She stooped down to look her toddler daughter in the eyes and handed her a long stick to use as a way to feel her way around the park as her blind father was exploring the walking trail that winds beneath the Perrine Bridge. From where I was standing I understood the body language to mean that while the mother was concerned about her young daughter running with a stick, she risked giving her her own “white cane” so she could “see” the world around as her father did.
And I prayed, help me see the world the way you do, Father.
Equip me with the tools to walk the path and see as you do.
Seven days ago I woke up with a simple commission to stand for the foreigner and be a church that is known for love and radical hospitality, not fear. Seven days in a row, I simply gave up an hour when we usually share lunch or grab a sandwich to-go to stand on the Perrine Bridge, the gate to the city of Twin Falls, holding a simple black and white sign.
The sign reads, “We Welcome Refugees” – “I am the church, too.”
My intention was to be a voice of hope that echoes the promise God gives in Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow.” A voice of opposition to the church that says, be afraid – the enemy is at hand.
In the hour a day, I committed to prayer for the refugee crisis at hand.
In the hour a day, I committed to abstain from battling and surrender to the reality that I may not know the whole story or even part.
I prayed that the Church would rise to transcend the fears of unknown or known enemies, stop division among the body and cling to the promise that God is enough for peace and provision for the Jew and the Gentile. For the Idahoan and the Syrian. For the believer and the non-believer. For the American and the refugee.
True – I had a spiritual experience that helped me identify as a foreigner, a refugee, a sojourner in this land who longs for her home. True – I stand in a world view that believes this life on earth is not the end, nor the place where I will be comfortable and safe and fulfilled. True – I am not scared or threatened by other world views that oppose mine. True – I do not love my life unto death and I believe that this is the time when the “rubber meets the road” and we – the Church – need to practice radical hospitality – even in the face of “danger.” True – I believe Jesus was a radical and a refugee who didn’t play it safe and condemned the religious.
I didn’t know just how risky my actions would be.
There are signs all around. And my simple sign is just one of many.
I have been questioned. I have been interviewed. I have been judged. I have been slandered. I have been solicited. I have been praised. I have been sent packages and invitations to learn more about programs and groups. I have been associated with policies I do not believe in. I have been grouped with people I don’t know and ideology I don’t accept. I have been made fun of and also prayed for. I have stood alone and joined by friends and strangers. More than ever, I am alert to the conflict in my community and I intend to attend community forums and awareness meetings and continue to pray.
As cars honk or steer clear of me and my sign, I wonder – was that a happy honk or an angry honk? Will they wave, ignore, or flip me off? Does the driver change lanes to avoid “catching” this bleeding heart as if my weakness for the lesser is contagious or is he changing lanes to keep me safe or simply getting ready to turn left?
It is because I positioned myself to engage in these questions and committed to a small experiment that I have time to ponder these things.
I have a sense harder ponderings are ahead. And more complex tools will be needed to navigate the path ahead than a simple sign or a walking stick to go where I am going.
But the view from the bridge is a unique perspective.