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1000 Children

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by dottie on 16-07-2014

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It didn’t look like anything out of the ordinary for the border town of Nogales.  My hometown is used to seeing Border Patrol facilities, and we have always noted the humanitarian actions of the staff.  They see the same things we do on the ground, and you can’t be human without being moved.  So, when a group of United Methodist pastors and church leaders met outside the facility that housed about 1000 unaccompanied children that we’d been hearing about in the news, well…I wasn’t so impressed.  We met outside a gate-like entry that said, “U.S. Border Patrol, Nogales, Arizona.”  That was it.

But Special Operations Supervisor, Gustavo Soto, met us outside the gate and began telling us the story of the children.  About a month and a half ago the children started arriving from Texas.  There are typically around 1000 children, sometimes more, sometimes less.  All the children in this facility are unaccompanied minors. Ok, I don’t know about you, but that fact alone took my breath away.  The oldest is 17, and the youngest was a newborn, delivered at Holy Cross Hospital in Nogales.

Children come in and out in the processing ritual.  Sometimes 300 children are bused in per day, and the same go out.  You can see the buses on the hillside.  While there, they get bathed, medical care, and they make phone connections with family members.  They have Red Cross volunteers to play with the children, and Chaplains help with the spiritual needs.  They are divided into age groups and gender, and sibling groups are allowed to see each other whenever they ask. They have a playground.  And they have toys.  Everyone falls in love with the children.

But the children wear the same outfits while inside, and they have strict protocol to keep everyone healthy.  And they are not allowed to leave, of course, for this is only a stopping point along their already-lengthy journey.  They seek a land of freedom and possibility, but this is a necessary pause along the road.

We asked questions about why they came here, and what the journey is like.  They live in violence, under threat of death by gangs, extreme poverty, and weak structures.  Their parents hope for a life without violence and with food on the table.  So they believe the story that there is a better place for their children, and they pay the Human-Trafficker to take their children on a journey across national borders and through deserts and mountains, on buses and other forms of transportation.  The Human-Traffickers leave them at the Rio Grande River, which is the natural border in Texas, and the children are set on rafts, or they swim, till they make it to the other side.  When they hit American soil, they are known to run to the Border Patrol personnel with relief and gratitude for a country that will take them in and give them safety, and maybe even hope.

We wanted to find out how the faith community could help.  But, they are children who need to be protected from the public.  We felt somewhat helpless for a moment.

But suddenly that unassuming sign that said “Border Patrol, Nogales, Arizona” had a different meaning.  There were children there!  Many thousands of children who are looking for help in our country… Children who left their families because life at home was unbearable.  Children who were lonely, and sad, and happy, and hopeful.  They missed Mom and Dad, and Grandmother.  Children who were braver than I could imagine… Children who had travelled alone seeking hope and life…  Suddenly I felt as if I was standing outside holy ground, and I didn’t know what to do.

There are some things we can do.  We are still figuring them out.  But so far these things pop out:

1. We can pray.  Pray everyday for the children and their families, and their

countries, and for peace to rule over violence.  Bishop Carcano has called July 18-20 (from sunset to sunset) a weekend of prayer.  You can join this movement and follow it at

2. UMCOR, at the request of Bishop Hoshibata, has secured a $10,000 grant

which will be filtered to the ministries that are helping the children and parents who end up at the bus stations.  We can help by volunteering at the bus stations, especially if you are blessed with the Spanish language.  And we can donate to UMCOR at

3. We can volunteer through Red Cross, attending training and

volunteering to play with the children in facilities

4. Churches can work with the Office of Refugees Resettlement.  After

leaving the facilities, they will place the children in caring environments, and volunteers are needed to assist and provide care.  Or connect with foster care agencies that are looking for foster families to care for the children temporarily.

5. We can call our Congress members, and urge them NOT to repeal the

provisions in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).  This would help to prevent returning children into the hands of traffickers and violent situations.

6. We can advocate for reform and safe borders through the various groups

connecte with the Arizona Interfaith Network.  They work for change at the national level, bringing together people of all faiths for the common good.

