We Can Add This to the Book of Acts

We Can Add This to the Book of Acts

“We can add this to the book of Acts.” You may have heard this before, but I shared this with Pastor Brian Malison, Senior Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Visalia, after Bishop Mark Holmerud ordained the first Lahu (ethnic group of people from China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos) clergy in our denomination, Pastor Samee Singkeovilay. It was a beautifulSunday morning, April 29, 2018. Christ’s congregants and members of the Lahu community gathered to celebrate Pastor Samee’s saying “yes” to God’s calling. There was singing, prayers and reading of Scriptures, both in Lahu and English. It was my first time hearing the words of institution in Pastor Samee’s first language. It was a journey not only for Pastor Samee, but for all those who witnessed this historic event. Pastor Brian fondly recalled, as he introduced me to the former and present executive directors of Habitat for Humanity, that it was in in the early 1990s when he and other Christ Lutheran Church members volunteered to build a house for Habitat for Humanity – and it was Pastor Samee’s house, the beginning of an unexpectedly beautiful and blessed relationship of ordinary neighbors in the community. They are neighbors in the city, and now siblings in the gospel. Their story is not only a reminder of how God brings people together in surprising ways, but it is also an encouragement and calling of the Holy Spirit: God is moving in the lives of people in our neighborhood, and we hope to be present so that God can use us, our gifts, and our time for the sake of the gospel. Immigrants like Pastor Samee, who have been here for years, and recent immigrants too, have so many gifts to offer in our communities.

It is important to highlight that I am sharing this story in the week of Immigrant Day in California. Last Monday, May 14th, I participated at the interfaith vigil that opened a whole day dedicated to immigrants’ rights with prayers, songs and blessings. Then the rest of the day was spent in small groups visiting state officials, where immigrant advocates and allies shared their stories, passionate pleas and challenges focusing on three topics: healthcare for all, Calfresh (food stamps) for all especially for Dreamers and their families, and the earned income tax credit for all. There are other issues and challenges our immigrant siblings continue to face, but each year specific themes are selected to focus on in talking with state leaders. Despite the struggles, the spirit of the community was hopeful and courageous. One of my companions shared as we reflected on our day, “I was treated with dignity today as I shared my story of being an undocumented person.” She added that she witnessed tears of solidarity even from the state officials as they listened to stories of families, communities, and commitment.

God truly brings neighbors together – go out and meet your neighbors. Who knows what addition to the book of Acts you could write together.

Tita Valeriano
Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop