late June, 2002, I led a group of seminarians in an 11-day exploration
of the Arizona/Sonora borderlands with a focus on hearing the stories
of migrants. Toward the end of our journey, we spent an evening with migrants
who were just getting off the bus in the town plaza in Altar, Sonora.
In about an hour, I had conversations with a young couple from Veracruz
who had left their three-year old daughter behind to look for work in
Kansas, a 16-year old boy from Chiapas (an evangelical Christian) who
was hoping to make it to North Carolina, and a man desperate to get to
New York to learn what he could of his brother and his son, both of whom
were working in the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001, and neither
of whom had been heard from since.
That night, which we spent on the floor of the Catholic run migrant center in
Altar, I found that I couldn't sleep. I sat in the dark – all night – thinking
about the people I had met and wondering how to put their stories before the
church. That night I discerned a clear sense of call to stand for the position
of moderator of the PC(USA).
All my life I've tried to imagine what Jesus would do, how Jesus would act, whom
Jesus would care for in our world today. Since my childhood and throughout my
adult life, I have experienced many different kinds of "call." I know about the sense of call that grows out of a lifelong connection to the
church. I've experienced the kind of call that demands we step into something
unknown without a clear sense of direction from God but with the conviction that
God is calling us to something beyond ourselves. I've lived the kind of call
that comes from being in a faith community and following the discipline of that
community to unexpected places. I know about the call that comes from a sharpening
sense of what God is asking of us as we learn about ourselves over time.
However, I've only rarely experienced the kind of call that comes from revelation
in the middle of the night – in the midst of prayer and in response to deep hurt
and a desire to respond directly to God and to that hurt.
I feel called by God to try to put before the church the concerns of those who
suffer in our rush toward a global economy without taking responsibility to build
a global community. I feel called to highlight the deaths of so many migrants,
on the border where I live and all over the world, who have forfeited their lives
in their attempt to provide for their families. I feel called to help make our
Church a church that has as its first priority Jesus' command to care for the "least of these."
Since that moment of call, my conviction has grown that the church needs leaders
who will witness to the good news of Jesus Christ for all people, who will help
our church to know that we have been saved by grace for a reason: to do Christ's
work in the world. Now is the time to develop leaders who will help the Church
stand firmly with Jesus in a world of violence and greed, and who will lead,
as much as possible, by our own example. Mission in our world today begins at
the front door of each sanctuary, and our worship should give us the strength
to go out and make a real difference in that world. With God's grace, and with
the invitation of the General Assembly, that's the kind of message I feel called
to share with the Presbyterian Church (USA).