Two of our Core Values here at Missiongathering Christian Church are Courage and Transformation. Here's a little more about what those words mean to us as a church...
Courage and Transformation
It was about 5 years ago I was on an immersion study trip in Tuscon, AZ, studying border issues. We spent some time in Nogales, AZ on the US side, and also in Nogales, Mexico. I think it was our second day there, we went to a soup kitchen that was run by a Catholic charity that served migrants recently apprehended trying to cross the border and returned to the south side of the border by US officials. From when they are apprehended, migrants receive only light rations while they are in detention, so by the time they are released, they are obviously ready for a full meal again.
I was there one morning with my group, as the director explained who they were and what they did, and talked about some of the people they served. As they ate their meal mostly consisting of beans and rice, we were encouraged to go out and talk to some of the migrants.
I would generally consider myself and introvert, I don't really enjoy going up to strangers and initiating conversation, especially when I can't even speak the same language. But, I was feeling the importance of taking this opportunity, so I grabbed one of the group leaders to translate and headed out into the crowd.
Stopping at one table, I walked up and said as best I could in Spanish, something to the effect of, "Hello, my name is Loren, I live in Colorado," and maybe something else. From that point on, I would speak to the men there, and the group leader would translate.
In such situations, translators recommend speaking directly to the person, even though you can't understand one another, so as to be respectful of each other and to engage more fully in the conversation, so that's what I did. And one man's story particularly stuck with me, his name was Raul.
Raul had been recently apprehended trying to cross the border, he had two children in California, and also in Mexico. Because of his undocumented status, he was unable to legally go see his children in California. Being a parent myself at the time, I was struck by the fact that he would have to make a choice as to which family he would be forever separated from--his family in Mexico or his family in California...and due to his lack of legal status, it would like be from his children in California.
Later that evening, we spent the night at a facility in Mexico. That night while brushing my teeth, I made the mistake of first rinsing my brush in the tap water, something we were warned against doing. I thought nothing of it and went to bed. The next day, after visiting some more sights, we made our way back into the US.
As things go, my stomach began feeling the effects of even that small amount of water I had taken in. I skipped dinner and laid in bed feeling lousy. Then, later that night, I got a call from my wife telling me that she was taking our daughter, who was only a few months old at the time, to the doctor because she was feverish. It was only a short time later that my wife called me again to tell me that the doctor was concerned about our daughter's oxygen levels and decided to have her taken by ambulance to Children's Hospital.
Here I was, lying in bed, in the middle of the night, in Tuscon, AZ feeling lousy, and my daughter was being taken to Children's. I felt pretty terrible in the moment and worried about how to get home ASAP if our daughter didn't improve. As it turns out, our daughter was fine, fortunately, and I woke the next morning thankful she was fine, but still feeling a bit unsettled in my stomach.
That morning my group and I were listening to the stories of two young men who had come to the US as young children, we would classify them as "Dreamers" today, undocumented immigrants who had been brought by their parents when they were just children. We heard their story about how they were trying to work hard and succeed in life, excelling in high school and also dreaming about attending college, but were being limited by their undocumented status.
To tell the truth, I wasn't the most sympathetic at that time. I was still feeling rotten, and was thinking about my own daughter's harrowing night. As I sat there and listened, I thought to myself, "we all have struggles in life, suck it up and get over it," or something to that effect. I wasn't the least bit empathetic.
But then it hit me.
I began thinking about Raul, and how he would likely never see his children again. I thought about my own daughter, and how the night before, I just wanted to be there and comfort her and my wife. I thought about how painful it would be if I was unable to see them again.
Something switched inside my heart and inside my mind. And I believe it all goes back to me acting with courage and stepping out to speak with Raul and his fellow migrants. I had acted with courage, and found myself transformed. I believe that. When we act with courage, we are transformed.
I like the picture at the top with the woman in the water, because baptism has for centuries been a symbol of the transformation that takes place within us when we step out in courage and seek to follow Jesus--we are transformed!
Transformation isn't a one time thing--we need to be transformed again and again--as there are always new parts of our life we realize we need to be changed by God. So, I encourage us to consider the areas of our life we might need to act in courage, in seeking to find ourselves transformed.