Samuel Oliver-Bruno is a friend of mine and a worshiper at the church I attend; he has lived there in sanctuary since January. If you haven’t heard about him yet, you probably will on a news broadcast before the week is out.
I was one of the many who accompanied him to the US Immigration Office and who witnessed his entrapment and detainment by plain-clothed ICE officers who posed as customers until he signed in. I was one of the many who stood in front of the minivan to prevent ICE from conveniently disappearing with him. I witnessed the screams, the disbelief, the pleading for mercy, the betrayal, the terror. I witnessed the peaceful, prayerful, gracious-but-firm resistance. I witnessed my friends getting arrested. I witnessed Samuel finally being driven away: from his wife, his son, his friends, his church, his life.
I feel anguish, anguish that is probably going to last a long time. I won’t drag you through every bit of it, but it isn’t honest for me to post today as if nothing was different from last week. Life will never be the same for me and for the others who witnessed what I did. I imagine I will process some of it here with you over the coming weeks. For now, though, I’m writing to Samuel as a member of the living sanctuary that still surrounds him in our love and prayers for him and his family. I invite you to join that living sanctuary.
As I imagine you in the detention center right now, I love you and I pray that you are experiencing God’s grace and mercy even in that harsh, cold place. When I eat, I hope and pray that you are being fed. When I am with friends and family, I hope and pray that some of those around you are showing you care and loving-kindness. When I sing (and I need to tell you that this morning we sang the song you taught us), I hope and pray God is putting a song in your heart and on your lips.
I know your faith is strong, stronger than the chains and bars that detain you. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Your quiet, gentle witness is now booming out on social media and news programs around the world. The love of Jesus in you, I believe, is going to help “change the prevailing winds” in our national conversation about who we are and what we stand for.
Samuel, I would find comfort sitting by you right now; I know I would. That is how strong you are and how much you mean to us. You are Jesus’ beloved brother and God’s beloved child; that is who you are.
Grace and peace to you…