“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” 

Perhaps like many of you, I have become increasingly concerned about the continual disappearance of civility in our political and social discourse, and the growing division within our nation that is tearing at the very fabric of our society. 

Untethered discrimination, rampant racism, and the open demeaning of fellow human beings; not to mention the constant spinning of lies seems to have embolden some and numbed the rest. The questions that keep coming up for me are: How are we to respond to this? How do we live as Christians in the face of this overwhelming challenge? 

What also makes this even more difficult is the fact that the division growing in our social and political arenas is also deeply embedded in our faith communities as well. 

John Blake a writer for CNN offers an analysis on President Trump’s recent racist attack targeting Democratic congresswomen of color by saying that “ there’s a sobering truth to Trumps racist tweets that we don’t like to admit.” He goes on to describe that there are essentially two Americas in conflict with one another. 

Blake writes: “In one America, people react with shock when a President issues vile racist tweets against women lawmakers. In the other America, people say nothing. 

In one America, people speak out in protest after a President claims that African, Haitian, and Salvadoran immigrants come from "sh**hole" countries. In the other America, people nod in agreement. 

In one America, people become outraged when administration officials snatch migrant children from their mothers' arms and detain them for weeks in filthy conditions with no repercussions. In the other America, people remain silent. 

And in one America, people condemn a President for describing protestors alongside neo-Nazis as "very fine people." In the other America, people shrug. 

It's been said that Trump's comments about immigrants reveal that he really doesn't understand America. The U.S. was built on the concept of a melting pot, and immigrants are making the nation stronger, some say. 

But Trump's recent tweets could show that he understands America better than his critics realize. These two Americas have long co-existed. One is the country represented by the Statue of Liberty, and its invitation to poor and tired immigrants "yearning to breathe free." 

The other is the one that virtually wiped out Native Americans, enslaved Africans, excluded Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century and put Japanese Americans in concentration camps.” 

If this is true, where do we go from here? How do we bridge this growing chasm dividing our country? How do we as people of faith become bridge builders? How do we bring healing to a broken and fractured community? 

Particularly as Disciples of Christ, we say, “we are a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.” What does that mean in todays conflicted society? 

I remember attending a lecture many years ago where the speaker was Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners, and he was talking about the divisions within both our political communities as well as our religious communities. He said the battle often focuses on trying to find common ground. However, he said, that often neither side wishes to give up ground and so the battle continues. Then he said something that has stuck with me and I have not forgotten. He said what we need to do to bridge the impasse is to seek higher ground. 

It is so easy to get sucked into the battle of the divisions and incivility that we are currently embroiled in that we can lose our call to seek higher ground. I sometimes cringe when I hear or read disparaging words being hurtled at others regardless of which “side” we see ourselves on. It often feels like we are only digging our heels in on whatever position we hold rather than making an effort to listen or understand one another. I know I have found myself in that place. 

I believe Jim Wallis was right, the only way out is to seek higher ground. To call one another back to our true humanity with grace, forgiveness and a deep understanding of the fear that drives us to these places of brokenness, violence and division. 

To do this, at least for us as followers of the way of Jesus, we must continually immerse ourselves in his teachings, his attitude, and his way of living with much prayer and study. 

While he was in prison, Paul’s letter to the Philippians which was concerned about divisions within the fledging church because of false teachings, can serve as a reminder for us of what we can do today in light of the challenges we face. Paul writes: 

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” ~ Philippians 2:1-4 

Let me finish with this story. A newly arrived missionary at a post in China asked a little girl who had been an orphan and cared for in the mission whether she had heard the gospel. “No,” she replied, “but I have seen it.” I pray that those around us will not only hear the gospel message but also see it in us.

Together on the journey,

Don and Susan


AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt
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By Rev. Don Dewey and Rev. Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

One of the blessings we now have as grandparents is in rediscovering the joy and wonder of children. Watching our three young grandsons has been both challenging and absolutely wonderful! 

As parents I think it is easy to miss all the wonder and sacredness of their innocence because you are still learning what it means to be a parent. After all of the excitement and energy around actually becoming a parent starts to fade, the reality that you are totally responsible for this new life 24/7/365 starts to sink in! 

In all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) there is a wonderful story told of Jesus blessing children. Also, earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus calls a little child to stand before the disciples who were arguing who is the greatest in God’s Kingdom, and says, “…unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18.3) 

As a parent and now grandparent you can’t help but have hopes and dreams for your children or grandchildren. Yet even more basic you want them to be healthy, safe, happy and able to live full meaningful lives. You want them to have a strong sense of themselves, to be confident, to know they are loved and valued and important. 

