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The Borders I Cross

The Borders I Cross is a series of reflections from BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz members and friends about their peacemaking journeys. This particular series focuses on the many borders crossed for peacemaking, which include physical borders as well as those such as language, culture, race, religion, nationality, generation, class, and sexual orientation. These essays come from people from all walks of life; those who cross borders as students, in their paid professions, in their volunteer time, in their family lives and/or in retirement. We hope you enjoy this series from the BPFNA!


April 6 • April 13 • April 20 • April 27 • May 4 • May 11 • May 18 • May 25 • June 1 • June 8 • June 15 • June 22 • June 29 • July 6 & 13 • July 20 • July 27 • Aug 3 • Aug 10 • Aug 17 • Aug 24 • Aug 31 • Sep 7 • Sep 14 • Sep 21 • Sep 28 • Oct 5 • Oct 12 • Oct 26 • Dec 14 • Dec 21


Jan 27 • Mar 21 • June 13 • June 20 • July 18 • Aug 30 • Sep 20 • Oct 14 • Nov 7 • Nov 23


April 26 • May 3 • July 13 • Sep 26

The Borders I Cross
by Meredith Guest

I am subbing in an English class at one of the local high schools. A tenth grade boy on the front row is eyeing me suspiciously. Getting eyed suspiciously is nothing new for me, but this guy’s not letting up. His glare is unremitting, almost unblinking. He slouches in his chair as if to get a better view of all 6’2” of me, chews pensively on the eraser of his pencil and stares up as I pace and talk and gesticulate about the importance of verbs. He is definitely skeptical, though I doubt he has heard a word I’ve said about verbs.

Even if there is some part of me that craves attention, none of this is pleasant. I did not choose this. I did not choose to be born with the body of a boy and the brain of a girl, and if I had, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen to look like…well, me.

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El llamado evangélico a cruzar las fronteras
por Rev. J. Manny Santiago

En mi niñez y temprana juventud, nunca se me ocurrió que podría cruzar una frontera. Esto no quiere decir que nunca soñé con hacerlo. Por el contrario, pasaba horas leyendo la enciclopedia y el atlas; aprendiendo los nombres de las naciones del mundo y el color de sus banderas; aprendiendo su localización y sus capitales. 

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The Gospel Call to Cross Borders
by Rev. J. Manny Santiago

During my childhood and adolescence I never imagined I could cross a border. This does not mean that I never dreamed of crossing borders. On the contrary, I spent many hours reading the Encyclopedia and the Atlas; learning the names of the nations of the world, the colors of their flags; leaning about their location and their capitals. I enjoyed dreaming that, someday, I will visit as many countries as it was possible. 

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Crossing Borders in Times of Suffering
by Beth Jackson-Jordan

In my work as a Chaplain and Pastoral Educator, I often encounter people in the halls of the hospital looking lost and bewildered... A hospital can feel like a strange and even hostile land to those whose lives have been interrupted with unexpected crisis. It is a self-contained community with a particular language, culture, and set of social norms that can be difficult to navigate for outsiders. Within this world there are structures that can be even more alienating for those who live on the margins of society. As chaplains, we are called to cross the borders that cause persons to feel unseen and unheard in this world of healthcare.

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Vamos Todos al Banquete
by Caroline Cargo

"Let us go now to the banquet, to the feast of the universe. The table’s set and a place is waiting. I will rise in the early morning; the community’s waiting for me. With a spring in my step I’m walking with my friends and my family. God invites all the poor and hungry to the banquet of justice and good; where the harvest will not be hoarded so that no one will lack for food. May we build a place among us where all people are equal in love; For God has called us to work together and to share everything we have." 

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Crossing Many Borders to Make Peace
by Lancelot Muteyo

I always hear many white folks from the Western world saying; "I am going to Africa!". Unfortunately, every nation in Africa is “Africa” to them. They do not put any geographical boundaries within and among different African states... Perhaps you will come to visit us – perhaps you will pray for us – do not say you are visiting and praying for “Africa” – think instead of Zimbabwe, Uganda, Malawi, and more, a continent of many countries, many peoples, many languages, many troubles, many joys – a land in which I cross many borders to make peace!

