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Justice Crushes

I often joke about my “justice crushes” -- the people I spy on, or listen to, or read about, whose work helps to remind me of why I’m a Christian, why it’s worth it to keep caring, why it feels right and good and hopeful to stay engaged in this hard work.

Alexia Salvatierra tops my list of “justice crushes” for sure.

I’ll never forget her simple phrase

I first heard her speak at a Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) conference. Before CCDA was really talking about advocacy, and engaging the political process, she was boldly and clearly explaining how loving immigrants with the love of Christ means that we understand and engage the laws that were harming them. I’ll never forget her simple phrase: our immigration system is illogical, ineffective, and inhumane. And then she told a story of someone she knew and loved that helped the rest of us to see how each of those things were so deeply, and excruciatingly, true.

After that, I started to hang around some of the places she hung around, like the Evangelical Immigration Table. I had a few real conversations with her. She visited Grand Rapids to consult with some churches. She became a real person to me -- and I admired her all the more.

I was thrilled. And a little nervous.

When she graciously found time to chat with me for our Do Justice podcast, I was thrilled. And a little nervous. Also, I was stressed because the only quiet space I could find to record the podcast, that had reliable internet, turned out to be not-so-quiet. 

I’m doing a sabbatical-of-sorts year with my family, living a nomadic life in a small trailer. (Smallllllllllll trailer. So. Small.) At the time Alexia and I talked, we were on the stunning Oregon coast, and I was looking out the ocean, sipping a coffee. But it sounds more idyllic than it was -- there was also a busy road right in front of my table, with very loud trucks buzzing by constantly. So much of the time, I was distractedly praying that the noise wasn’t ruining the amazing content. (I don’t think it did.)

We are called to a small portion of the work

Even though I found myself at a place that was less engaged in immigrant justice than I’d been before, so much of what Alexia said spoke to the moment that I found myself in, too. She talked about her personal practices for resilience (Biking! Dancing! Getting outside! I had lots of opportunities to try those ideas out during my little adventure.), and the importance of remembering that we are called to a small portion of the work, not to sustain the work all on our own. This was healing for me. Feeling tired, burned out, and ineffective was no small part of the reason I found myself living in the travel trailer to begin with. 

I believe that Alexia’s thoughts, and the journey that God has called her to, will be helpful to all of us -- regardless of whether we’re on the Oregon coast or we’re stuck in traffic or vacuuming up dog hair or preparing a sermon. We all have a part to play in God’s redemptive, healing work.

(And it wouldn’t surprise me if Alexia became your crush by the end, too. She’s the best.)


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