Maureen Heath


Tables Instead of Walls
In Fresno, California

story
August 8, 2017
ITeams
ITeams

Dividing walls

Our team works in one of the poorest neighborhoods in downtown Fresno, California where division between people groups exists as it has all throughout history.

We see divisions between ethnic groups, socioeconomic classes, and people groups.  Reconciliation is difficult to obtain and the process can be messy.  When we see real glimpses of what reconciliation can look like, we are propelled forward with hope for the future.  

Many of the youth we work with in Fresno have parents that crossed the US/Mexican border looking for work. Because many don’t have legal documents, there is a growing fear of parents being deported and having their families split up.  

During youth group one night, we focused on the walls that exist in our world. We talked about the walls that separate countries, walls that come between our youth and the police, walls between neighbors, and even the walls that exist between family members. We talked about how Jesus himself came to break down the dividing wall of hostility that separates people.  We continued to talk about how Jesus brought his diverse group of disciples together around a table, the Lord’s Table, and how a radical community was formed.  

A pivotal question

What would it look like to build bigger tables where we could gather together instead of building higher walls that simply continue division?

Believing that reconciliation can happen around a table while sharing food and stories, we decided to host a Love Feast. Our youth group led the way as we began making our invitations without any regard to ethnicity, life situation, or background.

We also invited the captain of our police district. Not only did he come, but he brought several of his officers. While our mayor declined our invitation, he sent a representative from his office. We also invited the neighbors in our community.

Around the table

We ate great food, laughed a lot, and realized that we shared more in common than we realized.  We even ended the night with a piñata!

The members of this youth group are growing into strong leaders who work toward reconciliation in a world that highlights polarizing differences. Choosing a table over a wall is a strong step toward reconciliation among so many different groups in our community.