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The Borders I Cross
by Lia Scholl

The first time I ever went into a strip club, I was there as an outsider, an observer, a learner. I was being trained to visit strip clubs and build relationships by a Texas pastor who made his living as a parole officer. I remember him approaching the manager to ask for permission to enter. I remember the pastor sitting next to me and pointing out things—who might be pregnant, how the dancers related to the customers, what the bouncers were watching, and where the house-mom’s influence was. I remember asking, “Should we tip?” and being told to always remember to honor the people you are visiting and that tipping honors the dancers. I remember the final thing the pastor pointed out was, “Always notice where the exits are.”

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Crossing the Borders of Difference and Joining Together as One
by Rev. Dr. Anita Bradshaw

A congregation I once served was a merged congregation of a larger progressive congregation and a smaller conservative congregation. At the time of the merger, neither congregation was welcoming to lgbt people. When the time came for that discussion, it tended to be the remnant of the smaller congregation that was opposed to the decision to become Open and Affirming. Nevertheless, the whole congregation voted to cast its lot with those who were welcoming of lgbt persons and virtually no one left the congregation.

Arriving several years later, however, I wasn’t sure how being out would play with those now older and more conservative folks. I knew they loved the church and would be polite, but I wondered how receptive they would be to me. 

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On High Holy Days
by Terry-Thomas Primer

In 1996, I responded to a request from an older adult in the retirement community where I work as a chaplain to provide services for Rosh Hashanah. "The High Holy Days are coming soon. What are you going to do for us? Surely that was a part of your training." I laughed, but she was serious, so we embarked upon a series of discussions on how to make this a possibility for the handful of people who might come. Together Esther and I constructed two one-hour services to honor Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Signs went up in the community announcing the services and inviting people to attend.

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Entering Unknown Lands
by Lynn Hyder

Every day I cross borders and enter unknown lands where the language, customs and religious practices are foreign to me. I am a hospital chaplain in Southeast Louisiana. Recently, crossing these borders has led me into patients’ rooms where there is a new diagnosis of HIV or AIDS, and the patients have had no previous idea they were ill. I am left wondering how we had crossed this border so long ago and, yet, here we are in 2015 with patients struggling with and dying of this disease after we worked so hard for so long towards education, treatment and advocacy for ourselves and our patients. It feels as if we never crossed that border at all. 

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Choosing to Live in the Borderlands
by Naomi Broadway

I choose to live my life in the borderlands. Elijo vivir en la frontera. There are so many circumstances that I chose or were chosen for me that have left me in this space. I am committed to using my privilege to walk alongside those on the other side of the border. Geographically, nationally, physically.... I will not let those borders keep me from pursuing social justice.

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Border Song
by Stan Dotson

The first time I came to Cuba, I heard a baptist church choir singing what I later learned was something of a Latin American anthem during the 90s, Danos Un Corazón.The chorus translates, give us a heart big enough to love, strong enough to struggle. I knew no Spanish, but I felt a great deal of resonance in the line of a verse someone translated for me: gente nueva, amando sin fronteras/new people, loving without borders. My theological/ethical education had as a centerpiece this idea of crossing borders, of tearing down the walls that divide us as a people. That’s what I was doing there in that Havana church in 1998, and I felt some sense of pride. But after 20 of these short-term border crossings into Cuba, and 9 months into a longer stay, I am beginning to question the wisdom of my progressive theological value, of this utopian quest to love "without borders."

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Crossing Borders of Belonging
by Kim Christman

My husband Stan and I crossed the border to come to Cuba July 1, 2014. We are living in Matanzas, teaching in the Evangelical Seminary and working with the Fraternity of Baptist Churches in Cuba as well as with the Kairos Center in Matanzas... We have found that we belong here in Cuba as much as we belong any place in the world. I still haven’t figured out how that can be, with our language, cultural and class differences, but it has been a pleasure to try and figure it out. At present, I chalk it up to God’s grace and peacemaking that happened while I wasn’t looking, the majority of the peacemaking work being done by my Cuban sisters and brothers. 

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Crossing An Invisible Border
by Brooke Rolston

Shortly before his death, my father told me he wished I would drop the final "e" in my name. It was too effeminate, he said. Why couldn't I tell him that I liked the ambiguity in my name, that I like the feminine in me? I couldn't, and never did. It would be still more years before I could own publicly my transgendering self, before I would come out as the cross-dresser I am, the cross-dresser I longed to be for many years.

