CCDA Global Connections presents: Who is My Neighbor, a six-part blog series recounting stories and impacts from a trip to Central America, written from a CCDA perspective.
Part VI: Conclusion
by Tom Yaccino & Nate Bacon
There are magical moments where, in the face of grave threats against humanity, the universe appears to conspire for good, by means of a confluence of ‘coincidental’ connections that many call ‘synchronicity’. Through the lens of faith, we see God at the center of this divine conspiracy, weaving a web of relationships with the collective power to prophetically withstand the forces that seek to rend humanity asunder.
It is this same Spirit that brought Tom and I together around the theme of the immigration crisis. As we sat before God and a napkin with the question “Who is my Neighbor?” we opened the treasure chests of our combined friendships, across the borders of Mexico and Central America, with heroes of the faith whose very lives denounce the dehumanization that divides, and announce the reconciling justice and love of God.
As a network of practitioners of Christian community development, CCDA has lived the past decade with a growing awareness of the treacherous, risky, heroic journey north from Central America and Mexico that so many families face. As believers in a God who created ALL of us in God’s own image, we decry the rhetoric that reduces our neighbors and fellow pilgrims to ‘dangerous criminals’, ‘rapists’, ‘terrorists’ and ‘animals’.
A few of us know intimately the contexts of origin of our immigrant neighbors, where suffering, oppression and exclusion force them to opt for the dangerous journey northward in pursuit of life itself.
Most of us encounter these image-bearers at the border and in our midst in the country we call home. We have been called to love, walk alongside and serve them as our guests, the strangers among us that God has blessed us with—seeing in them the self-same Jesus who proclaimed, “When I was a stranger you welcomed me”.
A few of us know intimately the contexts of origin of our immigrant neighbors, where suffering, oppression and exclusion force them to opt for the dangerous journey northward in pursuit of life itself. Contrary to the common misperception that Central Americans migrate to pursue the “American dream”, the fact is they are uprooting and moving to pursue a life free from extortion, exploitation, and marginalization.
As faith practitioners in the US (an immigrant nation) we have lived as neighbors to these newer immigrants. Through our proximity and partnership we have gained respect and knowledge of such crucial matters as family, kinship, discipline, resilience and perseverance. We walked “El Camino del Inmigrante”, prior to our 2016 CCDA conference in LA, to show solidarity with our feet, and advocate together for immigrants’ rights, even as our country’s policies turn increasingly draconian and exclusionist.
By God’s grace, through intense conversation and collective discernment, we were blessed with a roadmap, a path into the heartbeat of the issue, winding through Way-station after Way-station, sacred stops where our inspiring friends and Kingdom heroes would welcome and orient us on this Underground Railway journey toward justice.
Beyond the pain and consternation we felt at the souring perception of immigrants at a national level, and the accompanying surge in ethnocentric and exclusionary language, we have been most grieved by the manifestation of these same attitudes in our own household, amongst our fellow Kingdom family members.
As a response, the Global Connections community felt that CCDA needed to get closer to our brothers and sisters in their contexts of origin. We needed to come alongside, listen, and learn from those who risk everything to make the treacherous journey north. So, we increasingly paid attention to our synchronicitous connections and the whispering invitations of the Spirit.
For over a year we prayed, connected with friends at ‘exodus ground zero’, and consulted with servant leaders who research root causes, effects and reactions to the northward flow of immigrants. By God’s grace, through intense conversation and collective discernment, we were blessed with a roadmap, a path into the heartbeat of the issue, winding through Way-station after Way-station, sacred stops where our inspiring friends and Kingdom heroes would welcome and orient us on this Underground Railway journey toward justice.
Our pilgrimage took us through four countries (Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala & Mexico), seven cities, numerous barrios, and pueblos. We saw, smelled, heard and felt the realities of urban-slum magnets of internal migration, and rural indigenous ports of departure for families who have lost hope under the grind of marginalization, discrimination and injustice. We got to know each other in tight van rides, buses, taxis, and “Speedy Gonzales” (the vehicle piloted by our friend, and former “coyote”, Uvencio) and our journey continually confirmed that people matter more than projects.
