Blake Oakley arrived in Los Angeles today. He is on the other side of the Country from where he usually walks, often barefoot.
Many who know Blake would not be surprised that he enjoys walking barefoot. They have seen him do so before. But, when he left Eden, North Carolina for Tijuana, he did not know that walking barefoot would be so different.
What would take a 30-year old pastor from Eden to Tijuana? Somewhere deep within Blake he wanted to know what it was like to walk in the shoes of an immigrant, even a refugee. The story he learned in the Scriptures centered around a group of refugees – immigrants, strangers, pilgrims.
Daily stories detailing the plight of immigrants and refugees fueled his interest. Blake decided to walk the El Camino del Inmigrante. I talked on the phone with Blake at just about the halfway point of his journey. We talked about solidarity and what that means. It took us to consider the Incarnation, among other subjects of interest.
One of the ways Blake describes what is in his heart and on his mind is found in his reflection, Walkin Towards the New “We.” H writes,
Because of all this, I can’t help but to see some form of hypocrisy in wanting to reap economic benefit from the cheap labor of those who immigrate to our country, while at the same time taking a stance which perpetually pushes them to the margins. Wherever you might be on the grand spectrum of perspectives on immigration, it’s a healthy thing to acknowledge that it is more than a political issue. Politics has become an arena where it’s the norm to use buzzwords like “immigration” as leverage to evoke populist fervor in one direction or another without nuance. But to talk about immigration is to talk about humans. It’s a human issue. It’s a “who are we?” issue. It’s a spiritual issue that needs conversation because it’s an issue which will affect the soul of our nation.
What does a person do with the experience of the El Camino del Immigrante? You find ways to talk about the subject, to look for ways to bring change, to offer relief. These are things Blake has in mind and will work out on the ground when he returns home. He finished the journey today.
We talk a bit about ways Blake has in mind when it comes to doing more than getting your head around the plight of the marginalized. Certainly he has thought about more on the six days after we recorded the podcast. Maybe he will offer a comment, or two, on this post that adds to what we talked about at the time.
Whatever Black concludes for himself, we all need to do more than make these matters ethereal, in our heads. We really do need to find ways to make a difference for those of us who have lost the narrative of our Country where we like to refer to ourselves as a Country of immigrants while ignoring the ways, the sins, we committed against the already here, Native Peoples.
No matter whether your in Eden, Tijuana, Los Angeles, or any other point on the map, people suffer the indignities of being marginalized. Hopefully our conversation does not imply that the only way to understand solidarity with others is to walk the El Camino. Blake does not believe the pilgrimage is the only means available.
As you listen, don’t miss how Blake understands the walk as pilgrimage. The spiritual discipline has long been used as a means of the Spirit to open up those traveling to new understandings, possibilities and as importantly, learning something about oneself.
Thanks to Blake for taking the time during his pilgrimage to chat. Thanks to my friend Alan Cross for helping us make connection.
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