It’s hard to describe the impact of a border encounter, whether it’s your first trip or one of many. The experience is personal and impactful. With that said, it was a privilege to travel to El Paso last week to put a face on immigration, to hear the stories, and learn more about ABARA and its mission.
To gain understanding, one must be willing to walk in the shoes of the migrant and realize that migration stories date back as far as Adam and Eve who were forced to leave the Garden of Eden or to the Israelites who wandered in the desert for 40 years. Even Mary and Joseph immigrated to Egypt for the safety of their newborn son, Jesus.
The root causes for migration vary but quite often they involve oppression, poverty, or fear. It’s interesting that these same attributes connect to the people who Jesus ministered to – untouchables and the poor – while challenging the religious authorities. Is that then our role as a church not only to minister to the migrant population through our mission outreach but to press for reform. Should we learn more about the root causes that force a person to leave their home and give up everything in the hope of a brighter future? This is the question we ask ourselves.
In James’ recent email message he wrote: “For Jesus, the Bible wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime book but one to be fulfilled today.” For us, this includes the stories and encounters with the migrants at the border. Their struggles, their faith, and the belief in a hope for the future. Immigrants were asked “Is there something you want to share with churches in the U.S?” Their response was “learn about the realities in our countries, build bonds and develop relationships.”
The spirit of the volunteers and the staff of ABARA can be summed up by Matthew 25:35-36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”