I have put off writing this post for over a week now. Even as I write I try to find excuses to avoid putting into words what we experienced on our recent trip to the border.
A pastor and his family overwhelmed with people arriving at his home. Fifty to ninety people a day come looking for shelter, a meal, a bus ticket, a shower, etc.
A church filled with the heat of summer providing shelter during the day for those who would languish on the streets otherwise. They wait for their number to be called.
A sanitation system strained by the demand. Women without basic hygiene items.
Makeshift tents, chairs, and storage for those who hope their stay in the public shelter will soon end. Those who are sick, blind, disabled have made their way to this not-so-temporary home. At the gate? A crowd who hopes to get in or at least gain access to some services.
Stories are told of rape, murder, thievery, threats, kidnappings, etc. in home countries. They arrive with hopes of safety only to become vulnerable to the wiles of traffickers. They come from Asia, Africa, the Near East, and yes, Central America.
We have worked on the border in partnership with various churches and organizations for four or five years now. The needs have always been stark and evident, but never so profound as this. It would be easy to shake our heads, maybe shed some tears, pass along a bit of funding and then simply hope and pray that it will all be resolved. Why is that not enough?
Because of dignity.
Because we are all children of our creator. And as my pastor, Steve Wells recently pointed out we do not have more of the image of God than someone else. We all possess fully the image of God.
Because we are commanded to be neighbors to the stranger.
Because we are commanded to treat the immigrant among us as though he or she is one of us.
Because the vulnerable are looking for help and safety. We are the sheltering arms of Christ in this world.
This is not a political statement. It is not about how we should or should not address the political condition on the border or in the countries from which the masses come. It is about how we can respond to the inherent worth of the individuals in the midst of this crisis. Here are a few of things we are doing:
Food packets: Gallon zip lock bags are filled with a variety of items for hydration and nutrition. The packet also contains a card with information in English and Spanish about how a trafficker might approach.
Provision of a Public Service Announcement on DVD in English and Spanish explaining the dangers of human trafficking and what to be aware of.
Provision of a television and a DVD player so the PSA can play on a loop.
Provision of chairs and tables for those shelters where people are gathering.
Working with medical personnel and others in partnership with Coalition to Combat Human trafficking to provide training and resources.
Working to provide women with re-useable hygiene items.
Connecting those who have areas of expertise and a desire to participate in relief efforts with friends and partners on the border.
Provision of funds to pay escalating electric bills for churches providing shelter.
If you would like to know more about these efforts I invite you to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to contribute financially you may do so at www.theofframp.org and designate border relief. We have been deeply touched and encouraged by all of you who have contributed to our efforts before our most recent trip and to those who continue to seek ways to uplift and encourage us. We do this work together as the body of Christ.