Sometimes life (in the providence of God) takes you on a ride, and it's hard to keep up. I have been reading 1 John lately, and there are two words that are running through my mind. ABIDE and LOVE. The adventure of this semester continues, and my prayer is that through it all I will abide in Christ, and learn to better love the sojourner in my land.
And while I should write a follow up post to my grading and exams, just now it is appropriate to stop and reflect on things that are more important.
This all started with Racial Justice Week at BCA. It was an amazing week, that reawakened parts of me that I stopped listening to far too long ago. In my classroom, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing and sacrificial parent who gave her time all year long in the planning and preparation for this week. She helped my classes to discuss issues surrounding immigration, the immigrant experience and the racism that is inherent to that life path.
And all this seemed an important jumping off point, specifically with my 11th graders to delve into a deeper study of immigration during this semester. Now, before I share anything else, it may be a helpful detour to get some background information on what happened next. Please see the buttons below:
Around this time, a wonderful colleague, Susie Mack mentioned to me that her daughter was in Immokalee Florida working with a group of migrant farmworkers and advocating for workers rights, fair wages and safe working conditions. I was able to talk with Shelby Mack shortly thereafter and learn more about the work that she is doing.
In the course of our conversation she said, "I know it's probably unlikely, but we are planning a rally in New York City in March. It would be great if you could come."
This year has been the year of the unlikely, so it was only natural to bring up the unlikely possibility of planning a trip to New York City to attend a protest march with a group of high school students to my amazing future head of school (pardon the run on sentence... This is where it starts to get really exciting). Sean's only request was that a trip like this be couched in our desire as a school to pursue justice, to be about the work of building an upside down kingdom here in Earth, that the highest purpose of an encounter like this would be invite students to love like Jesus. Of course this is what I want for my students. This is the greatest essential question that I could think to ask... How do we as Christians live out the biblical mandate to love the foreigner? How does the experience of the foreigner and sojourner among us speak to our own condition as 'exiles (Heb. 11:13)'?
By the end of the conversation I was armed with a pile of books and a good deal more courage than I had previously. The book that I opted to begin reading was, "The World is Not Ours to Save" by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. Honestly, I'm not quite finished just yet, so this won't be a book review. Suffice to say it will likely be the best book on faith that I have read in awhile. Mr. Wigg-Stevenson strikes a beautiful balance between human responsibility with a proper understanding of God's holiness and sovereignty. It should not be our agenda to assert that we have a plan by which the world will be absolutely redeemed and transformed. We are only the image-bearers, not the God who fashioned the World and has a plan that he is bringing to completion.
But, for me the scariest part was yet to come. What if I let the cat out of the bag, that I was planning to take students to a rally in NYC and everyone at my school thought it was a terrible idea? I should have known better. I am humbled yet again by the amazing community of teachers and parents that surround me. No one questioned my judgment. To the contrary, a local pastor threw in his lot with my class and offered to join us on our trip. A parent offered to come and teach my class a lesson on micro-economics so that my students would be better armed with understanding about profit and value and why a large corporation might choose not to pay more money for tomatoes in spite of the likely cost in human exploitation.
It was all coming together. I have been wanting to learn with my students, not just talk at them. I have been wanting to find organic connections between my discipline and others. I have been wanting to understand more deeply the biblical source of inspiration for being a Spanish teacher. It's all here! We have learned about mathematical, economic principles, I have felt like a student caught in the riptide of learning and above all my students and I have found meaningful and necessary connections between the language that we are learning and God who breathed that language into being.
So, the morning of our trip arrived and my student group had shrunk from seven to two, and we four humans stared at each other with the realization that it might be a long and awkward car ride. We didn't know each other well or at all, but it didn't matter because the conversation flowed and flowed. It didn't matter that we were a small group because Mrs. Wright said, "You are going to pave the way." (I mean, do I work in the best place, or what?)
At the end of the day Pastor Ric Wild made a comment that has stuck with me. He said (roughly), "The people of God have historically been set apart because of their care for foreigners. While many ancient cultures cared for orphans and widows, it was the Israelites alone who sheltered and provided care to sojourners and exiles. That is still part of the fabric of our identity as people of God." I don't know the answers to immigration reform in our country. I don't know how to be a person of faith who submits to the authority of the government and who yet loves and cares for the exile. By the grace of God, this is a question that I will pursue, and as I do my students voices will ring in my head, "What do we do now?"
To be continued...
Shannon Norquist, teacher of Spanish and Dance at Barrington Christian Academy, mother of 3 lovelies, wife to an artist, modern dancer, daughter to the King.