What is on the Pastor's mind this month?
As I’m starting my 6th year as pastor of Nestor UMC, I have been in the middle of numerous discussions about the future of the United Methodist Church as a denomination. While some people are still wondering if the denomination is going to split or transform into something else, I sincerely believe that we are not a denomination defined by a single issue.
But more than that, as believers and disciples of Jesus we are called to a higher standard of obedience to Jesus mandate of going into the world and preaching the Gospel to make disciples.
Here is where different people with different perspectives and backgrounds have different opinions of what the church should do in order to fulfill that commandment.
Many of us still remember the time when a church opened its doors for the first time and people started to come in. (Build it and they will come.) Most of our congregation came to the Nestor area following a call to serve the country and found in our church a new “home church” that fulfilled their spiritual needs.
Times change, motivations change, population changes, and the way to bring new people to church may have changed, but the important thing is that the gospel message has not changed. The message of life in Jesus, a message of peace in our hearts, of kindness in our actions, of goodness in relationships, the message has not changed, has it?
All of the above and more is what people look for in a church. All of the above and more are fruits of the Spirit that come as spiritual gifts born out of a close relationship with God.
New disciples are the natural fruit of a relationship with God. Yes, people will be drawn by the music, the message, the fellowship, the potlucks and picnics, but mostly and mainly are drawn by the love they see among the believers because that message has not changed!
Do we still have a message to share? Can we still see the fields ready for harvest?
See you Sunday in church,
As we at Nestor UMC start this new ecclesiastical year, we are reminded that we are people of seasons and cycles. As families, most of us are in some sort of “vacation/summer” mode, some with vacation from school, and others with family visiting us here because they are on vacation. We take advantage of the “warm summer days” and enjoy the beautiful weather we have in Southern California.
Church is no different. CCFA has prepared for its annual Summer Music Camp, while as a church we are preparing for a special “Back to School Sunday” on July 22nd, as well as other summer activities.
We look forward to each new season, both in our personal lives as well as in the life of our church. As we start this “new season”, we hope we can be enthusiastic, healthy, motivated, and excited!
However, it is not the same for all of us. We can see in our community of faith a certain number of people who are experiencing a need for healing, whether it is a need for physical healing, emotional healing, or spiritual healing.
Summer can be a time of renewal and by nature our pace slows down as we anticipate long summer days and vacation time. I would like to suggest that this is also a good time to renew ourselves and to take a look inside ourselves to find the places where we need healing!
As we move thru the Gospel lessons in the book of Mark during this month of July, I invite you to read the passages in advance of each Sunday and start noticing how the people who Jesus encountered experienced healing in their lives.
We all go through seasons of sickness, emotional struggles, and other crises when we need to find a place of rest and healing. God the great healer can take care of our needs. Let us together pray and work towards a healthy congregation for Nestor UMC.
See you Sunday in church,
Leadership in the church is more than administering buildings or making budgets. It is more than offering services to the community or food for people in need. It is more than organizing activities or holding the “keys” to the sanctuary, and yet leadership implies all the above. According to the UMC Discipline, the church leader… “serves out of the humble spirit, not out of pride or a sense of importance.” It also states that “(leaders) engage in and are attentive to developing and enhancing their own Christin spiritual life in light of the mission of the church.” (Book of Discipline)
As many of you know, our mission statement for years has been, “A nurturing center for all, making disciples for Christ.” I would like to rephrase that using words from John 21 and Luke 15… “We have the mission to tend and feed the sheep, always looking for the lost sheep.”
The annual Conference and Bishop Hagiya have created this diagram (see below) where we can see multiple aspects of the role of the church in the world. The emphasis of the church and all this started from the work and ministry of the local church… and that is us!
It is nothing new to say that the church in general, as well as our beloved Nestor UMC, has lost a generation of leaders, that is, people who are now in their 20’s through 40’s! Can we recover them? I think with God’s help we can. Can we build a new generation of leaders? I would say yes, it is possible. Are they going to find places to serve and help to grow? I certainly hope so!
But one good question to ask is... for what???
During these next weeks during worship we will look at leadership issues and how the Spirit leads, and how to raise the kind of leaders we need for the church that will continue the task of tending and feeding the sheep, while we are constantly looking for the lost sheep!
God Has Been Good...
I have been thinking about how fast this year is going and the many things that have happened in only 5 months.
First of all, our family started the year with in some rough health issues, but I can say that God has been with us along the way. Thank you for your prayers. Then Janet and I had a chance to squeeze a week of vacation in, which was hampered by illness, but at least we "got away" for a week.
Then there's my ministry. I ushered in the new year with the news that I was going to be interviewed for my Elders orders. Time flew by and on March 6 I was sitting in front of three different committees. After the interview I was not sure what was going to be the outcome (oh man of little faith!) But God's grace was upon the eyes of my colleagues and I was recommended for Full Connection with the Conference. That means that I have finally reached that milestone and upon confirmation in Annual Conference I will be an Elder in the United Methodist Church.
