I don’t have much formal training as a storyteller, but the one thing I know about a good story is that in some way, shape, or form, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. When God created the Heavens and the Earth, God started The Story. Then comes a bunch of other things like the birth and death of Jesus and then finally the Bible’s book of Revelation tells us about what’s going to happen in the end. However, since the world didn’t end on January 1st, 2000 or on December 21st, 2012, we just haven’t gotten to the end quite yet. All that to say that this blog is starting in the middle of The Story. And in the great big midst of God’s plan for the world, is the humble beginning of my story as part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s Young Adults in Global Mission program (YAGM).
In April 2018, I sat on my bed in Chicago on the last night of the YAGM discernment, interview, and placement event and told my roommate Courtney (yes, same name; we were destined for friendship), “I really feel like I am being called to Mexico. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel meant to be there.” So we went to bed in anxious anticipation of our assignments we would receive the next morning. But when my name was announced, it was for the United Kingdom, not Mexico. I had to grieve a little bit, as I felt sure that my call was to Mexico, but I quickly adapted after realizing how much potential there was for me to serve in the UK and grew excited about how God might use me there. Then a few months later, my UK cohort and I received an email saying that we could no longer serve in the UK because of visa sponsorship issues. So then I had to grieve the UK and all of my plans and dreams for my year there, but it was in this email that I got to see the words I had felt so called to before, “Courtney– Mexico.”
To be clear, I don’t think the YAGM staff got my placement wrong or that they weren’t listening to God’s plans for me; the staff works tirelessly and prayerfully to discern our placements. However, it was once explained to me that every time Jesus presents bread in the Bible, he lifts it, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it away. To be so sure that I was going to Mexico, only to be assigned the UK, only to be reassigned to Mexico, feels like part of my divine brokenness. I was lifted and blessed through the discernment process and through preparation for two very different countries, but now is the time to experience the most holy of all brokenness. The brokenness that God came to earth in the form of Jesus to give us. For the upcoming year, I will be sent out to do God’s mission in the world in the form of accompaniment. To be the hands and feet of Jesus. To be a light on the path of migrants traveling through Mexico.
Which all leads to the name of my blog for the upcoming year, “The Eucharist and The Stranger.”
Nadia Bolz-Weber, one of my favorite authors/speakers, wrote, “The movement in our relationship to God is always from God to us. Always. We can’t, through our piety or goodness, move closer to God. God is always coming near to us. Most especially in the Eucharist and in the stranger.”
My story feels so far away from the beginning of The Story and there’s no telling when the end of the story will happen. In a world where sexual abuse is disgustingly prevalent, where police violence is a real threat to POC, where migrant children are separated from their parents, and where LGBTQ+ people struggle for acceptance and rights, it can be easy to feel like God is far away. But as the Bible says, everything we do to our brothers and sisters, we do to God (Matthew 25:40). I want to meet God this year in ways that I haven’t before, I want to break bread with God, but most significantly, I know God wants to break bread with me too. I will be serving a year at Sagrada Familia, a shelter for migrants traveling through Mexico. I know the migrant debate is controversial, especially given current events, but it is important for me to do this work, to become more educated, and to listen to the stories of the people I meet. I already love the stranger, but I know that this year will help deepen and strengthen that love. God is The Eucharist and The Stranger and I can’t wait for God to be nearer to me through this year. I hope that you will join me in this part of my story, whether it be financially (http://support.elca.org/goto/courtneynoya), spiritually, or in another unique way. I hope that you feel God coming nearer to you through that support. Most importantly, I hope that you, me, and The Stranger can soon break bread together.