By Larry Duggins
During our recent trip to the Mexican border, I was reminded of the importance of human to human contact. A number of pastors and lay leaders travelled from all over Texas to engage with refugees awaiting asylum hearings in the United States. The asylum seekers were living in tents or in the open in the plaza surrounding the port of entry. Their only option for bathing was to walk down to the Rio Grande river which is quite polluted at that point. The unsanitary conditions and the incredible distances many had walked to arrive at the border combined to make them a pretty ragged lot.
As motley as they seemed, they were definitely not an invasion force. I thought back on characterizations of the people I have seen and heard from politicians and news sources and marveled at the huge disconnect between what I was seeing and what I had been hearing. These were not things or animals attacking our way of life, they were parents and children seeking a safe place to live their lives.
And I watched as the people I was with waded into their midst to share hope and love. Pastor Lucy is a native speaker of Spanish, so she led the way into conversations with her calls to “esperanza.” She played with the kids, comforted the adults, and reminded people that Jesus was also a refugee. She was an angel in their midst, reminding them that God’s love could be felt in even the most dire circumstances.
Pastor Evey struck up a conversation with a little boy by pretending not to understand his name. They went back and forth with Evey guessing every Spanish name she could think of while he laughed and corrected her. It was an icebreaker we have all seen before, but it was special in the situation we found ourselves in. The asylum seekers were real live people, dreaming the dreams we all dream, and living a nightmare that most of us cannot even imagine.
Some of us engaged with people and some carefully listened, but all of us came away with a much deeper understanding of the plight of the people on our border. There were tears, clenched teeth and determined looks as we crossed back over to the American side to pray together. It is very easy to pray to God to intervene and correct this great injustice—until you hear the voice in your heart that says “Why do you think I brought you here?”