Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Special City Notes '19 | Hermanas: Coming to Our Latina Family's Table w/ Lament & Listening, Led by Hope

Hermanas by Kristy Garza Robinson, Noemi Vega Quiñones, and Natalia Kohn Rivera (pictured left to right above)

"Bienvenidos a la mesa, hermanas! You are welcome to come and take a seat at our table, set for you by Jesus and the many Latina women (and Latinx children and men) who've gone before us." 

Since the horrific news broke of the mass shooting by a white supremacy terrorist in El Paso on Saturday, August 3, 2019, leaving 22 murdered, Emmaus City Church has not had a service of worship on a Saturday (we have celebrated a baptism mass on Sunday, August 4 and a joint service of worship with Living Word Church on Sunday, August 11). So this coming Saturday, August 17, we will be gathering for the first time since this brutal tragedy, and we will begin the mass with a time of silent lament and prayer, particularly for the Latinx Community in our country who have suffered greatly after the murders of many who fell prey to the shooter's desire to "shoot as many Mexicans as possible." Here is a list of the 22 victims:

Andre Pablo Anchondo, 23 of El Paso
Jordan Anchondo, 24 of El Paso
Arturo Benavidez, 60
Leonard Cipeda Campos, 41
Maria Flores, 77
Raul Flores, 77
Jorge Calvillo Garcia, 61 of Torreón
Adolfo Cerros Hernandez, 68 of Aguascalientes
Alexander Gerhard Hoffman, 66
David Alvah Johnson, 63
Luis Alfonzo Juarez, 90
Maria Eugenia Legarrega Rothe, 58 of Chihuahua
Elsa Libera Marquez, 57 of Yepomera
Maribel Loya, 56
Ivan Hilierto Manzano, 46 of Juárez
Gloria Irma Marquez, 61 of Juárez
Margie Reckard, 63
Sarah Esther Regaldo Moriel, 66 of Ciudad Juárez
Javier Rodriguez, 15
Teresa Sanchez, 82
Angelina Silva-Elisbee, 86
Juan Velazquez, 77

One way I have personally chosen to enter into this grief and suffering with the Latinx community is to read the powerful and prophetic book, Hermanas: Deeping Our Identity and Growing Our Influence. Hermanas has quickly become one of my favorite reads of 2019, and is boldly written by a Mexican sister (Noemi Vega Quiñones), a Mexican-American sister (Kristy Garza Robinson), and an Argentinian-Armenian sister (Natalia Kohn Rivera). Though they do not speak directly to the type of violence that occurred two weeks ago, these strong women do speak from the margins they have experienced in bold and beautiful ways in light of the suffering their families and communities have endured, as well as the victories they have found with Jesus and His multiethnic family. 

I needed to hear their voices these past two weeks. Perhaps you do, too, as you grieve, question, listen, lament, struggle, and dare to hope in the face of darkness. Included below are some excerpts of what they have to say so you can hear from the Latina community who we will continue to need to lead us when others act to silence their speech and dispose of their brown bodies. If you like what you read, please purchase Hermanas and champion these faithful followers of Jesus who we will desperately need to help light the way forward.

Prologue | Bienvenidos A La Mesa

Bienvenidos a la mesa, hermanas! You are welcome to come and take a seat at our table, set for you by Jesus and the many Latina women (as well as Latinx children and men) who've gone before us. Make yourself at home, take a deep breath, and experience the feeling of an incredible meal prepared just for you. May your hearts be filled with expectancy that our Lord wants to give you his shade, his peace. He wants to refresh and strengthen you like only he can do.

We invite you into our lives, our stories, and the stories of other Latina women who've gone ahead of us and who are currently walking beside us. We see how communal our ethnic journeys are and how, as in our walks with Jesus, we cannot journey in isolation – we need one another. So let's continue to journey with Jesus in both faith and ethnicity – both being journeys that must intersect and be tied together and continuously be refined and transformed by our heavenly Father.

We admit that we are limited to our representation: we have two Mexican American authors, one first-generation immigrant, one second-generation immigrant, and one third-generation. We have one mom in her thirties and two single women in their thirties. We have two lighter-shaded Latinas and one medium-shaded Latina. We have two women with their master's and one woman with her bachelor's. We are mostly from lower-to-middle socioeconomic backgrounds and mostly bilingual. Our stories would have been enriched by categories outside of our own.

This is where you may come in, dear reader. We invite you to continue the conversations ... 

Chapter 3 | The Bleeding Woman: Mija Leadership by Noemi Vega Quiñones

In Matthew's (9:20-22), Mark's (5:25-34), and Luke's Gospels (8:43-48), the bleeding woman is championed for her faith and called Mija (mi hija, my daughter) by Jesus. She is a woman who tells her whole truth and is a daughter belonging to the family of God. The bleeding woman shows a leadership rooted deeply in courageous faith, influencing social action, and telling the truths she experienced. As a mentor, the bleeding woman shows us Mija leadership that is centered on our core identity as daughters in the family of God.

The Imago Dei Is in Everyone in the Barrio

Barrio is Spanish for an underfunded and impoverished neighborhood. Nothing is known of the bleeding woman's origin story other than the fact that she had spent all the money she had on doctors trying to find the cure, but to no avail. If she had a family, at best they depleted their resources to try to help her find a cure and at worst they abandoned her and left her to suffer her condition on her own. Regardless of where she started, the bleeding woman ended in a barrio life.