But there's also all that has happened in church! Easter is already behind us! The Lenten season and Easter came early this year. We had a great (and timely) Rehab Bible study, served our guests in the Interfaith Shelter, and Easter Sunday was great with lots of music, praise, and a simple but joyful Easter carne asada picnic!
Reflecting on all that has happened, I can see that it has been the fellowship and community, the family and friends, the prayers and words of encouragement, that have supported my family, our ministry, and the place we call church.
So now, all in all, I can say that God has been good! God is good... All the time.
See you Sunday in Church,
Hopeful or Foolish!
This year coincidentally, Easter and April Fool’s day fall on the same day. (No pranks allowed in worship!)
It reminds me of a few times when I have been sharing about my faith and talking to people about the promise of Easter, and some people think that I am foolish and that the Christian faith is as well. (The Apostle Paul said, “ For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” 1 Cor. 1:18a)
Faith does not make sense for the unbeliever and especially for those that live only in the realm of the material and physical things that they can see. But Jesus said, “I may suffer and die but on the third day… Easter!” Can we believe that?
Believing in the promises of God makes me have faith and hope in the plans and actions that we are taking as a congregation. Here I want to refer briefly to another aspect of faith, hope and promise, and that is the role we are playing as we bring hope and promise to our guests at the Interfaith Shelter.
As we respond to our faith with concrete actions of support, care and love, we are providing reasons to believe that things can get better. When I see our congregation coming to serve our guests without judgment, with the desire to contribute and provide a helping hand, we are feeding the hope and the promise that God is and will take care of them.
Actions like these are what we are reminded of every Sunday as we talk about “doing something about our faith”, being the feet and hand of Jesus. I pray that the next time that we see our Interfaith Shelter guests; they will be moving on to the next step and to a better place in their family’s journey. But for now, I want to thank God for allowing us to be part of the mission that brings hope to the world. Happy Easter!
See you in church this Sunday,
Following Jesus’ Lead
We are on our way to Jerusalem following Jesus’ lead! The Lenten season is a season of reflection and preparation. It is a season to recalibrate and refocus on our Christian life. The Christian life is like a journey and each year during this season we make the trek to Jerusalem. What can we learn this year from our journey?
Well, that is a question that each one of us needs to answer on our own. For those of us that are following the Lenten study “Rehab”, we have learned that in each stage of our lives it can feel like we are lost in the wilderness. This wilderness can be understood as some event, accident or situation that brings our lives into a crisis. We have discovered that we can be in wilderness even if we feel we are in a “great place” but not doing God’s will and living God’s purpose in our lives.
In either case, we can be lost! Perhaps some of us are in the middle of a crisis while some others are in the middle of a fantasy.
As we move through this Lenten season, may we learn from Jesus’ example of obedience and commitment while on his journey to Jerusalem. May we discover that, regardless of the situation we are in, God has a higher calling for us to follow as we commit this season, yet again, to follow Jesus’ lead to Jerusalem.
I invite you to come to the Lenten study, to review the scriptures for the upcoming Sunday, and to participate in the church activities during this holy season and Easter.
See you Sunday in church,
On the Move
Lenten season is coming soon. This is the 40-day period before Easter when we remember what happened in Jerusalem during Holy Week and prepare to celebrate what God did on Easter!
The season of Lent is a journey, moving on towards Jerusalem, but this journey is not only moving forward but also moving “inward”. This year during Lent, we will be following the path of Jesus as he heads towards Jerusalem, but we will also be looking into our hearts and our own spiritual paths.
In the journey during Lent, we follow the path that Jesus walked, from the wilderness and the temptations, through his life, until we stand in front of the promise of Easter.
I invite you to come every Sunday to worship, to follow the devotional that we will share in the bulletin, and to consider the possibility of joining the small group on Sundays after second service where we are going to reflect and discuss the Lenten devotional “Rehab”.
Let’s walk with Jesus to Jerusalem and move on in the journey of faith!
See you Sunday in church,
The book is available through Amazon, or downloadable PDF.
Rehab: A Group Study is available for $5.95 each at Amazon.
Also, here is the download of the Rehab A Group Study PDF. This can be printed.
Hard to believe, but we are in 2018! Time as we know goes by and we live a life with successes and failures, with happiness and sadness, with good things and bad things that come and go, and life goes on. While life can be challenging, life is a blessing and as believers we trust that God has a purpose to teach us in any situation and circumstance that we encounter in life.
Moses prayed, “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” (Psalm 90:12) From our human perspective, life can be unpredictable. Moses’ prayer is a great example of the kind of attitude that we can have, confident that God is truly good and has a purpose in everything that comes into our lives.
For now, together with wishing you a blessed 2018, I would like to share John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. This is a good prayer for the beginning of each year as we recommit ourselves to God and place ourselves once again into his loving care.
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,
exalted for you, or brought low for you;
let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing:
I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
May God bless you and your family in 2018!
