By Erin Rausch
Today was a bit overwhelming in total. Not quite certain why. It was 13.5 miles and without much sleep, so that could be part of it
But the larger part comes from the overwhelming support I am getting from so many folks. I am so grateful for all those supporting the fundraiser for the legal aid fund. I am equally grateful for the FB and text messages that propel me along.
On those quiet stretches of road, when I am all by myself, I think about those who right now are suffering due to the system, or lack thereof, we have created. I pray for a world where the location of one's birth no longer determines the possibilities of their life.
...thank you to my village for walking by my side.
By: The Rt. Rev. David C. Rice
The Journey from Fresno to Sacramento - Honoring the Dignity of Immigrants
Greetings from the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Twelve days ago, I joined members of our Diocese’s Immigration Task Force (SJRAISE) on the Pilgrimage of Hope. We are in the midst of walking 226 miles from our Cathedral in Fresno to the state Capitol in California.
Why are we walking? We are walking to raise awareness regarding the status and plight of our immigrant and refugee communities particularly those who are left wondering where they might be from day to day. In addition, we are walking to raise money for “legal defense funds,” as the immigration system is the only area of U.S. law where detained people must advocate for their freedom without the guarantee of legal representation.
And finally, we are walking and will descend upon the State Capitol on May 20th to join the statewide “Immigrant Day of Action”.
At the Immigrant Day of Action, we will stand in solidarity with approximately 1,000 community leaders who have come together from all over the state to defend the dignity of every human being. Hand in hand with interfaith and secular community leaders, we will call for the passage of five bills to advance community health, shared prosperity, and racial justice for all Californians - including our immigrant brothers and sisters. Among these is the “Health for All Act,” which recognizes that no one should suffer or die from a treatable condition, no matter where they were born.
The impetus and design of the walk was born at our 2017 Diocesan Convention, where we voted unanimously to establish an Immigration Task Force which is called SJRAISE (San Joaquin Refugee and Immigrant Support and Empowerment). The purpose of SJRAISE has been to gather information regarding the plight of our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers and to seek ways to engage the diocese in educative and formation work concerning this significant part of our population and to consider how we might respond as a Faith Community. Coupled with the extraordinary work of SJRAISE, an idea was birthed at our Advent Clergy Conference in 2018. We believed we were inspired to go on Pilgrimage and the purpose of this walk began to crystallize very rapidly.
I write these words from St John the Baptist in Lodi. Today, we walked 12.3 miles from Stockton to Lodi. Thus far we have walked 164.4 miles. As we completed Day twelve of our Pilgrimage, most of our walking has followed agricultural roads laden with almond groves, grape vineyards and paddocks filled with tomatoes and peppers and a wide variety of citrus groves. What we have noticed over the last five days is the overwhelming number of Latinxs working in those groves and paddocks and fields. These are our brothers and sisters working in the larger contexts in which most of Episcopal Faith Communities are located. The Central Valley is home to beautiful diversity, including many immigrant and refugees communities from Asia and the Middle East.
I wish to say that we, travelers, have been the recipients of stunning hospitality along the way. We have received care and hospitality from Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran and Roman Catholic Communities. In addition, we have been treated inordinately well and respectively by motorists and commercial drivers along the way. It is our prayer that all Californians treat immigrants with the same compassion we received – the same compassion all of us would hope for when we are in need.
We continue to walk because we believe we are called to walk the way of Jesus. We are convicted that our very purpose is to identify those who are most marginalized, those who are far too often invisible in our society and to hear their voices. We are convinced that when we allow ourselves to hear their voices that the Holy Spirit urges us to consider who we might respond.
This Pilgrimage of Hope is a small part of our response.
Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin
By The Rev. Canon Anna Carmichael, PhD.
And so Day 9 of #thepilgrimageofhope begins. We are blessed to have Erin Rausch join us for the remainder of the walk.
Today we got a later start since we worshipped with St Paul's Modesto. Their hospitality, like all hospitality we have received, was impeccable. It is going to be a hot day (at noon it's already 80) with 15.9 miles ahead of us.
