Sources of hope viewed

Considered along with love and faith to be one of the essential Christian virtues, hope can be elusive in contemporary society, ministers say.
But the Revs. Janie Garms, Gian Carlo Villatoro, Kathryn Almendarez and Darren Willis say it’s attainable even in the worst of times.
Citing Proverbs 13:12, the Rev. Garms said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
“Without hope, we remain immobile and full of doubts,” said the Unity of West Texas Church pastor. “We dare not challenge the premise of our fears.
“Finding inner strength requires an effort to look beyond the visible and known. It requires a true search for what is not yet revealed.”
Garms said everyone has the ability to imagine better possibilities. “To let our being express this is the beginning of creation,” she said.
“It’s our thoughts that create the world around us. We have more power in thought than most of us can fathom.”
Quoting Helen Keller (1880-1968), who was born deaf and blind but became an author and political activist, Garms said, “To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
“Henri Nouwen in his book ‘Turn My Mourning into Dancing’ writes that during times of testing we can cultivate an open heart through the concentrated effort of disciplining ourselves to create the spaces in our lives where we cultivate closeness to God,” she said.
“It’s a place where we have turned our lives over to God in such a way that he can guide us, speak to us and touch us in a way that becomes sacred.”
The Rev. Villatoro said the Bible is indispensable. “Reading the word of God is an investment of personal time that an individual should make every day,” the Victory Church pastor said.
“In times of trouble, I read the Psalms. They’re very serene with a sort of melancholy that touches the deepest part of your soul. If you’re in need of wisdom, the Book of Proverbs will give you hope about what to do.”
Villatoro said the Bible is best absorbed in solitude. “Go to it with no one around you,” he said.
“A lot of people are afraid to be alone, but they shouldn’t be. They should enjoy reading the Bible because it is there that God speaks to everyone and there that they receive hope.”
The next best source, he said, is one’s minister. “Naturally, people have questions,” Villatoro said.
“They should bring their questions to their minister. Then their knowledge will be increased.”
Asked how one knows he or she has hope, he said, “Because you have peace.
“There is no fear. You trust in God that everything will be all right. You’re joyful. It has nothing to do with how much money you have or whether you do or do not have problems. You have that joy.”
The Rev. Almendarez, co-pastor of Open Door Church, said “I hope so” is an often-heard catchphrase. “We want something to happen or desire something to be different,” she said.
“We need light to enter our darkened world and need the promise of good to be fulfilled. We need the Holy Spirit to enter our sin-laden world and afflicted lives.
“We long to love life and see good days. We long for peace and unity. We long for a sense of security and well-being. We desire someone greater and stronger than ourselves to intervene and act on our behalf.”
Almendarez said anticipation and promise should result from God’s intention for good and faithfulness. “Romans 5:1-5 says, ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God,’ ” she said.
“Hebrews 11:1 says faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. When hope becomes faith, a change in definition comes. The most important sense of this verb ‘hope’ is the firm conviction that because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead we can have confidence as we face the future.”
Citing Hebrews 10:22, Almendarez said, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water, for he who promised is faithful.”
Pursuing his “Hope for the Hood” program with the distribution of free food and other initiatives, the Rev. Willis said the most hopeful people are those who have the least in material possessions.
“The people who lack hope are those with the most because they don’t need it,” the Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor said. “The most hopeful are those who are struggling to pay bills, don’t have insurance and are barely eating. We’re showing them their hope is real.”
Backed by the West Texas Food Bank, the church gives two big food boxes to 75-100 people each mid-day Friday in its fellowship hall and this semester will serve hot meals to Zavala Elementary and Ector Middle School students from 4 to m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
It needs two vans to pick up 30 children each Sunday for church.
Asked what is the best source of hope, Willis said, “The belief that God is a loving God and he will make a way out.
“It’s a by-product of faith. People who rob, steal, sell drugs and prostitute are in a hopeless state of mind. We have it when we believe things will get better even though the situation is beyond what most people could stand.
“Sometimes, those who pull themselves up by their own bootstraps trust less in God. They believe they only need faith in themselves and they become their own gods.”