Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Ellen Blue

Hospitality is on my mind these days.

One reason is that my seminary will welcome Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith to campus on April 17. Most of Lorenza’s life is focused on hospitality, though not so much in welcoming others as in giving others a chance to welcome her.

An ordained elder in the Rio Grande Annual Conference, Lorenza is a compact, 40-something woman with long, dark hair, whose head maybe reaches my shoulder. She’s intelligent, well-spoken, engaging. She radiates authenticity. She is full of humor, but absolutely serious about her mission.

Lorenza follows Jesus. And she is homeless.

At her own request, she is appointed by her bishop to a ministry to the streets. Last spring, she sold or gave away her possessions. Now, her backpack holds a chalice, a Bible, and the rest of what she owns. She sleeps on the streets or in homeless shelters.

Except sometimes, she sleeps in jail.

A photograph of Lorenza went viral last fall. Handcuffed and wearing a clerical collar, she is walking through the night next to her arresting officer. To look at that photograph is to see her as a saint; God’s hold on her shines on her face.

She was arrested at a peaceful protest at Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s office in San Antonio after the Senator withdrew her support for the DREAM Act, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for students brought here before they turned 16. Students who were also arrested had exams, so Lorenza remained incarcerated on their behalf, fasting and praying. Other religious leaders persuaded her to take liquids and food by promising to fast on her behalf. People took turns fasting to cover the first year, and the project still continues.

Lorenza was arrested again, standing with housekeepers on strike against a Hyatt. She’s been ticketed several times for sleeping on park benches. She is free now because the jail is too crowded. Despite her refusal to pay her fine, a judge sent her away, hoping she would just stay out of trouble. Fat chance.

Her bus pass lets her travel around to talk about being in solidarity with people who are homeless, in exile, poor. She doesn’t stay in private homes, choosing to be where other homeless people could also stay. We’ll be looking for a shelter that might be able to welcome her for a few days in April.
In Mudhouse Sabbath, Lauren Winner makes a rhetorical move from talking about hospitality as welcoming someone into her home for a meal, to talking about it as welcoming someone into her life. I hope that I can celebrate Lorenza’s visit to Tulsa by advocating more strongly for the U.S. to show hospitality to the DREAMers; by practicing hospitality myself through sharing more of what I have with those who need it; and as Lauren suggests, by opening my own heart a little more to others.

Follow her journey on Facebook by friending Lorenza Andrade Smith. Participate in the fast through the Facebook page “365 Day Fast in Solidarity with DREAMers.”

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