My feet continue to heal and I'm hoping to start walking again soon. But for now, these Episcopal flip-flops are about all I can manage (thanks Sue Roberts Jenkins). Last night before the presentation I read in the Episcopal Journal how immigrants and asylum seekers are being supported in the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande. The article featured an image of men, women and children, their bags on their backs, walking in well worn sneakers and sandals. They looked exhausted, but they are determined. They are searching for a better life...a life free of violence, free of extreme poverty, a life filled with hope.
I am ever mindful today, this Mother's Day, of women who have been separated from their children either through the court system or in detention centers. I am mindful of the brokenness of the immigration system that allows for families to be separated. I am mindful of how easy it is to have a certain hardness of heart to those we do not see as Christ in our midst.
So pray for our pilgrims today and those we walk with. Pray for mothers who are separated from their children. Pray for the children seeking their mothers.
By Wil Colon
One of our walkers challenged us today to embrace and pay attention to a phrase that was with him all day yesterday “behold,” and its accompanying past tense version, if you permit, “be-held.” As Christian we have heard “Behold the Lamb of God,” “Behold He who suffered for our sins,” and for all who remember their days in Latin class, “Ecce homo – Behold the Man.” To “behold” implies having a keen awareness of something within your sight, while to “be – held” moves us from a visual intensity to a physical one. When you hold someone you intimately share in their joy, suffering, trust, and love.
So what did I gain from this challenge that struck me as related to the Pilgrimage of Hope? During lunch I felt myself going into my people-watcher mode. I realized that all of us on this tour were enjoying a meal, prepared by hands who do this regularly. I thought “behold the those who have and can waste if they choose.” Us or US! Then I thought of the immigrants in the caravan, past, present, future; those who we can’t see, for whom we pray and walk, those who we don´t “behold.” Are they “being-held?” By whom? Are they being held by coyotes, human traffickers, in prisons and prison-like detention centers? Or are they being-held in our hearts, prayers, and hopes? Is that enough? I say NO! We must now bring them forward through ourselves in action; saying “BEHOLD these are the people of God; incarnate in human form.” “BEHOLD these are the lambs of God who are created in His image. ¨ Are you ready to be the faces of those whose faces we do not see? Can we say BEHOLD we are here?
By Lee Halkias
On day 5 of The Pilgrimage of Hope, we reached the city of Merced, 75 miles from our start. I drive my small motorhome as a support vehicle for the walkers.
We are experiencing wonderful hospitality from Shepherd of the Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church and other local churches as well.
I am in awe of the kindness of strangers and the hospitality of those we’ve encountered along the way. Even people on the road.
I see the blisters on the feet of my friends and yet they remain jovial and committed to the Pilgrimage. We remember the people for whom we are doing this. Would that they could experience the same hospitality.
I have my own bed and shower and plenty of food. Would that my refugee sisters and brothers had the same.
I see the face of The Christ on my fellow travelers and on those who greet us.
Would that our refugee sisters and brothers are seen that way as well.
Blessings to all who support us in any way and who pray for us.
Written by The Rev. Canon Anna Carmichael
Day three of #thepilgrimageofhope began at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Madera. Despite a bit of a rocky start, the travelers had a good day of walking..a cool breeze, beautiful painted lady butterflies as decorations along the way, and excellent road conditions. Due to my blistered feet, I travelled with the team by driving the van.
I was pretty disappointed and feeling discouraged last night as I crawled into bed with my feet wrapped in bandages. But after prayer and reflection, concluded that what mattered most was that I found a way to continue participating along the journey as a servant to the team. So being in the van provided me respite as well as a way to stay connected. And I must say, it was a pretty great day to have Nancy Fitzgerald as my co-pilot and companion...we laughed, told stories, and talked about the importance of what we are doing. And it was pretty cool that after 13 miles of walking in under 4 hours, the team gathered for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.
There are moments along the way when unexpected and beautiful things happen. For example, sometimes we have no option but to stop in front of someone's house in order to take our breaks and regroup. Instead of being ignored or told to move along, when we explain what we're doing, we're invited to rest and take our time. This is what hospitality is in its simplest form.
