Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Estamos Caminando por la Ciudad de los Ángeles

We are walking through the city of angels. Yes, you can take that to mean that I'm a resident of Los Angeles, and I walk through it. I walk between great buildings, through children-packed parks, among camps of homeless, and beside an untamed ocean. This city is crisscrossed with fault lines: not just geological ones, but political and economic as well.

But when I say that we are walking through the city of angels, I'm also talking about the angels in our midst. I might not be referring to actual angels as recognized by formal theology, but to angels in effect, in spirit, in love.

I've really enjoyed my new participation in a couple of ministries this past year. Perhaps they're not new in general - as I've done stuff with other programs since high school - but new specifically. And I realize that angels had something to do with me finding these places of love.

First I started attending Laundry Love in East Hollywood. The Laundry Love initiative consists of regular opportunities to come alongside people who are struggling financially by assisting them with their laundry. Laundry Love partners with local laundromats in cleaning clothes and linens of low-income or no-income families and individuals. During select days and times, laundry is free. Just bring your clothes. Quarters, soap, and dryer sheets are provided. There are no income requirements, and everyone is welcome.

I've also started to participate with The Gathering, a community of Asian-American congregants throughout the Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese, who wish to share our perspectives on our faith and practices with each other. I spoke on a panel discussing "identity" earlier this spring and am now assisting in organizing a musical event on Oct 13 at St John's Cathedral and featuring musicians in the diocese.

Both have opened my eyes to the multitude of angels that live and breathe and walk around me. You may have noticed that I in prior blog postings have talked about the being awakened periodically to discovering that someone in front of me is acting as a messenger of God. They're opening my eyes, unstopping my ears, and clearing my throat. I become aware of God's grace. I am reminded of God's love. And I feel connected to God ever more closely.

That's what an angel does. The angels that people think of in classical paintings - the cherubims - are chubby pink babies for the most part. But in those places in Scripture where angels are mentioned, the angel is almost always a messenger from God or from the Archangel Michael. They don't show up to be cute.

No, they usually are there to say "Wake up" and "God is here".

These two ministries, like the others that I participate in, poke me, prod me, blare a trumpet at me - anything to catch my distracted attention. In today's world, it's more than a little easy to be distracted after all. I'm undoubtedly as guilty of that as anyone else, if not more so given my job in technology.

Instead, I'm reminded how much we depend on each other to help each other. I'm reminded that regardless of what we look like, we are all welcome to Christ's table. I'm reminded that whether we talk with other, sing with each other, or sit in silence with each other, we are in community together and that we're in this thing as one.

I feel lucky that the wonderful members of Holy Spirit in Silver Lake reminded me of their Laundry Love ministry. I came for prayer and I walked out with my eyes opened. And when I started to attend, I so appreciate it when I can recognize people at the laundromat; I'm not great with names but I'm good with faces and that's a useful place to start. And I'm surprised and happy when they recognize me, too. It means that irrespective of where we are on our journeys, we know we've crossed paths here and that we share something together.

These times at Laundry Love complement all the time Stephen and I have spent with Union Station Homeless Services. We appreciate that society has to both help the emergency nutritional and safety needs of those who lack basic resources but also to help them move past the crisis and into sustainable employment and programs. It's hard to get a job or keep a job if your soiled laundry discourages employers from hiring you. But the reality is too many people have to choose between feeding their families and washing their clothes.

And, I feel so very connected when I'm interacting with The Gathering. I don't often participate in Asian ethnic events. I used to do that as a child and it wasn't something that I enjoyed. Mind you, Filipino families are quite large and, with almost 5 dozen first cousins and 17 nieces and nephews, there's more than enough cultural interaction just hanging out with each other. As I grew older, I enjoyed discovering other cultures. I didn't spend as much time exploring my actual roots, which are Filipino, which is sort of Asian, sort of Pacific Islander, and in some ways sort of Latino. And oh so very Roman Catholic.

So Rev. Peter Huang and the Gathering, by reaching out to me, have opened my eyes to ways I can connect with others in the church who want to experience their faith while acknowledging and celebrating our cultural heritage. It's something I've been wanting and it surprised me that it somehow appeared to happen.

I had heard of both Laundry Love and Episcopal Asian Ministries before, but I think angels are insistent. They're there to make sure you're awake and hearing the message sent to you. We each have our journeys and we'll always have times alone and times in community on the path. But the angels. The angels will tap you on the shoulder and say "If you would just listen, I think there's something you want to hear."

And I think back to the first of three angels that I met on my 600 mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in 2016. ( He told me "You'll be fine". He told me I was safe. And I felt safe. And that's what I needed to hear so that I wouldn't feel alone, so that I wouldn't be afraid.

So keep an open heart to those you encounter on the road. You may not recognize the angels in our midst, but they've got something you need to hear.

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