I previously served as the Pastor of a UCC congregation in Massachusetts for 6 years, and we had two international partnerships (in Honduras and Zambia.) Our Honduran partnership was with a non-profit that brought children to Boston for life-saving medical procedures and got medical/educational supplies to folks on the ground in Honduras. The church raised thousands of dollars to help the village have a better water system, knowing that many people were getting sick from preventable bacteria like e.coli.
During my pastorate, I traveled to Honduras. We went to a hospital in Comayagua and couldn’t believe the conditions and the brave doctors and nurses doing the best they could in rooms overcrowded with too many patients and not enough staff or medicine. We went to the home of a pregnant woman who sobbed, fearing a miscarriage due to lack of medical care during her pregnancy. The group arranged for a visit to a local doctor, and when she understood that I was a Pastor she grabbed my hand tight and begged for me to pray for her baby. We prayed and prayed together. One of the villagers shared that her nephew had been killed, and showed us the pictures on her phone of his dead body. When I instinctively tried to cover the eyes of a little one next to me on the couch, I was told that seeing the bodies of murder victims is just part of everyday life. Honduras remains the murder capital of the world.
Right before I left my previous church, we were speaking to the Patranato Board (Board of Selectmen) about what further projects we might help them with as a church. I resist mission as playing into the white savior complex (e.g. Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden.”) So our mission committee was working with the village leaders on projects they deemed important and needed to partner with us to do. Their request? Help with supplies to build a police station. Unless the village provides a building, police won’t be stationed there. And with gunshots we could hear at night and a few robberies, it was time to get help. We planned on building it together. (I could go on and on with stories, but I’ll stop here.)
Bottom line, when seeing the images of families coming across our borders seeking asylum, I know it’s real violence they are running from. The viral photo of the toddler sobbing? She’s from Honduras. And I think of the sweet children in the photo I took above, happily playing soccer in the village and pray that they are safe.
Immigration is a complicated issue. Our immigration system has been broken for years no matter what political party is in charge. Though please don’t refer to asylum seekers as “illegals” or “aliens.” As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel famously said, “No human being is illegal.” These folks are human beings, many of whom come to our country out of desperation, facing impossible choices. Were I in their shoes I would seek asylum too, and so would you—to protect the family you love.
And although the Bible has been quoted a great deal lately about this issue, here’s another passage to remember (from Matthew 25:44-45): Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
American Baptist Letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions
United Church of Christ Pastoral Letter
(This Week’s Thoughts 6.21.18)