by Rev. Javier Olivares, West District Superintendent
“We build to many walls and not enough bridges”
– Isaac Newton
A ministry with a new name is born, Maryvale Bridge United Methodist Church, “Building a Bridge with God.” This new ministry is fruit of Epworth UMC and Nuevo Pacto UMF.
Sitting on the southwest corner of Camelback Rd and 59th Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona, Rev. Peggy Ward and Rev. Laszlo Vega had a vision of reaching out to the growing Hispanic community around Epworth UMC.
It was the summer of 2000 when I came to Epworth UMC to begin a Hispanic ministry, riding my bike and going door to door in the neighborhood passing out flyers, talking to strangers and inviting them to a Bible Study. Later on, Billie Fidlin, Conference Director of Outreach Ministries, started a Sidewalk Sunday School and along with her we ministered to many people in the community. This was fundamental as we gained the trust of children and their parents and some of them connected with the church and this new Hispanic ministry.
Many servants were vital in the work of Epworth UMC and this Hispanic Ministry which later became a fellowship known as Nuevo Pacto UMF under Rev. Jaime Vazquez’s leadership. Jim Wiltbank, Robin Greentigerman, Jamie Wiley, Saul Montiel, Agustin Jimenez, Beverly Worden, Jaime & Silvia Vazquez, myself, Bob Holliday, and Joel Arvizu were some of the pastors and leaders who shepherd these congregations and had connection with both of them. Under Pastor Joel Arvizu, the new name Maryvale Bridge UMC was adopted.
Maryvale is the neighborhood where Epworth UMC and Nuevo Pacto UMF are located. This neighborhood was built in the 1950’s and 1960’s and it stretches from 35th Ave to 87th Ave and from I-10 to Glendale Ave.
Epworth UMC and Nuevo Pacto UMF felt that they had to come together to be stronger and reach out to the community if they wanted to survive. They understood their mission was to be a diverse church, a congregation that reflected its community and a name that was relevant to the community as well. After much conversation, prayer and discernment by the council and leaders the name of Maryvale Bridge UMC was adopted. Pastor Joel had a dream about this name and about the concept of a bridge between God and the community where the “goal is to use every opportunity and every event the church has as a tool to help them build a bridge with the community.”
Some of the ministries they want to bridge (and some they already have bridged) are a food pantry, community services, discipleship, African outreach, health and wellness programs, English classes, and bilingual worship.
For Epworth UMC and Nuevo Pacto UMF, it was paramount to have the vision of building bridges and not working in silos.
There is a story about two brothers who lived on adjoining farms and fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch.
Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding, and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days’ work,” he said.
“Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?”
“Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbor, in fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to hurt me, but I’ll show him. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”
The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.
The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing.
About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped.
There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge… a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work handrails and all – and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched.
“You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.”
The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother.
“I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but, I have many more bridges to build.”
May that be our way of living, to build more bridges.