Here in Eagle Pass, we’re in the midst of getting ready for Christmas. Our blue Advent candles are getting lit. This year we had Noche de Talentos, an open mic night for the holiday season, celebrating the many gifts in our community. In our multigenerational spiritual formation time on Wednesday, we wrote Christmas cards for families in immigration detention through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service’s #HopeForTheHolidays program. A cadre of parishioners scooped up turkey and trimmings while volunteering for the local Feast of Sharing at Thanksgiving. For the second year, I was invited by the City of Eagle Pass to pray the invocation for the lighting of the Christmas lights downtown in Plaza San Juan.
Approaching my sixth Christmas as pastor here at San Lucas, it is my privilege to serve alongside people for whom immigration is not an abstract political issue, but rather a daily reality. Anxiety is high; uncertainty abounds. As we remember the ancient holy pilgrims María and José, we also remember immigrant communities today and those seeing welcome and new opportunities. My hope is that San Lucas can be a sanctuary of peace and hospitality. At the beginning of this year, we installed signs at each entrance to prohibit weapons in the buildings, in accordance with a new Texas law allowing open carry at churches. Powers and principalities…
Looking back, 2016 has been a year of challenges here at San Lucas. A few emotional funerals marked the death of several beloved saints. We had an incident of vandalism and another of theft. With sporadic denominational funding and fewer mission partner congregations sending support, our financial situation has been nebulous, to say the least. Some of our buildings were without electricity for a few days in October as we waited for some checks to clear. Thankfully, the office remained with power, protecting refrigerated food pantry inventory. Perhaps I have been too much of a martyr, triaging other expenses before my own paycheck, for months at a time.
Yet even in the midst of irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities, hope permeates San Lucas. Perhaps more than ever, I feel God’s presence in the ministry here. We’re in a context of poverty and corruption that so desperately needs to hear the Good News of Jesus. In August, after hearing local news reports about increased migrant deaths in the arid stretches of Maverick County, we installed several water stations, in cooperation with the South Texas Human Rights Center. Our food pantry received over 68,000 pounds of food in the fiscal year. We partnered with Cross Trails for summer Day Camp. We’re getting started in advocacy, especially around health care, immigration, and the environmental impacts of a new local coal mine. We’re in the nascent stages of building a chicken coop for the poultry who found their way here. I have been doing some mission exploration scoping potential possibilities for ELCA presence in nearby Del Rio. A meme with a picture of tostadas from our San Lucas VBS snack helped ignite the conversation around the budding #decolonizeLutheranism movement.
On behalf of all of San Lucas, I am grateful for all of the prayerful support we receive. (You can donate electronically at http://www.sanlucas78852.org/donate). This was the first year that members have used numbered offering envelopes. With a spirit of accompaniment and mutuality, we long to be financially self-sustaining, but that is still not the case. The generosity of so many individuals and congregations helps continue the ministry of San Lucas. Thank you. Thank you for your gifts.
Pastor Paul Bailie