A Moment for Mission
“I give thanks to you that I was marvelously set apart. Your works are wonderful—I know that very well.”
— Psalm 139:14, CEB
Early Japanese immigrants to the U.S. journeyed to Alameda, California, in the late 1800s and then to a Methodist women’s mission formed there in 1898. Their Japanese American descendants journeyed back in 1945 after spending several years imprisoned in World War II internment camps. The mission they called home later became Buena Vista United Methodist Church.
The church still welcomes sojourners, offering hospitality and hope to new immigrants seeking to avoid deportation back to countries and situations they escaped in search of a better life.
The 250-member, intergenerational congregation is now multiethnic, with predominantly Asian and Pacific Islander membership. But it is becoming decidedly more multiracial, too, including the 2020 appointment of a Black pastor, the Rev. Myrna Bernadel-Huey, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Haiti. Buena Vista is well known for its hospitality and advocacy on behalf of immigrants and refugees, including the undocumented and formerly incarcerated.
Global Ministries, through its Community Developer Program (CDP), is helping to fund the church’s immigration ministry, which offers supportive “accompaniment,” temporary housing in a former parsonage and immigrants’ rights advocacy.
Today is Human Relations Day. Supported by this special offering, the national program began in 1968 as a vital funding, training and networking resource to help racial-ethnic churches develop their communities through partnerships and creative ministries. Advancing the church’s capacity to be in mission through local congregations, the CPD now has sites in 16 states across five jurisdictions.
Loving God, each of us is marvelously set apart to do your work in the world. When we feel helpless, wrap your arms around us and show us how to serve. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Second Sunday after the Epiphany – Holy God, like the first disciples, we have heard the call to follow Jesus! Yet too often, we have failed to introduce him to others, not willing to take the risks that go with true discipleship. As we bring our tithes and offerings to you this day, make us bold in following. May we give more readily, love more deeply, show mercy and compassion more extravagantly, and seek justice for others courageously. Help us to walk in the steps of the one we follow. In Christ’s holy name, we pray. Amen. (John 1:43-51)
The Rev. Michael Yoshii, who served as pastor of Buena Vista United Methodist Church for 32 years, learned about the Community Developer Program in 1992 while seeking help to address racial injustice in Alameda, California. The congregation formed the required local policy committee of church and community members and hired a community developer.
For nearly three decades, Buena Vista has tackled numerous community concerns, often with CDP support. Most CDP funding comes from the denomination’s annual Human Relations Day offering.
“In this multi-Asian, multiethnic, multigenerational church,” said Rev. Bernadel-Huey, “I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said they were drawn to Buena Vista for … the congregation’s tremendous hospitality and openness and its social activism, born out of firm values as the body of Christ.
“This congregation’s slogan is, ‘Building Beloved Community,’” she continued. “They take it to heart, and they do it very well.”
Thank you for your support of this critical ministry on Human Relations Day!
— Adapted from “Multicultural Church’s History Inspires Support for Immigrants,” John W. Coleman, Global Ministries website, August 2020. Used by permission.