This weekend Eliberto and I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey. It was a new experience for us, and a great encouragement.
I know we haven’t written in a while; it has been a busy season, with lots of ups and downs. Many days I have felt exhausted by life. With all that last week brought, we barely made it to New Jersey for the meeting on Saturday. But in the midst of all that life has been piling on us, I feel grateful for these moments to pause and reflect. I wanted to share with you one image that stuck with me from Saturday.
The theme of the conference was “Deeply Rooted” and we had the pleasure to hear from Rev. Edgardo M. Caraballo, a Puerto Rican pastor. During his reflection, Rev. Caraballo briefly shared from his experience in Puerto Rico during and after Hurricane Maria. The hurricane devastated the island, destroying much of its natural habitation. But one type of tree remained standing through the storm – the Tabonuco tree. In order to withstand the strong winds and rains, Tabonuco trees not only dig roots deeply under ground, but also intertwine their roots with those of other Tabonuco trees. They create an entire underground network from tree to tree, sharing nutrients and providing exceptional stability.
As I reflected on this season in our lives, I resonated deeply with the image of the Tabonuco tree. Eliberto and I need to grow a deeply connected network of people who think like us. Our goal is to connect and intertwine the roots of people who believe in the power of education, who believe that God uses us to transform lives, who believe that peace is possible, even in the darkest storms.
The roots must connect from person to person, church to church, school to school, and country to country. They are roots that connect out of a sense of identity, from a curiosity and desire to hold hands with others who claim the same hope. And together they form the strongest network that can withstand the storms of violence and death, of force migration, of hopelessness, and of fear. We will stand together stronger, with stability and nourishment that allows for flourishing even amidst the difficult storms.
And so we, committed to this mission, continue to twist our roots with yours. To seek out like-minded people to partner with us through time and giving. We hold hands with others who believe that peace is possible, and that together we can support our neighbors and build a network that allows for life. We believe that a strong network has the power to impact thousands of lives. This is our hope, and we are committed to build this network.
Yet we still feel tired, swept away by the daily tasks of life. And so we pray for wisdom to become like strong Tabonuco trees, and for grace to intertwine with other Tabounco trees in the US and in El Salvador. Together we form a bond of peace for our world. Together we hold one another through life’s storms. Together we build communities where our God of hope and peace breathes life and light into every being.
May we have patience as we journey and love for this great community.