Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Sunday Sermon: Our Mission at Dorcas House

 Acts 9:36-42; Philippians 2:1-13; Psalm 25: 1-8; Matthew 21:23-32

In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer And Sanctifier. Amen

 As you know, this weekend is devoted to sharing the art work, writings and lives of the children of Dorcas House, the foster home in Tijuana supported by us, and people both within and outside of the Episcopal church. The art project led by Amy Dagman and a great art team, is the next best thing to being with the children. This year’s theme is “Life Together”. Here are a few of the things the kids have written about the meaning of community life to them.

My name is Yajaira and I am 12 years old. Dorcas House/Vida Joven has been my home for three years. I am awaiting a liver transplant. Because I am on a special diet and take lots of medication, I don’t go to school. Instead, a special teacher comes to work with me at the home twice a week. I hope to finish elementary school this year. I’d like to be healthier so that I could go to school with the other kids. Both of my parents are dead. I have sisters but they don’t come to visit me. For me, “Life Together” means that I have many sisters and brothers. It means that I have a special teacher who is helping me learn to read and write. I love my family.

My name is Karely and I am 7 years old. I am in 2nd grade. Dorcas House/Vida Joven is now my home for the second time. I was here in 2011, and then I came back in 2013. My mom died in a car accident and I lost my right arm in that accident. My father never comes to visit me. I have a little brother and I miss him very much. For me, “Life Together” means learning together every day. I am very happy because soon I will get my new right arm.

My name is Eduardo and I am 4 years old. I am in Kindergarten. Dorcas House/Vida Joven has been my home for nine months. I was abandoned by my mother and adopted by a family, but that family abused me. Social services brought me to Dorcas House/Vida Joven. At first I cried all the time and did not speak to anyone. Now you can see how happy I am For me, “Life Together” means “fun.” We have parties and we share candy and cake.

The story of Dorcas House is one of love. The story of Dorcas/ Tabitha in Acts is also one of love. Luke, the writer of Luke- Acts, tells the story of Dorcas, a disciple brought back to life after prayer from the apostle Peter.

In seven verses, Luke presents Dorcas as much loved, and the miracle of her return to life leads many to believe (v. 42). Luke introduces her with a double name: Tabitha and Dorcas (v. 36). The names, in Aramaic and Greek, mean gazelle. Luke’s description of Dorcas makes it easy to imagine her home as welcoming, open and full of people. Luke indicates that Dorcas’s home functioned as a community center for believers. She may well have presided over a house church in her home.

 Dorcas is one of many New Testament women who, once converted to the new faith, set about building a community. This is a very short story, and we only get a glimpse of who this beloved disciple really is. The main thing we know about Dorcas is that “she was always doing good and helping the poor” (v. 36). we also find out that Dorcas was a seamstress and that she used her talent with needle and thread to make clothes for the impoverished widows in her community. It is obvious throughout this passage that Dorcas is quite loved. What are some things we learn from the life of Dorcas? First of all, we see her love for the poor. Jesus says in Matthew 26:11, “The poor you will always have with you” and therefore there will always be opportunities to respond to or ignore the poor in our midst. Dorcas chose to respond. We too have chosen to respond, and here's the story:

In the words of our former dean, Scott Richardson, here’s how it happened: “Our Canon for Hispanic ministry first visited Dorcas House to share an art program with the girls there. When she returned she told me about their plight; after ten years of solid work, the original founders had come to the end of the road. They were tired. Other demands and desires pressed in on them. Unless new sponsors could be found, the house would close and the children would be dispersed". The dean added: “I immediately sent a van load of bleeding heart clergy and sharp pencil business people down to do an assessment. They came back to say that, in their opinion , “we not only could do this but we must.” as a result, our cathedral chapter and congregation took on primary responsibility for this ministry over eight years ago.

The late Stephen Velez-Confer was one of the sharp pencil business people in that van, and he devoted what was left of his too short life to seeing that Dorcas House succeed. Our executive director, Sylvia Laborin, and her staff have responded in a big way to ensure that Dorcas House is a home that provides full- time care ( housing, clothing, food, education, medical attention, and lots of love) to around 40 children whose parents are incarcerated in Mexican jails and prisons, or in trouble with drugs. Sylvia is with us today with some of her family, and you will be hearing from her in a few minutes. Another member of the staff, Victor, is also with us today. Victor is a psychologist, and we are extremely fortunate to have him care for the mental health of the children, and to provide a fatherly role model for the children.

Dorcas used her creative skills as a seamstress to care for the poor. Think about what skills you may have that can be used to serve the children of Dorcas House. After all, God asks each of us to be faithful with the resources and talents we have been given.

We have medical/dental teams that go to Dorcas house about 4 times a year, we have trips that go down to the house once a month, some of them with themes, such as Mother’s and Father's day, or a Halloween party. Other times we just hang out, read to and play with the kids. I can guarantee that once you make the trip your lives will be transformed.

Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (mt 14). And as we heard in Philippians, “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (v.13)

So, think about this as you work for God’s “good pleasure”:
 In Tijuana

  • 6,000 children live on the street
  • 80,000 do not attend school
  • 400 used to live with their parents in prison

Dorcas House is changing those horrific numbers, one child at a time.

Now, we especially welcome Sylvia to share some of her experiences with us.

The Rev Canon Joan Butler Ford

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