O Come, O Come Emmanuel…
As we begin the last month of the year, we start this exciting season of Advent. During these four Sundays in December we are waiting to celebrate the birth of the Savior in the world.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is. 9:6
Although parts of Isaiah’s prophecy were fulfilled in Bethlehem, it seems like we are still waiting for the complete fulfillment of this prophecy. Yes! We are still waiting for the second coming of Christ. Waiting in expectation is not a bad thing. Author Henri Nowen wrote:
“Without waiting for the second coming of Christ, we will stagnate quickly and become tempted to indulge in whatever gives us a moment of pleasure.”
In other words, waiting for the second coming focuses our attention to something greater and awesome that is to come. It brings hope as we see the conflicts and situations in our world, that the Prince of Peace will finally establish His kingdom. That is something more than worthy to look for, to wait and to pray for… “O come, desire of nations bind all people in one heart and mind!”
See you Sunday in Church,
Stewardship and Mission
Dear Church Family,
As this fall has come, I want start this message sharing with you some of my happenings regarding my Pastoral role in Nestor UMC. First of all I wanted to share that my commitment to the Lord and his calling has taken me to pursue Ordination in the United Methodist Church. During this fall I’m immerse in that process that implies writing papers and other requirement. I appreciate the support of the SPRC and the church, especially the leaders who are helping by taking a Sunday or two to share the message during worship.
Also I want to share that Pastors in the UMC are yearly evaluated both by the church as well as the Conference regarding their person, ministry, theology, etc. In our Methodist system is the Bishop and Cabinet the entity that appoint a Pastor to a specific congregation. The UMC has become more “savvy” in the way pastors are appointed and considers different factors to appoint or reappoint pastors such as congregation’s recommendation, pastor gifts and graces, community needs, etc. I completely understand if this is new for some of you, but yes! Pastoral appointments are made and can happen depending of circumstances and factors mentioned above.
Having said that, I want to share also that since the beginning of my ministry at Nestor UMC, I’m pursuing the goal to achieve our vision of being a nurturing place for all, making disciples for Christ. We have been making some changes, we always have tried to do the best in all situations to reroute the ministry of the church towards that goal. We need to realize that we are trying to do something that has not happened in our church in ten or fifteen years! That is bringing new people to the church so we begin a steady growth. I have talked plenty about the need to recognize who is the “new” neighbor in the community and the need to create new opportunities for contact.
This is not an easy task, but in God’s name “we will let down the nets again!” Luke 5:5b. It requires the participation of everybody with prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. I want to thank each one of you that are supporting your church with these five pillars of our commitment as members of this church and especially those who have increase their commitment to support the church with your gifts.
Martin Luther (an Augustinian monk) his 95 thesis of theological findings of some of the Catholic Church doctrines and dogmas, and on October 31, 1517, he literally nailed it on a church door. While Luther wanted to go back to a more biblically-based understanding of scripture, his attempts to reform the doctrine of the Catholic Church created a “Great Schism” of the church that became known as “The Protestant Reformation”.
Luther’s primary doctrine was “salvation by faith in Christ only”. There is no doubt that God inspired this movement, and like in many new movements, “the time was right” for this to happen. The political and societal environment in Europe allowed Luther to hide and escape from persecution. Also there was a new technological advance – the invention of the printing press – that helped to spread new ideas throughout Europe.
Luther is considered to be one of the 5 most influential people in the last Millennium! What happened during the Protestant Reformation changed the face of Christianity around Europe and later the entire world. A few centuries later the Methodist movement was part of the “second wind” of these changes.
God keeps calling Christians as we face new situations in our world and community, as we keep fighting the good fight, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The time is right to share our faith!
Let us be thankful for all those who came before us, spreading the Good News that reached even us at the “right time. “
See you Sunday in Church!
“Keeping the Vision”
Pastor and author Bill Hybels said “vision leaks.” It is important to keep the vision fresh, that is, churches need to be constantly reminded about where we are and where we are going because it is very common to lose sight of our purpose in life and destination.
One big example in the Bible about losing sight of the vision is the people of Israel after they left Egypt. Only two people (Joshua and Caleb) made it all the way to the Promised Land as they endured the journey until they reached the ultimate goal.
Becoming “a nurturing place for ALL, making disciples for Christ” is the vision that as a church we embrace. A vision is not a destination but a journey… as we are aiming towards this vision we embody the statement in our behavior and ministries.
Trying to fulfill the vision of the church is not always “fun”. Sometimes and especially in times of change, adjustments, modifications, etc. we go through moments of stress and challenge. An important factor for moving forward is to realize where we are and what the situation around the church is in order to know or remember where we need to go.
Considering that, as a congregation we have tried a few things. Some have worked, others not so much, and some others are still in progress. We have made changes to second service in order to expand the worship opportunities to the community. We have adopted a few new programs to connect with the community. We approved a major project to host senior people on our campus and provide extra income to the church. We have added a bible study in Spanish that is starting to prepare for a worship opportunity in Spanish.
“A nurturing center for all, making disciples for Christ.” In the end, that is our vision and that is our call!
See you Sunday in church,
Nestor Bell August 2017
Spirit of Summer!