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Crossing Borders through Conflict Transformation
by Ruth Mooney

What do Ferguson, Belfast, Sarajevo, and Abuja have in common? As we studied the roots of conflict around the world, we began to see the role played by a complex interaction of many factors: history, both mythic and real; the illusion of single identity; governments, NGO’s, community groups, and individuals, functioning as either inciters or peacemakers. We were students in a year-long online Conflict Transformation program through St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas which concluded with two weeks at the Corrymeela Center in Northern Ireland. This Certificate program is the inspiration of Dr. Aaron Tyler, professor and Baptist pastor, and Dr. Larry Hufford, professor and long-time peace activist. One purpose of the program is to build a global network of peacemakers.

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Cruzando fronteras a través de la transformación de conflictos
por Ruth Mooney

¿Qué tienen en común Ferguson, Belfast, Sarajevo y Abuja?  Mientras estudiábamos las raíces del conflicto alrededor del mundo, comenzamos a ver el papel que jugaba una interacción compleja de factores: la historia, tanto mítica como real; la ilusión de una sola identidad; gobiernos, ONGs,  grupos comunitarios e individuos funcionando como pacificadores o como agitadores. Éramos estudiantes en un curso en línea de un año sobre Transformación de Conflictos, auspiciado por St. Mary’s University en San Antonio, Texas que concluía con dos semanas en el Centro Corrymeela en Irlanda de Norte. Este programa es la inspiración del Dr. Aaron Tyler, profesor y pastor bautista y el Dr. Larry Hufford, profesor y activista por la paz. Un propósito del programa es construir una red global de pacificadores. 

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Crossing Internal Borders
by Doug Donley

How many times I have been oblivious to another’s pain, ignored something I should not have ignored, when I had my own blinders on which are a part of my privilege. And I turned my righteous indignation from the oblivious strangers to my own tendency to ignore what is right in front of me.

The borders that we cross need not be another country, maybe they ought to be the borders that we impose on each other, judging them because of their race, their gender, their identity, their religion, their class. And while we might feel good about traveling to a foreign country to learn from another culture, we have even more responsibility to examine our own blinders even within our own community. Maybe the border we need to cross is the border between fear and hope, between courage and grace, between being right and being curious.

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Crossing Borders: Lessons from the Edges
by Gwenyth Lewis

“When your great-grandfathers were your age,” Dad told us three siblings, “the English owners of Welsh mines beat them for speaking Welsh and burned their Welsh Bibles. So they emigrated from Wales, to seek a better life in Kansas. When your mother and I moved to New Mexico, we determined we’d be different from those English outsiders. We’d learn from native peoples here, people whose forebears were beaten for speaking their own languages and pressured by outsiders to ‘convert’ from their own religion/cultures.”

So we three kids joined Mrs. White’s tiny after-school Spanish class at Montezuma School (it being impractical to find teachers of Tewa, Tiwa or Navajo). That was the first border I recall crossing – learning about others via their different-to-me language and culture.

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Crossing Borders: My Experience with People with Different Abilities
by Joey Haynes

For the past two and a half years, I have worked as a caregiver in West Virginia and North Carolina. My experience with people living with disabilities has flipped my worldview on its head, both socially and spiritually. I know how little I understand God’s ultimate plans. These experiences have strengthened my understanding of the humanity of all people and my belief that we exist to create a community that allows each of us to reach our fullest God-given potential—a community where all of us can teach and learn from one another. As a caregiver, I have learned that I must embrace and open my heart to being taught just as much, if not more, than I teach.

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Developing Empathy – How Crossing One Border Was Just The Beginning
by Michael Ford

“I know how you feel” is one of the most dangerous phrases any one person can say to another. We may know how we have felt or how we suspect we would feel in a similar situation, but we seldom fully know how another person feels. I have the privilege of serving as Senior Pastor of Lake Avenue Baptist Church (LABC) in Rochester, New York. In recent years LABC has seen an incredible influx of refugees from Burma. 

