Right before Palm Sunday in 2021, the San Diego Convention Center became a shelter for something like 1,400 migrant girls who had crossed the border and were awaiting processing and reunification with family.
Episcopal Bishop, Susan Snook, received a call asking if she would be willing to help this impromptu shelter of children by organizing some sort of spiritual care component. On Wednesday, June 8th of this year (over a year after the shelter had left), I had the pleasure of attending a gathering where Bishop Snook and her colleagues shared the story of how this request became a reality.
Bishop Snook got a phone call asking for help. She reached out to a colleague, Pastor Rebecca Dinovo, who sent out an email to every faith leader she knew from an ecumenical group she was a part of. The email was sent to 40-some faith leaders. Those 40-some faith leaders forwarded that email to other faith leaders and next thing Rebecca knew, her inbox was filling with hundreds of emails indicating interest in responding to this need. My husband Marcus was one of those pastors and at some point, Pastor Rebecca asked if anyone would be willing to do some behind the scenes logistics and organizing. Marcus gave her Pastor Bill Radatz’ number and asked Bill if he would be interested in assisting. Bill said yes. Bishop Snook reached out to the Catholic Bishop and the next thing everyone knew, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Catholics were “building the plane while flying”, as Bishop Snook called it.
In the end, because of these efforts, chaplains offered prayer and support to the children. Kids belted out the words to “Alabare” with big smiles across their faces. Worship services were offered and as Pastor Rebecca shared, when the kids came to worship, you watched as their bodies arrived, tense and carrying the weight of the world. As the music began and they heard familiar scriptures and prayers in their native Spanish language, Pastor Rebecca said, you watched as their faces changed and they relaxed, finally feeling a shred of safety and comfort.
As I heard these stories, it became clear to me that relationships are like highways that God sometimes employs to make God’s love known. Relationships are like blood veins that carry God’s nutrients out to the rest of the body. None of these remarkable things would have happened if not for informal lunch dates between bishops where they got to know each other, or sometimes boring meetings between ecumenical faith leaders where they got to know each other, even if just a little bit.
The connections that we foster are critical to sharing God’s love. As the summer months come and go, I hope you will foster connections with each other and with friends or organizations in the community that are close to your heart. Join our St. Peter’s hikers or bikers, stay for coffee hour, pass the peace to someone you don’t know, ask someone to go for coffee. You never know when a basic, little coffee meet-up could turn into the connection God needs in order to deliver love out into the world.