I just returned from a one day trip to Detroit where we began to solidify our host committee planning with local leaders in anticipation of our national conference in October of 2017. While there’s great excitement for next year, I want to take a moment to reflect on the Camino and the 2016 national conference in Los Angeles.
My message the first evening of the conference lifted up the metaphor of our journey on the Camino of Jesus that requires that we walk with the marginalized and vulnerable as in our world. As CCDA leaders, we understand their struggle first-hand because we are rooted in these communities.
Since returning from Los Angeles, we’ve had to endure watching the national news filled with stories of fatal violence against black men, as well as divisive and racist rhetoric by a presidential candidate against refugees and immigrants that incites fear in millions of Americans who are watching social unrest escalate everyday. What a contrast to what we experienced together in Los Angeles.
At a time of incredible social uprising in our nation, the CCDA Camino and Conference allowed us an opportunity to address these issues from a biblical perspective alongside other brothers and sisters rooted in the soil of poor and oppressed communities. Our experience in LA was not only challenging but inspiring. We heard stories of pain, and we cried tears of lament for our neighbors and for our neighborhoods. We also heard stories of courageous leadership by dreamers and immigrant parents, young African-American activists taking to the streets, and by white middle-class brothers and sisters who have given their lives to walk alongside leaders of color because of their deep love for Jesus and for justice.
In the last few weeks, I have received so many encouraging emails about people’s experience on the Camino and at the conference. My prayer is that what we experienced together just a few weeks ago would not quickly be forgotten but would continue to be a catalyst for our ongoing efforts to bring about change in the lives of individuals, in the well-being of our neighborhoods, and in confronting the unjust social structures in our nation not only with protest, but with solutions that rise from the people themselves and result in justice.
I don’t know about you, but as I think about the camino that we must travel in the coming months to faithfully engage in the work of Christian Community Development, I know that we cannot do it alone. We need each other. We need prayer, encouragement, and the comfort that comes from knowing that we belong to a diverse familia that is on the justice journey with us to the very end.
In the last two weeks, the story of an 89 year old Mexican-American immigrant that lives in my barrio in Chicago has gone viral on social media. This “paletero” has received a huge attention since someone captured him working and selling paletas on the streets of La Villita to support his family. A crowdfunding page was created to help this man with a goal of raising $3,000. Amazingly, thousands of individuals from across the world contributed over $380,000 for this elderly man.
What I love about this story is how this very humble and poor immigrant man has inspired so many people to take action. When we see the determination of individuals with so many challenges working so hard to provide a better life for their families, we come alongside them motivated by love – miracles can happen.
My prayer for all of our CCDA members and friends is that all of our hearts would be filled with hope and expectation for what the God of all creation can do with our small efforts to walk alongside our neighbors. He can change hearts, He can heal families, He can restore neighborhoods, and He can bring about justice for those that society has not only ignored but has often sinned against through racism and economic exploitation.
I’ll close with the words of the prophet Micah:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 NIV