7. We can connect with Border Community Alliance at  They are hard at work to improve the vitality of U.S. and Mexico border communities.

I left the meeting with the kind Border Patrol gentleman, and the overwhelmed church leaders, feeling like something extraordinary was going on in this spot of earth that I call my hometown.  I felt overwhelmed by the great need, but if each of us did one thing listed above, together we could create a place where this facility would be empty, and where children were free from harm and welcomed everywhere.  I’m sure of that.

And I left with a deep image from my own family.  My grandmother, Sarah Estrada, who crossed the Rio Grande herself, while having labor pains, so that my father, Rev. Louis Escobedo, could be born in America.  She didn’t do it for economic reasons, but because she wanted her child to have religious freedom.  That child of hers became a Lutheran pastor and missionary to Mexico.  And I am his daughter, a United Methodist Pastor and District Superintendent, the granddaughter of one who crossed the Rio Grande with dreams.  I am grateful for her, and for a country that welcomed me.  I join with you in prayer….

On Growing Up…

Filed Under (CrossRoads) by dottie on 11-09-2013

from the desk of Dottie…

We have been finding ways make major changes in our lives through the series, reStart Your Life.  So far, we’ve considered 1) What needs to die in our lives; 2) How to be your own Life Scout; 3) The need to fail big and fast, and get up and do it again; 4) How to be creative with your new life; and 5)  Falling in Love with God and life again.  It has been a journey that has taken some of us deeper into the stores of our memories, bringing us to look at our current situation, and called us to the place where a reStart is possible.

This Sunday, we will look at Going Deep with God.  What I mean by “going deep” is moving away from our childhood view of God and life, and releasing ourselves to finally grow up!  Jesus wanted us to be Christians who gained height in the faith, and not ones that remained in childhood forever.  He called his disciples to “grow up” and “grow out” right before he left this earth.  And Ephesians 4:14-15 (in The Message) reminds us,

“Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything–and I do mean everything–connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And take on an entirely new way of life–a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.”

We all need to continue growing, to resist complacency with life as it is, and to move toward a life that is a reproduction of God’s character.  The invitation to mature faith is not easy, but it is rewarding.  After all, who wants to live with a 2-year old Christian forever?

I’m looking forward to seeing you Sunday.  I’m confident you will bring along those in your life who also are seeking growth.  And I’m so glad that your worship of God will take place every day this week.

See you Sunday!

In faith, hope, & love,Growing Up

Pastor Dottie

Who is my neighbor?

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by mattfreed on 15-07-2013

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I’ve been thinking about our country’s response to the #Zimmerman verdict.  The senseless loss of #TravonMartin has stirred up a larger problem that has been ignored.  We are still unjustly racist, after all these years.

Preaching on the Good Samaritan this week, reminded me that we need to be asking ourselves the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus’ answer to the question posed by the lawyer was broad, inclusive, and beyond boundaries.  ALL of God’s creatures are our neighbors.  We are not given the choice to segregate our neighbors based on who we like, or who is like us.  As followers of Jesus, we have a standard of “ALL.”

The other point Jesus makes is that the one who follows God is the one who is merciful.  When we pass on by the hurting and those treated as “less than” us, we are not living out our faith.  We are, instead, living as “Virtual Christians,” who talk a good talk, but don’t put their feet on the same road.  But when we act out in mercy with compassion for the hurting, then we are a part of God’s kingdom.  Then we are making heaven come to earth.

So it looks like we have work to do.  A whole group of our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, continue to live in fear for their lives, and the lives of their children.  It is time for this to stop.  It will end when each of us love radically, relationally, and sacrificially.  It will end when we march against unfair judgments, or, it you think otherwise, unfair laws.  It will end when we stand up as real people of faith, and say, “No more!”  Loving God means loving our neighbor.

Trayvon Martin, and his family and community, are our neighbors.  Zimmerman too, and the Jury and the Judge…all are our neighbors.

We will find our way through to love.  Not without pain or consequence, but with strength and courage.  We have things to change…  Are you ready to join the life of loving ALL?

