The vision sounds different

by Emily Ralph, associate director of communication

Primera Iglesia Menonita de Brooklyn
Elizabeth Soto Albrecht prays with two pastors who are struggling through immigration issues. Photo by Emily Ralph

Admittedly, I’ve not been a huge fan of Mennonite Church USA’s vision statement.  It’s felt cliché as we’ve reiterated a utopic collection of Anglo American Mennonites’ favorite words strung into a sequence.

This past weekend, as I accompanied Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, Mennonite Church USA moderator-elect, to worship with Mennonite congregations in New York City, I realized something.

Our vision sounds different in Spanish.

It’s not just that the words sound different, although they do.  The meaning of the words takes on new depth when it’s being said by men and women who are faced with oppression, racism, anger, and uncertainty; nice words become a challenge to live like Jesus in the midst of struggle.

At Primera Iglesia Menonita in Brooklyn, immigration advocates gathered downstairs to connect immigrants with resources and an immigration lawyer guided them through the massive paperwork maze needed to achieve adequate documentation.  Upstairs, the congregation worshiped a faithful God who cares for widows, orphans, and “aliens” and shared their own stories of fleeing persecution, enduring economic oppression, and struggling to keep their families together.

How do we let la esperanza de Dios fluyan a través when we are paid less than minimum wage and when we watch helplessly as our families are needlessly deported?

At Garifuna Iglesia Menonita in Harlem, members of the American Garifuna community (people from Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, and Guatemala of African descent) worshiped enthusiastically in Spanish and Garifuna accompanied by four sets of drums, flowing back and forth between languages as fluidly as the call and response of their leaders and congregation.

How do we grow as comunidades de gracia, gozo y paz when people tell us to “go back where we came from” or when simply walking the streets might lead to a stop and frisk from the New York Police?

At Iglesia Menonita Unida de Avivamiento in Brooklyn, where we said the vision together in Spanish, one of the congregation’s pastors sat across from Elizabeth over dinner and said, “Those of us in urban churches have been looking at our denomination’s leadership for a long time, waiting for someone we recognize.  This is a historic moment.”  It is a moment that could lead to la sanidad de Dios.

I’m beginning to realize that healing sounds different in Spanish.  And that true healing and hope also move us toward a new understanding of God’s justice, “that flows like a mighty stream.”

“God calls us to be followers of Jesus Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit,
to grow as communities of grace, joy and peace,
so that God’s healing and hope flow through us to the world.”

“Dios nos llama a ser seguidores de Jesucristo, y por el poder del Espíritu Santo,
a crecer como comunidades de gracia, gozo y paz,
para que la sanidad y la esperanza de Dios fluyan a través de nosotros al mundo.”

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Emily is accompanying Elizabeth Soto Albrecht on her Journey to Phoenix this summer.  Follow along at JourneywithElizabeth.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

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