This is a sermon I recently shared for a United Methodist Women’s Sunday:
I was born and raised in Chesterfield, VA. I grew up in the United Methodist church, and was raised in a church that cared deeply for children and youth. In middle school I felt a call into ministry and mission and did various internships that helped to support my call. The churches I have been a part of have always been supportive of my call into ministry and have nurtured me in wonderful ways.
In July 2011 I began my time as a US-2 Young Adult Missionary. The General Board of Global Ministries has two long-term missionary programs for young adults ages 20-30 to explore what it means to be in mission and ministry, the Mission Intern program, a global program, and the US-2 program, a domestic ministry program. I have colleagues across the world doing similar things, working with people to help spread God’s love.
I was invited to serve with the Immigration Task Force of the California-Pacific Conference. In 2008 a resolution was passed at their annual conference which created this task force. Part of the work of the task force includes Neighborhood Immigration Clinics which provide free legal consultations to anyone with immigration questions, a Know Your Rights presentation and hospitality. These clinics are held at churches so the church is seen as a place that loves and cares for its neighbors. I also organize churches around being Immigrant Welcoming Congregations.
I have learned in my time in LA that I am a person of immense privilege. I did not grow up concerned about my parents being deported; I was not discriminated against because of the color of my skin or the languages I spoke. Growing up I knew I had more than others but I did not know the proper ways to serve with people. During two of my summers in seminary I worked in Guatemala. Many of the women I met have husbands or fathers working in either the US or cities trying to support the family. I was able to see how immigration affects families who are left in their home countries, families torn apart by poverty and global economic decisions.
Through my work I have been privileged to be invited into the sacred place where people share their live stories. My friend Mariana has shared with me her story, growing up in Mexico in a nice home with a family who sheltered her from their struggles. When her family became unable to pay for basic necessities her father traveled to the US to try to find work. She grew up without a father for much of her adolescence as he was trying to provide for his family. When she was 12 her family took a trip to the US, she thought just a vacation, but it ended up being indefinitely as her parents thought it would be best for the family to be reunited again and they could not afford to be apart. Her parents have continued to make sacrifices so she and her siblings can eat and can have opportunities no longer afforded to them in Mexico. Her father in college educated, but now works very low-wage jobs because of his documentation status.
With my work here in LA around immigration I am constantly reminded that I am called to be in relationship with people, I am called to love my brothers and sisters and from getting to know people I find myself compelled to work with them to break the bonds that oppress them, to change laws that force their families to be separated, to change laws and minds so all are truly seen as equals- like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said for a world where all are seen and judged by the content of their character and hearts and not the color of their skin. We are called to build relationships with people who are like us and people whose lives have been different, who have faced different struggles and obstacles. It is in those sacred places where stories and lives are shared that we can begin to work with people to lose the bonds of injustice and bring to fruition the world God desires.