It was bound to be a special morning, given that I had to get up at 4:30 am to make it to North Plainfield by 5:45 pm for our Sunrise Service. But Holy Week had already been a difficult one, especially for some of the members of our Hispanic congregation. Earlier in the week, a woman from our congregation had been detained when a fellow employee falsely accused her of shoplifting. Because she was illegal, she was taken to the local jail and held until members of the church found out where she was and responded. Her two young daughters and spouse were frantic, but eventually with help from the church she was bailed out on Friday morning.
But as we all stood huddling in the church praying prior to driving out to the Watchung Indian Reservation to greet the sun in worship, I felt a tug on my coat and arms around my waist. One of the two young girls of the woman who had been thrown in prison earlier that week smiled up at me, and I held her tight. To me, the smile on her face and the presence of her mom in worship that morning spoke the story of resurrection.
Later in the morning in the momento de gracias, we all had an opportunity to share our prayers for one another and for the community. In a place of such need and pain, so many people stood up to tell us how God was blessing their lives and providing for them–this woman who had been imprisoned spoke through tears, her husband told of the hope that came when he called the pastor and heard his reassurance on the other end of the line. An elderly woman who brings her 89 year-old father to church every Sunday welled up with tears this Sunday because her entire family sat in the pew behind her and she was just so grateful to have them in worship. The pastor’s mother, who has been through cancer, talked about how God has brought her through the hard places such that though she was in pain, she never felt alone. A young girl who leads the worship team had just returned from a week in Peru grieving the death of her grandmother. As the ambassador of the family (they could only afford to send one member of the family), she brought encouragement to us from the churches in Peru.
It was so compelling to hear these voices from one of the harshest walks of life, that of being an immigrant in another country. As the sun rose, our pastor commented how Jesus calls each of us familiar, chosen, though we come from faraway places. As I looked around the circle of those I have come to call family, I saw Cubans, Guatemalans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Peruvians, and of course, Americans.
The testimony of my brothers and sisters at this church has not been one of looking on the bright side, but one of true, firm, amazing faith. I am reminded this morning of how resurrection is the promise Christ made to his disciples and to us, but it is not without a challenge. Nothing about my friends life at the church is easy, but the rejoice in the promise and accept the challenge to live as everything Christ has called them to be.