This afternoon we arrived in Chowchilla to be received by our Roman Catholic friends. Due to some technical difficulties, things needed to shift a bit, but we had outstanding hospitality offered to us by the Ramos family. Reuben, his wife and their son had been in church on "Doubting Thomas" Sunday, heard the invitation of Fr Angel to host this group of travelers, and despite being in the middle of moving from one house to another, they felt compelled to offer us hospitality. They were gracious hosts to welcome a group of strangers into their home. Their dog, Jim, became fast friends with the "pilgrimage pups" (Lee's Billy Boy and Lilly) and conversation was abundant.
Friends, this is the church at it's best...when strangers become friends and break bread together.
As the afternoon sun began to recede, I had to come to terms with a nasty cough which has been developing since the start of the pilgrimage. The week leading up to our launch was fast and furious with last minute changes and details, in addition to the "normal" day to day routine. And as much as I hate to admit it, I didn't take care of myself...I worked long hours, skipped meals, and didn't get enough sleep. So tonight, I made the decision to go to urgent care for help. Thanks to my friend, fellow driver, wound cleaner, foot binder and companion along the way, Wilson Colon, I was able to receive the care I needed, as well as pick up prescriptions for bronchitis. Receiving care is hard for me, as I naturally lean to be a care-giver, not a care-receiver. This journey is becoming for me not only a reflection on the struggles of our sisters and brothers who try to find a place of peace for themselves and their families, as well.as places of radical hospitality who see them not as strangers, but as friends, but this journey is becoming a spiritual practice for me in learning humility, in learning to listen deeply to my body, and in learning how to be cared for.
After the urgent care visit and a trip to the pharmacy, Wilson and I had a serious conversation about what to do next...and the decision was made for me to return to Fresno to get a good night's sleep and to allow my body a day of recovery. If I'm ready to get back in the van on Wednesday to drive, that's excellent. If rest is what is needed, then I'll wait another day. And I've made peace with that...because despite my Wonder Woman license plate, I'm not an Amazon warrior...I am a priest, committed to caring for my neighbors and the strangers in our midst, but who also needs to learn to receive care and hospitality.
I am so grateful for and blessed by this amazing team of walkers, drivers, hosts and strangers along the way who have become friends. We could not do this alone; Jesus sent the disciples out two by two for a reason.
Tomorrow the team will travel from Chowchilla to LeGrand and be received by Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. I'll be taking respite and serving as "tech support" for Deacon Terrance Goodpasture as he takes the wheel of the van in my place. Pray for those who walk, who drive, and those who provide hospitality, not only to our team, but to those who welcome strangers with radical hospitality everywhere.
Starting today, in addition to following along with our Pilgrimage of Hope booklet, you can also follow Stories from the Road on our website...daily reflections from walkers and drivers en route to Sacramento.
Written by The Rev. Canon Anna Carmichael
This morning we began Day 2 of #thepilgrimageofhope at Kerman UMC with a shared Eucharistic service. Pastor Jola presided and Bp David preached. Thanks to the kindness and servant ministry of Deacon Nancy Anne Key, I was provided with some necessities from home, including sneakers. We hit the road at 11am for 13.2 miles to Holy Trinity Episcopal/Madera UMC.
I started the day out strong, at a good walking pace with my companion and friend, Nelson Serrano Poveda. We had excellent conditions...about 75, a good breeze, friendly drivers and shop owners (who allowed us to use the bathroom at our 5 mile stop), and the best support driver (and foot care assistant) Wilson Colon. Wilson drove near Nelson and I and played great 80s/90s music loudly so we could sing along and dance a little...I know, not exactly "spiritual", but the road is long and sometimes boring.
At the 5 mile mark, we took our lunch break (thanks to Lee Halkias and Nancy Fitzgerald for making that possible), and because I felt a blister forming on my heel, I rode in a support vehicle for the next 5 miles or so. After that break, I rejoined Nelson and the team of Warren, Jovita, Bp David and Tracy Cappel Rice, as we headed towards Holy Trinity. As we got closer to the church I could feel that final blister pop...and my sock became damp and blood was visible. But the sin of pride, and believe me, I know how sinful pride is now, compelled me to finish.
