(Photo provided by El Camino Del Inmigrante)
Sometime I make snap decisions, and then later go back and question my own intent. Was that prompting truly from God, or just some kind of ego-driven idea? I wasn’t really sure. That’s how it was with El Camino Del Inmigrante. Noel Castellanos threw out this big idea last November at the end of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference in 2016. He had participated in the El Camino De Santiago in Spain over his sabbatical, and he proposed that CCDA create a pilgrimage of it’s own from the Tijuana border of Mexico to downtown Los Angeles Calif. to highlight the plight of immigrants to the United States, and advocate for immigration reform. I immediately thought, “I want to do that.”
Christians talk a lot about discernment, but don’t really discuss how it really works, because it is somewhat mystical, and we don’t want to come off arrogant or sounding weird. When I face these situations myself, I often take a step back, and go into contemplation mode, my go to reaction. The idea itself was kind of crazy, walking 10 to 15 miles a day, sleeping on the floors of churches at night. I’m personally not good at doing either one of these things. I would have to literally physically train, and raise funds to afford alternative sleeping arrangements, and neither of these realities was all that appealing. But, I still couldn’t get the idea out of my mind, so I prayed that if the idea was not some kind of calling from God, then the desire would go away.
I bought shoes. I returned shoes. I started walking five to six days per week, but I wasn’t sure I could walk long distances multiple days in a row. I developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and fundraising was excruciatingly slow. Nevertheless, more and more factors affirmed my plan to participate.
There were so many more unknowns than knowns. I wasn’t in control of the schedule. While I thought I knew how long the routes were, I didn’t know the terrain or conditions. And, I didn’t know how I was going to afford to be away from my family and job for more than two weeks. But, I had been in this position before. I had taken a team of dentists to southern Mexico more than a decade ago, and we went with little more surety than that it was a good idea. The act of stepping out in faith was not new, in fact, I knew that God was greater than all of my fears, and what ifs.
What I kept wrestling with was, “How do I make a difference in light of national systemic injustice?” “How do I leverage my education and privilege to impact the lives of millions of people?” I could blog, or speak to people within my sphere of influence. I could initiate an advocacy campaign, and write letters and call legislators. I could certainly pray. All of these things are good, and in some way make an impact, but this time I did not feel that thinking and speaking were enough. As cliché as it may seem, I kept coming back to Micah 6:8. What does the LORD require of me? . . . God requires me to do justice. There was no doubt in my mind that I should go to physically stand in solidarity with those who were (and still are) oppressed.
The Encyclopedia Britannica states, “The purposes and motivations for pilgrimage vary, within as well as between traditions . . . [as] do the relationships between pilgrims and political rulers” (www.britannica.com, accessed September 11, 2016). Each person’s decision to participate on El Camino Del Inmigrante was certainly slightly different. Some of us came to learn about the facets and challenges of immigration, and to learn how we could participate in promoting reform. Others, like myself, have personal relationships with those impacted by the convoluted system, and seek to advocate on their behalf. Regardless of the motivation, we all could identify the brokenness. In the midst of a political climate that has scapegoated immigrants, we all discerned God’s good will toward strangers and foreigners, and we chose to walk the journey (El Camino) with them.
Marie Moy completed the Master of Arts in Theology and Social Justice at Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College in May 2015. She serves in the city of Buffalo through Jericho Road Community Health Center and Renovation Church. Marie is passionate about Christian community development, and works with like-minded individuals and organizations to holistically restore communities.
This blog post is the first in a series of three posts dedicated to Marie’s participation in the El Camino Del Inmigrante pilgrimage held August 20-30, 2016.