I have crossed a border to the United States. Our friends from Burma have crossed many borders to get here. I have faced some challenges. The difference is that I am a highly educated, English speaking, Westerner coming from a country that despite it’s differences still is similar enough for me to navigate the system. Our Burmese friends have different challenges. I would never say “I know how you feel” to our Burmese friends. I do not.

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Crossing the Border of History
by Bill Apel

In April of 2013, I made a personal pilgrimage to Hiroshima and crossed many borders. But the greatest boundary I crossed was the “border of history.” The reason for my journey was to meet and interview a survivor of the Hiroshima A-bomb and lifetime peacemaker Hiromu Morishta (now in his 86th year). I wanted to hear and record his story of the day the Bomb dropped. It is crucial that we preserve such accounts. Like many in the BPFNA, I believe we can never lose sight of the human face of violence and war in our witness for peace and justice.

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Crossing my "Red Rover" Zone
by Aubin Petersen

In 2011, my friend told me our neighbor had kicked out their high school son because he could not successfully complete a program to help him “leave homosexuality,” and not be gay. Upon hearing that story, Mark and I were moved to address the need for education and information regarding diverse human sexuality and gender identity, starting in our own neighborhood.

After researching the need for a safe space for people to gather to hear scholars and other professionals address questions regarding LGBTQ topics, we opened our home to persons interested in understanding their LGBTQ sibling, former spouse, child, parent, friend or their own LGBTQ identity. Because so much hate speech comes from faith communities, I called the group Another Story, realizing that something needed to be told other than what so many churches were telling. 

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Las fronteras y el ministerio a los inmigrantes
por Dr. Jesús Romero

Mi vida entera ha sido una historia de cruzar fronteras. Comenzó en 1978 con una experiencia vital: el venir a los Estados Unidos a participar en un programa de intercambio estudiantil cuando tenía 15 años de edad. Vivir en los Estados Unidos tan joven y lejos de mi familia se convirtió en mi primera gran experiencia multicultural.  Conocí a personas de grupos étnicos diferentes al mío; probé comidas que nunca había probado; escuché música y leí libros nuevos; vestí, incluso, ropa que jamás había vestido. ¿Quién habría dicho que se necesitaban tantas capas de ropa para soportar el gélido frío del noreste del país? Coraopolis, PA se convirtió en un nuevo punto de enfoque a partir del cual pude echar una mirada a la realidad de mi propio país natal, México, al que aprendí a ver con un amor más inteligente y al mismo tiempo más apasionado.

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Borders and Ministry to Immigrants
by Dr. Jesús Romero

My entire life has been one of crossing borders between the United States and Mexico. It started in 1978, when I came to the USA as an exchange student. I was barely 15 years old. Living in the United States at such a young age and far, far away from my family, became my first great multicultural experience. I met people from ethnic groups totally different from mine; I tasted food I had never even seen before; I heard new music and read new books; I wore clothes I did not even know existed. Who would have thought you need so many layers of clothes to endure the frigid winters of the Northeast? Coraopolis, PA became the locus through which I was able to look at Mexico, my home country, and see it in a new light. I learned to see it with eyes of love; a love that was not blind, but was even yet passionate.

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Notes on Becoming an LGBT Advocate
by Dr. Lemuel M Arnold

In high school in Port Neches, Texas, I was the proverbial nerd, straight-A student. A female member of the drill team chased me and we dated the last 2 years of high school. I didn’t realize at the time that I was gay, but I saw the issue of difference as the school photographer. Riding the band bus to football games, I was told to not sit next to someone because he was suspected of being a homosexual people would suspect me of being the same if I sat with him.

In 1970 I left for college at MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I arrived there from Port Arthur, Texas having seen snow once in my life. I joined a fraternity because someone from my hometown was in it and it gave me a better sense of belonging. That freshman year, I came out to myself as gay. I sought help from the student counseling center where the psychiatrist with whom I was speaking thought I should “try a girl” to see if I might not be heterosexual.