Summer is really here and we can feel it!
However, for many of us summer is a time to rest, a time to renew and reenergize. It is a time take it easy and enjoy our weather (despite the heat and humidity) and may be a time to have a few fun activities scheduled for this month.
- This August we will have a picnic at Friendship Park on August 6th . The UMW is organizing a Carne Asada and then we will be joining a binational time of worship with communion on both sides of the border. This is a beautiful opportunity to experience the love of God that overcomes any barrier. More info about this activity inside this newsletter.
- And then on August 19th at 6 PM, it is time for our Pop’s Concert! This will be a fun time to enjoy an afternoon of music and fellowship. This is our choir’s annual fundraiser, so come and support the music ministry.
While families with children who are back in school are returning to the normal school routine, enjoy the rest of summer. Renew, reenergize, and get ready for what is coming at Nestor UMC.
See you Sunday in Church!
Nestor Bell July 2017
A New Horizon
This past Sunday June 25th we had a special Church Conference to discuss if Nestor UMC wanted to continue a partnership with CORE, a non-profit organization, to develop a project in part of our church property that will benefit the congregation with some revenue in a lease contract as well as provide permanent housing for approximately 100 senior citizens coming out of homelessness.
Core has been working on similar projects with the UMC and other denominations and organizations around the country. At our meeting they presented some details of the way the program is managed, and after questions from the congregation in attendance, the vote was taken and by an overwhelming majority (95%), the Church Conference decided to continue with the development of the project.
There are many technical and management details of the project and different loopholes that need to be taken care of, but definitely this has been an historic and important decision in several ways.
From a pastoral and ministry point of view, the development of the project reaffirms our commitment to our mission statement to be a nurturing center for all people, making disciples for Christ.
Also, this project will open up a new area of ministry for Nestor as we will be hosting 100 new neighbors living on our campus.
This project will provide fresh funding for ministries and enhance the facilities as we deal with our long-time struggles with parking and deteriorated streets.
A few months ago I chose the scripture reading for June 25th and “coincidently” the Church Conference was scheduled for that day. One of the scripture readings was Acts 4:32-33. “The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind!” They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them. (The Message version)
I firmly believe that our congregation has been faithful to this teaching and taken on a new and exciting challenge.
As I mentioned, there are still technical and management loopholes that need to happen in order to crystalize the project, so we ask for your prayers and patience as this project is developed. If you want more information about this project, please contact the office.
See you Sunday in Church,
Nestor Bell - June 2017
Acts Chapter 29
Some people say that we are writing chapter 29 in the book of Acts because we are still living under the era of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost was the day when the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled… “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Act 1:8.
As Jesus was ascending to heaven, he left the promise and underlined the main purpose of receiving the Holy Spirit “to be witnesses everywhere”. The Spirit brings the gifts, talents, inner assurance, etc. and as we experience these gifts and talents and live under the guidance of the Spirit we keep writing the story of the church of Christ.
It seems to me that in the same way the book of Acts tells the story of how the first believers were the instruments to grow the newly formed church; we can also be the instrument for any “new creation” in our congregation and community.
Some of this new creation is taking shape in a congregation in Spanish in the midst of Nestor UMC. For some of us, it will be the legacy of 121 years of ministry as we keep moving (and we already are) in a diverse community. For others, it is the answer to our prayers to revitalize our congregation. And for many more - including people in our community- it will be the vessel in which God will bring to them the Gospel!
Let us be in prayer as we keep writing Acts chapter 29!
See You In Church,
Nestor Bell - MAY
The Easter Season is a season of new encounters with the Risen Jesus!
As the praise song says, Easter is “the greatest day in history!” The impact of the Easter experience goes beyond one day and it has impacted humanity for almost 2000 years.
God keeps working with us in different ways, sometimes thru a supernatural and spectacular experience as in the case of Saul (Paul), but many times through a more subtle experience as in the case of the disciples walking to Emmaus.
As we walk with Jesus, Easter is an experience that strengthens our faith as we listen to the stories of resurrection and we learn how Jesus is actively trying to reach out to everyone and as we encounter the Risen Jesus our “hearts warmth” as the Holy Spirit brings assurance that Christ has been around walking with us in our journey.
We are the Easter People! People, who believe in the Risen Jesus, people who carry the message of the Risen Jesus. So as we keep celebrating Jesus let us have open hearts, open minds and open doors and spread the message that the Lord has risen! Because He has risen, indeed!
See you Sunday in Church,
Nestor Bell - APRIL
Looking Forward to Easter
There is a series of stories that we look at year after year. Since the beginning of Advent, the last weekend of November until Easter day, we look at the story of Jesus from his annunciation until his resurrection. As a matter of fact, this story was announced in the Old Testament, and by the time it was fulfilled not many people understood what was happening.
This story is alive and yet many people don’t understand that the message of this story is still valid and so it needs to be constantly repeated. As we retell the story year after year, and as we experience the story, we find hope, love, peace, healing, guidance, and companionship as we live out the Easter story.
