Last night the anger still burned in me as I reflected on the events of the day. In some respects it was a normal day, the normal interruptions of neighbors stopping by and staff popping in with questions. The thing about the day was that each interruption, the answer to each question asked, the solution to each problem was blocked by our broken immigration system. It felt like we couldn’t get anything done without fixing immigration first.
Ricardo came by to type up a letter for the school district attempting to prove his income so his kids could get bus passes. He works as a day laborer and has no proof of income. With tears in his eyes he shared his frustration when the school district asked if he gets food stamps. He told them that he doesn’t take any government aid and I could see that this was a point of pride for him. The school district’s response was, ‘then how do we know you’re low-income?” “It’s so hard,” he whispered shaking his head. Anger welled up in me to see this proud, strong brother in Christ, hanging his head in defeat. What kind of system punishes people for not taking government aid?
When my anger had subsided to a slow burn, Walter popped in my office. He was buying plane tickets for an upcoming conference and realized that one of our partners doesn’t have an ID. Just the day before I had sat with our friend finalizing the partnership between her church and our community. She told me of her deep desire for training and excitement to learn all she can about community development. Her work speaks for itself though; she is making huge changes in her neighborhood even before she has models and language for the work. And now we weren’t sure if she could come to the training. How can we move capable, willing people forward in their development if we can’t move them around the country?
These questions swirled in my mind as I got ready for bed. And I thought of my privileged upper middle class upbringing and how I have rarely been told “No”. I rarely had to accept the status quo. I could always find a way. Except for now. Now I sit with the way things are. Now instead of making a call to an important person, I stand with my neighbor and cry. Now instead of laying down more cash to make a way, I shrug my shoulders and say, ‘you can’t go and that’s how it is for now.”
This may sound like a horrible, hopeless resignation, however it is the very acknowledgement of the way things are now that presses me on to fight for change. The reality that there is nothing I can do right now to change the broken immigration system, strengthens my resolve to keep pushing until there is change. Recognizing how broken things are gives me courage to go on yearning.
As I stood there brushing my teeth a quote from Jackie Pullinger came to mind, “Practice, weep, pray, and go on yearning.” I repeated it in my heart, “Practice, weep, pray, and go on yearning.” Today my heart yearns for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. My frustration burns hot and pours out of my eyes as hot tears. A yell sticks in my throat and my fists clench. I pray, “How long Lord?” How long will our way be blocked at every turn? How long must we fight idly? We punch the wall of fear, we knock at the walls of lies, we bang our heads against the high wall of bureaucracy and we are left bloody and tired and worn. How long?
I saw the question in Ricardo’s humiliated glance. I heard the distress in Walter’s long sigh. How long? Our momentum seems stalled by all these obstacles and yet, perhaps this is our momentum. Each obstacle is another push to keep calling, writing, crying, praying, and yearning and practicing.
Practice hospitality. Practice gentleness. Practice walking in another’s shoes. Practice love. Practice being the people we were created to be no matter what is happening around us. And weep. Weep with those who weep. Weep for injustice. Weep in despair. Weep in anger. And we pray. Pray in hope with the broken. Pray for the Kingdom to come. Pray for mercy. And go on yearning. Yearning for reconciliation. Yearning for wholeness. Yearning for justice and peace. Yearning for freedom. Yearning for truth. Yearning for change.
Practice, weep, pray and go on yearning. We go on yearning.
Crissy Brooks 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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