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Landscape and Soundscape: Border Crossing through Song
by Michael Hawn

While I certainly travel more than my share, crossing physical boarders is not the subject of this reflection. Most of my vocation centers on bringing the sung witness – the soundscape – of others beyond the United States into our worship landscape in the United States. At first glance, this might seem insignificant or even trivial, especially in light of the suffering and struggle of so many around the world. While I am not suggesting that singing can solve the world’s problems, I have found that song has the potential to bring the witness of the “other” – strangers, sojourners, marginalized peoples – into to our comfortable landscape. In doing so, we may open our awareness to the gift of the “other” among us and, as stated in Matthew 25, recognize that we have welcomed the “Other” into our midst.

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Borders, Boundaries, and Blessings: LGBTQ Lives Across the Globe
by Maria Swearingen

Borders mark nations and regions and states and identities for us. They apparently tell us who we are, where we are allowed to go, what we are to prioritize and believe and value most and even who we are to trust, love, despise, and ignore. They mark our ideologies in the world. It is important to pay attention to the ways that borders shape and challenge LGBTQ lives. Boundaries tell us which social behaviors and relationships are in and which ones are out. They mark our bodies and our stories in ways we realize and perhaps more so, in ways we don’t realize. Religious bodies are often the greatest proponents, gatekeepers, and managers of boundaries, giving us practices and rituals that define us and define those who are not us. As we all know, LGBTQ lives find themselves bound by a host of boundaries not of our choosing.

Blessings emerge in the crevices and thin places between these borders and boundaries, In those spaces, we find people whose lives, whose love, whose witness in the world, challenge both those borders and those boundaries. I might be quite biased, but I think LGBTQ people in their contexts and countries are doing this by simply being who we are. When we consider the gospel of Jesus Christ, meant to liberate us from both the mark of borders and the law of boundaries, we discover that perhaps LGBTQ lives are demonstrating a way of being in the world that is simply and profoundly, blessing.

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Crossing Borders with Vocal Work
by Chrystal Bartlett

I never set out to be a transition coach. I’m just a hetero GG (genuine girl) with lots of L, G, bi or (as I was later to learn) closeted TG (transgendered) pals

After a transgendered coworker requested help learning the speech and nonverbal behaviors of another gender, I first questioned my abilities, capacity, and lack of experience. Then I remembered 1 Peter 4:10-11: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace." Using this command as my staff, I took my first, stumbling steps, over the border.

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Crossing Borders for Earth Justice
by Rev. Wyatt Watkins

As both a pastor and a career violinist in the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, I was not looking for more to do. I joined this movement because my frequent words of apology to my own children for the wreck of a planet my generation seemed to be leaving them began to ring hollow. The scientific consensus on our global crisis of climate was in. My faith included a call to serve and preserve the creation (Genesis 2:15). It was past time to act to help ensure that, at the end of the day, people of faith have done their part to safeguard creation and all of its inhabitants for generations to come.

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A Border Already Crossed
by Chris Miller

Recent studies suggest that one out of four adults suffers from a diagnosable mental disorder. That equates to 50 million people in the United States, with 12 million falling in the "serious or chronic" category. This is equal to the percentage of the US population diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, HIV, AIDS, and diabetes combined.

Mental illness is a part of the human condition. It always has been and always will be. So wherever there are humans, there are there humans dealing with anxiety disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, ADHD, OCD, schizophrenia, as well other related diagnoses. To ignore these individuals — to pretend they are "out there" rather than "right here" — is to create a non-existent border. This is the land in which we live.

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I Pray With My Eyes Open
by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell

When I began professional ministry as a young single minister, on Sunday mornings all I needed were my keys, my wallet, and my Bible. Flash-forward six years, and I was packing a bag with diapers, wipes, bottles, a change of clothes for my baby, and an extra blouse in case I was spit up on.

I never imagined that twelve years later I would live next door to the church yet still be packing a diaper bag, a lunch, and an iPad to take with me on Sunday mornings.

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**This material is not to be reproduced – doing so is a violation of copyright.** “I Pray With My Eyes Open” by Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell is from There’s A Woman In The Pulpit – Christian Clergywomen Share Their Hard Days, Holy Moments and the Healing Power of Humor, edited by Rev. Martha Spong, 2015. Permission granted by SkyLight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT,

Answering God's Call
by JoAnn & Larry Sims

Late in January 2011, we received an email from the World Friendship Center (WFC) American Committee. They asked if we would consider becoming the Directors of the World Friendship Center, a peace organization in Hiroshima, Japan. They wanted us to start work in May. We spent two weeks carefully studying the situation, talking to family, friends, Brethren Volunteer Services (BVS), and the current WFC Directors. We soon concluded that all of the reasons of why we couldn’t go melted away – we were meant to go!