That’s why we look forward for Easter! The Gospel story is not complete without Easter where all the teachings and promises were sealed by the promise of the Risen Jesus who said, “I will be with you until the ends of the earth.”
Like the old hymn says, “I love to tell the story” and this is what we need to do so that others might believe. May God bless you and your home with the Easter blessing of resurrection and new life.
See you Sunday in Church,
Nestor Bell - M ARCH
Experience Christ during Lent
Lent is a season of observance, reflection, and re commitment. In our Christian journey,we need to be reminded over and over again about obedience, discipline, commitment, and humility.
Observing Lent will make us grow as individuals and also as a community of faith in some of the most important spiritual disciplines (prayer, reading of scripture, serving others) and we might even develop the good habit of fasting!
It is important to understand that this is more than a mere tradition, but is actually a time of growth. When we have a learning posture, God will open our ears, eyes, and hearts to discover new challenges and new blessings for our life.
So I invite you during this season to experience Christ during Lent, to walk with Him during 40 days of prayer, devotion, learning, and worship. Here are some opportunities to participate:
- Ash Wednesday Worship – March 1st at 7:00 PM. Join in worship at Park Hill UMC – 545 E. Naples St, Chula Vista, CA 91911.
- 40 Days with Wesley -- A devotional booklet to follow during Lent. This is a great opportunity to develop a devotional life. Buy it online at www.cokesbury.com (Contact the office if you need assistance).
- Lenten Conference Series –, Series on Methodism, Faith, and Mission with guest speakers. Tuesdays during Lent at 6:00 PM in the Sanctuary, starting on March 7th until April 4th.
- Palm Sunday Worship 8:30 AM and 10 AM -- Celebrate Jesus’ commitment and obedience as he enters Jerusalem as The King!
- Maundy Thursday Service* Thursday April 13th at 7:00 PM Experience the Last Supper in a unique way.
- Good Friday Service* Friday April 14th at 7:00 PM Worship service that will be a walk through the “7 Last Words of Jesus on the Cross”. * Joint service with Park Hill UMC.
- Easter Egg Hunt – A fun way to tell the story. Bring your children and grandchildren to this event on Saturday April 15th at 9:30 AM
- Easter Worship Services. 8:30 AM and 10 AM
Let us celebrate the Risen Jesus – After second worship our traditional Easter Picnic.
See you Sunday in Church,
Nestor Bell - FEBRUARY
“Come and follow me.”… With these simple words Jesus was calling people to be part of his ministry. He would train, empower, and send them to be messengers of the Gospel. One of the most important tasks of the Church is to keep calling people to be Disciples of Christ. In fact, the words from Jesus, “Go, into the world and make disciples…” is what we call the Great Commission. But how are we going to make new disciples?
For years congregation have struggled to do this. Yes, society has changed, Sunday worship competes with many events on Sundays, families have busy schedules, etc. So we need to adapt and be creative in the way we call new disciples.
One thing that does not change is the need to pray for those that would listen to the message. That is a big step, taking into account that we are praying for people that we don’t even know. But a simple prayer can be to ask God to open people’s hearts to the Word!
Then we need to keep doing what we are doing in order to maintain our devotion, strengthen our spiritual life, and be committed members of the Church. (In other words, coming to worship, participating in a Bible Study, serving in a ministry, etc.) We need to be in good “spiritual shape” in order to create healthy disciples.
Another step is to adapt some of the programs that we already have in order to meet the current needs. Such as, in our case, combining the children’s program with the second worship service. That was a “big step” that has been working well and now this is the year to continue working on this worship service with our new music director.
And then we can create new opportunities for people to “come and see” what we offer as a church. We can look for ways to connect with the community through new programs and activities. One step in that direction was our “Community Fair” as well as the work we are doing to reach out to high school students. Also, we have our Bible Study in Spanish that is preparing to eventually begin a worship service in Spanish.
As you can see, it doesn’t take just one activity or a few months, but is more like “day in and day out” kind of work, in order to reach the next person who will follow the Lord as a disciple.
“Come and follow me.” That is how the disciples started making new disciples, until the generations of disciples finally reached us. And now we have the opportunity to find the next disciples of Christ.
See you Sunday in church!
Nestor Bell - JANUARY
What are You Looking For in 2017?
As we being a new year I always try to see what lies ahead in life and ministry. We all have wishes for good health and happiness and that is a good start.
As I was reflecting on the season of Christmas and the mission for 2017, one Psalm came to my mind… Psalm 121.
“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from?”
In every challenge, in every goal, in every plan for this New Year, I think this is a good psalm to treasure in our hearts.
“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
At Nestor UMC we are in the middle of negotiations with a non-profit organization to develop part of our property and transform it into an affordable housing program. This arrangement would provide new spaces for ministry at the church (including new office, yeah!), but also a new opportunity to redevelop the campus and enhance the ministry of the congregation.
On another front, we are hoping to start a new program connected with Southwest High School that is being organized by Karla Gastelum, our Community Ministries Coordinator. We will develop activities and engage with the young people of Southwest both at our church campus as well as in the community.
