Monday, July 28, 2014

Prequel to a Pilgrimage

I have been stricken with a sense of the mysteries of God.

I am one of the signatories on the letter published nationally and sent out by our conference last week, regarding the child refugee crisis. What follows is a piece of that letter that calls Christians to action on behalf of these children:

"Deeply aware not just of our own immigrant stories and roots, but also of the clear biblical imperative to care for the stranger in our midst, we invite all settings and all leaders of the United Church of Christ to respond in any of the following ways:
* Pray for the children who seek refuge across our southern border, and see in them the face of Christ;
* Support with your donations organizations that house, clothe, feed, educate, and provide medical care to the refugee children;  
* Write to your elected Representatives and share with them your concern for these children, asking them not to see them as a threat to us or as criminals;
* Stay alert to emerging opportunities to respond to the needs of the refugee children. One good source can be found here on the UCC website.   
* Prayerfully consider sermons, newsletter articles, adult and youth classes that articulate a narrative of care for the stranger and alien among us.

The United Church of Christ has a long and proud history of demonstrating courage in the struggle for justice and peace. Now, as ever, our resolve is being tested. It is with a good deal of hope and courage that we face this injustice. Let the actions forged by our compassion silence the voices of hatred and fear that ring right now in the ears of these precious children of God. Let them know we are Christians by our love."

I was moved to "see in the them the face of Christ," and I rather casually asked, via Facebook, if two or three people might want to go to the US border with me next week to bear witness to God's love for these young ones who are fleeing violence, drugs and hopelessness in their home countries.

I am pleased to say that, by the power of God and social media, I will be joined by members of Zion UCC in South Bend, Ind. on a "Pilgrimage for Children's Justice" Aug. 4-9. Pastor Wendy Bruner will accompany three members of her congregation and me on a road trip to Tucson, Ariz. and the US/Mexico border. Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ has offered partial funding for our trip and The Good Shepherd UCC in Arizona has offered us housing and help with our itinerary.

Our hope is to visit a detention center both to witness the conditions we've read about in the media and to offer love wherever we are allowed. We plan to meet with leaders in the Sanctuary Movement and with partners from Church World Service who are providing humanitarian relief. Pastor Delle McCormick, former Executive Director of BorderLinks, a nonprofit organization in Arizona that focuses on cross-border relationships, and now Senior Pastor of Rincon UCC in Tucson, Ariz., has extended herself in hospitality to help us plan for an experience that will not only impact our lives, but have an impact on those who we meet, talk and pray with along the way.

Be at peace, and in be in touch, won't you.

John Vertigan