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Andy Wilson

Andrew Wilson is the current pastor at La Crescenta Presbyterian Church, located in the Los Angeles area of California. Prior to his time as pastor, he worked as a missionary in the Dominican Republic for 18 months, and before that, as a youth pastor at two different churches. He now leads short-term mission trips to the Dominican Republic from La Crescenta, where teams of senior-high school students and medical professionals work on construction projects and provide basic healthcare, mainly working with Haitian immigrants to the Dominican Republic.

Interview by Kristy Hicks, May 2014

I believe that peace in the most profound sense is something that has to do with being in a right relationship with God, and is something that God wants for us and gives to us when we’re in a right relationship with Him. Peace is elusive by its very nature in this world because we’re citizens of another world, of another kingdom, but the peace we have with God is supposed to point the way for us in this world.

In a more conventional sense, peace is not just an absence of violence, or prosperity, but peace has to do with people living in relationship with one another in ways that are affirming and healthy, and lead to community, joy, mutual respect, and mutual aid.

I’ve learned some pretty basic lessons in all the time I’ve been involved in mission work. We discover that there truly is equality before God that we all share regardless of the money we have or the talents we have. We all have equal access to God, and God’s love for us is no less or greater for any of us. At the same time there is a vast inequality among us in terms of resources, talents, and in terms of daily life and how we can help one another. The differences among us make it possible for us to help each other and to lean on one another.

I always try to look at mission work as a partnership. That begins with asking the poor what they think they need, and looking for the resources they already have, and how can they lead on the project. The construction of the church and school we are building is led by Dominicans and Haitians. They want to do the work and are better at it than we are. Even with our medical teams, you need to be following the lead of Dominicans and Haitians, you need to have a relationship with the people. It’s cooperative. It’s important to try in every way to build a partnership. It is important to build long-term friendships.

When looking at peace and conflict between Dominicans and Haitians, a lot of the racism between them is very real, but beneath the surface. There are systemic problems that stop Haitians from moving forward in society. There isn’t a lot of overt racism, but there are a lot of very conflicted attitudes. I do think that when the Americans come and stand with Haitian people and help them do things that are impressive, it helps with relationships in the wider culture. Americans don’t make much distinction between Haitians and Dominicans. It’s irrelevant if the people at the school or the clinics are Haitians or Dominicans, we serve them both and don’t think about it much. The differences are clear to Dominicans, but Americans don’t see the differences.

I think that by addressing situations of great need by standing with the poor, you are promoting justice, which leads to greater peace. Likewise, by serving and following the calling to be servants, we find a new kind of peace within ourselves. We were wired by God to be that way. It gives a greater sense of peace and inner calm.