I shared with the United Methodist Men’s group recently about the values of companionship and compassion. The previous day a colleague and I had taken a long morning hike in the desert, catching up and sharing how our lives were going. Our relationship spans a couple decades. Michael, who is four years my senior, jokingly asked, “Will you still go hiking with me, Jeff, when I’m 70?” But of course! How important it is to have companions to share our journeys with.
We were joined for lunch by a friend of mine named Gerardo. (Did you know that the word ‘companion’ is derived from the Latin meaning to share bread with?) As we broke bread together, I encouraged Gerardo to tell Michael his story.
Gerardo is an undocumented Mexican National who has lived and worked – and paid taxes – in the U.S. for over twenty years. I met him years ago when he joined a church I was serving in Phoenix. “I was a police officer in Mexico, but I couldn’t take the corruption,” Gerardo explained. He also happens to be gay, and he had hoped the U.S. might be more accepting than Mexico. His application for citizenship has been thwarted time and again. As you know, the waiting list is exceedingly long for folks from Mexico and Central America. But he remains hopeful for himself and the six million other undocumented immigrants in our land, and has become an activist. As he says, “I’m out of the closet and out of the shadows.”
As I shared with the men’s group, Jesus invites us to extend our circle of compassion beyond our families and loved ones and close associates to include the outsider. Ironically – and this was not lost on my colleague – Gerardo is a brother in Christ. Of course, the Gospel knows no borders. We were deeply moved by Gerardo’s plight. I invite you to join your prayers with mine as our country finds a way forward with comprehensive immigration reform. I also invite you to consider whom Christ is calling you to be a companion to on your journey!