So when we got to the home of Terri, our host for the evening, I removed my shoes and Wilson had to remove my socks because my feet were so swollen. When Wilson took my socks off, the blister patches from this morning came off, as well as the skin on my heel. The pain of exposed skin was more than I anticipated. After drinking more water, I had to sit in the pool with my feet in for about 30 minutes. Once I got out of the pool, we cleaned the blisters and wrapped my feet in bandages. I am not allowed to walk the next 2 days and I'm really disappointed.
However, I've decided I'm not leaving the pilgrimage. I will ride along with our support drivers, I'll prepare the walkers for the day, I'll assist with breaks and lunch set up, and pray.
Because even in this moment of feeling pain and self pity, I was reminded of why we're doing this. I thought about the images that Sean T. Hawkeyhas shared about the "caravan "... mothers and fathers pushing baby carts or pulling wagons with their children riding along. I thought about the groups of people riding in flat bed trucks through cities...appreciating the respite found in taking a ride. I thought about the reasons why people leave their homes: so they can be with their families, escspe from extreme violence and environmentally caused poverty (which we, as part of a consumption based society, have contributed to, btw), and to find hope. If we really believe it when we say "we walk because they walk'", then with joy in my heart, hopeful to be of service to my companion walkers, I'm continuing on this pilgrimage...not because I'm stubborn (say nothing),or competitive (again, say nothing), or suffering some Messiah-esque martyrdom (cause that's part of that whole sinful pride thing), but because I believe in the ministry of our team, I believe in our call to be a people of faith, a people descended from those wandering Aramenians, Sarah and Abraham, and because I'm part of the human family, especially reflected in a people who believe in the power of HOPE, which is rooted in the loving, liberating and life-giving Jesus. We walk because they walk.
Written by The Rev. Deacon Nancy Key
I spent Saturday in support of our Pilgrims. After a moving send off, in which our Pilgrims and supporters of several faith communities prayed together and washed each other’s feet, a group of pilgrims supported by a First Aid vehicle, bus, RV with supplies and two support cars set off from the EDSJ Cathedral of St. James in Fresno. The send-off was joyous, indeed full of hope.
My role in this entourage was to be available to offer transport and support to the walkers. I opted to make my presence known only as much as need to provide assurance that I was at the beck and call of the Pilgrims, but not so close as to hover. As such, I had much time to sit in my car with the windows rolled down and door open to provide some relief from the heat of the day (high of 87 degrees) and the radiant heat of the pavement. But who was I to complain (even to myself), when this intrepid group of pilgrims were on their way to walking 17 miles from Fresno to Kerman!
As they walked, two in the group pulled out ahead, taking long strides and chatting comfortably. Another followed not too far behind. As the miles wore on, the spaces between walkers grew farther and farther, so that by early afternoon, the groups were spread out by nearly one mile. Various walkers took breaks from walking in one of the vehicles. At least one developed serious blisters, was bandaged and then pressed on.
Viewing all of this from my windshield, I cannot but marvel. I marvel at the commitment of these walkers who have taken the time to walk in solidarity with those who walk to our country. Our walkers who suffer the heat, the blisters, the thirst, the weariness of this endeavor.
And looking even farther down the road, all the way south to the border from Kerman, Merced, Turlock, and Sacramento, I am filled with a sense of helplessness and humility: who are we to think we can offer solidarity and hope to those who flee their homes to trek thousands of miles without benefit of multiple support vehicles, a place to stay at night where they can wash clothes, shower and be fed? What about the walkers whose feet became blistered and bloodied? Even just the challenges for our band of Pilgrims, supported as they were by our support caravan, seem so minor in relationship to the physicality of the trek from South and Central America!
We called this endeavor the “Pilgrimage of Hope” in our desire to offer a public witness of our support for immigrants and refugees. But, at least for this Windshield Pilgrim, it is something more. It is a Pilgrimage of Humility, for we cannot even imagine the full extent of desperation that drives a people to journey, bloodied and blistered, our borders. It is also a Pilgrimage of Pleading: as a country, we MUST change our immigration policies now.
A walk is not enough. May God give us the wisdom and strength to make a path of hospitality for those who walk to our borders.