The Episcopal Church of the Messiah is located at 721 Saint Louis Street in Gonzales, Texas

Our office phone number is 830.672.3407. 

Our mailing address is P.O. Box 139, Gonzales, Texas 78629.  

Our parish email address is messiah@gvtc.com 

 

WEEKLY SCHEDULE....

10:30 AM Sunday Worship (Holy Eucharist) 

7PM Monday & Friday: (AA Meetings) 

WOMEN'S GROUP, 2nd Wednesday, 6 PM at Elk's Lodge (Except in Lent)

MEN'S GROUP, 2nd Wednesday, 6 PM at Elk's Lodge (Except in Lent)

Vestry Meetings normally 3rd Wednesday 6pm 

The Rev. Shanna Neff

 

 

 

 

 


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UGANDA AIDS ORPHAN MINISTRY

Our parish sponsors 13 children, mostly AIDS orphans, from the diocese of Muhabura in southwest Uganda, enabling them to get an education, which is not free in their country.  St. John's in Sonora has partnered with us and now supports an additional 12 orphans through our ministry.  Letters and pictures are exchanged throughout the year.  For anyone interested in sponsoring one of the 400+ orphans who are on a waiting list, the cost is only $250 for secondary and $200 for primary.  This covers school fees, uniforms and a few incidentals necessary to their education like lanterns and fuel for the entire year.  We collect the money in the fall and wire it to Bishop Shalita in December for the following year's fees.  Fr. Randy loves to share his passion for this ministry with anyone who is interested.  Please contact him if you'd like for him to make a presentation.  He's included an interesting article below these pictures if you are interested.

 

Bishop Shalita, the retired bishop of Muhabura came to our parish every couple of years to speak to us about the impact of our ministry.  Fr. Randy developed a close relationship with Bishop Shalita 10 years ago at his former parish, and stayed at the Bishop's home on his first visit to Uganda to meet the orphans in 2006. Bishop Shalita died recently a short time after his last visit with us.

Fr. Randy with Wilbur, his sister and his blind, one-legged grandmother in Kisoro, Uganda.

 

The Art of a Thankful Heart

By Fr. Randy Melton

 

The average lifespan in Uganda is about 52, due mostly to the AIDS epidemic over the past few decades. For all intents and purposes, there's a lost generation between the very young and the very old.

 

In 2006 I was in Kisoro, Uganda visiting the 52 orphans my former parish sponsored. It's amazing how much I learned from these children and their guardians about what it means to be gracious. The first orphan I met was Wilbur, a 10 year old boy whose parents died of AIDS. He's the primary caretaker for his blind, one-legged grandmother, who's raising Wilbur and his younger sister. He helps bathe her, collects fire wood and roots, and provides her with food and water.

 

What a lively, beautiful woman this elderly matriarch is! She's obviously the safe place, the heart and soul of Wilbur's world, and a paragon of faith. We heard and learned our first Urufumbira words from her lips, words that were repeated over and over during our visit the next ten days. “Imana ishemwe! Imana ishemwe! Imana ishemwe!” which means, “God be praised!” Then she said, “Wakosi, wakosi, wakoski chayne!” which means, “Thank you, thank you so very much!”

 

The language itself is colorfully woven with an attitude of gratitude that permeates the very culture. I asked the bishop how to say “You're welcome,” and he replied, “Wakosi Gushima!” which means “Thank you for thanking me!” A response to gratitude is even a response of gratitude!

 

As a thank-you gift for hosting my son and me in their home, I gave the bishop's wife a gardening stool with a few digging tools. She promptly and profusely thanked the Lord...not me, but the Lord...for giving her this gift through me. Her depth of faith was remarkable and not unique among Ugandans. It was both humbling and instructive to me, as I became aware of the shallowness of my own faith in comparison.

 

It's often said that the little things in life are valued most. Typical Americans visiting Uganda will complain about inadequate lighting to shave by, no hot shower water, or no shower at all, a TV with no reception, a lack of food choices, no restroom facilities like we’re accustomed to, and not enough rest time after being in the hot sun all day. It’s definitely the little things that count in terms of our comfort.

 

Ugandans are also interested in the little things, but in a very different way. Little things provide the seeds of gratitude that praise God rather than complain. Having clean water to drink and enough food in their stomachs, a roof over their head---even if its made of mud, the love and support of a caring community, the opportunity to attend school, sharing a common meal with new friends, generously and joyfully sharing what little they have with others as a show of hospitality, showing a genuine interest in the life of a total stranger, and always responding with smiles and friendly gestures. These little things elicit “Imana ishemwe!”

 

One distinct difference between Americans and Ugandans is that we exude self-importance and they practice humility. In Ugandan culture, every personal encounter is an opportunity to learn more about the other person. Every meal or social time is another lesson in generosity and hospitality, an event that serves as an opportunity to seal or cement new relationships. This is a very biblical way of living, one which honors relationships above all else in human experience. It’s also a model that's become somewhat counter-cultural in American society.

 

Another clear difference is our affluent society which worships things, versus. their simplicity of life and reverence for relationships. We Americans have a very skewed idea of what necessities are---cell phones, computers, IPods, DVD’s, daily Starbucks Java jolts, climate-controlled environments, material wealth and all the trappings that go with it. Our societal expectation is the self-deception that we need these and other things to progress and be happy, even though much of our technological advancement comes at the expense of relationships. What’s really important? What is it that truly brings us joy and fulfillment?

 

We’ve lost our ability to come to the table, which is the core of the Ugandan social life. “We’ll get to business later,” I was often told, “But tea time comes first. You can nap...but after tea.” Stop and smell the roses. Stop and stay connected. Here in America, we're so separated as a society because we’ve forgotten what its like to share the table. We're so hurried that we no longer make time for communion in our own homes...and sometimes not even in our own church.

 

Americans tend to view our world through the eyes of “haves” and “have-nots.” We pity the “have-nots” and hold up the “haves” as the ideal. One easily observes that the people of Uganda have “nothing” (materially speaking), yet possess an extraordinary faith and a joyful countenance. Seeing the joyful faces of these folks who share themselves so openly, it's painfully obvious that they possess something that we lack. They live their faith by continually giving God thanks and praise.

 

While we tend to complain about the few things we don't have, Ugandans choose to be grateful for the few things they do have. They recognize as the Lord's blessings what we take for granted. The longer I was there, the easier it became to shed my American biases and start seeing as the Ugandan sees, and grow closer to viewing reality through God’s eyes of grace, with thanksgiving in everything.

 

May the Lord open our minds and hearts this Thanksgiving holiday to perceive the blessings of God's hand that perhaps we’ve been too blind to see. Let us pray for renewed and inspired insight. As Wilbur’s blind, one-legged Grandmother said to me, “My physical eyes are blind, but the eyes of my heart are wide open.” May we receive such eyes. “Imana ibane namwe!” God be with you!