Faith, hope, & love,

Pastor Dottie

From the desk of dottie….the “Do”

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by mattfreed on 07-02-2013

Sometimes we forget, in the daily movement of life, what we are doing.  When I look at this picture, I think about the children at Los Ninos that are being fed:  body, mind, and soul…  And I remember the gift of Central Farmer’s Market, and how it keeps us healthy, whole, and community-focused.  And I recall how CrossRoads gave $727 to Imagine No Malaria, which helped save 72.7 lives from this disease.  And I think about the lives that are new to the faith, and how they are being turned around by God’s love.  Sometimes we forget what we are doing, but today I just wanted to remember…

What we do matters to God.  It is the extension of who we are.  The “do” comes out of the “be.”  We ARE followers of Jesus, and because of our own transformation, we DO things differently.  We notice the hurting people.  We offer help.  We express life in joy and peace.  We face the world with open arms and hearts.  We worship God first.  And we care for each other, and ourselves, next.  These are our “do’s” as we live a life that has been remade.

The gospels give us a “do” as well.  It’s called The Commission. The gospel of John describes the commission this way,

Jesus:  Do you love me?

Peter:  You know that I do.

Jesus:  Feed my sheep.

We cannot separate the doing from the being.  Our love for Jesus compels us to feed the hungry, stand up for the beaten-down, and care for those in hiding.

Today I pray that we love well…feeding bodies, minds, and souls for the love of Jesus.

In faith, hope, & love,

Pastor Dottie

Tragedy in Newtown

Filed Under (#prayforNewtown) by dottie on 16-12-2012

I’ve been thinking about the sadness of the incredible loss in Newtown, Connecticut…  And, I recognize that most of us cannot even begin to understand the depth of grief that is being felt by this loving community. We are shocked, saddened, maddened…and we are speechless.

Which is why it is even hard to write this post.  No words can express our broken hearts. Mostly we want to remain silent, or sit down and feel the sadness and let our tears flow.

The Christmas story has a part in it that we usually keep hidden.  It is when Herod was determined to kill this baby Jesus who would be king, and so, in an effort to rid the world of him, he killed all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem who were 2 years old and younger.  This, too, is part of the story…there is grief, and horror, that sit alongside the miracle of Jesus’ birth.  And we forget to hear the mamas and the papas cries, as they did in the days of old, when it was said,

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and much grieving.  Rachel weeping for her children, and she              did not want to be comforted, because they were no more.”  Matthew 2:18

In this story, many children were lost, and the women wept and received no comfort.  And perhaps that is what we are feeling today.  Where is the comfort, O God?

Or maybe we are silently grateful that our child is alive.  We hug tightly, love deeply, and encounter joy knowing that ours is still alive.  But that feeling does not come alone.  It comes with guilt, and sadness for the loss of other children.  Joy and pain.  They sometimes go hand in hand.  And the question is How do we comfort each other?

For now, we accept weeping as our communal offering to God.  We understand the dawn and the light will break through the darkness, but while we live in darkness, weeping is our common response.

And there’s one more common response…the response of a deeper understanding of love.  When we see who we lost, or who we could lose, then we love who we have even more.  Love rises to the top with incredible strength.

So may that Love guide us through this dark moment.  And may we respond today with great acts of love. And may we be comforted in each other’s arms.

In faith, hope, & love,

Pastor Dottie

on reading Scripture…

Filed Under (CrossRoads) by dottie on 29-08-2012

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This week I’m in Fresno, California in a studio called Floodgate Productions.  I am being taped reading portions of the new Bible translation, The Common English Bible.  Yesterday I read Ruth, Lamentations, and some Psalms.  I have put in one and a half days, and have three more days of reading.  I have been really excited about this project because I love reading the Bible, and because I want everyone to read it.  But there are many people who just don’t like to read that much, but now, with an audio version, you can listen to it on your way to work or while working out, or as a devotional time at the beginning or the end of your day.  The thing I’ve been jazzed about, is that people will hear the word in a way that reaches into the future.  We will never know how this reading brings hope to people, but we know it will bring hope, and faith, and love for generations to come.

