A 4,000 Mile Friendship

Laura and Pierre

Laura and Pierre

In September, I was blessed to be on a planning team for the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship that brought nine travelers from partner churches of the Protestant Churches of Morocco (E.E.A.M.) to Kentucky for a tour of partner churches and mission sites. The purpose of the trip was to renew partnership and encourage other churches to join in.

I was struck by the warmth and friendliness of these young men and women, even after incredible jetlag! I met Azarias, who is studying to be an immigration lawyer. A medical student, Bright’s smile and laughter is infectious, but he has a very thoughtful side—he hopes to return to Ghana to serve his native people. I connected the most with Pierre, originally from Benin. He spoke better Spanish than English, though he knew an impressive handful of languages. I was the only one present who could speak (very out of practice!) Spanish, so we talked about our shared interests and his future. He is defending his dissertation later this year and will soon be teaching international law. He hopes to run for office one day and be a changing force for good. I look forward to staying in touch with my pen pal!

It wouldn’t surprise me if any of my new friends win a Nobel Peace Prize or end up on the cover of Time one day. They are ambitious about spreading love and healing, and changing the world for the better.

I didn’t realize before this trip that these churches are almost completely comprised of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. While Christianity is legal in Morocco, evangelism is prohibited and native Moroccans face many social setbacks if they convert. The work of the E.E.A.M. and our partner churches, then, is to serve immigrant communities.

Many of the immigrants these churches are serving try to get to Europe through Morocco but become stuck there due to the enforcement of the European Union on immigration. Because there is no legal immigration in Morocco, undocumented immigrants are bused around and dumped in the forest to survive outside of Oujda. Now, there is a wall being build between Algeria and Morocco to keep out these immigrants from war-torn and poorer nations who are looking for a better future.

I realized in shock that this sounded very familiar to the struggles of immigrants on the U.S./Mexico Border, as well as many of those who make it in to the U.S. and remain here on expired visas. We may advocate for our E.E.A.M. partners and ask Morocco to change their policies, but might we come off looking like hypocrites?

This summer, the U.S. refused refugee status children on the border escaping dangerous situations in native countries. Tragically, some of the kids who were sent back to Honduras were subsequently murdered.

Our friends from Morocco seemed puzzled and disappointed when I shared some of the border stories I have heard. We are a rich country and with a lot of resources. Shouldn’t we have a better handle on immigration?

This experience and renewal of partnerships were a source of energy for our congregations. Many ideas for partnership sprung out of idea sessions and churches unrelated to the partnership offered to host. But I also overheard thoughtful conversations from members of churches who said that we should also be in relationships with immigrants in our own communities. That is the beauty of this KBF’s partnership with the E.E.A.M. We can learn from one another strengths in a global society, and we also find that we really aren’t very different.

Where are the immigrants in your communities? How can we respond to the numerous biblical commandments to love the stranger in our land?

Find out more about KBF’s partnership with the E.E.A.M. here.

You can find additional photos of the Partnership Without Borders tour on the KBF Facebook page here.

There is also a cool clip of the worship service here.

Laura at ordinationLaura Barclay is an ordained minister and author. She holds an M.Div. from Wake Forest University School of Divinity and a B.A. from the University of Louisville. She spent five years working with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina as their Social Ministries Coordinator. Barclay is currently at the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship working on communications and networking. She is active at Highland Baptist Church, where she assists with adult education and children’s ministry. She is the author of With Us in the Wilderness, and she blogs at The Winding Labyrinth. She is married to a fellow minister, Ryan Eller, a community organizer. She can frequently be found decked out in red and cheering for the Louisville Cardinals.

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