A Way to Help

The following is a testimony I gave at my church earlier this year. I have provided an update at its conclusion.

I spent summer and winter of 2018 in a state of rest that we half-jokingly called my “sabbatical.” This was a time for rest and healing and, as the balm of those two things took hold, of active listening for the Word of God. In those months I lost many things I knew I could not get back, but I also knew that as I healed, God would call me when and where I was needed. I now had time on my hands and space to breathe; all I needed was God to point me in the right direction.

A couple of months ago, Andy and I got an email from a local advocacy group asking if anyone would be willing to sponsor a family seeking asylum. The family was in Tijuana and wouldn’t be allowed to cross into the US unless someone on this side would promise to get the family here and help them out once they arrived.

I had time. I had space. I had resources. I emailed back within minutes. Andy and I would be happy to help, I said.

This last Tuesday the mom, whom I will call SJ, and her three children arrived on a red eye from San Isidro after spending several hours at a McDonalds where ICE had dropped her and children. Gratefully, through a network of concerned individuals, we were able to secure overnight respite in the house of a well-placed angel willing to help a family in need.

At 7am Tuesday morning, I watched SJ walk through the airport, carrying a one-year-old baby and an extra-large duffel bag—did I mention yet that SJ made this journey without a stroller? That means she was lugging a one-year-old from Tijuana to San Isidro to Maryland.

So perhaps it goes without saying, but SJ is an amazing woman; her children are, too. Her oldest is a brilliant artist and has handily beat my daughter in chess many times. Both she and SD have made ample fun of my Spanish skills. The one-year-old is a champion sleeper and the eight-year-old boy and my son hit it off immediately, speaking a boy-language of shoves and wrestling moves and video games.

When SJ and her children left their home behind, they also left behind two bunnies—both named “bunny”—a chow puppy named Chowbella, and a big yard to play in. They now live in a two-bedroom apartment with a total of 10 people. The 10 people are spreading what money and food they have between them, but ten mouths are a lot to feed.

Andy and I are continuing our sponsorship of this wonderful family and are learning as we go how to best do that. Tomorrow I take SJ to see an immigration attorney and Wednesday I will drive her to enroll her kids in school. Thursday Andy will take them to Baltimore for their Immigration check in. Beyond that, we’ll play things day-to-day.

On this day, my sponsorship activity is this testimony. Both so you can feel the joy of a successful story—against every odd they made it to the United States—and also so I can ask you to consider what you might be able to do to help this family get on and stay on their feet.

Their main needs right now are adequate housing and assistance with daily expenses such as groceries and toiletries. If assisting this family is something you feel called to do with the time, space, and resources you have, please let me know.

Most importantly, please remember this family in your prayers, and ask for God’s providential care over them as they begin their new life in the United States. Remember too, that when we slow down and listen, God will speak.

Since I wrote these words several months ago, much has changed. The two school-aged children are thriving, making friends, learning English, and becoming accustomed to a different way of life. The baby is confident, smart, and obsessed with our puppy. Most importantly, SJ and her children have found an apartment to call home. Each month is a struggle to make ends meet; SJ’s income does not cover essential expenses and we are often scrambling to find a way to ensure each person’s basic human needs are met. To that end, we have established a Go Fund Me page to help this family with their day-to-day expenses. Any amount helps, and I ask you to consider whether a donation to this family is right for you.




Slow Kingdom Coming

I’ve always thought of myself as a justice-oriented, do-gooder-type person, but over the years, I’ve become a bit fuzzy about what exactly that means. For example, most people would say it’s good to donate to charities and worthy causes, but how many times have charities and worthy causes misspent, misappropriated, or misjudged? What about donating goods after natural disasters? International adoptions? Microloans? Many things that sound good on the surface—and that are almost always well-intended—aren’t necessarily doing the good work we think they are. It also seems that far too often when someone says “justice,” what they really mean is good intentions and a quick fix.

In his new book, Slow Kingdom Coming, Kent Annan makes clear that good intentions can only take us so far, and that the work of building God’s kingdom is anything but quick. He writes, “we don’t want to think … that our good intentions are enough, as though God wouldn’t expect us to love our neighbors in the best possible way.” And the best possible way, he continues, is by creating deep and lasting change that, almost by definition, comes slowly.

You can read the rest of my review of Slow Kingdom Coming at Red Letter Christians.


A Common Call for Empathy

My husband wrote a remarkable blog post today,  reflecting on the media’s coverage of the bombing in Boston. In the post, he expresses the need to treat every death, every injustice, every senseless act of violence with the same sadness, despair, and anguish, regardless of the victim/perpetrator’s color, religion, or origin.

I couldn’t agree more.

Sadly, over the last few days it has come to my attention, mostly by clicking links on friends’ FB postings, that not everyone feels the same. One blog post especially comes to mind, in which the author states that she cannot feel the sadness she should feel at seeing the senseless acts of violence of both Sandy Hook and Boston, because the victims are white. She goes on to say that she dislikes this about herself; however, white liberals are to blame because they do not treat the persistent, senseless deaths of minority inner city children or third world children the same as they do white, blonde, American children.

I certainly don’t disagree with her latter point. It is a deep shame, and an enormous blight on America, that we do exactly what she excuses us of: we ignore, play down, shrug off, disengage from the fact that children die every single day in this world from beyond-senseless acts of violence. And that sometimes, sometimes, political acts that America institutes or supports are even responsible for those deaths. But that isn’t what this post is about.

Instead, it’s about the sadness this woman’s post made me feel. Sadness because 1) the author is correct about many things she reports, and 2) because she says she cannot feel sadness over the senseless death of white children unless or until white liberals treat minority deaths with the same outrage they treat the death of white American children.

It is always, always a personal choice how we respond to tragedy. Sometimes we don’t want to alter our response: What if Kermit Gosnell gets the death penalty? Well, I may be against the death penalty (I am!), but I probably won’t shed too many tears if his sentence is one of death. I will pray for his soul, but since I am a broken person myself, it would take a superhuman effort for me to dredge up enough sympathy to feel a whole lot of remorse for him.

But why? A life is a life and a death is a death. Do we respect and value human life or not? If we do–if *I* do–I should care deeply, even about someone who has committed so many horrific acts. If I don’t care deeply, I cannot blame anyone but myself.

My sadness is not aimed at a particular person–I am using this author’s blog post as a jumping off point–but is rather a global sadness that the global “we” cannot feel the sadness and despair that we should over every single senseless act of violence and loss of life, and that we blame that inability to feel on others.

Perhaps we say it’s the fault of white liberals. Or perhaps we say it’s because we cannot feel sympathy for someone who repeatedly commits infanticide. Or it’s because “those people” are Muslim, or live so far away, or because they “choose” to bring violence into their neighborhoods.

But really, if we cannot feel heart wrenching despair over every child lost, it is no one’s fault but our own.

This isn’t to finger point. It is instead to say that we are all fallen, broken individuals in need of grace and a good self-talking to. Forgiveness, love, peace…. these things should be in our lives abundantly, indiscriminately, passionately. I try daily to make that a reality in my life, and it is very, very difficult. I usually fail because I am not superhuman. But we cannot even begin to hope for success if we continue to shift the blame to anyone other than ourselves.