Cultivating “Ruth-like” communities

by Greg and Sue Smith
CBF Global Field Personnel
LUCHA Ministries, Fredericksburg, VA

Greg & Sue Smith

Greg & Sue Smith

I was thinking the other day, “Wouldn’t it be great to “get-away?”

Southwest Airlines offers “Get-Away” deals.  Commercials entice us to “discover” the unknowns of far-away and distance lands.  There’s something in us that would love to board the Starship Enterprise and “explore strange new worlds” and “seek out new life and new civilizations.”  

Today’s world is witness to a staggering number of global migrant travelers.  Estimates are more than 230 million worldwide.  

But exploring the unknown is not what drives most of these migrant travelers to leave home and embark on journeys to new lands.  Rather, the search for personal and economic stability, coupled with the fear of persecution and hardships back home, compel many to undertake their dangerous, border-crossing treks.  

LUCHA Ministries began in 2004 in Fredericksburg, Virginia as an outreach to first-generation Latino immigrants and their families.  Our population comes from throughout Latin America, primarily Mexico and Central America.

Through the years, LUCHA has provided programs and services to meet their diverse needs.  Still, along the way, we’ve discovered that beside the more immediate needs of work, transportation, cultural adaptation and others that programs often meet, Latino immigrants need something no program can provide: genuine, caring community.

Cultivating beloved community is one of three CBF Mission Commitments.  CBF’s aim is to develop “communities of reconciliation and hospitality that serve as signs, instruments and foretastes of the kingdom of God.”  As CBF field personnel, Sue and I share this aim.

This need is nothing new.  It’s rooted in Scripture itself.  In fact, there is no better example of God’s people bringing communities of love and caring into existence than the beautiful story of Ruth.  

In his book Thinking Christianly about Immigration, Daniel Carroll R. writes, “[The book of Ruth] begins with Ruth marrying an Israelite immigrant.  When Naomi’s husband and sons die, she desires to return to her village.  Ruth is willing to leave everything to accompany her.  Now the one who had married an immigrant will become an immigrant herself (Ruth 1:16-17).”

Naomi, the Israelite, is forced to become a global migrant and return to her homeland after the death of her husband and sons.  She knows she faces a perilous journey and an uncertain future.  Being a widow, she will arrive with no status that society is prepared to value.  She’ll arrive without any secure means of support or protection.  

But perhaps that is not the worst.  In her mind, God has abandoned her, for no longer will she allow anyone to call her Naomi, meaning “Pleasant” but Mara, meaning “Bitter” (Ruth 1:19-21).  

Moab has robbed her of all she had: family, dignity, faith.  Now she must journey ahead, leaving behind the home she created in order to travel the migrant’s perilous road.  By the day’s standards, it was a hopeless road.  

And Ruth determines to travel Naomi’s hopeless road with her.

For Ruth, this wasn’t a Star-Trek moment.  Traveling with Naomi, the Israelite migrant, meant leaving safety and security to take on risk and danger.  It meant taking on a migrant’s hardships and fears.  It could even mean death.

But the risk brought blessing.  It cultivated genuine, mutually-sustaining, beloved community between the two women, a communal bond that made their survival in Israel possible, a bond that soon would extend to include Ruth’s future husband Boaz, the result of which would one day birth a shepherd-boy-turned king as well as a future-immigrant-turned King of Kings.  

LUCHA Ministries supports programs and services, but our efforts are in vain if we fail to cultivate beloved community.  Thankfully, we have some truly fine community cultivators.  They are the staff, volunteers, interns, board members, churches and others who serve alongside and through LUCHA Ministries, giving their time, energy, resources and prayers to weary travelers on a long, arduous road.  

Like Ruth, our Project Adelante volunteers elevate the self-worth of Latina women, teaching soap-making, computer, CPR and other skills that offer the promise of a more meaningful life.

Like Ruth, our Study Buddy mentors model Christian love and welcome by assisting Latino children with homework and serving their families.

Like Ruth, our English-language instructors prepare immigrants to navigate society’s challenges by patiently helping them understand and voice new words and sentences.

Like Ruth, our hunger relief workers attend to personal needs by assembling boxes of food and delivering them to families in need.

Like Ruth, LUCHA Ministries cultivates beloved community where Jesus is featured front and center.

Financial and prayer support makes opportunities to cultivate beloved community possible.

Come join CBF Global Missions – and LUCHA Ministries – in cultivating beloved, Ruth-like community with the Latino immigrant community and beyond.