Very early in my life as a Dominican I was confronted with the prophet Jonah and discovered how much I was like him. Like Jonah, I was quick to assume I knew who was "worthy" of God's mercy and who was not. Like Jonah, I was fortunate to be able to spend some time in self-reflection- in some enclosed, “whale-like" conditions.

The call and reluctant response of Jonah, his sense of bewilderment at God's ways, continues to be a constant in my life. Here in North Carolina I am privileged to walk with persons in need from all over world. Daily I meet with undocumented women from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Mexico, Central and South America who are victims of domestic violence or other forms of crime in the United States; immigrant women and children who are trafficked and held in prison-like conditions; immigrant women who are desperate because government agents have arrested their spouse and they do not know where he is being held, nor do they know what will happen to him (and to them and their children) now that the bread winner is in detention. Regularly I represent in immigration court poor immigrant women, men and children who have escaped from war-torn countries and have suffered unspeakable forms of violence there. They have come here seeking asylum only to end up in very adversarial deportation proceedings.

Where does any of this fit into our 2004 General Chapter Vision? I see our Vision calling me to be attentive to God's presence in all of creation every moment of my life. It calls me to a faithfulness which will not allow me to limit God to my own size, or to my limited understanding, or to decide whose side God is on. It calls me to respond in peaceful ways to a system that seems so brutal and uncaring.

My biggest challenge then as I try to be faithful to the Vision is to create spaces of “whale-like” conditions (maybe under a shade tree, even if not in the not-so-peaceful Nineveh of today) so that my response comes from an awareness of the mercy and compassion of our God for all of creation, especially those most abused and exploited.

Attracta Kelly
Immigration Attorney
NC Justice Center
Immigrants Legal Assistance Project