These are two of several new projects that are in the works. While we pray for good health and happiness for everyone in the congregation, we also pray for strength and vision as we take on new challenges in 2017, knowing that our help will come from the Lord.
We wish you a happy and blessed 2017!
See you Sunday in Church
Nestor Bell - December
There’s a Story to Tell to the Nations…
As we prepare for the Christmas season, many of us decorate our homes with lights, a Christmas tree, ornaments, etc. Many of these traditions started as symbols to remember what happened that night in Bethlehem, and these were ways to retell the story of the stable.
I read this in a devotional from Henry Nowen: “The story of Jesus is to be proclaimed and celebrated. Some will hear and rejoice, some will remain indifferent, some will become hostile. The story of Jesus will not always be accepted, but it must be told.”
This is our message and this is our story that needs to be shared, beginning with the season of Advent and Christmas when the Savior was born. Let's come together to celebrate and tell the story of Jesus!
From our staff to every family, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas season!
See you Sunday in church,
Nestor Bell - November
Tumbleweeds and The Gospel
During one of my classes in college I learned about this persistent and bothersome weed known as the tumbleweed. Yes, this is a weed that (so far) we have not found a useful purpose for, and they grow in places where we don’t want them. After all, it’s a weed!
As many of you know, during a few Saturdays last month, we had a group of volunteers that worked very hard to get rid of the tumbleweeds that covered the back plot of ourcampus. As we were dealing with this large network of plants, I started noticing some characteristics of this plant that can illustrate some wisdom about the spreading of the Gospel…
- First of all, tumbleweeds grow, and grow a lot! We had several tumbleweeds that were6 feet tall! This weed seems to grow slowly, but it is steady and persistent.
- Tumbleweeds grow with a minimal amount of resources. They take advantage of scarce resources (bad soil and very little water) to reproduce.
- They work as a team. As they are growing they link together in order to protect eachother against harsh winds.
- They fulfill their “mission in life”. Despite the comfort they get from being attached to a group, “at the right time” one plant will detach and start rolling (tumbling) where the wind wants to take it. As the weed is tumbling, it is spreading its seed so that other plants can start a new life and a new colony somewhere else.
Tumbleweeds! They fulfill their destiny to spread their seeds so that life as they know it can be spread and started all over again. That is part of their nature. And so it is with the Gospel… it is in its nature to grow, to endure harsh conditions, to mature, and to send some out into the mission field to spread the seeds of life… and in this case, eternal life.
See you Sunday in church!
Nestor Bell - October
Nestor UMC – Your Neighborhood Cornerstone
I would like to explain a bit more about this “new grant” that we received from the United Methodist Conference. While statistics show that denominational churches are in decline all over the USA, it is also clear that this trend is more drastic in communities that have a changing ethnic population.
Every time we pull out chairs in the fellowship hall with “Rolando UMC” painted on the back, I remember a friend that grew up in that church and sadly told me, “That church is no more.” However, I can also recall churches that have risen above this trend (although not without struggle) when they refocused their ministry to respond to their changing community. For example, National City UMC ministers to the Filipino-American community and Wesley UMC in San Diego has become a multicultural/multilingual congregation. These are examples of congregations that are thriving in their ministries.
Another example is a congregation that officially closed its doors a few years ago, Christ UMC in San Diego, and later re-opened their doors to various UMC language ministries and are now developing an extensive outreach program that includes welcoming refugees. They will also be hosting a new Good Neighbor Center on their campus.
Our mission statement at Nestor UMC is “A Nurturing Center for All People, Making Disciples for Christ”. Based on this mission statement, a group of our church leaders developed a plan called “Your Neighborhood Cornerstone” where “we propose a plan to revitalize and grow our church”. To design strategically and appropriately, we need to create and implement a 3-year plan that targets our 20-39 year-old multicultural adults and their families. This plan will concentrate on three areas of ministry: Leadership development, Response to social, and Worship and spiritual growth”. (*)
Why do we need to do this?
As we look at the demographics of the Nestor community, we see that while the Hispanic population in the community is 72%, our congregation is less than 10% Hispanic. Our community has changed (and also grown a lot!) This gives us the opportunity to make our mission statement real… to become a church that nurturesEVERYONE and makes disciples for Christ by becoming a “cornerstone of our community”.
We are indeed serving the whole community with our ministries of CCFA and GNC. Revitalization does not mean that we stop serving the present congregation, but rather to extend our ministries, to refocus some of the activities and find ways to connect our service ministries with our spiritual care and worship experiences.
To achieve this will take time, prayers and support. It also implies receiving new people with hospitality and Christian love. This is our challenge and this is also our opportunity.
See you Sunday at church!
(*) - Your Neighborhood Cornerstone proposal 2015
Nestor Bell - September
In the sermon series on Sundays we have been looking at the responses from Jesus to very specific situations that came up in his ministry, such as inviting homeless people to a banquet, healing a woman on the Sabbath, and his approach to handling money.