The barrio conjures mixed emotions for those of us who grew up in similar places. Systemically, barrios are the neglected neighborhoods separated by race, in our cities known for high crime rates, high pregnancy rates, high dropout rates, low educational attainment, and underfunded schools. When people think of el barrio they seldom think of the people who dwell there that are created in the imago Dei (the image of God). Consequently, those of us from barrios are cast in the shadow of these statistics rather than treated as sons and daughters of King Jesus. While the surrounding realities of our neighborhoods remain, our fond memories of growing up with family and friends also remain. Thus, these places that on the outside appear to be dilapidated and destructive are, for some, places of learned bonding through social networks and friendship.

Si Se Puede to Believe Jesus' Healing is Within Reach

The gift of the barrio is a resilient, perseverant attitude about life. This attitude could be captured in the phrase si se puede. Dolores Huerta is an advocate and leader for farmworker rights in California's Central Valley. She has used this phrase to encourage all of us on the margins. The bleeding woman demonstrates this gusto and attitude in her approach toward Jesus. Mark writes, "When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak" (Mark 5:27). Her suffering and forbearing did not keep her from one last hope, one last pursuit of healing! One can imagine her social location as an outside trying to inch her way through the crowd. I imagine her pushing through thoughts of, What am I doing here? I don't belong here. I'm touching everybody. I'm making everyone unclean around me. But Jesus! Jesus is here. If I only touch his cloak, just a touch! 

One can imagine her physical position as a woman suffering with her condition: long, tangled hair, clothes stained from too much bleeding, sores seen and unseen, external and internal pain on her body and in her being, a desire to be whole and clean, good and beautiful. And this hope was only one touch away. Latinas in the United States may relate to the desperation of the bleeding woman for healing that is just one touch away. According to the National Latin@ Network, one in three Latinas has suffered from intimate partner violence, more than half know a survivor of domestic violence, and one in four knows a survivor of sexual assault. Maybe we are all just one friendship away from supporting one another in this journey. 

The bleeding woman's healing was one touch away. With courageous faith, mija pushes through the people pressing against her and uses all of her remaining energy to get to Jesus' cloak! Maybe she thought, With one touch all of my suffering and torment, my anguish and alienation, will be eliminated! This was her faith. This was her hope. Jesus is what remained. There was nothing else. She had already spent everything on doctors and healing ointments. There was nothing more she could do. No one else she could turn to. It was Jesus or nothing. 

Jesus Makes Space for the Bleeding Woman to Tell Her Story

Luke writes, "Jesus said, ' Someone touched me' (Luke 8:46). Mark writes, 'But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it' (Mark 5:32). The bleeding woman had intended to approach Jesus from behind, unnoticed, unseen, without causing too much trouble (Luke 8:47). Can you relate? She wanted to remain in the margins, in anonymity of her condition. Maybe that was her full identity – one forever hidden in the margins. Maybe she was embarrassed or maybe she was too focused on being healed to think of anything else. 

Maybe she didn't think she was worthy of approaching Jesus cara a cara, face to face. Maybe years of being treated as a nobody made her think she was a nobody. But Jesus wants her to be seen. And heard. Jesus helped her to see the truth of who she really was. Jesus had a deeper plan of healing. Jesus, in all three Gospels, responds to her by naming her mija, my daughter. He wanted to ensure that her healing would be both physical and social, both systemic and personal. By calling her daughter, Jesus welcomed her into the family community he was forming. Constant separation from connection with God and others was finally over for Mija! Now she had the opportunity to connect. Now, she had the identity of daughter. The bleeding woman didn't stop at her own healing, though. The bleeding woman told her story and retold her story, and time and again, her story was retold. At last, her story was recorded in three Gospels, each with her daughter identity emphasized.

Like the Bleeding Woman, Jesus Names Us Daughter and Invites Us into Mija Leadership

Latinas in the United States may identity with the bleeding woman as overlooked, nameless, invisible, and in the margins. However, just like the bleeding woman, we find our name and our true identity in Jesus. We are mijas and hermanas in the Kingdom of God. If it helps to say it out loud, say it out loud, hermana! Yo soy su hija. I am his daughter! We are mijas and hermanas in the Kingdom of God!

1) Leadership is grounded in our Mija identity. As daughters of the true King, Mija leaders know that God abundantly loves us regardless of how much we produce or how much we fail in our leadership.

2) Mija shows us that leadership is rooted in courageous faithMija's courageous faith was within her all this time, and at a crucial moment she decided to pull it from within con great ganas to touch Jesus' garment. Connection to the Lord will keep us connected to courage. If our main focus is to follow Jesus and trust Jesus, then our focus will not be on what others will say, how others will respond, or if and how we will fail. Rather, our focus will be on being close to Jesus. Our foundation is not on what the crowd thinks of our leadership, or us, but on who Jesus says we are: Mijas with courage.

3) Mija leadership is resourceful and uses one's agency to impact those one is leading. Agency is the ability to act. Leadership is exercising your agency, and Mija leadership is exercising your agency especially in the face of challenges. Mija led in the midst of her physical sickness and economic hardship. This style of leadership utilizes the resources that you have at your disposal, without neglecting the reality of the hardships that are present. 

4) Mija leadership is grounded in truth and tells the whole truth. Mija exercises leadership by telling the whole truth. She may or may not have been ready for this moment of truth telling, but regardless of her preparation, she chose to reveal her whole truth. Recall that Mija told her truth with fear and trembling, meaning with a passion and vulnerability that was her own.

5) Mija leadership envisions future generations being blessed by our current advocacyMija's story was told and retold to the point that it made it in three of the four Gospel narratives. Her story is a beautifully empowering narrative that continues to influence many people to this day.

Next post: Special City Notes '19 | Hermanas: Engaging the Margins for Personal and Public Justice, Healing, and Breakthrough  

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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