U-C: What I See

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A Pentecost Moment

Sisters and Brothers,

This is our next to last day in the desert. Because it is Saturday, our ranks have swelled to over one hundred people as we’ve walked almost thirteen miles along State Route 86 toward Tucson. We’re facing the Tucson Mountains now, and each step brings the low, ragged peaks out of the haze and our destination a little bit closer. The group arrives at our campsite around one p.m., though this dusty lot covered with broken bottles and fire ants barely counts as a campsite in any of our minds.

Just before dusk, storm clouds darkened the sky over the mountains to our east. As the mostly dry dust storm moved crossed over the mountains from the Tucson into the Altar Valley, the wind began to gust so hard that they blew some of the powerlines off their poles and started a small brush fire about a tenth of a mile to our west. Within moments, the dust and grit in the air was so thick that I couldn’t see more than a few feet away. There was nowhere to go for protection from the stinging sand and dirt. Some in our group huddled between a couple of cars and trailers. Others simply laid face-down on top of their tents in an effort to keep them from blowing away. A little distance away, several from the group huddled together on the ground and hugged one another – facing in – trying to protect themselves from the dust and pebbles and grit in the air.

I couldn’t help but think of the passage in the second chapter of Acts that described the moment of Pentecost as the “rushing of the wind.” I’ve never really thought of that moment as a violent moment before, but perhaps that’s what it was for the disciples too.

This land can be so unforgiving. I continue to marvel not that so many die trying to cross this desert – but that so many others pit themselves against these harsh conditions and manage to survive.

The wind has died down, now, and I’m sitting on a tarp in my camp chair, writing by the light of my headlamp. Our last night in the desert. Tomorrow there are just a few more miles to the end of this remarkable pilgrimage.

Our small delegation from Christian Peacemaker Teams that has hiked together all week reflected earlier in our trip on these words from Jeremiah 17.

Thus says the Lord:

Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord – whose trust is the Lord.” I’ve been thinking all week about our notions of security as a nation and as a people. Somehow, spending billions of dollars in an effort to militarize the border and protect ourselves from migrants trying to come find a job seems a long way from the kind of trust that doesn’t fear, isn’t anxious, and doesn’t cease to bear fruit.

May the winds of Pentecost blow strong.