A young couple left Haiti, seeking a better life. The storms, the earthquakes and the political instability left them feeling unsafe. They were expecting their first child, and they wanted that child to grow up where there was a greater sense of hope and promise for the future. They made their way to Mexico and then up to the United States, looking for a new start.
They came to the Mexico/United States border at Tijuana, and began the process to legally seek refuge here. Because of their refugee status, they were given their paperwork, and were allowed entrance to the United States.
The family was going to be sent to Delaware, where they were told there was space for them. But because the mother was pregnant, she was told that she couldn’t travel cross-country. So the young couple was involuntarily separated. The father was sent to Delaware and the pregnant mother was sent to San Diego.
The mother was put onto a bus that drove her into the city. The bus took her to a city park, near encampments of people who did not have a home. The door to the bus opened and she was told to exit.
And there she stood. Late in the evening with nowhere to go.
This is where Catholic Charities stepped in, connecting with the soon-to-be mother. Catholic Charities started calling churches, asking if any could help. They called St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.
The pastors at St. Andrew’s, Pastor Manuel and Pastor Sarah, had worked with Catholic Charities in the past, providing support to refugee minors who were being housed at the San Diego Convention Center during COVID. They were familiar and trusted.
St. Andrew’s has assisted about a half-dozen families this way. They have converted the upstairs of their Community Center building into space for these families to stay, and while they are here, the congregation’s members work with the families, providing rides, groceries and food, and helping them find apartments and then jobs.
St. Andrew’s also worked with social service agencies so that the father could return to his family from Delaware, and they could be together.
Lori and I spent yesterday with Pastor Manuel and his spouse, Lisa. He showed us the border wall and drove us into Tijuana. Tijuana is a large and beautiful city, with many of the same joys and challenges of any large, urban area. But they also have this wall that separates the US and Mexico; San Diego and Tijuana. t
We had a great dinner together in Tijuana. And around 8:30pm we left to drive back to San Diego. The line of cars waiting to get back into the US took 2 hours. “That’s not bad,” Pastor Manuel told me. “Anything under 3 hours is pretty good.” Longer than 3 hours is not uncommon.
Is it good to find ways for people to protect themselves? Of course. But the wall along the southern border has become something much more than protection. It has become a way of separating people from each other. It divides families and friends.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”1 Corinthians 12:12-14
God’s intent is that people live together in community. God’s hope is that we find ways to care for and provide compassion to each other, especially to those in need.
My friend, Pastor Manuel, and his colleague, Pastor Sarah, along with the members of St. Andrews did not intend to provide housing in their building for refugees. But they answered the phone. And when asked if they could help, they answered “of course.”
This is the nature of God. God creates community in order that together we can answer the world’s great needs.
It makes me wonder, what are the immediate needs around us in Owatonna? How might the call to help come?
My prayer is that when these calls do come, that we can answer with grace, hospitality. Because the love that comes through Christ crosses all human boundaries and breaches any walls that we put up. This is why Jesus came. And this is how we follow.