So it is no wonder that the parents of those children would wish for Jesus to lay his hands on them. Perhaps they had heard stories of how Jesus had healed others or just wished for a blessing from kind Rabbi with the hopes that this would somehow protect and ensure that their children would grow well. 

I have always enjoyed baby dedications where we lift the child before the congregation and invite everyone to join the parents in raising up the child in the ways of Jesus. We lay hands on them and bless and pray for them. We want both the parents and the congregation to know that all children are valued and that we all have a responsibility in their upbringing. 

Though these stories in Gospels tell of the disciples scolding the parents for attempting to bring the children to Jesus, I have to believe that the disciples were trying not to interrupt or disturb Jesus, or perhaps just showing off their sense of importance. Either way, Jesus graciously says, “Let the children come to me…” 

Perhaps Jesus understood the desires of those parents for a blessing. Perhaps he knew how most parents worry about their children and will do almost anything to assure themselves that their children will be safe, healthy and whole. He also seems to affirm their innocence, their wonder, their curiosity, and their vulnerability as keys to entering God’s realm. 

So, like many of us these days, my heart breaks at the treatment of immigrant children by our current administration. Separating children from their parents/families is cruel and incredibly damaging to those innocent children. Punishing children while some accuse the parents of breaking the law can never be acceptable. 

Placing children in cells and cages where they are subject to all sorts of abuse and mistreatment, not to mention suffering from being torn away from the safety of the parents goes against everything we as human beings and Christians hold as sacred and important for children to develop in healthy ways. 

I cannot even begin to imagine the damage that has been done to the hearts and minds of these children that have been systematically removed from the love, safety and care of their parents and families. 

Today, most Americans would view the interment camps of our Japanese sisters and brothers as a dark and terrible time in our history. I believe this time will be seen the same way by future generations. This travesty must change and these innocents need our voices to say enough is enough! 

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” 

In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my friends, you have done it unto me.” 

May we heed the message of Jesus, to bless, love and care for all children for such is the Kingdom of heaven. 

Together on the journey, 

Don and Susan

Here’s some orgs that are doing great work supporting asylum seekers through advocacy, education and/or donations. 

- matthew25socal.org
- freedomforimmigrants.org (fights to end immigration detention - National Bond Fund helps asylum seekers pay bond fees)
- familiesbelongtogether.org (group of orgs fighting to end family separation at the border)
- sojo.net (Social Justice magazine)
- alotrolado.org (legal services for asylum seekers)
- nomoredeaths.org/en (Arizona org that leaves supplies in the desert)
- helpdetainedchildren.org
- togetherrising.org
- https://mailchi.mp/ccsw/word-to-the-church-concerning-detention-center-conditions

AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

Dr. Jim Cain, author, clinician, and all-round camp guru, led 35 of our best volunteers in an amazing and energetic training on Saturday, June 8. Loch Leven was buzzing with excitement for camp as our volunteers played new ice-breakers, teambuilding exercises, and helpful activities to get all of us in the mood for community and learning. 


Dr. Cain spent seven hours with 2019 Summer Camp counselors and directors sharing wisdom that inspires. “It is always better to show and tell than just to tell” said Cain, just before teaching a game that got us all laughing and interacting like old friends. We seamlessly moved from one activity to the next and the learning never stopped. There were so many resources shared that our camps are bound for a fantastic season!

I have been to dozens of camp trainings at Loch Leven, and this was the best!” Leah Dewey (First Christian Church, Orange)

THANK YOU, Camp Ministry Committee, for making this such a successful training for all of us! We worked hard but it was sooo much fun!

For more information, please visit www.disciplespswr.org/camp or contact Camp Ministry Committee Co-Chairs: Janette Jara and Ian Pollard – pswrcampministry@gmail.com.

See learn more about Dr. Jim Cain and the Teamwork and Teamplay program, please visit: http://www.teamworkandteamplay.com/

AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

We are pleased to announce that on Saturday, June 15th, 2019, the Regional Board unanimously and enthusiastically called Rev. Richie Sanchez to serve as the next Regional Minister of the Pacific Southwest Region, and he has accepted the call. Praise God! Richie will complete his service as the Interim Regional Minister of the Arizona Region this summer. He will begin serving in the PSWR in the fall when the term of the current Co-Regional Ministers is completed.

