You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.
Augustine of Hippo
I have a wandering heart. It served me well during many years of rich experiences. But in all that wandering, eventually I got lost. Thankfully, God called me back, and set my feet on his path. In my second year at Virginia Theological Seminary, I was lucky enough to go to the Dominican Republic for a month of study. One of the heroes I encountered there was a Gandhi-like priest, Sandino Sanchez. In one of our conversations, I asked him, “Sandino, tell me about the faith of your people. Why is it so strong?” He said, “Sara, in the Dominican Republic, we have so little and life is so hard that we know how much we depend on God; in your country you have so much you think you don’t need God.” I was unmasked. I whispered to my heart, “I need a faith like this.”
That’s how my path to Latino ministry began. It has never been about what I can give to my congregations; it has been my desire to accompany them through life, recognizing my own need to anchor my heart in Jesus and walk by faith.
I have been visited by grace upon grace throughout my years of ministry. People have generously shared intimate moments of joy and struggle. Exile, wandering, desert, deliverance–these are not just biblical metaphors in peoples’ lives; they are real life experiences.
During a collaborative book study discussion between members of Misa Alegria and Church of the Redeemer, Santos, who was describing his journey to the United States, told how God had hidden him in the cleft of a rock until helicopters disappeared from overhead. As he spoke, I simultaneously heard the Psalmists’ words and the old hymn, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” Another time, during a Lenten Bible study, Maria asked, “I’d like to know how it is to cross the desert. Do you suffer from the heat?” Esther replied, “I didn’t suffer. A fine mist fell on my skin the whole time.” Our resident sage, Valentin, seated cross-legged on the floor, said simply, “Manna from heaven.”
Lately, our shared stories and conversations have explored questions of what it means to be treated as a scapegoat for society’s ills and how it feels to fear Pharaoh’s army. Yet despite such deeply troubling times, I continue to be amazed by an unshakeable, ever faithful witness to God’s presence with us.
In the Diocese of Washington, diversity is one of our greatest blessings. I am hopeful that, in this new season of our common life, we will be even more willing to reach out, to meet around our sacred stories, and maybe discover a friend in the stranger–and a deep connection in our common humanity.
By faith, we will all be brought to where our heart is, for we are all journeying home. If we open ourselves to one another, we just might find that our shared stories and dreams are manna from heaven–food for the journey.
The Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin