Little did I imagine that I would ever be one of those drivers being selected at a random road inspection when I was on my way to Dearborn, Michigan, for the weekend church appeal.
I was not under any time pressure, and I was driving under the speed limit. I expected to arrive around lunch time in Dearborn at the largest mosque in the United States. It is there that the Arab Muslim community has built the Islamic Center which is the second largest outside of the Middle East. However, when I heard the police siren, I knew that my plans were destined to change drastically. I knew that I wasn’t speeding, as I kept a close watch on the speedometer. I was wondering what had I done to attract police attention. The officer asked for the car registration and my driver’s license.
With an innocent look and a wondering mind, I inquired about what was wrong. The police officer told me to wait. But I asked him over and over “What have I done?” As I was waiting I thought of the entrance antiphon from Psalm 70: “O God come to my assistance; O lord, make haste to help me, You are my rescuer, my help. O Lord, do not delay.”
Even though I was only sitting there for 20 minutes, it seemed like an eternity. When the officer returned he told me to get out of the car. Mama Mia! The next thing I saw was two police cars with a sniffer dog descending on the scene. I got out of the car feeling very vulnerable as the dog went into my car and started to sniff around.
I did not know what was going on or what to expect. Right in front of me were three state troopers with a dog searching my car. Many thoughts went through my mind. Did they think I was carrying drugs or illegal fire arms? Did they think I was involved in moving illegal migrants? With no prejudice that was my immediate reflection.
I introduced myself to the three officers and told them that I was a missionary religious Sister on my way for church appeals. I even showed them my brochures and the poster that I prepared for the weekend.
I shared with those three men the ministry and mission of our Sisters:
- Building peace in the midst of violence: I felt that my human rights as a person had just been violated on the road for a random inspection. But I tried to consider the fact that these officers were doing their job and trying to protect all citizens for safety and security, just like a random inspection at the airport or places where securities are of high risk.
- Walking in solidarity with the poor and the marginalized: I thought of the many people in different parts of the world who are living in the margins at the edge of the society.
- Recognizing the dignity and place of women in a society where they are exploited and their person is denied: I felt that my dignity and integrity were being denied as they stopped me and refused to answer my questions.
I finally dialogued with those men as they themselves might do in their own families with their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters.
Just like what Barbara Marx Hubbard, one of the key speakers of the recent LCWR (Leadership Conference for Women Religious) General Assembly pointed out:
Crises are potential signals driving the world toward more co-creative, co evolving humanity, where people become more fully aware of their potential for healing and evolving the world in new ways, new forms and ever expanding relationships.
I told the officers that I would be writing an article about this episode. Later, I asked if I could get their names, and other information. I then asked if I could take a photograph of them — a Kodak moment, as we call it in the Philippines. They were smiling by that time. They obliged and requested to have the sniffer dog be included in the picture as well. By the way, the picture came out great! As I shared my sense of mission with the three men, I was able to become more aware of the living God who invited me and us to proclaim the Good news of faith, love, peace, forgiveness and joy. I also believe that God allowed me to fi nally touch their hearts as they offered me an apology.
As I continued my journey to Dearborn, Michigan, I was still shaken. But when I arrived at my hostess’ home I asked for a big hug. She was worried about me being late and gave me two hugs. Later I shared this scary but also somewhat humorous story with the parishioners of my visiting parish. I learned that the Lord gives us diverse opportunities to share our faith and also NEVER to speed in Ohio.
The pastor of St. Joseph and St. Martha, Fr. Terry Kerner, was also very welcoming. I thanked him for his sense of humor, his welcoming heart and his spiritual mind. His parishioners also shared their sense of joy and good spirit, their generosity and kindness. I have deep gratitude to them. May God bless them abundantly.