I am a sucker for traditions. I love celebrating important moments by reﬂecting each year on special days. The prayer vigil for immigration reform has become a tradition in our community. However we never intended it to be an annual tradition. Four years ago, we gathered to cry out to God for reform—and here we are, years later, still crying out to God for the same things.
Reﬂecting together on the scriptures at the vigil reminded me that God hears the cries of his people. Throughout history, people have cried out for years to a seemingly unresponsive God. The Psalmist often prayed, “How long, O Lord?”
“How long will you look on?” (Psalm 35:16)
“How long, O Lord, how long? I am in anguish.” (Psalm 6:3)
“How long will you forget us?” (Psalm 13:1)
How long? How long will families be separated by deportations? How long will our neighbors work and contribute without being recognized? How long will our country extort people for their work? How long will we tell children they can be whatever they want when there is no path for their success?
How long, O Lord? How long, O Lord, will we praise ourselves for liberty and opportunity while denying it to others? How long will we mask our own fear with hate? How long, O Lord?
Last week we gathered to pray for immigration reform again. We prayed for the Church—for the people of God to love their neighbors. We prayed for immigrants. We prayed for legislators. We prayed for reform. And underneath all our prayers, my heart cried, “How long, O Lord?”
As we were leaving, I mentioned that this was the fourth vigil to a participating pastor, and he said, “This better be the last one! The only reason I want to gather this group again is to celebrate reform!” I knew where he was coming from, and I pictured what a grand celebration of neighbors, pastors, and churches coming together will look like.
My faith and hope were renewed as I imagined planning a party to celebrate reform. What joy it will be to worship with songs of thanksgiving after years of crying out to God together. What freedom we will feel when we gather as a whole community without fear. I imagined us weeping for joy together. I pictured us dancing with abandon, our hearts full of gratitude. Again, I think of the Psalmist who spoke of a day like that. “To you, Lord, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy…you turned my wailing into dancing. You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalm 30:8, 11).
The vision of my neighbors clothed with joy, dancing as hard as we have prayed fuels my faith to keep on praying, acting, and hoping for reform. I look forward to the day when our tradition is transformed to an annual celebration of reconciliation—when we remember joyfully how God heard our cries for reform.
O Lord, hear our prayers.
Christine Nolf is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Mika Community Development Corporation in Costa Mesa, California. Mika works with neighbors and church partners through neighborhood organizing and youth development, with the desire is to see their community reflect the justice and mercy of God’s Kingdom. She is a graduate of Azusa Pacific University and serves on the board of the Christian Community Development Association.
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