A few months ago, we were planning our wedding.
We had a ceremony to plan, people to invite, food to coordinate, decorations to arrange, and everything else that comes with a wedding. While our wedding was among the simplest and cheapest of any we had seen, it still took a disorienting amount of work. Especially as we had to balance our time with renovating the trailer that would be our first home.
Nine months ago, we heard about El Camino del Inmigrante at the CCDA national conference. Upon hearing the news, at the same moment, we both turned to each other with the same excited question, “Do you want to?” We weren’t engaged yet, but we were planning our engagement day on the way to the Memphis conference. Needless to say, we did not know that we’d be getting married the same month as this year’s CCDA conference and El Camino.
There were a lot of moments where it looked like preparing a home, planning a wedding, going on a honeymoon, and doing El Camino would nearly kill us, or our employment.
So the inevitable question came, “Why do it?”
We had many reasons not to do El Camino. Why not back out saying what many people would have under these circumstances? Two reasons: first, Christ says that the way you treat the stranger is the way you treat him; second, when one part of Christ’s body suffers, the whole body suffers.
We were led into the lives of immigrants by our Lord. Jesus clearly says in Matthew 25 that we will be judged as faithful or not, friend of Christ or not, by how we treat “the least of these,” and he explicitly mentions the stranger or foreigner. This truth led us to live an upside down life by many U.S. standards. The Lord asked us to befriend Him, and be befriended by Him, in a neighborhood and lifestyle that our families did not expect. This led us to develop friendships in the trailer park nearly six years ago.
After relocating ourselves into Bradford Trailer Park, two and three years ago, we are now planting our new family there this August, with a deep sense that this is home. When we first followed Christ into this place, immigration was just an issue. We could stand up or sit down about it, and it was easy to forget our own immigration stories as white people in the US. But now, when news broadcasters, would-be politicians, or even coworkers slander the name of our Lord by slandering immigrants, it is no longer just an issue, it is OUR OWN flesh and blood. It is people whose lives are woven right into our own. It is our family that is being slandered.
We now know why Christ said that the way you treat the immigrant is the way you treat him. That’s how you talk when you love someone more than yourself. Our honeymoon in the mountains of Mexico was an important part of that love. Going anywhere else felt like we were saying, “Your home isn’t good enough.” In going to Mexico for our honeymoon, we were saying to our friends, “This place, this land you love is beautiful, and excellent, and worthy.” As we have spent our honeymoon here, outside of the reaches of US Tourism, we have fallen in love with this place. We have been moved with its beauty and its beautiful people. It has come to feel like home. But now, like so many, we must leave this land we love to make a long journey north. In solidarity with many, we will walk long days, sleep in discomfort, and we will do this for a better life.
For us, walking El Camino is not about securing for ourselves what we already have in the US. It is about desiring to secure those things for the immigrant as well. We decided to walk El Camino del Inmigrante at the beginning of our married life together, because to walk it, we will know better what it is to walk the Camino of Christ. And this is the Camino we will walk together for the rest of our lives.
JB and Laura Byrch are Anglo-Americans who grew up in middle class families. They now live out their call to seek the flourishing of their neighbors in Bradford Trailer Park in mountainous Northwest NC.