A friend of mine describes worship and mission as being the inhale and exhale in the life of the church. I can’t remember which was breathing in or out. As part of Western’s delegation to Frontera de Cristo in Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, Sonora, one of the PC(USA)’s six bi-national ministries on the US-Mexico border, I was often unable to distinguish between worship and mission. We listened to stories of families on the border, heard from women who formed a cooperative to grow food and sell handicrafts, and found out more about Café Justo, the coffee roasted in Agua Prieta that comes straight from farmers in Chiapas. But our group reflection and prayer, at times standing next to the metal fence posts that divide the Sonoran desert, both haunted and energized me.
Our group was wonderfully intergenerational and included Nancy Arbuthnot, Naomia Suggs-Brigety, Kate Brittain, Betsy Carter, and Cindy Stevens. We have many stories to share, and have begun to think more about how Western might remain engaged and supportive of Frontera’s ministry. Stay tuned for opportunities to hear more.
Until then, a story to share: Our second morning we joined Linda Knox, who with her retired pastor husband Jack moved to Douglas to support the work of the border ministry. Each morning they walk the few blocks from their home to the metal fence on the US side to pray. They lean against the hard metal and pray for all of those whose lives have been affected – migrants, communities, border patrol, remembering that God was present there before the fence, God is present now, and God will be there long after the fence is gone. After we prayed, Linda shared with us something a friend said about those who have lost their lives trying to migrate. “They are not the victims,” she said, “they are the heroes. They were the ones brave enough to risk everything for a better life.” We stood for a minute, wrapping our heads around this new way of praying, of seeing immigrants, of sensing God’s presence near a fenced wall that seems God-forsaken.
Were we worshiping? Were we engaged in mission? It seemed like both to me. Jed, my friend, would probably say that in faith terms, our breath was growing deeper. May we all find chances to breathe more deeply!