We were commissioned to do this work by First Baptist Church of McMinnville, Oregon and The Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (now BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz).

In early May on the flight to Japan, we asked ourselves “Why us?” We knew that we were going to operate a guesthouse for foreign visitors to Hiroshima and to teach conversational English classes. However, we reasoned that there must be something more. During our two years in Hiroshima we found ourselves engaged in a large number of other activities that provided a clearer sense of God’s calling.

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Crossing Borders: A Way of Death to a Way of Life
by Matt Hartfield

Twenty-five years ago, on October 24, 1990, I boarded a plane to begin a new step on my journey towards the most significant border crossing in my life.

For much of my adolescence the prayer I prayed the loudest was for God please, please to end my suffering; whether that end would come through my death or through a transformation of my life was irrelevant to me, I just hoped for an end. Somewhere in my teens I lost my faith in a loving God that would help me make my life better and began to believe that life was simply a matter of survival, and that God was, at best, nonexistent or, at worst, indifferent to my suffering. My courage to continue living was mostly dependent on the small sense of power I got from the knowledge that, if things got too bad for me to tolerate living anymore, I had the power to take my own life and end my suffering.

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Saturday Mornings
by Rev. Joe Perdue

Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries' Food Pantry, a ministry of Metro Baptist Church in NYC, provides emergency food for nearly 800 people every month.

Food insecurity is "the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food." According to the Food Bank of New York City, one in every eight New Yorkers is food insecure. That’s around 1,000,000 people. That statistic is even worse among vulnerable demographics: one in every five children and senior adults, one in six adult women, and almost one in three veterans is food insecure in New York City. While most of us take our next meal for granted, the threat of hunger is a constant companion for our clients. This is why eight people were lined up outside, over two hours early in spite of the temperature hovering just above freezing.

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The Role of the Church in Times Such as These
by Mary Hammond

In times such as these, what does the Church need to look like?

I believe that harder times are down the road. The Church can put its head in the sand and hold onto the familiar. Or the church can position itself with open arms and hearts, with daring and bold imaginations. The Church can brazenly, freely, fearlessly offer itself for the sake of this world which God fiercely loves.

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from Bill Buffett

There are numbers embedded in our lives. Like you, I have a Social Security Number, a phone number, a zip code and a birthday. And I’ll never forget 4515, the house number on Hickory Street in Omaha where our family lived. Two months ago I added a new number -- 026260. 

A year ago I joined PEN, a national organization for writers, and noticed on their website a program that matched members with a prisoner who wanted to improve his or her writing. I filled out an application, but heard nothing for several months. One day a letter came. PEN had a match for me, Steven Thomas.

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Two Cookies
from Anonymous

A kid gave my kid two cookies in a plastic wrapper yesterday.

My kid was finally ready to go live at school as his true gender self. We were following the plan: new haircut, teachers and administrators on board. At the last minute he hung on the door of the minivan and didn't want to get out, so we said the verse together he had picked out for his transition (Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid, because God will be with you wherever you go”) and he got his courage up. We happened to walk into school with a BFF and dad, then climbed the steps together to the 5th grade hall, where the guidance counselor was hanging out in the classroom as planned, and the teacher gave me the signal.

I hugged my kid. "Pray for me," he asked, as he always does. "As always," I said, and left.

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The Refugee and Me
from Barbara Taft

For most of my life, I have been involved with people from other nations. Maybe it’s because my mother came to the U.S. from Mytilene (Lesbos), Greece, when she was three years old, and my father was the first of his family to be born in the U.S., instead of the Ukraine. I heard a lot of languages as a child, too, growing up in a neighborhood with people from Czechoslovakia (today’s Czech Republic), Germany, France, Mexico, and Italy, among others. Or maybe it was because my parents gave me the name Barbara, which is defined as “strange or foreign.”

In high school, I knew all eight exchange students we had, and later I visited with a couple of them in their home countries. I’ve managed to travel to 60 countries, and to learn (at various levels of competence) eight languages, with assorted words and phrases in a half dozen others. These have come in handy when traveling.

