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My wife Felida and I were officially homeless for almost four months in 2020, from Aug. 24th when we sold our home in Sierra Vista to Dec. 14th when we got the keys to our new home in Vail southeast of Tucson.  Because we’re blessed to have a steady income and supportive family, our ‘homelessness’ was a much different and easier experience for us than it is for many people – a walk in the park, really.  Three vacation rentals and several visits to my wife’s parents later, we are once again homeowners.

My prayers are with those who are sleeping outside, or camping out on a friend’s couch, or living in their cars.  This year of pandemic has been tragic for so many who’ve lost their jobs, lost their incomes, lost their homes.  As our government leaders struggle to agree on how to provide sufficient assistance to those who are struggling, the work of our churches to fill in the gaps by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless is critical.  I am grateful for all of the ways South District churches are responding to real human need.

Ten months ago I unofficially began this new ministry of working with the people, pastors, and churches in the South District as together we seek to be a courageous church – loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope.  One of my first experiences as a district superintendent in training was to join the Bishop and Cabinet for three days of meetings at the United Methodist Center in Phoenix – what I expected to be the first of many road trips in my new capacity.

Methodist preachers are traditionally itinerant, a word that comes from a Latin word that means ‘to journey’.  Like the frontier Methodist circuit riders who traveled by horseback from town to town to peach the Gospel, I expected to have visited all of our congregations in the South District by now.  And then a week after I went to my first Cabinet meetings in Phoenix, the pandemic hit and the road trips stopped.  All of a sudden, we all stayed home and started meeting on our computers rather than in person.

All of which made being ‘homeless’ for four months even stranger.  Felida and I were supposed to stay home for our health and for the health of those around us, but we didn’t have a home of our own to socially distance in.  And so I am even more thankful for this new place in the desert, this new home to call our own.  And even knowing how blessed we’ve been to experience warm hospitality during those four months, I am grateful that our personal journey of staying in other people’s homes is over.

The world is a year into the Covid19 pandemic.  Ten months ago, our journey as a church together came to a sudden roadblock and we had to change directions.  But we have not stood still.  The journey is different, but we have continued forward.  We have learned new ways of journeying together, new ways of reaching new people for Christ.  We have discovered new opportunities to work for justice in the world.  And in the midst of struggle, we have found new hope in the signs of new life around us.

Who knows what 2021 will bring?  I am praying with many of you for a return home to worshipping together in our churches, for safety in being together without worry or concern, for a reunion with loved ones and friends from whom we’ve been separated.  I am looking forward to the opportunity for more road trips around the South District and the Desert Southwest Conference.

I know that we need to be patient for a while longer.  But I know that the journey together continues, because as a song by Mary Mary once said, I know the Lord didn’t get us this far just to leave us behind. And best of all, God is with us.

Thanks for listening –
Matt

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