I’m grateful, then, to Paul and Len at Abingdon Press, and to Gary(Doug), Judy, Dave, Jason, Josh, and Lorrie at Floodgate Productions.  They have done the hard work, and they have dedicated so much time and expertise to the project.

But, I thought….really, I thought this…that reading the Bible would be easy.  After all, I’ve been doing it for awhile.  But on the first day of recording, I found out otherwise.   I was on the second verse of the first chapter of Ruth (which was the second verse I had read in studio) and we had to do it over so many times…maybe 22 times….  It’s embarrassing to be at Take 22 on Verse 2!  AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!!

Day Two was easier.  I changed some things.  I imagined reading to the people of CrossRoads.  I saw your faces and told the story to you.  I took away the chair and stood up…like I was standing you before you on Sunday morning.  And I took off my shoes, so that I understood I was on holy ground.  Reading the Bible is being on holy ground.  Then it came…I read without 22 takes per verse.  We laughed, sometimes the scripture made me cry and I had to stop and breathe, and then we laughed again at some of my stupid mistakes of the tongue.

Amy Grant sang a song that made a verse in the Bible popular.  The line in the song (and the Bible verse) goes:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

The Common English Bible version of Psalm 119:105 says it this way,

“Your word is a lamp before my feet and a light for my journey.”

I pray this week will benefit all of us who need light for the road of our lives.  And, as always, I’m praying for you!

With faith, hope & love,

Pastor Dottie

I Forgot to Dance!

Filed Under (CrossRoads, Uncategorized) by dottie on 16-07-2012

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I had an incredible weekend with Jim in DC.  We went to celebrate with our friend, Rev. Dr. Joe Daniels, who has pastored at Emory for 20 years.  Twenty years in one church in the UMC is quite an accomplishment these days.  And this faith community reflects the deep love that has bathed them by Joe’s presence among them.  If I could choose any church to attend, besides CrossRoads, this one just might be the one…

So we celebrated with the church community on Saturday night at a banquet.  We enjoyed every speech and a special message about real love from Pastor Rudy Rasmus, all the accolades for our brother and his beautiful family, the worship music, and the way Joe just sat there smiling through it all…

Then Sunday came.  Jim and I walked into the church and received the usual hugs. If you’ve never been to Emory, it’s worth going just for the hugs.  They aren’t polite hugs, but hold-you-till-you-feel-the-love-hugs.  The hugs alone make me feel the heart of God.  The first worship song had me in tears.  (I have never gone to this church without experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit to move me to tears).  As the worship with music continued, and I felt the sway as the congregation moved their bodies in unison with the sound, and unashamedly raised their hands to lift up God.  Wanting to close my eyes and melt away into the flow of God’s love,…its a powerful pull…

The Reverend Vance P. Ross was preaching.  His was a powerful word about how we worship God in spirit and truth and how our lives are a worship service, and how sometimes we pretend-worship because our lives don’t match our hearts desire.  That’s how the sermon touched me:  every moment is worship, and in order to be in worship, we first need to be followers in spirit and truth with all of our day-to-day lives.

But, later, something hit me really hard as I sat in the airport waiting to board for the long trip home.  It was like a bright flashing light entered my soul and reminded me that I could’ve danced!  I could’ve danced, but I missed the chance to let loose and let God move in my stiff, Hispanglo body.

It happened before the sermon…

Joe was in a celebratory mood.  The celebration dinner was done and the sermon was being delivered by a trusted friend, and he was just there to greet and worship.  I know that is a relief for a pastor every once in awhile to just join in the fun.  And somehow the band got to vamping after the offering, and Joe started leading us in singing these words to the music of the Electric Slide…

Ain’t no party like the Holy Ghost party,

Cuz the Holy Ghost parties all the time…

And then he and others got up front and started doing the Electric Slide line dance to the music.  Pastors were dancing.  People were dancing.  Family members were dancing (one family member was videotaping the fun), and of course, children were right up there dancing to the Holy Ghost party.

