Category Archives: Immigration

The road north

One week ago we left our home. The car was packed with all our belongings, enough for a month. The kids were excited, scared, angry, sad. They were leaving behind everything they had known.

We headed west a bit, then pointed straight north. “El Norte”, the land flowing with milk and honey. Well maybe not, but we saw a lot of cows.

What was waiting for us there? I was pursuing a dream of education. But so much remained unknown. Where would we live? What would we eat? Where would the kids go to school? Would they make friends, or would they be too “different”.

Three and a half days ago we arrived.

…and here the story diverges.

There were no borders to cross, no barriers. No fear of my children being separated from me. No skin to flag me for scrutiny.

All the possibilities are still unknown. But I woke up today and read this verse, in a meditation by Richard Rohr:

Go down to the palace of the king and declare, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” —Jeremiah 22:1, 3

And so today we went. Not to the palace, but to a correctional facility in Sheridan, OR. The flag flew over the scene, encased by barbed wire and tall fences. We sat under an Apple tree, overlooking a fishing pond, and sang songs of solidarity. We sang for brothers and fathers and sons, 121 from 16 countries recently brought here from the border. They are missing wives and mothers and children, forcibly separated from them.

And so this seemed right and good to do, our first weekend in Oregon. Standing with Sikh and Catholic and Lutheran and Presbyterian and Quakers, praying as we held the chain links in our fingers. Hannah and I felt a strange sense of belonging, even in this strange cool green world populated with so many white folks.

There is hope for this family, my family, in this move north. We ache for our community in the desert. But, we stand together, with eyes open in curiosity and wonder. What will open before us in the days to come?

And for our brothers and sisters who no longer have the dream, we stand. And we will continue to pray, to protest, to write, to call. We choose to speak for those who have no voice.

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The Lenten Writings: remember

God of peace,

God of justice,

God of freedom,

We give you thanks for your cadences of peace, justice, and freedom,

Cadences that have surged through the lives

Of Martin,

And Ralph

And Rosa,

And John,

And Fred,

And Hosea,

And Jesse,

And Andy,

And all that nameless mass of risk-takers who have been

Obedient to your promises

And susceptible to your dreams.

Deliver us from amnesia

Concerning their courage in the face of violence,

Their peace-making against hate,

And their hunger for you in a devouring economy

Deliver us from amnesia:

Turn our memory into hope,

Turn our gratitude into energy,

Turn our well-being into impatience.

That these same cadences of your will may pulse even among us.

Amen

Source: “Deliver us from amnesia”, from Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, Walter Brueggemann, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003.

The Lenten Writings: Jesus and the disinherited

The disinherited will know for themselves

that there is a Spirit at work in life and in the hearts of men

which is committed to overcoming the world.

It is universal, knowing no age, no race, no culture and no condition of men.

For the privileged and the under privileged alike,

if the individual puts at the disposal of the Spirit the needful dedication and discipline,

he can live effectively in the chaos of the present the high destiny of a son of God.

High Destiny, by Howard Thurman. From the Lenten Poetry companion, neighborhood ministries.

I was first introduced to Howard Thurman in the Mystic Activists. His book, Jesus and the Disinherited, was our focus this fall for a month. It was not enough time to do it justice. But I am learning that theology must come from the bottom up.

We are in a focused time of prayer for our Dreamers. Tomorrow is the deadline for a permanent solution for these children, now grown, who were brought to the states before age 5. They are woven into the very fabric of our culture and society. They are our teachers, they are in nursing classes and serving in our Armed Forces. Dreamers work in every service profession. And they live in a constant state of uncertainty. They never know when their permission could be suddenly gone. And so, quite literally, would they.

The challenge of Scripture must also be read from the bottom up. This is who Jesus hung out with, which often earned harsh criticism from the powers that were in place. The validity and application of Scripture is only as significant as its application to the lowest among us. In fact, when we understand Scripture in this manner, we also see ourselves in that same way. We are the they, living in the most need and desperation.

It is only from this reading of Scripture that we can form a compassionate response to any issues of justice. Literally, the word for compassion with passion or with feeling. Compassion comes when I am moved in my innermost self by the pain of another. I must choose to enter the story. And today, the story is that of our dreamers.

I would ask you today to stand in prayer for the dreamers.

