7 hours, 12 miles, 60 pilgrims…
This day had a divine purpose but I’m still not sure I fully comprehend all its mysteries.
In our human plans, this day should have never taken place. The original plan called for a leg of the pilgrimage to carry us through Cherokee County in northwest metropolitan Atlanta. Cherokee County was originally selected because it is the home of Georgia’s most vehement, anti-immigrant legislator, Senator Chip Rogers. Sadly, Senator Rogers has replaced “land of our pilgrim’s pride” patriotism with “land of the pilgrim’s shame” xenophobia and morally-sanctioned legislation with state-sanctioned humiliation. But, for varied organizational purposes, the “trail of tears” leg of the pilgrimage was cancelled and today’s route was very improvisational.
It’s easy forget, when planning an event for what we expect to be over 1,000 participants, how much work goes on behind the scenes to make things go smoothly. As we approached this day when we had no coordinating committee, it became quite obvious that this day would require miracles.
First, how many pilgrims should we plan for? Because there was no coordinating committee that meant there had been no recruitment or local publicity. Would the walk just be the five of us (Denise, Haven, Nash, Utsumi, and me) who made the commitment to walk the full pilgrimage route? What if scores showed up?
Second, how would we feed an unknown number of pilgrims? Committees on prior days had teams whose sole responsibility it was to prepare for the feeding of the multitudes. How would God multiply our small quantity of “loaves and fish”?
Third, we had no legal permit for this day’s leg. Would that be a problem? Did we even need a “permit” to walk down the sidewalk? Yes, we could’ve been a large group, but what if the hundreds of thousands of unlicenseable immigrants were to stop driving, even for one day, wouldn’t that make for full sidewalks and road shoulders?
Fourth, how would we transport folks back to Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church in Norcross once we arrived at Plaza Fiesta in Chamblee? This would be a 12-mile walk of an unknown number of folks that we would be responsible for returning promptly and graciously to their vehicles? What miracles would we need to accomplish this feat?
Well, God is still in the business of performing loving miracles when one’s cause is justice for the least of these.
60 pilgrims showed up, a number that exceeded my honest expectation given, again, our lack of promotion. What happened was, we built a momentum of enthusiasm with our two other walks in Gwinnett County and folks were grasping the powerful force of the Spirit that has seemed to have been guiding us on like the blustery wind of Monday’s leg.
As for food, God multiplied Tuesday’s lunch in inexplicable ways. The committee planned a meal on Tuesday for 200 pilgrims but 400 walked. How, then, did the meal multiply so as to cover twice the anticipated number of pilgrims along with providing, in abundance, for today’s 60 walkers? Simple. Miracle.
One of our walkers “just happened” to be a concrete layer who “just happened” to have orange vests in the back of his pick-up truck for our deputized safety patrol. Another miracle.
As for transportation, I am indebted to Ana Gutierrez who has really gone the extra mile. She started out as a member of the Tuesday planning committee but has ended up helping plan and coordinate Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! She even hosted a couple of us in her home, had her entire family walk with us a couple of days and, today, she was our official support vehicle driver who brought us our meals and drinks along the way and shuttled folks to and from the route to their respective automobile.