Author: The Rev. Mary Alice Mathison
Ever since hearing about detention centers and the building humanitarian crisis at our southern border, I felt a real need to learn more about the immigration process and how the church can be a witness to God’s people in a challenging and often heart wrenching situation. The world is a complicated place sometimes and going to the Texas-Mexico border is a glimpse of some of the worst circumstances one might imagine and a place where some of the best of humanity is trying to make a positive difference in this world. As followers of Jesus we are called to welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit the prisoner, and care for all of God’s children with compassion that seeks the image of God within. The ministry of Team Brownsville, and those of other churches and groups we met, especially demonstrated this kind of love of God’s children.
Often the nature of immigration is seen through the lens of politics, and often in politics we live in the kingdom of scarcity, always fearful there will never be enough to go around, so we cling to what we have and only give when a person or group of people has met some arbitrary set of requirements. However, when we view immigration through the lens of faith, as followers of Jesus, we begin to see God in those who we often view as strangers and often perceive with caution. The people waiting at the border are often fleeing circumstances we can’t even begin to imagine if we have never lived them. They are often tired, scared, hungry, uncertain, and traumatized by the events that caused them to leave and the events they have encountered on their journey. The world often tries to diminish or trivialize these experiences, but as the Church we are called to respond with compassion, we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus doing God’s work in places of great need and challenge, and called to share in God’s kingdom of abundance—that there’s always enough to go around and there will be something left over.
Our two evenings with Team Brownsville were particularly transformative for me. Liturgy means, “work of the people,” and often associated with our worship on Sundays. However, as I witnessed and participated in loading beach wagons with food and supplies for God’s people who were in need (a need which I have never experienced), then walked/lugged the wagons across the border to an encampment on a small plaza, I couldn’t help but see this work as a liturgy unfolding before my eyes. I’m not sure if any prayers were actually said, but the prayers manifested themselves in the walking, lugging, serving, talking, giving, listening, and just being present. I’m not sure if I have walked in holier steps than the steps in which Team Brownsville has been walking in the last year.
Our group only walked in Team Brownsville’s steps for two evenings, but the journey over the International Bridge was a reminder of the liturgy we are called to live out daily in our own communities. The work we did on our trip is also the type of work we are called to at home—to be faithful in caring for God’s people—the strangers, the immigrants, the neighbors, and especially those that world has marginalized. God’s love is never reserved for a select few, and as followers of Jesus, as the Church, we not only have opportunities, but a call, to make that reality known in the wider world and right here at home.
Pictured above: Team Border Zone members feeding hundreds of asylees at the Texas-Mexico border.