Abide with the DACA Youth: A Message from Executive Director Chris Purnell

Chris Purnell

Chris Purnell


There is always a point at weddings where I’m hanging out, enjoying some quiet conversation with people I’ve never met—when the DJ starts blasting the music. And I feel that internal tug-of-war:

“Dare I go out there, casting caution and decency to the wind and reveal to the world my dark secret: I’m super-uncoordinated.”

I venture out, hesitantly, like I’m approaching a Bengal Tiger in the wild. And I dance awkwardly for a few minutes. But then, at a point I probably can’t decipher, I actually begin to enjoy myself.

It’s a minor miracle. I transcend my insecurities, my perseverating anxieties about my body movement, and I embrace the moment. I find community in the corporate awkwardness and sheer joy of enacting tomfoolery together. And as it turns out, no one cares about my secret. Mostly because they knew already, but also because we’re all kind of terrible. But in those few moments, we’re terrible together.

Even awful things are better with other people. Currently, many of our clients are worried about a future that looks uncertain and bleak. Our young immigrant neighbors who have been here since they were children and are wondering why they are now considered “illegal” have just lost some hope. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) provided many of our immigrant youth with the ability to get a driver’s license, a job, and to pay taxes.

It did not give a path to citizenship. It just gave them the ability to do things we all acknowledge are good and important: to work and to pay taxes.

As of September 5, 2017, no new DACA applications will be accepted.

On March 5, 2018, DACA will be dead.

Right now, our clients are looking for someone who will dance with them, who will acknowledge that yes, things are dark, and we will falter and stumble, but we will do it together.

Which brings me to God. There is a fancy-pants Greek term, perichoresis, that describes the relationship between the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit as being a dance. Christians believe that there are three persons in one God, and perichoresis describes that ultimately mysterious relationship. They work together; they dwell together and in one another. They are each individual persons, but they are also one.

And their dance is beautiful, not like our awkward and halting steps. It’s a dance of mutual sacrifice and dynamic community. It’s a community that we were made to be a part of, but we don’t join because our own pride or selfishness or anxiety or whatever gets in the way.

John, a disciple of Jesus, says that we can know that we abide in Jesus because he gave us his Spirit. Because of Jesus, we are a part of this dance—a dance that has been taking place since before time existed.

The steps of the dance are love and faith—sacrificial love for other people, especially the vulnerable, and faith in Jesus. And, though we falter and stumble and sometimes avoid the dance floor altogether, we are still invited into this glorious choreography of God.

So, may you dance—may you dance with the vulnerable in the dark times, lovingly abiding with them through their struggles, knowing that by God’s Spirit, that dance will be made into something more beautiful than you can imagine.

Until Justice and Peace embrace,

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