On the one hand, these choices were in line with what Jesus had been preaching and can be summed up in the two greatest commandments: “Love God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself”. On the other hand, these were choices that challenged his followers to take the next step in their faith and discipleship as they followed Jesus. In every one of these messages, the main point was CHOOSING GRACE!
When we encounter similar situations in our personal relationships and also in our relationships as a congregation with the community, the “rule of thumb” is again CHOOSING GRACE!
It was a blessing for me to participate in the activity that the UMW organized last month at Friendship Park on the border. Our group was comprised of people from both of our worship services which included children, a few youth, and adults from the whole spectrum of our congregation! In addition to our picnic, our group also shared communion with brothers and sisters on both sides of the border.
Our host, Brooke Collins, mentioned several times that “God’s grace has no borders!” I believe that if we start to apply that same principle to our relationships, activities and programs, we will not only project a message of hope, but we will also become better stewards of that grace that has been given to each one of us.
See you Sunday in church!
Nestor Bell - August
We Are Created to the Image of God
Lately, for some reason without planned that way, I have been watching movies where the theme is related to WWII. As you know Holocaust was one of the many great tragedies during those years.
The first movie was “Inside Man” (2006) it’s just a film with a decent interesting story line and good acting. It underlies (not that it was the goal of the movie) the situation of people benefiting from the suffering and killing of innocent people during the conflict.
The second movie was “Woman in Gold” (2015) based on a true story. Apparently the story line is about a famous painting and the hefty price for the real owners when they recovered the painting. However, the movie underlines the trauma, abuses and discrimination over one race just for being different. Also the drama of the refugees, persecution and extermination, although this message is clear, we need to be careful of the danger when we start to glamorize the suffering and extermination of an ethnic group.
The third movie was “Run Boy Run” (2013) based on a true story of a kid running for his life from the Nazi regime. The separation of families that war caused, again persecution and extermination are present in every scene of this crude movie about the atrocities of humans over humans. Somebody said: “When people don’t learn from history, they are likely to repeat it”. We feel that atrocities like those won’t ever happen again, although it certainly not at the same level but all together in many places over and over again the history repeats itself. Discrimination, persecution, people benefiting from wars, refugees running for their lives, and even extermination at different levels are happening today, more often and closer than we want to recognize.
Yes, I also asked myself why I write this in the newsletter.
Maybe because human diversity is God’s creation and it is important in order to understand current personal relationships in our society and the world. Maybe because equality and love are hallmarks of those who call themselves followers of Christ. Maybe because we are people that worship the one that would be called the Prince of Peace.
In an environment that is calling us to an individualistic and divisive culture, we, Christians, are always encouraged to witness to our faith! Like the old hymn says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!”
See you Sunday at Church,
Nestor Bell - July
July is Here…
Time flies! We are already in the second semester of 2016 and starting a new Episcopal year in the United Methodist System. As a congregation, we are looking forward for a new effort to come back as a congregation and to become “The Neighborhood Cornerstone”
Through resources, support and supervision in partnership with the Conference and District, we are starting the project that will take the congregation to a new level of ministry and mission.
The following describes the major areas of work:
- Leadership Development: Leadership training to identified leaders who will mentor
- Social Interaction: With the help of a community coordinator, the church will provide
opportunitiesfor the target group to participate in campus and neighborhood activities.
- Education: Provide opportunities for individual and community enrichment with activities and programs.
- Worship: Develop language and age appropriate alternative worship services and
establish small groups and support ministries.
There is a plan of action that is being designed for each of the above mentioned items. I understand this is too much information, which is why we will digest and present reports about this program in our next Ad Council meetings.
For now, I would like to highlight two things:
1. This work is in addition to and, in many ways, connected to what we are already doing as a congregation.
2. Most of the resources are provided by the Conference.
However we need your support, prayers, participation and to have an open heart to share love, an open mind to see what God has for us and to open doors to make new Disciples of Christ.
The challenge is there, the opportunity is here and the choice is ours…
See you Sunday in Church
Nestor Bell - June
This June I will be finishing my third year as your Pastor at Nestor UMC, and during the Annual Conference in Redlands, CA I will be voted to be received as a Provisional Member of the Conference. What does that mean? The Board of Ordained Ministries (a group of Clergy and Lay people) have interviewed me and recommend that I be moved up to the status of Provisional Member on my route to ordination.
In the Methodist Church it is required that pastors maintain a learning posture, not only to achieve ordination but also tomaintain “fresh ideas”, motivation, and trainingthat will help in the ministries they are assigned to. All that is to say that we don’t stop growing in the faith and we keep learning to serve our church better.
In the same way, churches don’t stop growing in faith andministry. A congregation should be asking, “What is next? ” Many times what is next is doing the “same old, same old”. What we do has been our fuel and motivation to be Nestor UMC for the past 120 years; however, what we do now is also the platform from where we start dreaming about what is next for our congregation.
