Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. . . . So Abram went . . . [and] built there an altar [Schechem] to the Lord . . . and pitched his tent . . . and invoked the name of the Lord” (Gen. 12:1, 4, 7, 8).
An economic migrant—a desert nomad—leads his family toward a land of promise, believing he is following the will of his Creator. And so begins the great trek for new life, survival, redemption. He will find danger, so much danger that he plans to pass his wife off as his sister. It is a trek repeated today in the heat of the Sonoran desert, in boats from Africa running ashore in southern Europe, in the hulls of boats from Fujian province to the shores of Long Island. When Abram finds hope, welcome and signs from God along the way, he builds an altar and calls on the name of God. His journey is a trail of altars leading home.
Stephen Paul Bouman is executive director of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and author of Grace All Around Us: Embracing God's Promise in Tragedy and Loss.