#PrayForDreamers

What if…

A lament for our Dream Act kids…We were the immigrants once. We are the immigrants today. We are the they. 

What if…we stopped drawing lines in the sand between us. 

What if…we stopped building walls. 

What if…we stopped throwing words like grenades. 

What if…we stopped using fear to form laws. 
What if…we started daring to turn over Temple tables. 

What if…we started with the scroll of good news to the poor. 

What if…we started to break our Samaritan neighbor world view. 

What if…we started to love our neighbor. 
What then?!
Would justice roll down?

Would swords get repurposed as plowshares? 

Would children who took a long trip keep their papers?

Would old sheriffs have to keep the law?
And then?


What if. 

What if the kingdom were to come. 

On earth. 

As it is in heaven. 
Every tribe. 

Every tongue. 

Every nation. 

Every body. 
Welcome. 

Welcome home. 

Home where you belong. 
What. If. 

Extortion for birth. 

When we talk about the healthcare crisis or legislation and its potential impact, we must remember faces and stories of people. Real people, people with real needs. 

I hear the stories all the time. Women with a Medicaid plan that doesn’t cover prenatal care, only the birth. Women who are told they can’t get care unless they can pay a deposit bigger than a week’s income. Women who are told they can’t pick up records to change care unless they pay hundreds of dollars. Women who are told that their birth will be $20,000 cash. Women told they can’t be discharged from the hospital until they pay five or $10,000.

I could go on. These are just stories that I’ve heard this month. Legal? Yes. And no. But common, nonetheless. 

As a healthcare provider in this community in this time in history, how do I show up?

Showing up has to look like bold justice, gift wrapped in creativity.  


For me, it looks like a radical sliding scale, with births from $500 to 4000 depending on income. It looks like forgetting about what I’m “supposed” to be doing in my practice, and wrapping women around with the kinds of services I think they deserve. It looks like finding ways to nurture them, bringing in Wise and caring birthworkers who support Lactation, encapsulate placentas, give massages, do acupuncture. It looks like providing birth supplies and pools. It looks like five or six postpartum visits, maybe in the home if that’s what’s needed. It looks like herbs, lovingly crafted into teas and baths. 

I’m not saying this to promote my practice. I’m saying this is what every single one of us needs to do in some manner. Call the legislators yes. Yes and….

And come up with creative solutions within our sphere of influence, solutions that empower women. Solutions that treat them with dignity. Solutions that create safe spaces for their babies to be born. Solutions that hold space for trauma to be healed, for redemption to occur. 

Maybe that’s what’s required. To do justice. To love mercy. To walk humbly.

In the emptiest of places…

Politics aside, there is a dire need today to fight for justice for those who have no voice. A well kept secret is that God plays favorites. The immigrant, the poor, the stranger among us are mentioned more than 2000 times in Scripture. 

Folks are setting aside the next 24 hours to pray and fast. It’s not about whether you eat food or not. Isaiah 58 throws that idea in the mud.  I would invite you to sit with these ancient words today and see what stirs…

58 1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!

    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!

Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,

    face my family Jacob with their sins!

They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,

    and love studying all about me.

To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—

    law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’

    and love having me on their side.

But they also complain,

    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?

    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.

    You drive your employees much too hard.

You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.

    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do

    won’t get your prayers off the ground.

Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    a day to show off humility?

To put on a pious long face

    and parade around solemnly in black?

Do you call that fasting,

    a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:

    to break the chains of injustice,

    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,

    free the oppressed,

    cancel debts.

What I’m interested in seeing you do is:

    sharing your food with the hungry,

    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,

    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,

    being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on,

    and your lives will turn around at once.

Your righteousness will pave your way.

    The God of glory will secure your passage.

Then when you pray, God will answer.

    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.”

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,

    quit blaming victims,

    quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry

    and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,

    your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.

    I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—

    firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,

    a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,

    rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,

    restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,

    make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath

    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,

If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,

    God’s holy day as a celebration,

If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’

    making money, running here and there—

Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!

    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.

I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”

    Yes! God says so!

The Message (MSG)

The Advent Writings:  may the carols come true 

Truly He taught us to love one another,   His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name all oppression shall cease. 

