… More rom the AP article:
The searing photograph of the sad discovery of their bodies on Monday, captured by journalist Julia Le Duc and published by Mexican newspaper La Jornada, highlights the perils faced by mostly Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty and hoping for asylum in the United States.
According to Le Duc’s reporting for La Jornada, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, frustrated because the family from El Salvador was unable to present themselves to U.S. authorities and request asylum, swam across the river on Sunday with his daughter, Valeria.
I’m not posting their picture because I don’t want to disturb anyone without warning, but it tore me up. A father and daughter drowned, face down in the Rio Grande. From El Salvador. Oscar and his 23 month old daughter, Valeria. He brought her across the river and put her safely on the bank. He went back to get her mother and Valeria apparently got scared and wanted her Daddy. So, she went into the river after him. The current took her and Oscar went after her. He got to her but could not get them both out of the river. It took them both. Their bodies were later found face down a distance away in the muddy water along the shore.
I’ve heard people say these migrant parents don’t care about their children. Ignorance and hard heartedness leads people to that conclusion. Americans who bash migrants for trying to get here have zero idea what they are talking about. Oscar died with his daughter in his arms trying to save her life. Tens of thousands of parents and children have made the dangerous journey seeking refuge and a new life in a country where they think they can make it and where they don’t have to fear drug cartels, violence, and oppression. The stories are heartbreaking.
This isn’t about politics. It isn’t about what should happen policy-wise. I can talk about that another time. But, if you can look at Oscar and little Valeria lying face down along the water’s edge with her little arm around the neck of her Daddy who died trying to save her after endeavoring to bring her to America to have a hope and a future – if you can look at all of that and not want to weep and “rend your garments” in lament over what is happening to real people, I don’t know what to say.
Churches at the border are serving and working on behalf of these people. But, the rest of us? Do we see? Do we care? Can we be bothered? Hundreds of thousands have come to us in desperate need just this year. We talk about missions around the world and we don’t see the masses coming to our own borders. If we can’t be moved to even feel anything, to even pray – what religion do we follow? I’m not saying that we can fix all of this. But, can we at least see? Can we pray? Can we have compassion?
All over America, once migrants have gotten past the border and asked for asylum, ICE will then release them. Then, they travel to towns and cities across the country. Do we see them? We can help them. Some of us are doing so. I’ve seen the great work that is happening among many churches. What about the rest of us?
Matthew 9:36 “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
What comes up in us when we see the crowds of migrants in desperate need? Fear? Anger? Disgust? Political division? What happens when we see them in our own communities? What about when we see Oscar and Valeria lying face down in the mud, two precious souls made in God’s image and loved deeply by their Creator? May God have mercy on us so our hearts don’t become so hard that we don’t care, that we lose all sense of compassion, and that we can only think about border security and politics and who supports who and elections and not offending people and then lose the humanity of all of this – lose sight of the very people Jesus loves and came to die for.
Jesus sees Oscar and Valeria. He sees the crowds. Do we?
If not, do we see Jesus?
Southern Baptists need a collective effort to enable us to participate and cooperate in ministry to be down at the border to pray for, serve, love, and share Christ with desperate people. I’ve been three times in the past many months, most recently to El Paso. I saw church sanctuaries turned into migrant shelters and heard stories of people fleeing violence, threats of murder, extortion, rape, corrupt public officials, drug cartels, and oppression. I was told by three different sources working with them that between 50-75% of the migrants coming from Central America were Evangelical Christians. Many of them are fleeing persecution and targeting for their faith because they are vulnerable. The Catholic ministries working with the migrants asked the Evangelicals why they weren’t more involved in receiving their own people. They said, “these aren’t our folks, but we are helping them. Why aren’t you doing more?”
Yes, there are evangelical churches working hard at the border. The gospel is being shared and people are coming to Christ. People are being prayed with, ministered to, and served. Many churches are working hard and doing abundant work from Brownsville to San Diego. I’ve seen them. It is so inspiring. Will we help them? Will we join in? This isn’t political. This is just ministry.
Do we see the crowds harassed and helpless? Do we see Oscar and Valeria? Do we see what Jesus sees?
Do we see Jesus?
EDIT: After writing this, I saw on Facebook a Nazarene pastor friend from Florida write this. I was stunned. I texted him right away. I couldn’t believe it. He met Oscar and Valeria just a couple of weeks ago. Oscar was a follower of Jesus. The pastor writes ..
My brother died today.
He attended the CMA Church and knew many Nazarenes.
Pastor ____ invited us go with him to share a meal with a group of people seeking asylum at the Mexico/USA border a couple of weeks ago while we were vacationing in Texas/Mexico.
That’s when I met Oscar and his precious little girl.
Oscar thanked the group we were with for the water for their thirst and the food for their hunger.
Because he was a follower of Jesus, too, he told me, “Somos familia; somos hermanos.” “We are family; we are brothers ….”
… He was desperate to protect his little girl.
I cannot wrap my mind around this…my brother died today — trying to save his family.
May Christ have mercy on us.