Richmond First United Methodist News and Events
Here is Jean Reynolds’ message from last Sunday.
“A Report from People in the Trenches for Human Rights”
I just returned – my flight got in at midnight last night – from the International People’s Tribunal 2015 held in Washington D.C. July 16-18. The charges were against Philippines President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the U.S. government as represented by President Barack Obama. The coalition of conveners sought to spotlight repeated violations of international law committed against the Filipino people. An international jury of seven human rights specialists, including the Rev. Michael Yoshii of Buena Vista UMC in Alameda, heard testimony from thirty-six witnesses over the course of two days; they presented the verdict yesterday, July 18. The first day was all testimony from victims of Human Rights abuses, and was pretty intense for me as a listener. The second day, witnesses told about economic and environmental violence they have experienced, and the systems and policies of the government that keep so many people in poverty. Most witnesses came to the US to testify in person; some used Skype as the next-best method. A few witnesses were pre-recorded.
I’ll share only a few of the stories to give you an idea of the nature of the complaints. First, you have to know that the No. 1 export of the Philippines is labor. Twelve percent of its 100 million population lives abroad, and the economy is hugely supported by the wages they send back to their families. People often work basically as a slave: their employer seizes their passport, local labor laws offer them no protection. At the very least, conditions are never as good as they are painted by the agencies which profit. I know a few of you are teachers. One of the witnesses was a teacher. She saw an ad asking teachers to teach in the U.S. and inquired at the agency. She applied for the position, and was told it would take about 3 months. She was asked to pay a large sum so she borrowed money. Time passed. Every time she checked in with the agent, he wanted another payment, and had an excuse for the delay. She accrued debts to financial institutions and friends as she continued to hope and believe she could get a better job. At least 45 other teachers were in the same process. During this time, the agency lost its license, but no one told the clients or stopped the agent from taking more money from victims. The agent was finally arrested, but the owner of the agency was not prosecuted. Only clients who did not file charges against the agency got financial restitution. The witness got no money back.
We heard from retired United Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero. He marched on the front line of the People’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) protest and said that he believes Jesus would be right there too, as an advocate with the people. SONA is the day the President of the Philippines gives his annual report. People come together on the streets in droves that day to peacefully protest the actual state of the nation. I marched at the protest in 2013. Bishop Toquero and his contingent had a written list of complaints to deliver to President Aquino. They were beaten by police forces. Seminary students who shielded the bishop sought medical care after the blows they took. Bishop Toquero was a guest at our Annual Conference dinner this year. He came to the U.S. to testify at the Tribunal, but arrived early enough to speak in various places beforehand. After he flew here in June, men in uniform came to his home at breakfast time and harassed his son Mervin and daughter-in-law. Mervin works for National Council of Churches of the Philippines and coordinates our CA-NV Philippine Solidarity Task Force visits. His wife is a women’s labor rights advocate. They feel they are being threatened because of the ways they have stood up for people’s rights.
A nurse employed at the largest spinal injury hospital in SE Asia shared that the government plans to restructure healthcare by privatizing all state-owned hospitals. His hospital is the first slated for the process. If its ownership changes, only 70 beds will be available to poor and uninsured patients although few people have insurance. Nurses will lose their government jobs. If the new hospital management hires them, they will lose benefits and won’t be guaranteed full time work. If they remain government employees, they will have to move to some far-flung area where the govt. still manages a hospital. He and his coworkers oppose the privatization and are fighting it.
You have heard me say that when I teach Bible stories, I no longer use the phrase “In those days…” since many of the social ills found in the Bible still exist all around us. It is the reason the Bible is still relevant. When I hear about the struggles of the Filipino people, I have stopped saying, “It only happens in the Philippines…” It is not a stretch to say variations of these problems exist in the U.S. and in many other countries. Some of the problems stem from U.S. imperialism and our government’s far-reaching military involvement in the world. Many of our policies protect the rights of corporations to make profit above the rights of the people.
We heard gut-wrenching stories on Thursday. That night, I had a troubling dream. [It made me think of Jack Elle, a former member here, who especially liked Ecclesiastes and the scripture from Acts 2:17 “your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” Jack identified with the old men, as do I.] I dreamt that something terrible happened to my daughter Bethany. The confusing part of the dream was that I did not feel anything after it happened. I did not care. My emotions were cold. I woke up and puzzled over how it could happen – even in a dream – for me to not have deep feelings of sorrow after what befell her. To me it meant that my Filipino friends are as precious to me as my family. If they are not able to live in safety and dignity, it affects me as much as if they are my daughters and sons. I cannot ignore their plight anymore than I can stop loving and caring for my family.
So where is the hope? All good stories include hope. For me, I am heartened to know that the main “ask” is for me to simply hear the testimony and retell it. The Filipinos feel like that is an important way to make change. If people know the truth, it can affect how they vote, the questions they ask their legislators, and the way they spend their money. We met Saturday morning hosted at the United Methodist building. It was my first time to visit there. In my small group, we talked about actions to take. One woman told about how her church donated to a legal fund for political prisoners in the Philippines. The bail to release a prisoner is only about $75. Canadians said they are in process to change Canadian mining laws since Canadian-based mining companies are known for unscrupulous practices in the Philippines and elsewhere. Several witnesses previously held as political prisoners expressed how much it meant to get personal letters through Amnesty International that told them they had not been forgotten. If we believe we can create a more just world, if we pay attention, tell the stories, and stand together with those who suffer, the world is already a better place.
