A Voice in the Wilderness

by | Mar 26, 2023 | Sermons | 0 comments

March 26, 2023

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 55:1-7

I want to tell a story about a man I met. Every once in a while I run across a person who, for me, exemplifies, at least in one part of their life, what I believe Jesus might be like if he had lived today. People like this can be of any sex or occupation or color but this man happens to be the pastor of Sahaurita UCC in Sahaurita, Arizona, a town of around 35,000, 15 miles South of Tucson.

His name is Randy Mayer and he has been the Senior Pastor there since 1998 when the first church building was built. The church, itself, has been in existence since 1992. It is about 25 miles from that church to the border and Nogalas (a border town).

The church in Sahaurita is a very active UCC congregation of mostly retirees and something over 100 in attendance on any given Sunday. Its pastor, Randy, is a man whose heart has been touched by the people of Central America: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Costa Rica. He’s married to a woman from Honduras.

God gave Randy a heart that breaks with the things that break the heart of God. Wherever people suffer, Randy is there. For some reason his heart has been particularly broken over those Latin American people who have suffered so long with extreme poverty and oppression.

That’s the reason why, 25 years ago, he sought out a church near the border and why, now, one of his church’s primary ministries is tending to the constant flow of migrants from their places of suffering to a better life in the United States.

Randy and his church made a critical decision a while back. It was this: In order to be effective in the field they were called to serve, they decided to separate politics and policy issues from simply serving and helping those in life-threatening need on the border. That may be hard for some to contemplate doing, but you can see, I hope, how that sort of decision is helpful:

  • it helps you focus your attention and compassion on the one thing that calls to you most clearly and
  • it releases the policy making to those whose skill is in that area
  • it allows you to accomplish something of value in a political climate where policy making is exceptionally hard if not impossible. We seem to live in a time of paralysis when it comes to conscientious policy-making.
  • it involves you directly and personally (face-to-face) with the people whose need is the greatest – ie the migrants. And…I believe that it is most like the pathway Jesus chose when he was involved in his ministry so many years ago.

So, many years ago now, Randy Mayer told his church that he could no longer do church the same way he had been – preaching, meeting with committees, dressing up like a pastor. He said this was so big in him that he guessed it was time to resign. They shocked him by saying: “We don’t need you to do most of those things. We can do that! We need you to do what you love to do because that is who we are also!”

So, we spent 2 full days with Randy. I knew when I saw him that he was in his element. The first day we visited a shelter in the heart of Nogalas, Mexico. It exists for migrants while they apply for residence in the U.S. It is run by Sister Lica and funded by a group Randy put together. I’d love for either Mary Ann or me to tell you more about that shelter another day.

The second day three of us buckled into a four-wheel drive vehicle for a day in the desert looking for migrants who have been days and weeks fleeing from their homes in various parts of Central America because of the brutal cartels, ineffective governments, deadly poverty, and a drive to save their families.

We drove for hours through barren desert where the roads were nothing but dirt pathways and then into outcroppings of rocky near-mountainous terrain up and down steep trails and across creeks and small rivers, over boulders and into holes that would have left my little Fiesta hopelessly incapacitated.

And then we got to the wall on the border. The wall was started back in the Bush administration, added to by every administration since, expanded by Obama and Trump and now by Biden. 30 feet tall and in places fortified by razor wire on the top and near the bottom. It is embedded in concrete and runs for 4 miles one direction and 11 miles another from the town of Nogalas at a cost to the taxpayers of 43 million dollars per mile. In that 15 miles of wall, there are 36 gaps big enough for a person to walk through and sometimes big enough for a vehicle.

We were there for only one reason – to save lives and reduce suffering. Here and there, there are “death maps” filled with hundreds of red dots signifying the death of one of the migrants fleeing to safety. We stopped by many of those gaps and Randy (who has been doing this for more than 20 years), would get out of the vehicle and stand by the wall and let loose a piercing whistle followed by a shout into what seemed like emptiness: “Hey, Hey! We are amigos, Do you need “la comida” (food)? “agua” (water)? Are you hurt? Do you need help? Call back to me!” A voice in the wilderness!

Three times people appeared out of the desert. A single man with five others still in hiding, 4

teenage boys 15-16 yrs old, and 3 women with four children under the age of 5-6 yrs. Two weeks before they picked up a 3 yr old little girl on her own but spotted by some teenagers who were trying to help her.

The volunteers that wander the desert seeking to render aid to migrants call themselves the Samaritans and nearly every day someone of them is calling on the border to identify those in need. Since their work started, thousands have been aided even while hundreds have died in the desert.

If Jesus were here again, I don’t really know where or if he would go to church, but I’ll bet he would be calling in the desert – a voice in the wilderness. “Is anyone thirsty?

Come and drink— even if you have no money!” These are the ancient words of Isaiah that reflect the heart of God.

I know all the arguments about the fairness or unfairness of this border situation, and I’m sure that we could never resolve any of those arguments to everyone’s satisfaction. That’s a head issue for someone else. But, for me as a child of God among a world full of other children of God, I can’t see how we can do less than pray: “Lord, please break my heart with things that break your heart.”

You don’t have to go to the border to see things that break God’s heart. They are all around us. All the time. So many individuals and groups of people whom the world has judged less than and excluded. You and I, no matter what that world chooses to do, can say: “Is anyone thirsty?

Come and drink— even if you have no money!”

Pastor Don Crist