I volunteered with international students at my university, and later with the Community Committee for International Students. Then there was tutoring and, finally, teaching ESL and specialized courses for foreign-born professionals through various adult education districts, a few private schools, and at a couple of colleges and universities.

Now that my opportunities for travel are dwindling as I age, I have wanted to stay involved. A couple of years ago, our local Amnesty International (AI) group opened up a new means of crossing borders for me. 

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Peace Cannot Be Stolen: A Community “Borders I Cross” Story
from Rev. Ian Mevorach, Ph.D

Earlier this summer Common Street Spiritual Center in Natick, MA (a BPFNA partner congregation) partnered with Maggie Sky, a friend of our community, to support her with what we now call the Rainbow Peace Flag Project. When Maggie first reached out to me, she had already taken the leap to purchase 100 rainbow peace flags to give out around town. She had put one up on her house after the Pulse shooting but felt alienated being the only one on her block flying the flag.

In a couple of short months, what began as an inspiration for Maggie Sky to put up one rainbow peace flag after the Orlando Shooting led to a longing for solidarity and is now becoming a movement that is having a major impact on our community. We’re giving people a tangible way to express love, solidarity, and the yearning for peace that so many of us share. 

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Taking the Next Right Step
by Jennifer L. Sanborn

When the streets of Ferguson were filled with righteous and raw anger over the death of Mike Brown, I lay awake at night on Twitter, following the rise of a new generation of social justice warriors. I watched as clergy colleagues traveled there with delegations from their denominations or spiritual communities. I felt drawn toward what was happening, but... I felt clearly called by God to do the work of racial justice in my own community, a predominantly-white, affluent, too-separated from our nearby city of Hartford suburb in Connecticut--to take whatever looked like the next right step and just keep walking.

I was fortunate to follow friends and former colleagues into the formation of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in the Hartford area.

My actions to that point had been largely one-offs, taken in isolation--I approached A Better Chance; I hung a “Black Lives Matter” sign on our front window; I was reading and listening to as many people of color as I could. While I had and have a strong online community of friends dedicated to racial justice, I needed to be in the room. I needed a sense of togetherness and direction and power and possibility. And at the very moment that I needed this, SURJ appeared to provide it.

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Views from the Charlotte Streets and Beyond: Race, Tension, and Hope
by David Jordon

I was with a group of clergy asked to serve as a buffer between the police and the marchers during some of the recent demonstrations in Charlotte to protest the killing of Keith Lamont Scott. Disruptions had occurred several nights in a row. Tensions were high.

A Black Lives Matter (BLM) group and other concerned citizens had gathered in an area in Uptown Charlotte called Marshall Park to prepare for that night’s demonstration. Emotions were on edge but controlled. One of the BLM leaders looked in our direction and said: “Here are the preachers. Could you have a prayer for us?”

One of our group, an African-American female minister was handed the megaphone. As she began to pray, there was silence. Then, voices of the crowd began to rise with hers, encouraging, hopeful, responsive, energetic, appreciative. As she finished the prayer, several surrounded her and walked with us as we made our way up to the street encouraged. We were there to “bear witness,” and things already felt fruitful and hopeful.

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Crossing Religious Borders in the Bible Belt
by Sally Holt

Teaching at Belmont University in Nashville, a Christian institution situated close to music row and to Vanderbilt, is a job I cherish, and the most popular class I teach, one that focuses on world religions, is also my favorite course. It’s a class that provides me with the opportunity to cross the religious borders in town and to form relationships and friendships with people I may otherwise have never encountered.

This is how I came to know the current resident scholar of the Islamic Center of Nashville. I invited him to come speak to my students about Islam, and he did so faithfully and repeatedly. He agreed to come every semester and spoke not only of Islam, but also shared details about himself and his experiences. Telling my students of his first trip to America, he shared with them how he felt after arriving in Texas from his Egyptian homeland. He wore a suit on the flight because he was sure that Americans wore suits, and when he disembarked from the airplane, he saw many Americans dressed in a variety of styles. At this point, the very beginning of his journey in the United States, he immediately realized that he had much to learn. Through just this single narrative, he illustrated for students how we really don’t have an opportunity to understand those who are different from us unless we engage with them.