Relationships that cultivate trust and understanding lead us toward Kingdom postures and processes that always generate life and hope. In spite of overwhelming odds that tilt toward the dark side of empire and systemic world malaise, we have seen there is yet hope. Beams of soul-piercing Light penetrate the shifting shadows of hopelessness and despair.
Like surprisingly fruitful mustard seeds, humble, prophetic servants raise their voices, stand firmly on the side of justice, love fiercely with compassionate hearts, and demonstrate that the Kingdom has indeed come among us.
We experienced holy kairos moments…recognizing sacred soil under our feet…a veil removed…our hearts laid bare…we witnessed the Divine in one another….collaborative co-conspirators for the common good. Our battle-weary friends, who accompany migrant-pilgrims escaping system-spawned death, were moved to tears by our confessions of complicity, and uplifted by our presence. They opened up to us, and shared how God used our visit to give them fresh perspective and understanding of North Americans.
We are convinced that God is calling all of us to spread the word, raise the consciousness of the church and our country, and change the dangerous and destructive anti-Kingdom narratives that are being propagated and normalized among us.
As a group of seasoned practitioners, we were humbled, inspired, and challenged by their tireless efforts, powerful testimonies and keen insights. At the same time we were shocked by how scarce and scattered our fellow servants are in these contexts that clamor for justice.
Yet we became convinced that the valiant faith of these unsung prophets can indeed move mountains, and we sensed God’s invitation in these divine connections to humbly offer encouragement, solidarity, support, and long term companionship on the Way. God is so good. We are infinitely blessed to have been given this opportunity.
As co-facilitators of this pilgrimage, we find ourselves in awe at the quality of practitioners who participated, the fortuitous timing of our trip, and the incredible Kingdom connections we experienced. The lives of everyone we met with represented stories of pain and hope, brokenness and wholeness, and obedience to the call of Jesus to be change agents in the most difficult of circumstances.
Our team of 12 represented the width and breadth of the US from the Northwest, to the Mid Atlantic, the Southwest and Midwest. All are seasoned CCD veterans who are laying down their lives for migrants and their families, as they accompany them in the face of dehumanizing laws, policies, and attitudes that divide families, and criminalize those who simply seek to survive and offer life to their families.
We are convinced that God is calling all of us to spread the word, raise the consciousness of the church and our country, and change the dangerous and destructive anti-Kingdom narratives that are being propagated and normalized among us. Thank you CCDA for embracing this journey and supporting this on-going work of transformation!
God is in the process, in our days, of re-weaving the social fabric our sins have left tattered and torn. We humbly believe that in some small yet powerful way, these moments of solidarity and sacred inter-connectedness will serve as a sign, and a catalyst to help turn our hearts toward our neighbor, toward the Stranger in our midst….toward reconciliation and life-giving justice.
Carried by God’s Holy winds of synchronicity, we are certain that this seed will not return void, and that good fruit will abound from the time we shared on holy ground, co-mingled in the paradoxical Chalice of intense suffering and unbridled hope…
P.S.: Stay tuned, familia, for more of these global learning opportunities!
Tom Yaccino. Kingdom Connector. Cultivating #justrelationships in the global body of Christ for the common good.
Nate Bacon and his wife Mayra are full-time missionaries with InnerChange, a Christian Order among the poor and marginalized. They have three children. Nate was transformed by the experience of Christ among Latino gang members in San Francisco, California. Today, they live in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and are in charge of initiating new InnerChange communities in slums and marginal neighborhoods in cities throughout Central America. Having been raised as an Evangelical, Nate joined the Catholic Church in 1992, and from that point on, InnerChange has had Evangelicals and Catholics together in the same missionary community. In 1999, he was ordained a Permanent Deacon, and serves as such in the Cathedral of Quetzaltenango. Nate has a huge passion for Christian unity, and for the prophetic aspect of the Gospel–Kingdom justice. Nate has studied at Stanford University, Fuller Seminary, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome, and the Institute of Christian Studies in Toronto.