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This mountain is not smooth, but please work with us

This week, Mindy Plick and I had the distinct pleasure of meeting with other local pastors, non-profit leaders, Biola University staff, and a staff liaison at Congressman Ed Royce’s office in Brea. Ten of us in all overlooking downtown Brea, where we all dine and shop and congregate. It was truly a day where the church was the Church. I offer to you here a snapshot of what I shared with them on behalf of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA from now on) and the Dreamers:

As a pastor of thirty years and an NGO leader in Seattle with World Vision. I have traveled the world to places of extreme poverty where I was able to receive a snapshot of what life is like outside of the USA. I have traveled to Africa over a dozen times, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala multiple times and watched people struggle, to put it mildly. I have seen the ravages of poverty, government corruption, gangs, sexual exploitation, land grabbing, and the devastation on the family trying to provide for their children. I have met people who have sold their children to traffickers for domestic and sex slavery in the hopes of a better life for those they relinquished. I have met parents fleeing gang violence by the drug cartels. I have met mothers who traded their sexuality for a bar of soap to clean their children or to simply access feminine products. It has been my desire as a pastor to learn principles of community development in these dark places and apply those principles in my church neighborhood. Principles of safe environments for all people, education, mentoring, access to health care, food, and small micro enterprises to raise and sustain families.

Stalin said, “When one person dies it is a tragedy and when one million people die it is a statistic.” Currently, there are between 800,000 and 1,000,000 young people legally enrolled in the DACA program. The future of DACA is uncertain, and Dreamers could be put in peril in an instant. The issue with statistics is that they reduce people to a number. We stand in opposition to this notion. We must fundamentally reject any attempt to reduce a human being to a number on a social security card or a statistic. For all people are created in the image of God (Gen 1 and 2) and pronounced by the Creator, “very good.” Jesus commands the church to consider “whatever we do to the least of these, we have done it unto him.” A friendly reminder. It is with this background that I speak to you on behalf of a local DACA recipient.

Annie (not her real name) is a current DACA recipient and a recent El Dorado HS graduate. She came to the USA at the age of 6 months old. This is her home, she is an American, we are her people—every single one of us in this room. She has called this place home, for her entire life taking care of her two younger brothers and mother. She is an outstanding citizen, working hard to graduate from High school and attend college this fall at Fullerton College—she is unable to attend today because she is in class right now. She is a leader working hard to make our neighborhood better so that all may flourish. This past summer she served as a paid intern with PPC and Solidarity in a combined partnership to provide spiritual nourishment, education and healthy meals for children in the neighborhood on Bradford and Garnet. That partnership was so successful we are continuing that program this fall. She is working with another young leader from PPC to run an after-school program offering homework helps, nourishment and spiritual teaching with Solidarity.

Let me bring this home a bit. This summer a young man, was unexpectedly killed in the neighborhood in a horrific car accident, on a Sunday night. He was only 20 years old. The next day our summer camps for children began. Most of the adult staff was heavily involved in the death. Annie, as an 18-year-old came and was able to push through her own grief, took the reins and ran the entire first week of programming for fifty children and three other interns. She rose to the occasion like an optimistic morning sunrise offering hope for another day in the midst of our neighborhood lamenting tears like dark crayons melting off an eclipse.

Annie is a leader. Annie is a change agent. Annie embodies an urban street song of celebration, a tribute to Lady Liberty. Annie, simply put, my dear friends, is an American.

I have seen the world at its worst. And the DACA program is the world at its best – it works. Annie is living testimony and proof to that reality. I urge you to work across the aisle, ensuring that this program is continued; our families need it, our churches need it, our neighborhoods need it, our country needs it. We are specifically asking you to support the Dream Act. We need a legislative solution since we do not expect DACA to continue. Please support the Dream Act. DACA is what peace and justice looks like when they embrace in our streets.

One of my favorite African proverbs goes like this, “If the mountain was smooth you could not climb it.” I fully realize that this mountain is not smooth, but please work with us to climb this raggedly edged mountain. The heart moving scenery on the summit is what we are all working for.

Just a thought …

This is not about geopolitics, this is a Divine ordering, and this is about God at work through faithful people.

Dear Friends,
The last ten days have brought us face to face with America’s longest running sin:  racism.  The events of Charlottesville, Virginia has erupted unexpectedly and catapulted itself into our living rooms, digital devices, to the very center of our public politic, like an unwanted intruder. The emergence of white supremacists, neo-Nazi’s and “alt-right” gathered and we were front and center witnessing this chaos.

Racism remains alive and well, make no mistake about it.

Ten years ago, I stood in the Apartheid Museum in South Africa, toured Nelson Mandela’s small home, and drove by Bishop Desmond Tutu’s residence. Both of these great men lived only blocks apart. I sat inside an armored vehicle where armed white Dutch police officers opened fire on demonstrators killing a young boy that initiated the ensuing struggle. I felt queasy most of the day, difficult to even speak.

Presbyterians are people of word, sacrament and confessions. One of our recently adopted confessions is The Belhar Confession. The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa wrote this in response to racism as their act of resistance, reconciliation and resolve to never let this happen again in their country or anywhere in the world. It states:

We believe that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine. Therefore, we reject any doctrine which, in such a situation, sanctions in the name of the gospel or of the will of God the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color and thereby in advance obstructs and weakens the ministry and experience of reconciliation in Christ.”

The American experiment has wondered where the church was during the violent periods in our life together surrounding race relations. Martin Luther King Jr. lamented the silence of the white church and, clergy in particular, in the struggle for equal rights. Further writing, “Love is the most durable power.”

Friends, we must not be silent. To remain silent is to be complicit. We must rise up. We must speak truth to power. This is a movement of God’s love that is the most durable power. In the creation account God created the cosmos and called it “good.” Then created human beings in God’s image and said, “It is very good.” Human beings are all very good in the eyes of God.

Jesus built bridges where there were walls. He entered the world of adulterers, enemies, hostile nations, the Roman Empire and the pagan world that vexed the zeitgeist of his day, reconciling all people, places and things to the Godhead. He taught that we are to be “Peacemakers, for they will be called sons and daughters of God.” He taught us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons and daughters of your Godhead in heaven.”

The Apostle Paul wrote, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

So, friends, be brave. Be bold. Stand in solidarity with those who are being marginalized and work to undo institutional racism, prejudice, bigotry, white privilege and anything that creates barriers between people of color, sexual preferences, or economic background. We are the Church; the hands and feet of Jesus being used by the trinitarian God reconciling all things and all people to God’s primal declaration that all people are “very good.”

This is not about geopolitics, this is a Divine ordering, and this is about God at work through faithful people.

May we all be brave today, God help us!

Pastor Tobin



Posted by Tobin Wilson with 1 Comments