“I, the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard My people cry. All who dwell in dark and sin, My hand will save. I who made the stars of night, I will make their darkness bright. Who will bear My light to them? Whom shall I send? // Here I am Lord, is it I Lord? I have heard You calling in the night. I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.”
These are lyrics from a fairly popular Christian song inspired by Isaiah 6:8, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.” I remember this song from my childhood. I could sing the words in church before I understood what they meant.
During my orientation in Mexico, I visited my work site at La Sagrada Familia, a short-term migrant shelter in a small railroad town called Apizaco. The tracks that run alongside the shelter carry a train infamously known as “La Bestia” or “The Beast.” As my cohort and I visited this shelter, it was explained to us that many migrants ride on La Bestia as a method of traveling through Mexico to the north, generally with the hopes of crossing the US border. Many are doing so in an attempt to escape issues in their home countries such as gangs, violence, drugs, or extraordinary poverty. Along the tracks of the train are cement posts, intended to discourage riders from jumping on and off the train; but rather than act as a deterrent, it merely makes an already difficult journey more dangerous.
As I stood on the tracks, holding hands with my fellow YAGM and praying for the safety of all who were on this journey, I thought of the circumstances that exist for these migrants that so many of them are fleeing their homes in a hope for something more, something that I have because I was fortunate enough to be born into it. I also thought about how aside from the physical taxation that such a trip takes on a migrant, there is also a significant mental and spiritual taxation as well. It hurts me to imagine what it would be like to risk everything I have to save myself or my family, only to be greeted by a constant barrage of messages that I’m a criminal or alien or somehow anything less than a beloved child of God. It pains me to think that in another world that could be my life and it pains me much more to know that for many people I will interact with this year, it’s a reality that my imagination could never begin to comprehend.
When I came home from my site visit, I tried to decompress my overwhelming and complicated feelings about what the year would bring for me. I know many of my days will be filled with seemingly mundane tasks like cleaning or making meals, but other days I know I will be struck by the nature of my privilege that allows me to spend a voluntarily year in Mexico with my US passport. The day I visited my work site for the first time, I was struck. We returned back to our home base and I openly wept as I journaled about the visit. Then, when I was ready, I talked to my country coordinator about it. When she asked what exactly had made me so emotional, I realized not only how hurt I was by our world’s way of dealing with migration issues, but also at how little I could do. I remember saying, “I feel deeply called to this place. I have felt it since this process began that God wants me to be there and I felt like I was in the right place today. I just don’t understand why God would call ME; I have such little to offer.” And we talked about that struggle/fear of mine, but we also simply sat in the beautiful sadness, hope, and humility in knowing how limited we are in helping repair a damaged world as individuals. Even now, after many days of thinking about these questions and discussing my role with my cohort and with alumni who have been in the same/similar position as me, I realize that even by the end of my year I might not have an answer. I might never have an answer as to why, out of all the people in this program and out of all the people in the world, God called me. But that’s okay.
Despite the darkness and sin that exists in our world on various levels, God calls us multiple times throughout the Bible to bear God’s light. And while I used to think that meant singing a nice song in church, I realize now that by asking God to send me out, I actually have to go out. I want to take it seriously when God asks me to open my heart wide enough to include all God’s people: my sending community, my host community, my cohort, and every migrant I meet. People say the church is dying with my generation, but I think we might actually be living and breathing and going. We’re building new churches outside the walls of our sanctuaries, outside the walls of our border, outside the walls of our hearts. I told God to send me and that’s what God did. Now I want you to come with me to this new church and to sing this sending song.