Kristen Chesmore: Why I am doing El Camino

I am a mom and a grandmother.   I’ve lived most of my adult life raising our three children and working on and off.  I have long had a heart for those without a voice in the dominate culture but have found it challenging to pursue active advocacy work.  I feel as though I have been wandering in a desert for 35 years and the time has come for me to be more present and active in the pursuit of justice. 

I was adopted at age two-and-a-half.  From that time on I raised in a Christian home with parents who had a heart for missions. As was more typical in those days, my parents supported many missionaries globally and we regularly had missionaries from around the world stop by and visit or stay with us.  

But in the early 1980s, after I completed college, I was heart struck and overwhelmed by the struggles happening in Central America. I wanted to join the Sojourners internship group but was afraid I needed to get going with my work life. I wanted to go to the Nicaragua-Honduras border as a part of the Witness for Peace group at the time, but was afraid.  IMG 2048

During a short time living in San Francisco, I encountered young El Salvadorian men at the deli where I worked who were looking for someone to marry in order to stay in the U.S. It was then that I realized how desperate they were to stay in this country and was awakened to the hardships they faced in finding safety and refuge here in the US.

When I returned to the Seattle area, I volunteered with a Friends Church providing sanctuary to refugees from Central America. I sat with them as part of the vigilance and accompainiment required to keep them safe. During that time, I became overwhelmed with the immensity of the political situation in Latin America and felt ill-equipped to do anything of substance so I retreated into a safe suburban life. But I’ve always had a yearning to reconnect with the passion I have felt toward those who are in the shadows and do not have power or a voice within the community. 

I believe that my adoption story has led me to seek personal and emotional safety and has caused me to be afraid to step out into areas of the heart. I’m getting older and have been a slow learner but am gradually becoming less afraid and more willing to step actively into areas of witness, empathy, and heart. 

I volunteer with World Relief in Seattle (Kent), Washington, visiting detainees at the NW Detention Center for the past several months. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m doing much but I have enjoyed getting to know the women and I believe it has been an encouragement to them as well as to me. I have signed up to be a host family to refugees and look forward to when we will be able to host families. 

Most of the time I am unsure of solutions to the problems in our world.  I can become paralyzed, but I have decided I will do what I can. At the end of August in 2016, this means joining the Camino.  Step by step, I hope to better understand, respect and advocate for those who struggle for a better life.


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