It has been so long since I have written here and yet I have you all on my heart so much of the time. These last months have been so incredibly full—the only other similar time in my life has been when my children were born and very young. I have been overwhelmed by newness and the birthing of something fragile and beautiful in my life. I have found a new way to minister in the world.
At the same time I am aware that I am like Moses—I stand with sandals not yet un strapped, gazing into the roaring fire in front of me. I am afraid that the task at hand is too great, the hopes of those I meet and accompany too large. Before Egypt I am dazed by fear and confusion.
It began last spring as I looked for a way to become involved in this new city. My heart called me to help immigrants and through trial and error I found this wonderful group of people who were providing a virtual sanctuary to those fleeing violence, oppression and bondage in their countries of origen. I found that even my weak Spanish was helpful and found myself being an interpreter for individuals caught up in the Immigration Court system. Before long I was leading Accompaniments to court hearings and check-ins with enforcement.
Those are the technical duties I am performing. On the level of heart, it has been a whole different realm. What God has shown me over and over is that if I want to encounter the Divine I must do this. I must participate in the accompaniments and the pro se clinic and prayer vigils because that is where God is. I am meeting God there. And through our friends, God tells me their stories—stories of violence and fear, of rape and the babies born as a result, of gang recruitment and threats, of guns held to their heads in the middle of the night. The worst is communicated through tear-filled eyes—what cannot be spoken in words…The eleven year-old boy who cannot bring himself to tell his story, even to his father, sobs and begs not to be returned.
I also hear the stories of bravery—of the young mother who left in the middle of the night with her small children, leaving her abusive partner—of the 13 yr old boy who decided after being robbed and threatened by gang members not to go back to his job as a grocery store sacker but instead to wake up the next day and set off for the US without even letting his mother know where he was for fear she would be victimized, walking for two months alone in search of something better. And the grandmother who traveled by any way she could manage to bring her handicapped and ill grandchild to a place where he can receive the medical care she has only ever heard about.
I hear how afraid they are now—how they only leave their homes if absolutely necessary—how they forgo medical care–how rumors run rampant in their communities and its hard to know the truth.
I hear how deeply disappointed and heartsick they are to know they are not wanted in the States and in some cases despised. How all they want is a better life for their children—opportunity and safety. I hear how sometimes people take advantage of them because they are vulnerable—employers don’t pay them and lawyers take their money without giving adequate services. How they don’t have the money to pay the necessary fees to obtain work permits and other documents. And I hear them say that despite it all the worst day here is better than the best day in their countries of origin. They tell me God is good and God will continue to bless them.
Today reading the words of Peter in Luke’s gospel: “Lord, I am a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself,” I am aware of how there is a huge part of me that doesn’t want to be sent. Sometimes when I stop and just gaze, it feels too big for me. I literally don’t have the words at times. I struggle with my household Spanish. I feel so, so small next to their hope and faith.
But then I return to my heart and I realize that now that my heart has found its home—I can’t walk away. I never really knew that there could be a feeling stronger than my fear—stronger than my confusion—stronger than my apathy. But I know it now—its Love—it binds me to them—it works so so hard to knock down whatever borders I have left– whatever keeps us separate.
I don’t have answers to the larger political questions but the great news for me is that I don’t have to know. I know the Lord of all nations and peoples, the Divine One who will work out all worldly separations in God’s time. I know what the Divine in my heart knows. And although I sometimes stand dazed and unable to put one foot in front of the other, I have heard God call me by name. Please keep my in your prayers.