Ray serving communion at the border
Adalia and Ray with Sarah Jean
Pastor Mark and rebar
Beauty and Brokenness
Ruth and me
Staff at Deborah's House
Between an unexpected trip to Southern California to help my Mom transition into hospice care and the sublime honor of being in Pennsylvania for the ordination ceremony of my dear friend Sara Wiegner, former IM colleague and mentor in ministry, I joined the Emmaus Community from Olympia, WA and Ruth Yeo Peterman from First Aid Arts for a week in Feb. at Deborah’s House, a refuge for women and children escaping violence in Tijuana, Mexico.
I penned the following haiku and reflections in an attempt to put words to what I experienced.
deep and dull tenderness weeps
both sides held by God
On two distinct occasions I read the following powerful words painted on the Tijuana side of the border fence separating the US and Mexico:
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“I was a stranger and you welcomed Me.” –Jesus
I hold my memories in a metaphorical bowl of incense offered to God like the prayers of the people in Revelation 8:3-5. Look it up.
*I hold the image of three families physically separated by a looming metal barrier, yet tenaciously together eating their picnic lunches, joined in worship and song, bread and cup being shared on both sides of the fence, proclaiming God’s deepest intention.
*I hold the survival stories, some of which seem to hit me like hammer blows to the gut, over and over and over again. Intense yes, but nothing compared to their lived experiences of sacrifice, powerlessness, isolation, broken promises and shattered dreams.
*I hold the hands of one of the strongest and most hospitable women I have ever met as she thanks us for coming. We reminded her that she makes the world more beautiful. I am awed by her resilience and humbled by her hospitality.
*I hold the sounds of laughter and, a bit of arguing, as children navigate the playground while vying for the attention of any who will notice them, relentlessly hoping for a happy life, offering love and joy in spite of their circumstances.
*I hold the taste of huevos rancheros, spicy salsa, hot chocolate, and way more tacos than I’d care to admit to eating. Time around table, the abundance of such good food and even better conversation, the overwhelming hospitality lingers in my soul. The welcome I undeservedly receive siempre y cuando (whenever) I visit the southern part of the Americas (Mexico, Central and South America), would sadly not likely be the same for many of my hosts if they were to come to some places in my home country. I struggle with this and it makes me sad, but it also empowers me to be more welcoming and hospitable, sharing grace because I have been shown grace.
With Ruth Yeo Peterman from First Aid Arts, I was honored to co-facilitate a healing arts experience with the staff and residents of Deborah’s House. We spent three days exploring how the arts can help heal the broken places that trauma and violence have caused. It was beautiful to witness the power of simple, yet thoughtfully designed activities to create safe and brave spaces for sharing. Participants strengthened interpersonal skills while exploring deep places of both personal pain and promise. I was amazed by how, while describing their artwork they willingly shared significant memories, insights and longings. It was awe inspiring to watch how one woman who was initially emotionally flat and non-communicative, became engaged and alive as she expressed her feelings with a gesture using a colored scarf. Though words often escape her, the movement activity provided her a non-verbal way to share life with the others. Later as the workshop was ending, in her own words, she said she was grateful for the chance to be seen and taken seriously. The last day we explored with the staff ways to sustain the healing arts activities with the residents and plan for their own self-care and resiliency. Throughout the three days, tears flowed, stories were shared, singing, dancing and drawing happened, laughter and love was given and received, and lives were honored. Both brokenness and beauty best describe the sacred space we shared. I feel so privileged to be a part of this creative and life affirming work, bringing together people and processes as God repairs and redeems God’s beautiful creation.
Thank you for partnering with me in this life changing work and for making my world more beautiful,