I have been tasked with writing a number of devotionals. This is rather difficult. It’s been a good experience to try to write some of my stories.
This one is too long, dealing with John 20:19-31 as a text. So, I’ll put the full length here and chop it for the publication. This is from my experience protesting the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings in Miami Florida in the Fall of 2000.
“We tried that already and we lost Rashon!” Jamie’s pained voice bounced off the scattered picket signs on the floor, as the fluorescent lights dangled and buzzed above in the small warehouse. The movement leaders of the nonviolent protestors huddled in the humid Florida evening, swatting flies and desperately trying to decide how to proceed.
Earlier that day Jamie’s Atlanta-based affinity group led the hundreds of other affinity groups, unions, families, and others in the economic justice march. Thousands rallied in Florida as part of a plan to amplify the voices of Latin American small-scale farmers (campesinos) who were most affected by the economic deals happening at closed-door meeting at the 5-Star hotel in downtown Miami. The campesinos were not invited by the lawmakers to share their perspectives on how these deals deeply impoverished their families and communities. With the voices of those most affected by changes in economic policies absent, the pattern of “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer” would continue.
Everything was going well for the protestors until the police decided to disperse them by shooting rubber bullets directly into the gathered, peaceful crowd. A number of the movement leaders at the meeting in the eerie warehouse were nursing bruises on their legs and welts on their arms from the police weapons. Rashon, a shorter member of Jamie’s affinity group, was hit in the head by a policeman’s rubber bullet. He was emergency evacuated and currently in critical condition.
The affinity groups were made up of US American people who saw the impacts of unjust economic policies on campesinos, and were sent by them to represent their voices…if not allowed in the meetings, then shouting out on the streets in hopes of reaching the suites and the general public with the good news that there are many alternative ways to organize our economic societies so it reduces the gap between rich and poor.
The activists caught the vision and sought to heal society by raising their voices to speak on behalf of Latin America’s most vulnerable people. It was clear their quest put them in harm’s way. The police protected the powerful at the meeting and did not want the shouting of the advocates or the cries of the poor to be heard.
Not only Rashon, but many were getting wounded. Even in their wounded state however, the movement leaders’ desire to be agents of peace, inspired them to return to the streets the next day to continue their efforts to heal. They made some adjusts to the methodology, but continued their efforts to witness to another way: of peace, of inspiration, of power-together rather than power-over-others.
In the Scripture reading of John 20:19-31, Jesus joins the scared disciples, the movement leaders who were huddled and trying to figure out what to do. What is powerful about his appearance to them is that Jesus does not hide his wounds. He does not hide that what he went through hurt and has forever changed him. Yet he still breathes a clear message to the disciples: Deep peace, inspiration, and power. Just as he was sent to share good news, so he sends them to continue witnessing, knowing they will be wounded, but providing an example to them as their wounded healer.