By Alexia Salvatierra 7-13-2016 | Series:

The first Christians referred to their movement as “The Way,” which can be roughly translated into Spanish as “El Camino.”

El Camino del Inmigrante (the way of the immigrant) is the name of an upcoming 150-mile walk from the California-Mexico border to Los Angeles, arriving in time for the annual Christian Community Development Association conference. Participants in the conference and Southern California residents — immigrants and citizens — will walk together for ten days to remember and to lift up the suffering of migrants as well as their contributions to our country.

This is a historical moment when waves of anti-immigrant sentiment have the potential to impact the presidential election. El Camino will serve to counter the scapegoating of immigrants by providing a context for the stories of immigrants to be heard and their humanity recognized. CCDA affiliate organizations around the country are committed to incarnational community development. We know the pain and the gifts of immigrants because we minister with our immigrant neighbors. We know about the broken immigration system because we see the ongoing casualties of families broken apart by illogical and inhumane clauses in immigration law.

Churches will shelter us every night, with dinner and simple programs that highlight different aspects of the migrant experience — from unaccompanied children and youth fleeing violence in Central America, to farmworkers and domestic workers, to the victims of trafficking, to U.S. veterans born in other countries. Additional immigrants from local churches will join us at the dinner table to share their stories. We encourage the walkers to blog about their experiences, sharing their experiences of these stories with sites like ONWARD.

Daily scripture meditations written by immigrant and citizen professors and students from Fuller Theological Seminary will focus our attention on the connections between the biblical stories of migration and the lives of our brothers and sisters on the journey. These meditations will be uploaded online so that friends and colleagues around the country can join us in prayer and reflection.

The idea for El Camino came to CCDA Executive Director Noel Castellanos when he walked the Camino del Santiago in Spain on his recent sabbatical. The Camino del Santiago has been a site for spiritual pilgrimages for centuries. In the midst of this experience, Noel, a Mexican-American, found himself remembering the stories of immigrants whom he had known and ministered with over the years. He wanted to combine the spiritual experience of walking for days in prayer with an action that would help those who had walked for days in search of safety and the fulfillment of dreams but had arrived at a place of hatred and rejection. He wanted to create a new pilgrimage in which the church would become a living symbol of the welcoming love of Christ for these modern wayfarers.

El Camino is open to anyone who wants to join us — for one or two days, or for all ten. We are also asking all of you to join us in prayer.

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra is the author with Dr. Peter Heltzel of Faith-Rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World (Intervarsity Press) and the founder of the Faith-Rooted Organizing UnNetwork.

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