Speaking of Hope
|The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith sits with Lester as he takes shelter in a box culvert beneath a busy street in El Paso, Texas.|
|UMNS PHOTO/LYNNE DOBSON|
June, the Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, an elder in the Southwest Texas
Conference, began her new appointment as an advocate for the poor and homeless and for just systems. She sold her car, gave up her home and most of her
possessions, took a vow of poverty and began what she plans will be three years
of living on the streets. Although speaking engagements fill much of her
calendar, her day-to-day life is among the homeless in communities across the
United States. Her base community is among the homeless people living in Austin
and San Antonio, Texas. She spoke of hope in a telephone interview with
Interpreter editor Kathy Noble.
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Noble: What is hope?
Lorenza Andrade Smith: Hope is
interlaced between two other words. First Corinthians 13:13 says, “Faith, hope
and love.” Faith in Christ and his Resurrection gives me hope. Hope is the
belief that God is with me. God is with us. God is with you. I can’t just use
hope by itself, but it’s that interrelationship, that God is faithful, even
though we are unfaithful. That’s my hope in my life, in the nation’s life, in
the world’s life.
What has your life taught you about hope, particularly your experiences of the past
LAS: This time frame has taken me back
to the understanding that God does intervene in life, that God provides, that
God is in the midst. It reminds me of the story when Jesus is doing the sermon
on the mountain. There is the idea that there’s not enough food for everyone.
Jesus rejects that and says, “You know, there certainly is.” God does intervene,
and God does provide. I see that every day on the streets. I see it when there
are folks that have needs, that haven’t been clothed, that are on medications, even
in instances where a knife has been pulled out on me. It’s been very humbling
and transforming, just knowing God’s with us and God rejects the oppression among
is surrounding. It’s within, beneath, above. I think it’s just integral to my
life. And without it, I don’t see ministry. The first Christian community was
one of hope.
How do you speak to people you meet day-to-day about hope?
LAS: Right now, I am learning from
them more than I am providing, but in certain pastoral instances, I do go back
to the miracles Jesus provided for those in the margins. Jesus rejected the
idea that people had to be sick, that women had to be on the margins, those
types of rejections (when) society said, “Well, that’s just the way life is.” There
was always transformation. (In) the stories of Jesus healing, of Jesus speaking
to women and honoring them, Jesus rejected the oppression, rejected the
loneliness, rejected all those things that keep people from hoping. Right now,
in this journey, I’m just listening. That somebody’s even listening to them is
huge in the lives of people living on the streets.
Where do you see hope today? What does it look like?
LAS: I have it in the mail I receive from
people who say they’re living through what I’m doing because there is a desire
and a want to be light in the world. There’s hope in those living on the
margins that are open to having someone in their midst, (who) welcome and show
great hospitality. That’s been my experience with those who live on the street.
Give me a specific example or two.
LAS: I was in New York. A woman caught
my eye. I was in McDonald’s buying a 99-cent burger so I could use the restroom.
This woman, with all her baggage and a cart, comes in, tries to use the
bathroom without purchasing anything. The manager says, “No, you can’t use the
restroom; you’re not a customer.” And she leaves. As soon as I’m done, I go
after her, and I tell her, “I know how it is not to be able to go to the
bathroom. Let me hold your stuff so you can go to the restroom.” I told her, “I’m
homeless also, and so I know what it’s like.” She stops me right on my track
and says, “Young lady, you are not homeless. You live in God’s creation. Your
home is with God.” (She) begins to witness to me about God’s love in the midst
of crisis. And this was from a woman living on the street. That’s why I’ve
changed my vocabulary from being homeless – that’s so negative – to living on
the streets. I saw the face of God; I heard the word of God in that very
moment. And this woman, whom everyone around her rejected, knew she was in the
arms of God. That was powerful for me, knowing I’m in ministry with and not
doing ministry to anybody. And myself being transformed during this journey.
Advent is a season of waiting and expectation. Is it also a season of hope?
LAS: We are waiting for this Messiah,
this Prince of Peace. For me, it’s very significant, this Prince of Peace. The
Hebrew word for peace is shalom. The
connotation is not a shallow “peace be with you” or an absence of war. (It is)
the welfare, the wholeness, the completeness, the holistic concept of somebody
caring not for only the person, but (also) for a nation, for a universe in a
way that says, “Peace be with you” meaning, “Are you well? Are you whole?” That
waiting for this Prince of Peace, this wellness, this wholeness, this welfare
for all people, is so indicative of this Advent time. That’s so important,
especially for people on the margins. It’s remembering not only Jesus-God but
also the Trinitarian hope. It’s the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. We bask in
the empowerment of this time of hope. It is empowerment to be hopeful.
Say more about hope being empowering.
LAS: The promise of the Holy Spirit
and the promise of Christ’s return is a comfort. “We will send the Holy Spirit
to empower and comfort” is found in John 14, Luke 24 and Acts 1. The early
church was absolutely a community of hope based on this spirit of empowerment. That
allows the community of faith, the followers of Christ, to understand what God
has ushered in as the Kingdom of God now is our task as well. And Jesus says we
will do even greater things. Empowerment to be in the face of the status quo is life changing. If we’re
able to change life and have transformation, that’s a hope that is empowering
or an empowerment that gives us hope — however we might see it.
Talk about the relationship between hope and thanksgiving.
LAS: One of the things Scripture tells
us to do is, instead of worrying, to go to God in prayer with thanksgiving. That’s
in Philippians. We are able to be thankful or content in all circumstances. And
Scripture says whether fed or hungry, whether clothed or not or sheltered or
not, there’s a sense of this contentment that through thanksgiving, we know God
is with us. That’s the greatest thing we can ask for. To go to God in prayer
with thanksgiving is essential to moving forward.
What more can you say about hope and being people of hope?
LAS: Specifically Romans 5: “Hope does
not disappoint.” But we also “boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering
produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces
hope, and hope does not disappoint because God’s love has been poured into our
hearts by the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Again, this empowerment we find in hope
allows us to move forward in strength and in endurance and to live day by day. For
many of us out in the streets, it’s not only a day-by-day thing, not even
hour-by-hour, but sometimes step-by-step. I always have to remember that hope
and every step that I take does not disappoint. That’s really my main thread.
There’s just a faith and a love that permeates from hope. One of the things
I’ve thought about in this ministry (is) not preaching it, but trying just to embody
the gospel as best I can and to love as best I can. My hope is that we as a
church become relevant to those that need to hear a word from the church in a
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