A Blog About Remembering

“Passover Remembered” by Alla Renée Bozarth-Campbell

Pack nothing.
Bring only 
your determination to serve 
and your willingness to be free.

Don’t wait for the bread to rise.
Take nourishment for the journey,
but eat standing, be ready
to move at a moment’s notice.

Do not hesitate to leave
your old ways behind —
fear, silence, submission.

Only surrender to the need
of the time — to love
justice and walk humbly
with your God.

Do not take time
to explain to the neighbors.
Tell only a few trusted
friends and family members.

Then begin quickly,
before you have time
to sink back into
the old slavery.

Set out in the dark.
I will send fire
to warm and encourage you.
I will be with you in the fire
and I will be with you in the cloud.

You will learn to eat new food
and find refuge in new places.
I will give you dreams in the desert
to guide you safely to that place
you have not yet seen.

The stories you tell
one another around the fires
in the dark will make you
strong and wise.

Outsiders will attack you,
and some follow you,
and at times you will get weary
and turn on each other
from fear and fatigue and
blind forgetfulness.

You have been preparing
for this for hundreds of years.
I am sending you into the wilderness
to make a new way and to learn my ways
more deeply.

Some of you will be so changed
by weathers and wanderings
that even your closest friends
will have to learn your features
as though for the first time.

Some of you will not change at all.
Some will be abandoned
by your dearest loves
and misunderstood by those
who have known you since birth
and feel abandoned by you.

Some will find new friendships
in unlikely faces, and old friends
as faithful and true
as the pillar of God’s flame.

Sing songs as you go,
and hold close together.
You may at times grow confused
and lose your way.

Continue to call each other
by the names I’ve given you,
to help remember who you are.
You will get where you are going
by remembering who you are.
Touch each other and keep telling the stories. 

Make maps as you go
remembering the way back
from before you were born.

So you will be only the first
of many waves of deliverance on these desert seas.
It is the first of many beginnings —
your Paschaltide.

Remain true to this mystery.
Pass on the whole story.
Do not go back.
I am with you now
and I am waiting for you.

This poem means a lot to me. I think I’ve read it a hundred times over since I first heard it at YAGM orientation in Chicago. Sometimes I read it to myself, mulling over the meaning of each line; other times, I read it aloud and let the deepness sit in my chest. Today I read it and found myself thinking about how fitting it is for the migrants whom I work with on a daily basis and what it means for me to be able to pass on the whole story. I found myself thinking about the things I want to remember to tell.

Today I was able to give the introductory talk at the shelter for the first time, which includes asking migrants to leave their backpacks by the door. One migrant came through and I asked if he had a backpack with him, but he told me that he had no belongings. “Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve and your willingness to be free…”

Many times, I have gotten up in the middle of eating my meal to go open the door to allow migrants to rush out in order to catch the train. Usually, this means that the migrants themselves have just finished eating. “…but eat standing, be ready to move at a moment’s notice…”

And often when I register migrants at the shelter, two questions I have to ask them are “why are you migrating?” and “is your life in danger?” I breathe a sigh of relief when the latter answer is no, but many times it is yes. “…Do not take time to explain to the neighbors. Tell only a few trusted friends and family members. Then begin quickly, before you have time to sink back into the old slavery…”

Today, a 21-year old migrant, Jovani, had to have his arm amputated in the early hours of the morning after being injured by the concrete posts along the train tracks. Tonight, I prayed that he feels God with him in what likely may be the most painful day of his life. “…Set out in the dark. I will send fire to warm and encourage you. I will be with you in the fire and I will be with you in the cloud…”

Yesterday, I read an article about migrant children in the US being transported across the country to large shelters where they have limited access to legal services and even less access to education. Many days, I read comments online about the “rapists, murderers, and drug dealers” coming from Mexico/Central America. Some days, those comments are coming from the President of the United States. Migrants face these comments too and yet have welcomed me; how grateful I am for the community we have at Sagrada Familia. “…Outsiders will attack you, and some follow you, and at times you will get weary and turn on each other from fear and fatigue and blind forgetfulness…”

Today I am thinking about how God has called me to serve and the comments from those who wish to keep the church from “getting too political” or those who “just don’t really like talking politics.” I used to feel uncomfortable about it too; I never felt like I knew enough to discuss big topics. But discomfort is a privilege for those who don’t need to fight for their rights. I know that my God called for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24) and that’s something I am willing to fight for. “…Some of you will be so changed by weathers and wanderings that even your closest friends will have to learn your features as though for the first time…”

Some days, I think about how the people in my life have reacted/will react to a passionate Courtney; to the kind of Courtney who cries tears of anger at the injustices created by the US government and who doesn’t want to be quiet about her truth. I think about those in my support system, my fellow YAGMs, and my new friends in Mexico who strengthen my resolve daily. “…Some will be abandoned by your dearest loves and misunderstood by those who have known you since birth and feel abandoned by you. Some will find new friendships in unlikely faces, and old friends as faithful and true as the pillar of God’s flame…”

Every day I try to listen carefully to the names of the migrants I am working with and often times I have to ask for a form of ID so I can see what the name is, but their names are important so I try anyways. We bond as they struggle to pronounce Courtney and after a few rounds of laughter, I let them know that Leigh will also suffice. “…Continue to call each other by the names I’ve given you, to help remember who you are. You will get where you are going by remembering who you are…”

Every day, I am reminded of God’s presence in this country, in my home, in the shelter, and in the hearts of the people in my community. Migrants come and then they go. I won’t know if they’ve made it to the border safely or if they’ve been deported or worse. One of the migrants who was helping at the shelter long-term while healing from an injury had been walking me to the corner to catch my combi (bus/taxi service) on busy days to make sure I got there safely. Last week he was picked up by immigration services in Mexico for being out of the vicinity of the shelter after walking another volunteer to the same place a half hour after he had dropped me off. Now I don’t know what his life will be like, so I do my best to trust that God is taking care of him wherever he may be. And I continue to work and learn and grow, knowing that it’s God’s mission that I do so. These are the things I will remember. These are the stories I will tell.

“…Remain true to this mystery. Pass on the whole story. Do not go back. I am with you now and I am waiting for you.”

 

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One thought on “A Blog About Remembering

  1. Courtney, thank you for your powerful blog on a powerful poem. May God continue to bless you and the people with whom you minister.

    Like

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