Open Tables

“When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a taller fence”  

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In September, David & I got to visit a good friend in New Orleans – and make more friends while we were there!

Pastor Rachel is leading a mission to Spanish Speaking people in the Kenner, LA area (new NOLA), and we got to join her for some fun and exciting events.  That mission is called “Mision Latina Mesa Abierta” or “Open Table:  Latino Mission”.

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This mission is purposefully challenging the immigration conversation.  Instead of talking about whether or not to build a wall, this group is inviting more people to the table.
The newcomers and the old-timers in NOLA are talking together about God’s work in their lives, and they’re growing together in faith.

Pastor Rachel invites everyone to the Lord’s Table – sharing the traditional Christian communion dialogue in Spanish and in English at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Kenner.  (I got to share a sermon there.)

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Mesa Abierta gathers around open tables all over town, too – not only at church.  Pastor Rachel meets day laborers before their day even starts, bringing them cold water in parking lots as they gather and plan out their day.  (It’s seriously hot already at 8am in NOLA!  I can’t imagine working outside all afternoon.)  She also shares a word of encouragement, a Bible passage and conversation, and prayers.  It’s not communion, but it is community – and it’s Spirit-filled.

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While we were in NOLA, a group of activists invited us to join them around their tables of food and conversation (and drumming!) in a public park.  It felt so nice to be invited.  And, it was fun to be drumming!  The group is acting for fairer and more humane immigration policies, especially ones that keep families together.

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The next thing Mesa Abierta is launching is something called “Sobre Mesa”.  This is the Spanish word for the time spent around the table after a group is done eating.  They’ll be sharing language classes – teaching one another English and Spanish  – and also sharing bilingual Bible studies.

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what about our own “sobre mesa”?  How many times are we standing around the water cooler at work, or the coffee table at church, or the dinner table at home and the topic of welcoming immigrants is discussed?

What if, when we gathered together, we shared words of welcome and inclusion? What if, when someone tries to spread fear or gossip or even lies about refugees or immigrants, we had a positive word to share?  

What if, together, we can change the story to be about opening tables rather than building walls?

 

 

 

Welcome Home

Transitions are tough

To all my dedicated blog followers:  I’m sorry the blog has been silent recently.

Guess why?

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David & I are teachers during the school year.

 

 

And the first two weeks of school have kept us a little busy.

BUT – even in all the busy-ness, we still have some new stories to tell!

News is coming about This organization:

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Which has a great immigration clinic right here in Metro Detroit.

And this great organization (previously known as Lutheran Social Services of Michigan):

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Which is already resettling more refugees in Michigan than anyone else.

So, please, don’t go anywhere.

More pictures, more stories, and more prayer requests are coming soon!

We did it, America!

We welcomed 10,000 Syrian Refugees this year, and Michigan was the most popular place for them – we welcomed over 1,000 of them!

We can do our part to help with the Syrian civil war, and we are already doing it!  Lots of other states took in Syrian refugees, too, including California.

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We can do more, though.

According to NBC, At least 10 states haven’t taken in a single Syrian Refugee, and about 10 more have taken in almost no one.  According to the Washington Times, the United Nations High Commission for refugees has approved over 46,000 Syrians for resettlement in the United States, and so there are at least 36,000 more who have passed the extensive background check process and been approved, but are just waiting for us to welcome them.

Yes, welcoming refugees is scary, but we can do it.

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Rosie the Riveter is from Willow Run Bomber Plant – very near our house in Ann Arbor, MI.  

  • In 1980, the US welcomed 200,000 refugees.  In 1990, we welcomed 100,000 refugees.  Since 2011, though, we have barely welcomed 50,000 per year. Until this year, when we resettled 70,000.
  • In order to be approved by the UNHCR for resettlement, refugees have to be fingerprinted, background checked, interviewed, and medically cleared.

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This family is pictured in a refugee center in Jordan, but they’re ready to move to the US – ready to learn English, go to school, get a job, learn to drive, and make new friends.

We can do it, America!  We can be good neighbors, and show our hospitality.

 

Backpacking Europe: How we did it

Some people have asked – how did we manage to carry everything we needed for 6 weeks in Europe – through 12 countries?!

At first glance, we might look crazy.  But it actually worked really well for us.

Why bother to carry all of our stuff?  Short answer:  cost and convenience.
We decided to stay in “AirB&B” apartments and use public transportation to save money.

one of our apartments in Copenhagen was on this street:  
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That decision had a lot of implications, though, namely:  staircases and cobblestone streets.  Most streets in Europe are brick or cobblestone, which are very hard on wheeled bags.  Using public transportation involves carrying suitcases up and down staircases and onto and off of trains without ramps, when wheeled suitcases have to be carried.

If I’m going to carry the stuff anyway, I’d rather have a pack designed for carrying it.

There are so many packing lists around the web, but I love this checklist I ordered from Amazon.
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In general, packing for 6 weeks is a lot like packing for 10 days (plus laundry supplies & extra prescription meds).  But we also found a few helpful items we really love:

  • Packing Cubes, Shoe Bags, and pouches.  With backpacks, we had to completely unpack every evening, even if we were only there for one night.  By using packing cubes and pouches, we could quickly unpack and repack and still get to anything we needed.  We could put shoes anywhere they fit without worrying about them getting things dirty.

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  • electronic chargers & adapter.  We had to have an adapter for our stuff, but we also had a lot of stuff to charge.  David found a great charger that had 3 plugs and 4 USB plugs all connected to one adapter.  It meant we could charge our phones, laptops, tablets, e-watches, cameras, etc. all at once.  David also had portable chargers we could carry with us, so we could charge our phones without access to electrical plugs.

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One of the fun side effects of carrying all of our luggage is that it made us picky about buying souvenirs – because we had to carry it all with us!  But we still managed to buy a lot of reminders of our great trip.

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Lots of books, keychains, spoons, bags, and Christmas ornaments.  🙂  They’ll fill up the corners of our house and remind us of our amazing trip.

 

 

Faithfulness

After 6 weeks in Europe, we got to return to Shalom Lutheran Church in Pinckney, MI.  It was great to see all the people who had been praying for us and following our travels.  I also had the chance to preach about “Faithfulness” as a part of their 10-week Sermon Series on the “Fruit of the Spirit”.  This sermon is about 30 minutes, but in includes several stories of our time in Europe with refugees.