Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Water Breaking Forth in the Wilderness

In 2009, I went on an experiential educational trip to the border with Methodist Federation for Social Action folks through BorderLinks. There, I saw "water breaking forth in the wilderness" (Isaiah 35:6). I wrote about the experience for December 18 of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church's Young Adult Advent Devotional (see page 19 of this PDF or continue reading below). I have been reflecting a lot recently on my adventures traveling, and this experience is one that burns brightly for me this Advent season.

Scripture: Isaiah 35:1-10
Focus: Opening your eyes to hope

In the desert where we were, a tall blue flag shot up into the sky, anchored to the dusty earth by a blue jug.

Here, on the border, where so many are lost in the wilderness, whether the symbolic wildernesses of greed or grief or the actual desert, here, there was water breaking forth. This hospitality is what we had been waiting for, whether we knew it or not.

We were a group of young adults participating in an experiential education program focused on immigration. Earlier that day, we met with some high school students living on the border who, when we shared our names and what the border meant to us, overwhelmingly spoke of death.

That stuck out in my mind as we saw this flag that symbolized water, which was being offered by a migrant shelter in Altar, Mexico, a simple place with hot food and a warm place to sleep.

When we arrived, no one was there yet for the night, so we waited. We had no idea what we should expect, but one of us got out a guitar and began to sing. Slowly, people began to arrive, including a young family, a teenage boy, and two brothers. They were exhausted and the language barrier made it difficult to strike up a conversation, but they joined us in song. Then we ate together, piecing together stories.
That night was filled with life and warmth, even though the realities of the dangers of the desert hung over us.

Reading Isaiah brought me back to that night at the migrant shelter. Isaiah's litany is one of hope in the midst of death; the hope we have been waiting for in the midst of the death we have seen around us.

Preparing ourselves for Jesus' arrival this Advent season is about opening our eyes to that hope at the same time it is about how we can nurture those blossoms God has planted in the wildernesses of this world. As that shelter on the border was, we can be waters breaking forth, offering life to people in their wilderness places.

PRAYER: Holy One, we reach out to you, seeking relief from the wildernesses around us. But we know we aren't the only ones. Return us to your joy, and give us the courage to bring your realm to this place. Amen.

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