I really enjoyed watching everyone, but like I said before, I missed something crucial!  I missed the one chance I had to really join in the worship with my BODY, mind and soul…  I was hesitant to dance because it’s not in my culture to do so in church, and because I’m shy, and because I’m not a very good dancer, and because I have a thousand and one excuses not to dance before God my Creator, the Lover of my Soul…

King David was transporting the Worship Chest back to its proper seat and he knew that worshipping God was a part of the deal.  And so it says, that David worshipped the Lord with abandon:

David, dressed in a linen priestly vest, danced with all his strength before the Lord. 2 Samuel 6:14, CEB

David didn’t just move his body a little, he let loose and used everything he had in him to dance before the Lord.  He really let loose!  I wish I could’ve seen that!

Oh, but ,… maybe I did.  I did see dancing with abandon before the Lord at Emory UMC, led by The Rev. Dr. Joseph Wayne Daniels (that’s Daniels with an “s”).  It just happened later, in my lifetime, in a church on the other side of my world.

And I stood there and enjoyed it, but I forgot to dance.  My bad.  My sad.  I could’ve danced.

Sunday’s coming… I hope you worship God in spirit and truth.  I hope you feel the love.  I hope you don’t hold back in worshipping the One who loves you the most.  And, mostly, I hope you get to dance.

In faith, hope, and love,

Pastor Dottie

Pastor jailed for Bible Study in home…

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by dottie on 11-07-2012

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Today is Wednesday.  On Monday, I heard that Pastor Michael Salman was in jail for worshipping in his home.  I guess zoning is saying he is acting like a “church” and not a “home.”  Of course, as always, the case is filled with details and twists and turns, but the simple fact is he is in jail because he has a Bible Study in his home.  He does not have zoning or permits as a church.  Only as a residence.  He does, however, have a permit for the building out back and for the sign out front.  And weekly his community of 30ish people gather together to study the Bible.  And they park their cars in his back yard…the lot is several acres.

I first met Pastor Michael when we were feeding the homeless at CrossRoads and a handful of people came with Pastor to help us every Saturday.  They faithfully assisted and fed the homeless, worshipping and serving with us.  I remember being impressed with Pastor’s humble spirit and with their faithful presence and encouragement.   At that time, Pastor Michael was already in conversations with the City of Phoenix because of his Bible Study in his home.  At that time the building out back wasn’t up…they were meeting in the living room.  About the same number of people.

Today is Wednesday and I went out to see Suzanne Salmon and their six beautiful girl children.  They welcomed me warmly, and we talked, and prayed, and hugged.  I left uplifted by their courage.  I went to lunch, thinking it was really too hot to go down to the jail to see Pastor Michael.  But I remembered that he was in Tent City, sleeping outside at night in this hot weather, and so I got my lazy butt off the lunch booth and went down to see him in jail.

I gave my credentials as a pastor and showed my ID and went in to talk with Pastor Michael on a monitor.  He still maintains a humble spirit and he is most concerned about his family, and he wanted to encourage me, and others, that God is with him, so he is fine.  I caught his passion for others as we talked.  We prayed.  I prayed for him, and he prayed for me.  I guess we are able to pray in jail.  I left thinking that God is powerfully present in this man.

I wanted to stay there and encourage him more, but our time was up.  The clock said so.

Sunday I preached about Daniel in the lion’s pit.  He was there because he refused to stop praying to his God when the law of the land said that, for a month, he could only pray to the King.  He broke the law and was thrown into the lion’s pit.  And God shut the lion’s mouth.  The king was so concerned about Daniel, he couldn’t wait to see him at the first crack of dawn to see if his God had delivered him.  God had.  Delivered him.  God delivered Daniel by shutting the lion’s mouths and Daniel came out in good favor in front of all the people and the king.  Without a scratch.

The city says his house is a church.  They said our church was a charity dining hall when we fed the homeless there.  Since when does the city get to redefine who we are?  What maybe has been forgotten is that all over the city and our nation, Bible Studies are happening in homes, and there is a phenomenon called “The House Church Movement.”  I don’t think zoning codes are going to be able to stop this…it is the wave of the present-future, and in fact, it is also the ribbon-thread of the past.

May God intervene.  And may the city bring favor upon itself by honoring the one who has suffered for his refusal to stop worshipping God in his home.  Because it’s Wednesday, and his girls have been missing him since Monday….