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Standing with Standing Rock
by Stacey Simpson Duke

“My good heart goes to your good heart.” These were the words of a Lakota woman at Standing Rock in early November, speaking to hundreds of clergy and people of faith who had come from all over the country to stand in solidarity with the Sioux Nation as they fight to protect their water and their sacred sites against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). I was so honored to be among those who gathered.

We came at the invitation of the Reverend John Floberg, supervising Episcopal priest in Standing Rock, who, following the increasingly militarized police response to nonviolent protest there, asked clergy to come make a prayerful, peaceful witness of solidarity. His call was echoed by Chief Arvol Looking Horse, one of the Sioux spiritual leaders, asking religious leaders to come and stand side-by-side with the people there, who are themselves standing together in prayer. Rev. Floberg had hoped that 100 people would show up for this act of solidarity; more than 500 people came, from more than 20 different faith traditions.

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MOSAIC Brings Hope
by Elizabeth B. Congdon

Each meeting of Garden State MOSAIC keeps me hopeful in spite of what is going on daily. We live in trying times of racism, hate crimes, religious bigotry, fear of the other, demonization of the vulnerable, violent exclusion, and threats to democracy in America and globally. Yes, even in despair, I am hopeful. My involvement with MOSAIC keeps me hopeful.

MOSAIC (Mobilizing Our Students for Action to build Interfaith Community), is a multi-faith teen education, service and leadership development project. The focus is on learning about other faiths, serving the community and enhancing student leadership skills. This is the fourth year and we are working with 62 new students from 12 different traditions as well as alumnae and 12 “ambassadors” (alumnae in leadership development). Although our faiths are different, we find common ground in our values of love, kindness, understanding, acceptance, and charity. 

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Creating Intentional Communities Where Bold Conversations Thrive
by Dr. Jeffrey Haggray

In the story of the inauguration of the First Church of Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, we see people who did not hesitate to have Bold Conversations about their religious experience with the internationals who were gathered in Jerusalem. When thinking of Jerusalem in the first century, we should think of major cities such as Boston, San Juan, Atlanta, Toronto, New York, Chicago, or Mexico City; since Jerusalem contained the attributes related to internationalism, migration, commerce, pluralism, and so on that we find in modern cities. When speaking of multiculturalism in the church, it is always worth pointing out that on day one of the Christian Church’s investiture, it became a multicultural fellowship.

God was bold, forward thinking, inclusive and welcoming from the start. These above attributes were not afterthoughts or add-ons but were embedded in the very development of the global church. Intentionality was embedded in the composition of the first Church in Jerusalem from the start.

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Lunch with the Law
by Joyce Hollyday

Three-year-old Enrique’s favorite toy was parked on his head: a plastic helmet with a dark face shield, emblazoned with the word “POLICE.” As he toddled up to our burly, 6-foot-8 county sheriff, with his mother Rosita watching nervously, the irony about did me in.

For three hours every Thursday, a group calling ourselves Mujeres Unidas en Fe (Women United in Faith) gathers at a church on the other side of the mountain from my home in western North Carolina. Ten Spanish-speaking women and an equal number of us English speakers share Bible study, exchange language lessons, and enjoy a potluck lunch.

At the first meeting I attended in mid-January, we crowded into the kitchen while Carmela gave us a lesson in making mole verde. Beatriz moved among us with a photo album from her daughter Gabriela’s quinceañera, the 15th birthday celebration that is both religious ceremony and party—a very big event in Mexican culture. Laughter and animated conversation were abundant.

A week later, the mood was starkly different. The executive order calling for increased raids against undocumented persons had come out of the White House, and North Carolina was among the states targeted in the crackdown. A sense of terror hung in the air.

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My Summer in Mexico
by Olivia Jackson-Jordan

My summer began in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, the southeastern-most state of Mexico. The intention of my trip was to learn more about the women of the Zapatista movement and how this movement has changed over the last twenty years. Although the actual research that I had planned did not go quite as smoothly as I had hoped, I learned more than I possibly could have imagined just by being exposed to the many cultures, languages, and incredible people that exist in Chiapas.

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