Living Sanctuary Team

Calvary Article on Faith, Community and Action Published by Presbyterian Church, USA

Rev. Victor Floyd, Calvary’s Minister for Spiritual Care, recently published two pieces at Presbyterian Church USA’s You can read them here.

Leaps of Faith and a Commitment to Welcome

Petter finds a new Home

One church mission trip, that’s all it took. A small group of adults from Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco traveled to the California-Mexico border in October of 2019. I had just marched with a large clergy cohort led by PICO California on ICE’s Otay Mesa Detention Facility, one of the many private for-profit immigrant prisons owned by GEO. Always go to where the pain is greatest; that is the call of social justice. Because of my experience there, I knew that what our church’s mission team would witness in Tijuana would be compelling, but I had no idea how much pain awaited us.

Guided by Caracen-Los Angeles, we visited several of Tijuana’s migrant shelters. We witnessed the long line of refugees that stand at the border, with children and belongings, waiting to receive a number for an appointment. Months later, when their number is called, they surrender themselves into the “ICE box”—a dark, refrigerated room wearing only the clothes on their backs, while U.S. immigration agents decide the course of their lives. The process is haphazard and corrupt, like throwing lots for another person’s fate.

Being an out gay preacher, I was especially glad we visited Casa de Luz, a safe house for LGBTQ migrants. We heard some of their stories, how they had formed a family of choice while walking from Honduras through Mexico, how some had been beaten along the way—all of them ostracized by their families and communities and churches. Been there.

Speaking through our Caracen-LA interpreter, a young man called Petter told of escaping his hometown in Guatemala after his father and brothers tried to murder him, twice. Like Joseph with the fabulous dreamcoat, Petter’s brothers had beaten him and left him for dead. Along the way, Petter found others like him on the margins of their caravan. They found Casa de Luz together.

Petter shared with our group that he just wanted safety. He wanted the stuff of biblical shalom: a community, a boyfriend, shelter, food, a purpose, to be able to imagine a better future. When I heard his unique story alongside all the other of transphobic sexual assaults and gay bashings, I recognized our story. I understand toxic masculinity and the need to hide. I understand running toward California for safety.

When we returned to San Francisco, I sat my husband down and shared Petter’s story. Before I could pop the big question of sponsorship, Lou interrupted me with his support, and Caracen-LA led us through the simple process of becoming Petter’s asylum sponsors.

He exited Otay Mesa just as Covid-19 was arriving and took his first flight. Our mission team reunited at SFO with flowers and tears. We drove Petter by the Castro’s ginormous rainbow Pride flag, welcoming him home to this city of refugees and misfits. We welcome him into our family of choice, if only until his asylum process is complete. With a little help, he’s gotten an attorney and some odd jobs.

When his court date comes, there will be a couple dozen Presbyterians accompanying him as he appears before the judge. All the older people here in San Francisco he’s helped during the lockdown will write letters to the court in support of Petter. And Lou and I will be sitting tall, praising God, proud of our beloved son, in whom we are well pleased.

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