As we are looking into new programs with the grant we received from the conference, as we are looking into new uses for our land in order to fund ministry as serve people, as we keep doing what makes us a church, I would like to invite you to keep praying for wisdom, for vision to see what is the next chapter as Nestor UMC, and for the legacy that we want to leave in this place that we call church in this area of San Diego that we call home.
See you Sunday at church !
Nestor Bell - May
Season after Season...
May is a month where several transitions take place. We go from the celebration of Mother’s Day (the third most- attended Sunday in churches, after Easter and Christmas) to Memorial Day weekend. Also, and especially this year, we are transitioning fast from spring to summer weather!
In the life of our church we go from Easter season to Pentecost. Easter season is a short season where we learn how the Risen Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples, and 10 days later when Pentecost came and the disciples transitioned from disciples to apostles!
The message was the same (the risen Jesus), but the attitude of the disciples changed as they started to have an “urgency” to share the message of the risen Jesus. Moreover, they needed to adapt to the new reality, that is living their regular lives and fulfilling the call of their ministry.
I just heard that organizations that thrive are those that have a clear purpose/vision for what they do. We can’t deny that this group of apostles had a clear purpose and vision! What they started after Pentecost with God's Spirit has come so far, all the way until today and to this place that we call church.
And that is true! Our church is also looking forward to the next step to take as a church in both the administrative area and in ministry that will motivate that sense of purpose and vision that was imprinted in the apostles’ hearts, which is... sharing the message of the Risen Jesus.
See you Sunday in Church !
Nestor Bell - April
We just passed Holy Week, the week that changed the history of the world, and last Sunday we celebrated Easter the greatest day in history when God did the miracle of the resurrection! Easter is the reason of our faith, the reason why we call ourselves follower of Christ. Paul said, “Without resurrection there is no faith.”
Now in the church calendar we enter to the season of Easter, a season when we wondering about the meaning of the resurrection. The season when we ‘remember’ as we break the bread, share the Word and fellowship with brothers and sisters.
This is a season of 50 days in preparation for the gift of the Spirit on Pentecost. So again is a time of discovery and manifestations like Epiphany, a time of discernment and denial like Lent and a time of ponder and remembering as we switch gears following not only a teacher and a prophet but the living God.
Now what does that mean for you and me in the present time? It can mean different things for different people. It can mean hope for an uncertain future in the middle of health battles, it can mean comfort and care as we … it can mean a new challenge to share the Word, to take a project, to live more holy, to live more freely. It can mean many things. But as we go through this season of Easter let us wonder, remember and wait for what God has for us in the near future.
See you Sunday in church…
Nestor Bell - March
A Busy Little Church
Since right now I 'm taking a special class in Seminary about worship, I have been reminded about the reasons and purpose for worship. Sometimes we confuse the reason with the purpose. The purpose is to worship the Lord, however the reason we worship has many reasons, for me one big reason is to worship the Lord because we are grateful.
During this Lenten season we are preparing to remember the tragic week in Jerusalem, but also the glorious day on Easter; all that was done by God, and nobody else. He has offered to us his grace and love and there is nothing we can do to “deserve” it. Isn't that something to be grateful for?
We are, as some friends describe it, "a busy little church," however once we accept the gift of Easter and start worshiping for the right reasons…and as we remember the real purpose of worship (to worship the Lord), we will become not only busy and faithful, but fulfilled and fruitful.
May God bless you during this season of Lent!
See you Sunday in church!
Change the World!
Very early in the year we are entering the season of Lent! Yes, this February 10th we will begin the forty days of Lent (plus Sundays) with Ash Wednesday, remembering Jesus walking to Jerusalem to change the world.
Yes, that sacrifice of Jesus on the cross literally changed the world. As Jesus was approaching Jerusalem he was unveiling the man that in his humanity reflected his true self, the son of God. As we walk through Lent, I invite you to ask, who is this Jesus? Who is this man who changed the world with his teaching, service, miracles, and sacrifice?
As we discover together who this Jesus is, my prayer is our lives can be changed in order to be the persons that God intended for us to be. Lent is another opportunity to be united in the Spirit and close to God so that together we can change our world!
See you Sunday in church,
Nestor Bell- January
Getting Ready for 2016!
We feel it’s a good time to thank you for all the support, participation and prayers for our church and its mission. Did I say prayers? Let’s keep praying in 2016!
This morning as I was getting ready to go with the prayer group that meets in the library every Tuesday, I noticed there was a man in the labyrinth. He was there reading something, so I decided to go and say hello.
As I was getting closer, I realized that he was reading the New Testament. I introduced myself and we began to chat. He told me that he comes to Nestor every so often to visit family and he likes to take time to be in the labyrinth to read and pray.
As I think about 2016 and all the activities and ministries that we have, as well as the new challenges in front of us, I think we should keep praying. So my invitation is for you to pray for our congregation, pray for our mission of making disciples, pray for each and every family in the church, and pray for your pastor!
Let’s pray for a fruitful 2016. May the Lord bless us to be a blessing for many, both near and far.
Have a happy and blessed 2016!
See you Sunday in church,