Before I leave for the border…
I leave for Texas tomorrow morning. I am traveling with a group of United Methodist pastors to the U.S./Mexico border. The purpose of the trip is not mission or service, it is immersion and learning. It’s difficult to capture my thoughts and feelings before I take this trip. In case I ever doubted it, my Spanish lessons over the past few weeks more than confirmed it- I have an awful lot to learn. There’s just so much I don’t know and the language is only a fraction of it.
What I do know is that I don’t have to take this trip to be convinced that things are bad. I’ve been on a journey for ten years now, learning the history of this country that one has to hunt for. The history that is mostly hidden from textbooks and glossed over in lessons and lectures. I didn’t get it in public school growing up and I didn’t even get it in college, but thankfully, my consciousness began to be raised in seminary (thank you, Dr. Cannon) and ever since I have continued my own education. I know now, of the two hundred and fifty years of chattel slavery and how our version of it was the worst in human history. I know now of the racial terror that followed Reconstruction: the decades of lynching, convict leasing, criminalization, disenfranchisement, and desecration of black and brown bodies. I know now of the dehumanizing, dignity-stealing, segregation system of Jim Crow. I know now that the evolution of this racial hierarchy has manifested itself today in the mass incarceration of black and brown bodies at a rate that is higher than any other nation in the world. And while I am not nearly as educated as I need to be on this part, I do know that this history of ours is littered with anti-immigration sentiment solidified in court and cemented in law.
I study racism.
I know things are bad.
So I am not taking this trip to be convinced about that, but I also can’t separate my awareness of this history in what we are going to experience. Once you know something, there’s no going back. And there is no detachment of what is happening currently in our nation from what has happened in it for centuries.
“The past is not dead,” Faulkner said, “it’s not even past.”
I am traveling with these pastors because I was given this opportunity as a gift and I do not take that lightly. Many people will not get such an opportunity. I am traveling because pilgrimage, embodiment, and incarnation matters.
God came to us. In our space. In our experience.
God moved into our neighborhood, put our skin on, and walked around in our world.
Jesus spent his entire ministry going.
Jesus went to where people were, spent time on their turf, listened to their stories, paid attention to their pain, was moved by their struggle, and responded.
Jesus healed and loved and touched and prayed and stayed and ate and kept dragging chairs to the table and passing out more bread and making space at the feast.
I am going on this trip to listen and to see. I am going so that I can be moved. I am going to experience God, meet Jesus, and follow the Spirit in a place unfamiliar to me. I am going so that I can have more compassion because, Lord knows, I don’t know how we can change the world without first having more compassion.
Incarnation matters. So it’s important that when we get the chance, we go.
And it’s crucial that when we come home, we are never the same.
Post written by Jamie Thompson. Originally posted on her blog. Used with permission.