Rev. Richie Sanchez and his wife Jasmine

Rev. Richie Sanchez and his wife Jasmine

Next steps include final contract negotiations, introductions at General Assembly and other events, moving (Richie from Arizona and his wife from Indianapolis), and the election of Rev. Sanchez as the President and CEO of the PSWR at the Regional Assembly on October 19, 2019. Please pray for Richie and his wife, Jasmine, and our current Regional staff during this time of transition. Rev. Sanchez’ bio and other information can be found here.

His first day in the Regional Office will be September 23. To Contact Richie, call the Regional Office at or email Janelle (jvannoy@docpswr.org) or Susan (sgdewey@docpswr.org). For more information about the Regional Minister search process, click here.

About Richie Sanchez

Richie Sanchez was born to parents who immigrated to the US from Puerto Rico, and he grew up as a native Spanish speaker in the midst of cultural diversity in Brooklyn, NY. His parents were members of the Disciples of Christ Church and spent his formative years as a member of the First Hispanic Christian Church in Brooklyn, NY.

His conversion experience occurred at 18 years of age, and he developed leadership skills by working in youth and young-adult ministries. These experiences awoke the candidate to answer the call to ministry, after which he served in a number of commissioned roles in local and regional ministry leading up to his formal education in seminary, becoming an ordained Minister in 2015. He has a regular practice of journaling, prayer walks, devotions, and personal retreats, stating that "prayer, stillness, biblical reflection, and rest are my constant."

Download his full bio here.

AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt

By Rev. Don Dewey and Rev. Susan Gonzales Dewey, Co-Regional Ministers

“This is what I will do in the last days, God says: I will pour out my Spirit on everyone!” ~ Acts 2:17a 

The Pentecost Season is just around the corner, and there is a fresh wind blowing within the PSWR! 

Christian communities around the world will soon celebrate the season of Pentecost as the birth of the Church. This season commemorates the coming of God’s Holy Spirit to all people in a language that all could understand. This was affirmed in the message of Peter, who quoting the prophet Joel said, “This is what I will do in the last days, God says: I will pour out my Spirit on everyone!” 

For those first disciples, God’s Spirit was experienced like a mighty wind blowing, igniting a fire within them like dry kindling that bursts into flames of Gospel passion! From that moment on, the Good News of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire and over 2000 years later we are once again feeling its power. 

It is a time of transition and transformation with our Region as the mighty wind of God’s Holy Spirit blows in and through us! We are already seeing the signs of new life emerging in places where there appeared only the dry bones of Ezekiel’s prophecy. Places like Oceanside Sanctuary (formerly FCC Oceanside) with the leadership of Jason and Jenell Coker; FCC Santa Barbara and the Way Collective with the leadership of Tim Burnette; Mission Hills CC and the leadership of Ryan Prior; Community Worship Center with the leadership of Ruben and Cindy del Pilar; The Haven (formerly DelHaven CC) with the leadership of Clemette Haskins; Casa de Refugio with the leadership of Francisco Ramos and Soriliz Rodriquez; McCarty Memorial CC with the leadership of Eddie Anderson and Lisa Tunstall; UrbanMission with the leadership of Al Lopez, Nora Jacob and Steven Patten; or FCC Riverside and Iglesia Nueva Vida and the leadership of Matt Harris-Gloyer and Rogelio Martinez. 

The Spirit is moving in our newest church plants: Life Ministries in LA with the leadership of Ronnie Taylor; Missiongathering Pasadena with the leadership of Rich McCullen and Yani Davis; and Beloved CC with the leadership of Dale and Shelly Suggs! Beloved CC has also been recognized by the General Church as a church that has been planted as an example of the 2020 Vision. Read the full article here.

Yes, a fresh wind is blowing and it is a thrilling time of transition and transformation. New and exciting leadership is emerging in our Region with the recent ordinations of Rene Martin, Beth McQuitty, Larry Morris, Rip Rippetoe and Debbie Rice, as well as upcoming ordinations of Cisa Payuyo, VeAnn Clark and Joi Robertson! We also celebrate the Installation of Branden Johnson at FCC Burbank. 

Now with a new Regional Minister soon to be named, the PSWR is ready for an exciting future as God’s Spirit enlivens, empowers and explodes among us in ways we can’t even imagine. We pray that each one of us will catch the Spirit’s fire and be bold in our witness as those first disciples, sharing the good news of God’s love and grace for everyone. 

Friends, our world is hungering for our good news. Good news of a love that heals, forgives, seeks peace, demands justice, acts with compassion, and embraces all unconditionally. This was the transforming power unleashed on that first Pentecost, may it be so again for us and for our world!

Together on the journey,

Don and Susan

AuthorAlisa Mittelstaedt