Well friends, you are in for a TREAT today. Alexandra Kuykendall is one of my favorite humans, and I’m so glad you get to get to know her through her words today! Do yourself a favor and buy all the books she’s written (which are listed in her bio), but otherwise, pull up a chair and enjoy today’s edition of “Listen, Learn & Listen Some More.” Proceeds from today’s post will go to RAICES.
As soon as I received the invitation, I knew I wanted to go. It was going to come at a cost. My money, time, and certainly my comfort were all going to be stressed as I took on the “yes”, but I was certain God had something for me in it. A direction. A clear next step. A way for me to combine all parts of my studies and career.
The invitation felt like a no-brainer and I was sure God’s direction for me as a result would be equally clear.
It was the summer of 2018. A few months earlier headlines broadcast the family separations at the U.S./Mexico border. The public responded with an overwhelming protest and as I learned of toddlers being taken from their mothers, I did what many mothers did: I cried.
The invitation was to head to the border town of McAllen, TX for a “listening trip”. This was a guided experience for Christian women, authors mostly, who wanted to learn more about current immigration policies and observe first-hand what the headlines were claiming. It was an invitation to witness and listen.
It felt as if every part of my life had prepared me for this opportunity. I’d studied in Central America as both a high school and college student. I’d graduated with a major in Spanish and International Affairs. I’d worked for two years after college with migrant farmworkers’ children. My most recent work included almost a decade on staff with one of the country’s largest ministries to mothers, MOPS International. I’d just turned in edits for my upcoming book on loving our neighbors.
From immigration to family and faith these were the themes of my life. My husband agreed we could cover the cost of my travel from Denver to McAllen, TX and he could hold down the home front, getting four girls to three different schools and soccer practices, while I was away. My answer to the invitation was a firm “yes”.
While there I was hyper attentive. I took in as much as I could. From policy information from some of the most informed in the country, to border town mayors speaking about their love of their domestic and international neighbors, I did my best to not jump over the listening phase to the proposed solutions phase.
We visited the Central Processing Center (aka Ursula), the largest in the U.S., where earlier that summer parents and children were separated, and U.S. Senators held press conferences outside. We listened to Border Patrol agents before they took us on a tour of the facility where we saw lines of unaccompanied children standing behind cyclone fencing as they prepared to head to lunch. The “cages” are forever seared in my mind.
The fear, and almost worse the glassy-eyed stares, in children’s faces were silent and deafening at once.
With every person, every harrowing story of escape, every mother or daughter I met, I waited to hear that clear voice I was certain was coming. God was going to make it clear how I could be part of the solution. Okay likely not in an audible way, but at least in a definitive push.
Returning home, I went right back to my life of soccer practices and making dinner, sure God would make it clear why I had the chance to witness and hear from people right in the eye of this political and humanitarian storm. It made no sense that I would be plucked from my kitchen and placed in the middle of this chaos for no reason. I desperately wanted to be helpful, to love God and my neighbors in this arena.
And still, silence. I was left wrestling with the uncomfortable questions of Why? And How? God felt near, but quiet.
The silence moved from frustrating to expected. As headlines continued, I felt a part of the story, but still no clear direction in how I fit into it. I couldn’t look away, I now knew too much, and yet I grasped for ways I could contribute to the story being written by my fellow citizens and Jesus-followers. My prayer for the specific instruction manual guidance moved to open-handed prayers for any way I could serve my neighbors. “God if I’m offered an opportunity, I will say ‘yes’”. And the listening continues.
In this space of figuring out my “job”, I am reminded that listening to the image-bearers around me, especially those who may not otherwise have a platform to speak, is my job. And wouldn’t you know, I am hearing God’s echoes of grief for humanity, redemption on earth, and hope that defies circumstance?
It turns out God can be silent and deafening at once.
A trusted voice for Christian women, Alexandra Kuykendall speaks on issues of how faith impacts everyday life. She is the Co-founder of The Open Door Sisterhood, a community of women working to be world changers for good right where they are. She co-hosts a podcast and retreat under the same name. Alex has authored four books: Loving My Actual Life, Loving My Actual Christmas, The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir, and her newest Loving My Actual Neighbor. Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their four daughters. You can connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.