You can set aside the social media memes and “reports” of flag burning, rebellious behavior and general anti-American attitudes among the first individuals in the now-famous “Caravan” travelling through Mexico to reach the United States. None of that is happening.
There have been some reports of violence, inflated by media sources that are biased against immigration reform. You have a group of people who have managed to travel over a thousand miles from home across a foreign country in search of a better life, or at the very least, a place where they don’t have to worry about their safety. Hunger, exhaustion, malnutrition, among other obstacles they have encountered, might have created a sense of hopelessness and triggered some fights. Most credible media sources say the biggest issue isn’t violence, it is hunger.
The fears of those who have been berating this group ever since their existence was first reported are unfounded. Facts, when separated from whipped-up, hysterical fantasy, can do wonders for getting an accurate picture of just what is going on, and why. The plan, if there is even that much organization going on here, is to come to the United States and ask for asylum. Can you guarantee that in a group of Central Americans this size, there won’t be some who might think it is easier to sneak across the border than to go through the restrictive, pernicious immigration policy developed by the land of the free? No, but it is clear that most of these people intend to ask to come across.
The United States has promoted itself as a haven from oppression for all of its existence as a nation. And while it hasn’t always lived up to that reputation, it is hard to scan the culture, read the stories, meet the people and study the history and not see that being a refuge from poverty, oppression, anarchy and persecution is one of our highest values.
But, while these people wait across the border to navigate an immigration system that makes appealing for asylum a tedious, aggravating, senselessly complicated process, they have humanitarian needs which need to be met. So my question is, where are the American Christians lined up to cross the border and help meet those needs?
I’ve seen a lot of news stories praising the efforts of Christian denominations in responding to the hurricane and flooding disasters in Florida and the Southeastern US this past summer. Southern Baptists are equipped with trailers in which thousands of meals a day can be prepared, shower trailers, laundry units and groups who can build temporary shelter in a heartbeat. Other denominations have similar equipment and respond accordingly. The more pressing issue isn’t taking some kind of a political stance on whether these people belong in the US or not, it is whether they can feed themselves and their children while they are waiting on the Mexican side of the border.
What kind of message would be sent if this caravan, as it slowly arrives at the various border crossing areas between Mexico and the United States, met with hundreds of Christian volunteers, bringing goods and food collected from thousands of Christians in the United States, stocking temporary shelters and serving to meet their daily physical needs?
“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.” Matthew 25:35
No qualifications or politics. Just service. It means looking at people as those whom God loves, and who need to have their needs met so they can hear the gospel of Jesus (though there are many Christians among those in the caravan) instead of looking at them as evil potential criminals. Jesus transforms lives, so serving on the border would be a great way to show that American Christians believe that.