June 28, 2019

WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?:

Seeing Jesus in the migrants at the border (Alan Cross, June 27, 2019, RNS) 

Hearing these stories this week reminded me of what I've seen in my own trips to the border in the past year, most recently to El Paso less than two months ago.

There, I connected with a network of churches receiving from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hundreds of asylum-seeking migrants a day. The churches gave the migrants food and drink and provided a temporary place to rest before they continued their journey to join family in other parts of America.

I'll never forget seeing the hollow eyes on the faces of exhausted migrants huddled on cots in a church sanctuary that had been haphazardly turned into a migrant shelter in El Paso.

When I arrived, I was told that these migrants had been released by ICE that day to the church. It was midafternoon, but what struck me was that they were so very tired. They sat in the quiet church worship hall in silence. Some slept. Some just sat and stared. Babies didn't even cry. Mothers held their children close and just looked ahead. No one said a word. No laughter, no conversation. No crying of the children. Just silence. They were all so tired.

I was told by the pastors of the church that many of the migrants who came to them day after day suffered from violence, rape, extortion and threats of being forced into drug gangs. Many of them saw loved ones murdered and they lived under threats of death at the hands of cartels and drug gangs.

Corrupt police and government officials could not protect the poor who were being used and extorted in these countries that are descending into lawlessness.

Yet, prayers from the pastors, shelter, food, love, hospitality, concern, and being received and embraced as fully human encouraged them greatly.

The work of Catholic, mainline Protestant and evangelical churches along the border over the past several months has been immense. I've seen with my own eyes, and through my research with the Evangelical Immigration Table, churches engaging in this hard but needed work of receiving migrants in San Diego-Tijuana; Nogales, Ariz.; El Paso, Texas; and elsewhere. These churches truly are being the hands and feet of Jesus.

But the other side of the work of the church is that it is often fellow Christians who come to the border from the south and make their way across.

I've heard from multiple sources that the majority of the migrants coming from Central America are evangelical Christians. I was told by a church shelter manager in Las Cruces, New Mexico, that as many as 75 percent of the migrants they served were evangelicals. Others in El Paso said the proportion of evangelical migrants was well over 50 percent. In significant ways, the ministry of receiving migrants by churches at the border is the ministry of the church embracing Christ himself.

Not long ago, a Nazarene pastor friend of mine was invited to meet with a group of asylum-seekers at the border. Among them was a man named Oscar and his little girl. He had fled to the U.S. to keep her safe. They shared a meal and then Oscar, who said he was part of an evangelical church, told my friend something profound.

"Somos familia," he said. "Somos hermanos."

We are family. We are brothers.

Was this the same Oscar? What matters is what the asylum-seeker my friend met said.

"Somos familia. Somos hermanos."

John Garland, pastor of San Antonio Mennonite Fellowship, has also recently written that approximately 80 percent of the migrants that his church receives are evangelical Christians.

I write this not because I think that evangelical Christians have more value than people of other religions or no religion at all, but because I think it is important for American Christians to know that the migrants coming to us are also our brothers and sisters in Christ.

They are family.

How we treat them and see them is how we treat Jesus (Matthew 25:40).

We crucified Him.



Posted by at June 28, 2019 12:06 PM

  

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