Pastor Dottie
(who also has Bible studies in her home)

Set a seal upon my heart….

Filed Under (Uncategorized) by dottie on 27-05-2012

I just finished preaching on Song of Solomon.  I’m preaching through the books of the Bible, and forgot that I’d have to preach on this love song that is both graphic and sexual. It is a beautiful rendition of a woman and a man falling in love and in lust, and chasing after each other.  It is pure and simple and romantic. When I first read it in the Common English Bible, the words made me blush.  I wondered how in the world I could use this in a sermon.

Mostly I just didn’t want to preach it at all.  I wanted to tell everyone to go home and read it for themselves, and then just leave it there.  It would have been my shortest sermon ever.

But then I got an email from a member who was really glad I was addressing sexuality as there are teenaged children around her home; and I had another in depth conversation with a pastor about the boundaries around our sexuality.  And I pulled my head out of my shyness, and remembered the world we live in:  a world of hyped-up sexuality.  So, if the world had so much to say about this topic, perhaps the church should chime in.  Perhaps we have something to say.  Perhaps that’s why Song of Songs was left in the Scripture with all it’s visuals.

Wesley had three rules for living:  1) Do no harm; 2) Do all the good you can; and 3) Stay in love with God.  If we layer his three rules over the topic of sexuality, it can guide us for this day that we live in.  Our sexuality is sacred, beautiful, and as much a part of us as breathing.  But it is also a place where we are tender, vulnerable, and easily wounded.  Because of that we need to protect this sacred gift.

Our society is filled with pornography, marital infidelity, and teen sexual activity.  And these things hurt us. They hurt those who are near to us. The church is not immune to these problems. Today we need some decent and clear boundaries of what we will and won’t allow in our intimate lives.  Nothing that hurts others; nothing that prevents good; nothing that takes away from loving God.

In the end of this book, the woman says, Set a seal upon my heart; upon my arm.  This is a phrase of promise and commitment.  The seal was literally around the arm…as a reminder of being true.  It was like saying, “I am yours and you are mine.”  Our wedding rings remind us of the same thing…we are each other’s for the good…for the love.  Our love for each other is sealed.  And our love for God is also sealed.

I didn’t want to preach on this topic.  But I’m glad I did.  I hope other pastors do the same.  God’s view of healthy sexuality needs to be out there in the world…  It may be hard to talk about, but people are wanting to hear.

Enjoy reading Song of Songs.  I hope you blush.

Another Christmas Sermon or Two…

Filed Under (Christmas, Community, CrossRoads) by dottie on 23-12-2011

Tagged Under : ,

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (reimagined by Matt, Laura, and Noah)

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus (reimagined by Matt, Laura, and Noah)

Today I am digging in the home front and spending the day preparing two Christmas sermons:  one for Christmas Eve services, and one for Christmas Day.  Every year I tell this story at length, utilizing Advent season to bring out the nuances of the amazing miracle of God coming to earth to be present with us.  It’s an incredible story and one that takes more than one Sunday to tell…  (The same goes for Easter!)  So today as I think of all that I’ve already said, and the two more messages to get out, I’m wondering what is left to say.  Really, so many times what I really want to do is play “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where the story is told in its beautiful simplicity by little Linus.  (Charlie Brown Christmas - YouTube)  And yet every year I seek to make it fresh by adding something current and relevant.

In seminary we took a class on Story by Mary Elizabeth Mullino Moore, and she taught us that the story itself will transform lives.  Our interaction with the story matters, but even so, the simple story will go down deep into a soul and do what stories do:  change the world.  I am remembering this as I prepare.  God is in the story and I am the story teller, but all that we preachers have to do this season is remember, relate, and retell an old story that never gets old, boring, or mundane.

Especially now.  When culture is barfing up materialism in the name of Christmas, this story will shine brightly to a world seeking for the real experience of God.  This is it!  This is our experience!  The story of a God who loves and cares for us so much that this God moved toward us, embracing us with the kiss of a sweet baby, a lone manger, and a tender message of hope.

Hope I do the story simple this year.

Faith, hope, & love,

Pastor Dottie