“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’” –Isaiah 6:8
The second AZ2DC: Round 2 bus has come home from the trip to D.C. to pray outside the door of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner. This hallway has become a place of holding vigil since October. The desire of all those that stand in that hallway to sing and pray is to see Congress move on immigration reform. The families that we know and love are suffering, and the window of opportunity for a bill to pass this year is quickly disappearing.
Much has happened in establishing a presence in D.C. since the first bus left. Many groups of people like ourselves have come from around the country to pray together for reform. They, like we have done, sleep on the floor of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church; like us, they traveled long distances to come to D.C. to appeal to the members of the House of Representatives to place a bill on the floor.
Our method is prayer and telling our stories. We also sing.
I came home from this trip last night, and I have an overwhelming sense that although this mission to D.C. has a very specific objective of ending suffering by repairing a broken immigration system, it also holds in its hands a very holy purpose of “bearing witness.” It wasn’t lost on any of us that at this Advent season, where we Christians bear witness to the coming of Christ, we were enacting many of the same motifs of the Christmas story.
We knocked on closed doors looking for “room” in our nation for the strangers among us. We experienced the good favor of “kings” and the fear of powerful people who could hurt children and mothers. We met and affirmed those that “pray and wait” in the fasters tent, resembling the Simeons and Annas among us. We sang loudly in the open air like the angels, made pilgrimage like the wise men, asked for help from people who could help if they were willing, worshiped and prayed, and prayed some more… and we bore witness in the open to anyone who would dare listen to the stories of those affected by our flawed immigration system.
We sang and prayed of the coming of Jesus into this very space and place for our rescue. Jesus is our hope, for He is the one who reminds us that when we welcome the immigrant (the stranger), we welcome Him.
The faithful core team that has been present since the beginning will remain until today, December 13th, when Congress ends its session for the year. They will serve to integrate others from around the county who will come throughout the week to carry the work of the vigil daily. There will be many who come.
They will bear witness, they will offer their stories: Of dads in deportation proceedings who committed the crime of having a bolt missing from a license plate; of the parents’ dreams for their children, and how these children intend to make them proud. They will tell of the children left behind after a hardworking parent is forcibly removed from the U.S. They will tell of their faith in God, their commitment to sacrifice until the suffering stops, their hope and love for this country, and their persistent endurance to continue in the struggle. They will look like our team looked–grandmas, moms, dads, college students, young adults, teenagers, small children, a few scattered white and black people–all of them ready to bear witness to what they know.
Our last activity on this trip was to visit D.C. as “touristas.” Providentially, we had just left the Lincoln memorial and were at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial when CNN came up to us to do an interview. We had been singing there. They wanted to get our reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela. We were stunned–we hadn’t heard because we had been so busy all week, and all day in particular.
It seemed so extraordinary to be located directly among this much history, all mingled up inside the same message: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” CNN left us, and we prayed that we would be and raise up Lincolns and Mandelas and Kings; that we would suffer long, and that we would always “bear witness.”
“But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
Dr. Kit Danley is the Founder and President of Neighborhood Ministries. She and her family have been living in and serving the urban Phoenix community for more than 30 years. She has her DMin from Bakke Graduate University.
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