by Christina Foor
“The bridges have closed.”
We heard this untimely news at the “Voices from the Desert Conference”, our Southwest Border Region’s Conference in February this year. Hours before, the “Remain in Mexico” Policy had been blocked in federal court. The atmosphere at the conference and shelters was hopeful, especially in contrast to the day before when we had heard stories of several migrants’ painful and vulnerable journeys to the US.
When we asked the migrant panel what they wanted us to tell people back in our homes, their unanimous answer was “Please treat us with respect. We are not the criminals we are fleeing from. We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, parents, just like you.”
…a constant wavering between bleak realities and embodiments of hope.
Our time at the 3-day conference felt like a constant wavering between bleak realities and embodiments of hope. We learned the push and pull factors of why people migrate; we understood the small piece of the migration puzzle that asylum seekers fit in; we recalled and lamented the arduous journeys and unwelcome attitudes the migrants were met with. We also saw beautiful people, shelters, organizations and advocates in El Paso & Juarez raising awareness, resisting evil and welcoming asylum seekers.
We spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be a bridge builder at the conference. How building a bridge often takes a willingness to acknowledge that each side has something to offer. We at CCDA are constantly tasked with building bridges of reconciliation between bleak realities and the hope of Christ. We must know the “bad” news to understand the “Good” news and vice versa. This is what the Voices of the Desert Conference encouraged us to do – to continue the hard work of bridge building because our lives and the migrants’ lives depended on it.
Our advocacy, prayers, relationships, giving, attitudes, and knowledge of the migrant situation matter and must be stewarded in a way that elevates the voices of the migrants. Their lives of resilience, their wrestling with God and His people, and their joy in the midst of painful suffering must be known and present in our lives. Their perspective and presence is much needed in our churches and theology today because, frankly, we do not know how to find God in suffering. That is just one of the many ways our migrant brothers and sisters can refine us. We must get to know this part of our family.
We can’t let the bridges of justice “close”…
We can’t let the bridges of justice “close” because of our apathy, anger, pain, inconvenience, frustration at others, or rejection. Our call as believers is to do the opposite – to stand in the gap, persevere and walk alongside the marginalized in our society to reach wholeness. Our call is to be bridge builders because we ourselves need to reach wholeness through proximity to our migrant brothers and sisters seeking asylum. They know and understand God in ways we do not. We need each other to be the full expression of the Body of Christ.
We can be proximate to asylum seekers through prayer, education, visiting the border, giving financially, advocacy and welcoming migrants into your home in the city you live in. Below are some practical ways to build bridges with our migrant brothers and sisters.
- Here is a link to the work our CCDA members are doing through Abara.
- Ways to get involved: Abara Border Response
- Here are links to some CCDA blogs from a trip our Global Connections Committee took to Central America in 2018. They have some interesting insight related to the realities on the ground in Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico: Overview; Honduras; El Salvador; Guatemala; México; Conclusion
- Vote! Find out where your choice for U.S. president, representative, senator, etc., stands on immigration and make your voice and the migrants’ voices heard.
Here are some snapshots below of our time at the Conference.
Border fence pictures by @britgirle + @photoserve | Photoserve.org