“We Are All One in Christ” “Somos uno en Christo” – Lois Ann Griffiths
“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“Red, yellow, black and white
All are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world.”
Do you remember singing this?
February 2019. At our WELCA Synodical President’s Conference in Chicago, our first workshop was about AMMPARO, Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities. Mary Campbell was the presenter. It was already many sleepless nights and tears for me just watching news reports on the separation of families at the border. Like Bonhoeffer, I wondered why there seemed to be silence from the faith community. Why weren’t church bells ringing at noon to protest? Nothing. Mary described the conditions- the cold (those foil looking covers), the crowding, unsanitary bathrooms. The children weren’t even allowed crayons. The immorality of it all.
February 2020. Jennifer DeLeon, WELCA Director for Justice and Director of Operations for Region 8, with Mary Campbell from AMMPARO had put out an email about a Border Immersion Trip. It was a biblical “Come and See” moment. Nine of us said “YES”, did our homework, paid our own way, and spent time in El Paso TX, Mexico and Las Cruces, NM from February 1-5. At this year’s President’s Conference for the AMMPARO workshop, the four of us attending told our stories as slides of our visit
were shown. It was emotional reliving our memories. When asked, we all used the word “processing” to describe our trip. We each chose a day. I chose Sunday.
Sunday February 2. We would meet in a common room. It was a place to eat and have sessions. Before church we were busy finishing our lunch contribution of a pasta and fruit salad. We were to have lunch as a congregation after our bilingual service. The Pastor led us in a budget exercise. On a white board we listed for a family of 5 with a $120 thousand budget what we would have to spend. We were over budget! Then we tried to do the same for a family of 5 with a $15 thousand budget. Impossible! Pastor even said what if you provided childcare for $150 a week and weren’t paid. Where do you report it? It’s amazing that we devalue those who care for those we value most, our parents and children.
We heard our first story of the day from a person who talked about providing for his family, having a stroke, selling his tools, working on repaying his medical bills and using the YMCA for his recovery. He repeatedly gave thanks to God and told of his love for his family.
We then explored the city of El Paso- the neighborhoods, the shopping areas, the wall (we were told “no pictures”), the lookout park (where the wealthy lived).
It was time for church. The Pastor has been here for over 30 years. She is amazing how she not only serves the church, the community, and the neighbor. The First Reading was Micah 6:1-8, and the gospel was Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes. The music and especially her sermon were inspiring. It was time for lunch. We served lunch, cleared the tables and in between enjoyed each other’s company.
We heard our second story. A man described his educational journey. How he struggled to provide for his family while going from a vo-tech career to internship pastor who’s working on his English skills. Again, throughout his story he too talked about his family and prayer. It was about being thankful for how God provides.
Later that evening we were to bring our prepared dinner to an Immigration Shelter, Casa Vides, a transitional housing place started by a college student with help from his college friends 42 years ago. He’s still in charge. They have requested building permits. They are consistently being delayed. While there, we listened to one of the nuns tell the story about this shelter’s history, the people sharing our meal and waiting to leave, and hopefully the future of Casa Vides.
Earlier back at the church, we noticed a young man sitting in our common room. He was still and almost invisible. We learned he had been hiding in the streets of El Paso for 2 weeks after surviving crossing the river. It was like the Underground Railroad that he found our Lutheran church. Pastor made sure he was able to shower, receive new, clean clothes, ate with us at the shelter and was taken to a safe place. What a modern-day miracle of AMMPARO’s welcoming scripture, Matthew 25:35.
“Our flag is red, white and blue but our nation is rainbow- red, yellow, brown, black and white- we’re all precious in God’s sight. America is not like a blanket-…America is more like a quilt- all woven and held together by a thread.” Jesse Jackson
So according to Genesis 2:7
“and the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
What color crayon are you going to use?
Here are some action steps –
PRAY for safety and justice for children and families at the border
CHECK AMMPARO’s website
In The Country We Love, Dianne Querrero
Enrique’s Journey, Sonia Nazario
WATCH: What’s Eating America, PARTS 1-5, MSNBC, Sunday 9:00pm ET
Part 1: Immigration
DVD Harvest of Empire, The Untold Story of Latinos in America
Gifted to ELCA Resource Centers by WELCA
BECOME a Welcoming Congregation
REQUEST a presentation of Border Immersion Trip- available Fall 2020.
Lois Ann Griffiths serves as the Lower Susquehanna Synod’s President of the Women of the ELCA. Photos courtesy of ELCA WELCA and AMMPARO.