Let Our Families Go!

On Monday at dawn, I’m driving with a caravan of Interfaith leaders and lay people to Tornillo, Texas to witness what is happening in the tent city there, where our government is housing the children of refugees and asylum seekers. We are going for several reasons, the biggest being that this is a fundamental part of our identity as people of faith: we welcome the stranger and witness the stories of those whose voices are being silenced. We go so that the people seeking asylum in the United States will see faces beyond the faces of ICE agents, and border patrol guards with black nylons covering all but their eyes and teeth, and heavily armed SWAT teams. We go to learn from and encourage those in El Paso who have been accompanying refugees for years. It will take us 3 days of driving to get to our destination, where we will receive training before we begin the work we are going to do.

I’ll be keeping a travel log here to document our experience. A journalist from MIchigan Public Radio will be traveling with us. Other people of faith will be joining our caravan in cities along the way.

Tonight I attended Shabbat at Temple Beth Emeth, lead by Rabbi Josh Whinston, from whom I first heard about this caravan. The music and poetry of the readings triggered tears I did not realize I had suppressed, and when the service was over, I felt a calm unlike I have known in the weeks leading up to the now.

Now, I am excited about our pilgrimage together. I expect to return home transformed by the journey and the relationships I’ll be forming along the way. I anticipate finding hope amid the dust and fatigue and fear. I believe that God will be with us and periodically pull back the veil that we might encounter truth that one simply cannot see from a distance.

The name of the book used at Shabbat Shalom is: Mishkan T’Filah. In the Christian tradition, we would call it a hymnal. As I worked my way through the Mishkan T’Filah tonight,  I found a prayer that I wanted to remember. It is a prayer for a journey but it is also a prayer for the months leading up to this journey: it has been hard for me to write in this BLOG for some time. This prayer inspired me to begin anew. When I found it, it was as if God whispered my name again, saying, here…begin here. So I am trusting that this prayer is a good place to begin to tell the story of travelling with people of different faith traditions, united by the one same God, who calls us to sojourn, to welcome the stranger, in a movement that we are calling: Let Our Families Go!

Standing on the parted shores of history,

we still believe what we were taught

before ever we stood at Sinai:

that wherever we are, it is eternally Egypt

that there is a better place, A Promised Land;

That the winding way to that promise passes through the wilderness

that there is no way to get from here to there

except by joining hands, marching