The lyrics from Oh holy night are my heart cry this year. For myself, in this home; and in our land. Never have I been so aware of a time where fear and hatred rule the day. 

I picked up tamales tonight from a dear one this afternoon and felt  the terror looming for the uncertainty of the change if power in January. And so we eat them, recognizing that this gift is as sacred as the breaking of the bread. These are our brothers and sisters who awake each day in fear. This is My Body, broken….

And so tonight we remember an immigrant family long ago would flee to Egypt the day after the baby was born. Not what I would recommend for one day postpartum as a midwife!

I am deeply aware as well of my own need this year. The car accident a year ago represented for me the fragility of life. And the shockwaves that continue to move out from that day keep it in front of me. 

And so for tonight, I will hold the goodness of the traditions that weave the years together. We are family, in the middle of.

And so, I will go to the airport and our nest will be full. And we will welcome the night with pajamas and the morning with cinnamon rolls, hot from the oven. 

We will eat our tamales, and give thanks, and cry for mercy. 

The Advent Writings: love and respect 

When you think about starting out a new relationship, Mary and Joseph sure got thrown in the deep end! 

Strict dating rules, a betrothal, a long distance relationship without cell phone service, a sudden return, scandal and gossip, breaking up, and a nighttime angelic visitor. What a beginning! 

And that doesn’t count a donkey ride in the middle of prodromal labor! Seriously?! Not one of my midwifery clients would sign up for that. 

I love how the Nativity movie portrays the growing love and respect between this young couple. It is inviting to consider this home that Jesus  grew up in. They needed that foundation! They were about to become immigrants, and just have each other;  perhaps in a land that did not want them.  Not so different from our precious immigrant families I get to do life with. 

This is a hard season for us in many ways. The holidays, always; my father-in-law died our first Christmas as a young couple. But this year has been a hard season on so many levels. 

I am so grateful for the love and respect in our marriage and home, which undergirds this unknown path. This young couple, married 29 years last August, got thrown in the deep end too. 

This Advent, may there be space to remember the journey. Theirs and ours….

Of turkeys and tables

I wonder what aromas swirled around your thanksgiving table today? The smells of turkey mixed with the spicy scent of pie, sharp olives and sweet sticky buns. Smells anchor memories, and foods evoke the ghosts of Thanksgiving past. Perhaps there is pain in the remembering. 

Talk swirls around the table too. Some families have gratitude rituals, drawing children and grown ups alike into the invitation to remember the year. Tears and laughter mixed today at our table as we recounted stories. Grief and joy can walk hand in hand in those sacred moments when time stands still. 

This is a liminal space for us as a country. The time between, not knowing what is ahead. For our immigrant brothers and sisters, who represent our ancestors too unless we are Native American, there is fear. 

Jesus came to the table too. He shared feasts and ritual with his family of choice. He invited others to the table. The stranger, the man who ripped people off, the woman from the other side of the border, the prostitute caught in the act. A shocking guest list, in a place marked by doing the meals right. 

I wonder who the Church invites to the table? In this space between, I invite you to wrestle with that question.  Don’t make the guest list too short. The widow, the orphan, the stranger in the land. The one who weeps, the one who dreams, the one outside your comfort zone. 

Listen to the stories as you go around the circle. 

And give thanks. 

El Camino 

And so I am here. CCDA national convention, a gathering of folks doing community development in their own cities and neighborhoods. A gathering that creates safe spaces to wrestle with the intersectionality of faith and justice. More than 50 of us cane from Neighborhood Ministries in Phienix, plus 17 youth from the social justice team. My tribe. 

This was the view from our window at 2am. We were over a techno club, our beds rattling to the beat. We watched as people streamed out, laughter and shrieks punctuating the night air. 
CCDA is a space to listen to story. Stories up front, stories one on one. Delving into story for me means sitting in workshops on domestic violence, teen pregnancy, unaccompanied minors, LGBTQ issues,  immigration reform, border state challenges. These stories will haunt me and stir my heart to action. 

Missing from the conversation are conversations about human rights violations in birth in our culture. Where are the stories of women of all races, knit together by shared experiences of birth violence? As a midwife, the absence of these stories feels like a palpable presence. 

And so I will go back to my community, to my neighborhood, to my sphere of influence. Back to engage story, to invite change, to listen, to be present. 

What about you?