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Global Migration Sunday: Help Stop the Ongoing Crisis

Migration has been a part of my entire life and ministry.
Credit : President Donald J. Trump is considering to extend the deadline for congress to come up with a permanent fix for undocumented immigrants.
President Donald J. Trump is considering to extend the deadline for congress to come up with a permanent fix for undocumented immigrants.

Migration has been a part of my entire life and ministry.

My father, an immigrant, first came to the U.S. under the Bracero program in the 1940s. In the absence of men to work the fields of South Texas because so many were serving in World War II, the U.S. established a program that allowed men from Mexico to come to the U.S. Bracero, from the Spanish word brazos, means arms. My father was a pair of arms for the fields.

They were paid just enough to feed their families, and when U.S. men began to return from the war, the Braceros were summarily dismissed and sent back to Mexico with no recognition that they had helped save the economy of Texas and the country.

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My father would later become a despised wetback who crossed the Rio Grande River into the U.S. looking for work -- a derisive and hate-filled description of my beloved father and those like him who would do anything to care for their families.

Early on in my ministry, I was asked if I would take in a young woman who was escaping violent civil wars in her country. The young woman was a Christian who worked in an internal migration camp for people displaced by civil war. Because of this work, her life was threatened and she was forced to flee. I remember all her stories, but the one I remember most is her crossing the same river my father had crossed many years before. With her 18-month-old baby in her arms, the river waters reached to their necks, her heart beating fast, she prayed her child would not cry and get them detained and returned to their unsafe country.

Her stories haunted my dreams and I was convicted of the need to be engaged in the work of standing with migrants, for them and for the sake of my own soul.

But it is the story of a child I never met that moves me the most of all. I have met hundreds of children like him, and sometimes I've met their grieving parents. This child was 11-years- old when his mother sent him away from his country that promised only poverty, violence and the very real possibility of premature death. I wonder whether his mother felt what Moses' mother must have felt when, under similar circumstances and not knowing whether she would ever see him again, she hoped someone would extend compassionate care to him.

This little boy traveled alone, starting on a packed bus, walking across countries, finally joining thousands who board a train so deadly it is called "The Beast". Migrants travel not in this train but on top of it, and many fall off losing limbs and life. But that little boy faced each horrible struggle on his journey north and conquered even "The Beast".

One day, he got to the banks of the great river, and somehow got across. He landed on the property of a family he did not know. From that moment on, however, he and that family would be eternally bound. It is here that this innocent migrant child died of hunger, dehydration and exposure. I wonder if he also died of a broken heart having experienced the callous cruelty of our world.

Assuming he was one of the thousands of unaccompanied children who are migrating in the world, they called border authorities. It is reported that when the border authorities came and saw the fragile, broken body of that little boy, they fell on their knees by his side and they wept.

Eventually, a local funeral home came and retrieved the child's body. As the examiner began to remove the boy's clothes, he discovered a note on the back side of his small belt buckle. The note stated who the child belonged to, and where he was going.

The note was not needed to know that this child belonged to God. But I worry that we people of faith have forgotten that we are called to journey toward the land of God's mercy, grace, justice and peace.

I once asked a small gathering of migrant women whether they knew the Good Shepherd, and before I could delve into the Bible study I'd prepared, one woman responded with confidence and joy, "I know the Good Shepherd for He is my salvation." She proceeded to share her migration journey.

Alone in a desert that seemed to have no end or escape, she'd run out of food and water. On the fourth day of her ordeal, she fainted. She did not know how long she laid there but remembers a nudge that she thought was a desert animal about to make her his dinner. She opened her eyes and saw something shining in the sand.

Using all her strength to crawl toward it, she uncovered a glass container full of water. She paused then in her story as if she had returned to that moment. We all felt it. And then she broke out into a radiant smile, "Sisters," she said, "It was cool delicious water from the very hand of my Good Shepherd, our mighty God who never abandons us."

I believe as we walk with migrant sisters and brothers, our faith will be strengthened as we see God at work in their lives. They come to share the good news that God is with us, actively present in our human suffering!

It was through my illiterate father that I learned the history of two nation states living side-by-side like two brothers, one wealthy and one poor, one stealing from the other with the other responding to its inflicted poverty with corruption. I cannot help but believe God created us to abide together as stewards of God's creation and of each other, bound together by the gentle cords of God's own love and not divided by man-made borders.

Get involved: Global Migration Sunday is Dec. 3, the first Sunday of Advent. This day of prayer and special offering is to raise awareness and support for the global migration crisis. 

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Resident Bishop of the San Francisco Area, The United Methodist Church, is the first Hispanic woman to be elected to this episcopacy; a leading advocate for U.S. immigration reform, and Auburn Senior Fellow.

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