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  • Writer's pictureTom Emanuel


Mural at the U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” --Margaret Mead

Time flies when you’re having fun!

This time last year, I was on an immersion trip for spiritual leaders at the U.S.-Mexico border. We partnered with Centro Romero, a UCC-affiliated organization in San Ysidro, CA (near San Diego) that works with refugees and migrants in Tijuana.

A year later, my strongest memory is getting to meet the women of Colectivo Chilpancingo, an environmental justice and workers’ rights organization in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tijuana. For decades, these women have organized for better working conditions and better pay for workers in the maquiladoras, the factories perched on the hill above the city – most of which are owned by foreign (including U.S.) corporations. The Colectivo has worked to clean up the Rio Alamar, which has been poisoned for years by unregulated runoff from the factories, and they’ve won significant victories against both the corporations and the Mexican government. Viva!

Seeing these women, who were so humble and yet so fierce in their dedication to justice for the earth and their fellow-workers, inspired me beyond words. Going into our immersion, one of my fellow participants asked the question, “Where is God at the border?” In the Colectivo’s determination, and their faith in the power of people to come together and fight for justice, I caught a glimpse of the God who calls us to that work and empowers us to carry it out, the God who crosses all borders and desires a more just, more compassionate world for all Her creatures.

I wrote the falling poem in honor of those inspiring women. May we all find the deep-down, green-rooted strength to live into God’s Beloved Community, welcoming the stranger and the refugee with open arms and open hearts.

Blessin’s, --Tom


she lies down and weeps, stinging

leaden tears. She lifts up her eyes

to the hills from whence cometh

her affliction, where Babylon

grins with factory teeth. The trees

where she hangs her weary harp

smile back, defiant in their

green vulnerability. In Alta California

I have seen albino redwoods,

absurd creations, small

and white like plastic

cheap Christmas trees.

Unlike most redwoods, they can’t

photosynthesize—but they can

turn lead to gold, leaching heavy metals

from the soil so their neighbors

can live. These cottonwoods

are lusher but no less

thaumaturgic, canting

psalms of transmutation

and a mother’s hope: you too, little

dear one, are alchemy. You too

can summon strength from the depths

and purify. The rivers run

oil and sick in Babylon, but have faith: there are

deeper aquifers

the poison cannot touch.

QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK: What (or who) are your sources of strength in times of difficulty? How can we support one another in building Beloved Community for all God’s creatures?

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