Someone made signs for us to hold. You can see the places where the raindrops hit the sign. I think of the spots as God’s tears.

I started my day today joining other pastors and community members at our local ICE office. The office is located in a nondescript strip mall in Camarillo. There is no room for anyone to gather inside the office, so we gathered outside, in the rain.
We shall overcome…
Our gathering was not one of silence, but of prayer and song. From many backgrounds, some religious, some not, we were the church in the world as we sang (songs of faith and songs borrowed from the civil rights movement), we read scripture, and we prayed.
Why were we there? Because the stories that we see in the news each day…stories of regular people being deported…are not stories of strangers. They are not stories of people that we don’t know. They are stories of our neighbors. We may think we don’t know anyone affected or possibly affected, be if we know our neighbors, then we know someone affected.
Today the neighbors we were supporting were a couple who serve as pastors in a church here in Oxnard. I cannot at this time share their names or the name of their church, but I can share their story:

My neighbors, our neighbors, came to the United States 24 years ago. Four years later they tried to legalize their status, but had very poor legal representation. Tragically this effort resulted in a deportation order. They’ve been fighting that for the last 20 years.

As part of that fight, they’ve been allowed to obtain a “stay of removal.” When you get one of these you can also obtain a work permit (for an extra fee of course!). Our neighbors have been doing this for many years. They usually receive stays that last a year. Until recently. In October 2017, their “stay of removal” was for only 3 months (same cost for stay and work permit however). In January they were told they would get no more stays and would have to leave the country in March.

When they (with their lawyer) went to a meeting at the local ICE office to try and get another stay about 20 people went with them. Some were church members, some were community members and some were pastors from various churches. The support group stayed outside, but gathered to pray and sing. ICE responded in two ways. First, officers showed up in riot gear. Second, they told the couple to come back in two weeks. I was not present this day.

We shall overcome…someday
Today, March 21, 2018, this couple, pastors who serve a church in Oxnard, pillars of the community, returned to the ICE office. Today the government refused to give them another stay. They have been ordered to leave April 6th. They have been ordered to leave their son and his wife. They have been ordered to leave their grandchildren. They have been ordered to leave their church.
I cannot imagine how they are feeling right now. I am angry. I am sad. I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. As all these feeling swirl around in my head, I can’t help asking,

How does deporting our neighbors make America great?

The other thoughts that swirl are the recognition that so much is wrong right now in our country. There is so much to protest. There is so much to resist. And among all this that needs the resisting is the shame that white Christians are largely responsible for electing this government. As a pastor I continue to struggle with this reality. (Quit when it’s hard? No Way!)
Deep in my heart, I do believe…
But I also know that my call from God is not a call to stand on the sidelines. It is not a call to stay silent. As I write this, I don’t know what I can do for this couple or for any of the others who are being torn from their homes. Alone I can do nothing. But I am not alone. Thankfully my neighbors are not alone either. We are right now trying to think of other ways we can help. I know that as we all work together we can defeat the meanness, vindictiveness, and evil that has ripped families apart. We will overcome.
We will overcome someday.
Let’s make that day today. Please get off the sidelines and make your voice heard.

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.
Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.