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February 24, 2021

By The Rev. Kathryn A. Kleinhans, Ph.D., Dean of Trinity Lutheran Seminary

Miriam is Free

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19)

“Miriam is free.” That was the heading of an email I received yesterday from Pastor Sally Padgett, of First English Lutheran Church in Columbus.

Miriam is a Honduran woman who, with her two young daughters, has been living in sanctuary at First English since July 1, 2018. I share this news not so much as a political statement but because Miriam’s story intertwines with Trinity’s life in several ways.

Even before we knew Miriam, Trinity students had planned a worship service for the evening of July 2, 2018 – a service of scripture, prayer, reflection, and song in support of the unification of migrant families. What timing!

Trinity students are often placed at First English for their Learning in Context experience, so several of our students have gotten to know Miriam and her family over the past few years. Offerings collected at worship have been designated to support First English in its ministry of care for Miriam’s family. We had been told that grocery store gift cards, rather than donations of food, were more appropriate, so that the family could purchase food that suited their traditional diet; I remember one occasion, though, when we had had a taco buffet at Trinity, and several dozen leftover corn tortillas and flour tortillas were delivered to the church for Miriam and her family. When I shared Pastor Padgett’s email with members of the Trinity community yesterday, I was touched by the number of responses I received, thanking me for sharing the news.

Let me add a few remarks about the complexity of the situation. Miriam’s freedom to leave sanctuary comes with the endorsement of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Miriam had entered sanctuary in 2018 to avoid immediate deportation as an undocumented immigrant, which would have separated her from her children, who are U.S. citizens. What has changed is that the immigration policy of the current administration is to focus deportation efforts on felons rather than on anyone who is undocumented. The road ahead is still rough. Miriam is required to check in with ICE regularly as she and her attorneys work toward a long-term solution of her family situation.

But this week, the Trinity community, along with many others in Columbus, rejoice that for the moment, “Miriam is free.”

The Rev. Kathryn A. Kleinhans, Ph.D.

Trinity Lutheran Seminary forms leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world.