I am thankful to be here with all of you and to know the ways we reach out together to be a place where God dwells, in keeping with the words of today’s scripture. (Ephesians 2:11-22) May we continue to work in the world together to be a dwelling place for God.
Note: Transcripts and video from the IPT are available online at http://internationalpeoplestribunal.org
Joys and Concerns
Help Needed! Linda Pereira’s mother, Lorraine, has been in rehab for a broken arm and will need 24 hour a day attendant care starting next week. Pat Dornan has found someone for the weekends but needs someone M-F to live-in (separate room) and to help Lorraine with activities of daily living, meal prep etc. Can pay a max of $150 per 24 hour day. Contact Pat Dornan at 510 237 3063 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help or know of someone else who may be available.
Doris Swope celebrated her birthday this week. Her children and grandchildren have gathered from far and wide to celebrate with her.
Fran Smith was also honored by family on her birthday!
Please keep Katherine Parker, our missionary, and the people of Nepal in your prayers.
Megan Timberlake’s ex-husband, Ernest R. Style III, died June 3. Sympathy cards can be sent to Megan at 293 Curry St., Richmond, CA 94801.
Deby McFadyen is requesting prayers for three young friends who are battling cancer. Please remember Sarah Talkington, Carolyn Thomas and Jimmy Lowe in your prayers.
Sandra Kokoruda (Fran Smith’s daughter) update: Sandra thanks everyone for their prayers and concerns. Fran reports that Sandra is more animated and cheerful. She is having chemotherapy every two weeks and it should be completed the end of August. Both Fran and Sandra ask that prayers continue.
Pat Dornan and Linda Pereira continue to need your prayers of support. Update: Hospice services have started. Pat says that Linda is more alert and has been able to be up in the wheel chair for short periods of time. Lorraine, Linda’s mother, fell last week and had surgery on a broken arm and elbow. She is currently in a Skilled Nursing Facility for rehab so that she can return home. As you can imagine, Pat is stressed with all the care demands. Pat was able to transfer Linda to the car and take her to visit her mother. It was a very touching visit. Kudos to Pat for always doing the best she can.
Robbie Robinson would appreciate your prayers.
Helen Wysham welcomes your prayers for healing as she undergoes chemotherapy.
Bobby and Pamella Hall would like to be remembered in prayer as they go through some difficult personal times.
News from Camp Liberty in Iraq: Since July 13th the Iraqi government has stopped supplies from entering Camp Liberty. They have prevented supplies of food, fuel and septic tank trucks from entering the compound. The lack of fuel means that the generators can not function so there is no electricity, no sewage system, no air conditioners with the temperature reaching 120 degrees. The United States Committee for Camp Ashraf is asking our Secretary of State, John Kerry, to intervene as well as the United Nations. Please remember these people in your prayers and that actions are taken to reverse this situation.
This week’s Cal/Nev Instant Connection News has an interesting article about a gay Methodist pastor in Michigan being fired because he is gay. He is a young, dynamic pastor who has in the 2 years he has been at the church more than quadrupled church attendance and has started other ministries in the community. This is a heartrending example of the ways the Methodist Church’s stance on homosexuality affects many lives. email@example.com.
Katherine Parker, missionary in Nepal: Katherine reports that the emphasis now will be on long-term recovery efforts in Dhang province. Katherine will continue to work with WASH, nutrition and psycho-social support. Non-earthquake work is resuming and Katherine will soon be traveling to Rukum and Rupandehi for the baseline survey of their community health program focusing on maternal and child health.
The United Methodist Church Market Place has revamped their online site and made it more user friendly. When you sign up to be a user you scroll down to find our church and after that every time you go through this site to shop at stores on line a percentage of your bill will be donated to our church. umcmarket.org.
New Public Address System: Donations are coming in to support our new system. Donations are $45 for a whole piano key which you can color and sign and donations of any amount are welcome. Karen Merkle, who died early in June left a Memorial Donation of $500 to our church. The Memorial Committee has donated the money to our new sound system. Karen would be pleased since music was such a large part of her life. See the display of piano keys and further information at the desk in the back in Friendship Hall.
If you would like to donate for relief for the people of Nepal, go to umcor.org the Advance.
Don’t forget that donations for Imagine No Malaria are always welcome.
Please add donations to the church for Katherine Parker so that we can continue to sponsor her good work. It costs $250 per year to be sponsors.
New Membership Class starting this Sunday, June 28 at 10 am in Friendship Hall as part of the Adult Sunday School. Please let Pastor Dan know if you are interested in joining our congregation.
Saturday, July 25, 1:30 pm, Finance Committee Meeting at Matthew and Jennifer Foster’s home; 1052 Hawthorne Dr., Rodeo
The Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) is meeting in San Antonio, Texas in conjunction with the Reconciling Ministries Network. Gather at the River, Thursday, August 6 to Sunday, August 9. The conference will be working on issues of justice throughout the church and resolutions they would like to see presented at the General Conference in 2016. Register at http://www.gather2015.org/.
Vacation Bible School will be the week of August 10 thru 14. Contact Jean Reynolds if you would like to help at firstname.lastname@example.org. this is always a fun event and much looked forward to by the children and the helpers.
Saturday, September 26, 4-7 pm, 7th Annual Jean Eakle Art Auction and Gala: Tax deductible Donations needed: Arts, crafts, jewelry, pottery, photography, cash or gift certificates for auction and door prizes. Contact Diane, email@example.com or Debbie, firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be dropped off any Sunday morning 10-11 am and 12-1 pm at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond.
Please send submissions for FUMC News and Events to Barbara Haley, editor: email@example.com