends Service Committee’ (a Quaker organization known as AFSC), along with ecumenical bodies, organized a non-violent march with nearly 500 people, including 60 United Methodist clergy and lay people with a simple message, “End the militarization of border communities and respect the human right to migrate.” The plan was to march to Friendship Park and pray with migrants on the other side of the fence, an area marked as a no-trespass zone without authorization. We knew the risk.
We walked 1.2 miles through mud and sand with four helicopters and drones flying over us. When we finally arrived at Friendship Park, border patrols were waiting for us at three strategic locations with their assault rifles and tear gas; up on a hill, on the water, and on the ground blocking our path to the fence. There was immediately a standoff that lasted for at least a half-hour between patrols on the ground and the protesters.
Several warnings were blasted through a megaphone, and the patrols began pushing us with their batons. This was tricky because they were able to touch, push or grab us, but even a slight touch of an officer on our part would have been an “assault” worthy of a felony, and it was based on their interpretation.
REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
In the moment of intensity as I stood within a foot of a Border Patrol staring into my face, the stories of struggles I heard from immigrants in the churches in the El Camino Real District came to my mind. I uttered these words repeatedly, “They too, are children of God. They too, deserve God’s love.” The next thing I knew, I was pulled forward from the line of protesters, forced on the ground and handcuffed behind my back.
There were a total of 32 people arrested that day. Reverend Rolland ‘Rolly’ Loomis was the other United Methodist pastor arrested. Bishop Carcaño led all of us through the process from the beginning to the end by inviting us, teaching us, blessing us, and in the end, led a few United Methodists into the cold water to kneel down and pray for the migrants. We could not have asked for a better spiritual leader to lead us!
I want to close with my reason for what I did. It was not long ago, on June 14, 2012, that I attended a ceremony of naturalization and took an oath to become an American, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince…” I knew then that there were millions of undocumented immigrants fearfully residing in the US, and even more with hope to find a way into the US. They would do anything to take my place. Why was I able to receive a citizenship with relative ease while they are shunned at every step? I distinctly remember a feeling that this was not a fair process! My path to citizenship was deemed “legal” simply because my parents had economic means.
Having gone through the process, I can share with you that the US citizenship is a process that favors those with money, over the poor. Should this really be the criteria for naturalization? It was then I made a deep commitment to myself, should there be any opportunity to use the “privilege of citizenship” to offer my voice to the voiceless, I would.
I picture in my mind, Jesus who befriended those on the fringes of the society, even saw himself in their places and said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV) Friends, there is much work to do, to share the love of Christ through the world. I invite you to join me in praying for the migrants in this Advent season. Amen.
Written by Rev. Shinya Goto, Superintendent of El Camino Real District
Link below to video footage of the protest and arrest
San Jose City Circuit Gathers for the Camp Fire ‘Disaster Relief Fund’ Fundraiser
As we prepare our homes for the arrival of the Christ child, we are acutely aware that our brothers and sisters in Christ who had homes in Paradise no longer have a home to prepare, nor their favorite decorations. Some have lost loved ones. Everything was destroyed by the Camp Fire. Well almost everything. God’s love abideth still.
So the members of the churches of the San Jose City Circuit gathered Sunday evening at Calvary UMC for a ‘disaster relief fund’ fundraiser. We were gifted over and over again – with chili and cornbread made by volunteers, the music of ‘KirkAve’ and ‘The Jazz Trio’, and fabulous desserts made by our best bakers. We had a live auction complete with a seasoned auctioneer and the desserts went to the highest bidder – a dozen old fashioned cinnamon rolls sold for $100. We had a great time and together we raised over $9000 for the CA-NV Conference Disaster Relief fund. Praise God!
Written by Connie Hunter, Circuit Lay Leader, San Jose City Circuit
-The Last Day of Tithe for 2018
January 14, 2019 will be the cutoff date for 2018 tithe checks.
-General Church Giving
There is a call from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño and Lay Leader Micheal Pope to the people of the California-Nevada Annual Conference to help our Conference. According to the Council on Finance and Administration projections, conference tithing will fall short of what will enable this Conference to fulfill its connectional responsibilities.
CFA is taking on the challenge by launching an unprecedented short-term campaign, asking for individual contributions. Both Bishop Carcaño and Lay Leader Pope have committed to individual gifts and have also pledged to personally match the first 20 $50 contributions – with an understanding that for some, a $50 gift would pose great hardship. The bishop notes that for others of us, however, “$50 is just the beginning of what we can give.”
She asks that each person give “with open hearts and with a deep commitment, knowing that as connectional people in The United Methodist Church, God uses us in powerful ways.”
To participate in Fulfilling Our Commitments to Mission and Ministry, please send a check to the CA-NV Annual Conference, P.O. Box 980250, West Sacramento, CA 95798. Note “Bishop’s appeal” in the memo line, or click on the link below, and donate on the California-Nevada website.
-Letter from D.S. Rev Shinya Goto re: Glide Foundation
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Advent greetings to you in the name of our Lord, Christ Jesus. As you may have heard, litigation has been filed concerning the Glide Foundation. This was a difficult decision that has been handled with the utmost prayer and faithfulness.
Our December 11 press release stated that, because we are now in litigation, we have no comment at this time. Therefore, all of us (clergy and laity) should refrain from commenting about the litigation in public or in writing. Such comments and statements, even with the best of intentions, could be misused to undermine our efforts. We also ask that any media or other outside inquiries be referred to the Conference Communications Office.
Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. If you have any questions, please direct them to your District Superintendent. It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will give us all wisdom and guidance for the journey ahead.
Rev. Shinya Goto
El Camino Real District Superintendent
-Basic SPRC Training in Marina and Santa Clara Coming Soon
There are two SPRC trainings coming up in early 2019 for new SPRC, as well as for those who have not had a chance to attend SPRC training yet. Pastors are also invited. Dates and times are below:
February 9, 2019 10:00 am-12 Noon
281 Beach Road
March 16, 2019 10:00 am-12 Noon
Santa Clara UMC
1700 Lincoln Avenue
Santa Clara, 95050
As we get closer to the date a reminder and rsvp will be sent out. If you already know you are attending, please let Robyn Peterson know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and she will put you on the list.