Category Archives: Service

Riding the Beast

"The Beast"“But our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Phi 3:20).

During our trip to Tijuana, we have spent the majority of our time at Casa del Migrante, a Catholic mission to migrants.  In years past, the majority of their ministry was to migrants traveling north to find work in the United States.  Today, since the U. S. has deported 400,000 undocumented workers over the last few years, the vast majority of their visitors are recent deportees.  In fact, each night of our trip I sat across the dinner table and talked with men who had been dropped off across the border the previous night.  Many of them had been in the U. S. for several decades.  Most of them had wives and children somewhere in the States.  All of them were newly arrived in Mexico with only the belongings on their body—and they have no chance to return to their wives or children legally. 

One man, Jaime, was planning to hike across the mountains, risking a very dangerous journey, in order to get back.  Approximately ten people die every day trying to make this same journey, and yet Jaime would not give it a second thought.  Why would he do such a thing?  As I said goodbye to him at the end of dinner, I did so knowing that he might be dead in two or three days.  It is hard to relate to such a life or fully appreciate the choices he faced.  But many people feel the same pressures.

The picture above depicts men from Guatemala riding “The Beast.”  Guatemalans live in such abject poverty that even Mexico seems like a land of opportunity compared to their home.  So they get out the only way they can.  They ride on top of a freight train into Mexico—by the hundreds, as you can see.  One man we met at the Casa had fallen off “The Beast,” lost his leg, spent all of his money obtaining a prosthetic, and had it stolen when he got back on The Beast to complete his journey.  When we met him he was on crutches and broke.  These men are obviously convinced that a land of opportunity awaits them if they are willing to take on such risks. 

If you watch the news, you will hear no shortage of opinions about how the immigration problem should be solved.  I can’t pretend to have a solution to the complex political problems involved in our nation’s immigration laws.  However, I would remind you that the men and women who risk life and limb in order to cross borders are human beings with the same hopes and dreams as the rest of us.  As Christians, we cannot all solve the public policy problems, but all of us can care about fellow human beings who are trying to make a better life for themselves.  I can’t imagine having to navigate the choices they have to navigate.  But I do know what the church must do.  We must love them.  We must also remind them that the American Dream cannot be the only dream.  The Apostle Paul very memorably instructed us that our citizenship is in heaven.  If we can love them and point them toward a home that cannot be taken away, a home in which they can find a lasting citizenship, then we will impart to them a gift that will last forever. 




A Study in Contrasts

By Michael Wren

“ He opened a rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a stream in the desert.  For He remembered His holy promise to Abraham His servant.  He brought His people out with rejoicing, His chosen ones with shouts of joy,” (Psalm 105:41-43).

 As you may know, I have the opportunity to travel across the U. S. border to Tijuana with a group of pastors from Indiana.  The Lilly foundation is sending us this impoverished place to learn about the needs of migrants along the border, the work that is going on among them, and how the church can minister to them.  This trip will be a study in contrasts, and that lesson began on the plane ride to San Diego, from which we will cross the border today. 

After changing planes in Phoenix, we flew over the desolate Arizona landscape.  Nothing grew unless there was water nearby.  Dry stream beds were obvious from above, where runoff would flow on the rare occasion that the desert received rain.  Here, I saw green.  Everywhere else was sand and rock—with the exception of a few farms that thrived because of irrigation.  To the west were mountains.  Clearly the mountains received rain, because a lake had collected at the base of it.  Again, there was life.  But once we crossed the mountain peaks toward Southern California, everything changed.  The mountains and hills were covered with green.  The transition was dramatic and abrupt.  A remarkable contrast. 

Today will bring more contrast.  We spent the night in San Diego in a nice hotel right on the marina and are surrounded by yachts and million dollar homes.  But we are crossing the border today where we will encounter severe poverty, families that have been deported and have nothing, and entire communities built on top of a garbage heap.  We aren’t traveling very far—just across a border—but the difference between the “haves” and the “have nots” is stark.  However, as the Psalmist reminds us, our God is a God who can make streams of water flow in the desert.  He has done it before.  In Him we find abundance, whether we experience it here in this world or not.  Our blessings flow from Him, for without Him we have and can do nothing. 

The prophet Jeremiah instructs us regarding the righteous in Israel, “He took up the case of the poor and needy, then it went well. Is this not what it means to know Me? This is the LORD’s declaration,” (Jeremiah 22:16).  Being a disciple of Jesus entails more than receiving blessing.  According to Jeremiah, it involves dispensing blessing as well.  Sometimes we forget how great the need is until we witness the contrast.