Hello, I’m Mark Nakagawa, West District superintendent [United Methodist Church], and it’s my privilege to share this devotion with you on Wednesday of Holy Week.

The writer of the New Testament Book of Hebrews writes in the 12th chapter of “a great cloud of witnesses,” those faithful who are named in a previous chapter and who have gone before us. They are named because of their faithful living that was modeled by vision as they looked to Jesus as the source of life.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic we are living in, I think of the great cloud of witnesses that has shaped my life and ministry; the saints of previous generations who founded our historic Japanese American churches. Most of those churches were born before and during the Great Depression by first-generation immigrants, only to be shut down a few years later due to WWII internment and incarceration.

Just as we are currently confined to our homes, those saints were confined to the daily reality of living in camps with barbed-wire fences, sharing a room with other families in their barracks.

In many ways they and their families suffered, and their suffering resonates with the Holy Week theme of suffering that Jesus endured upon the cross, and the shame he set aside in willfully going to the cross.

Yet, in the midst of their suffering they kept faith and hope alive that they would one day leave those camps, return to their homes and rebuild their lives, churches and communities. Their faith in Jesus was lived out through acts of kindness, caring and compassion within their limited confines, even and especially to the non-Christians who lived among them.

At the moment, we don’t know where the COVID-19 pandemic is taking us. But we can be like that great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews and in those internment camps, who looked to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of their and our faith. This is the hope that we have, as we continue to walk with Jesus throughout this week.

Let us pray:

Holy God, you hear our words, you hear our hearts. Keep us in the grace of knowing we are known and heard, so deeply, so graciously, so constantly. In Jesus the Christ. Amen.

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