To my brothers of the Men’s Bible Study

Perhaps more than any other, the Men’s Bible Study group at Christ Church Cathedral was a major source of strength and inspiration for me during the seven years in Cincinnati. Here is a letter I wrote to them a few days before my intended departure:

Dear brothers of the Men’s Bible Study;

As we meet on this, my last Thursday with you, I hope we do not spend too much time on me and the future at the expense of the purpose of our bible study, which is a look at the scriptures for the coming Sunday. I thought, though, that I should give you a heads up of the pertinent questions I have heard every time my departure is mentioned:

“Why?”: In seminary and throughout my vocation, I was taught and have learned never to complain because it drains one’s energy and it hinders one from appreciating daily blessings.

The politics of immigration in this country would have created an occasion for me to complain and even be frustrated. Year after year politicians have only capitalized on the plight of those caught up in a broken immigration system for their own benefit. After these years, I do not see any possibility of action in the near future.

I also have never in my life said, “I cannot”, nor have I let others say to me, “you cannot”, because I believe God has given us many options. God calls us to a life of options and possibilities even when human systems seek to tell us “you cannot”.

As you are all probably aware, not wanting to drift into complaining or self-pity or even a victim mentality, I immersed myself into the vocation God called me into as a volunteer in outreach ministry and chaplain at Crossroad Health Center. Furthermore, I have advocated for immigration reform, not through demonstrations or protests but through personal stories in solidarity with everyone caught up in the dysfunction.

“What?”: I have heard many “what’s”, prompted by a sense of comfort and security. So, I go like Abraham, without assurances about the future, but trusting that the future is in God’s hands. As Christians, we are called to venture into the unknown, risking certainty and comfort and relying only on God. Trust becomes meaningful when we do not have assurances to lean on. As Proverbs 3:5 encourages us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight”.

As we say goodbye, I am asking for your blessing, your prayers and above all, that we cherish the wonderful brotherhood we share. May the good Lord continue to fill us with His presence and the presence of one another.

Peace,

Joel.

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