Finding God At the Border, in the Peaceful Eye of the Immigration Storm
Step across the border and into a refugee tent encampment, and you’ll find a surprising air of prayer and faith.
Maria de Jesus Dixon
Matthew (not his real name) has tried to cross the border sixteen times since February 2021. He has two daughters and a newborn son whom he has not met. During two of his attempts, border patrol released dogs on him.
Matthew migrated to the border from Honduras due to cartel threats as he would not join their efforts. Unfortunately, he is an example of American policy, otherwise known as Title 42, contributing to putting people’s life on hold. While American policy is put in place for the security of the nation, Christians are called to care for the vulnerable, wherever they may be. Jesus cares for the immigrants at the border. Do you?
According to the White House’s October 2021 Report on The Impact of Climate Change on Migration, conflict and extreme weather events (tornadoes, floods, wildfires, hurricanes, etc.) are the two main reasons for forced displacement. As of October 30th, twenty-one tropical, subtropical, and hurricane storms have occurred in the United States. Hurricanes are a result of two air currents converging from two different directions. The result of these intersecting forces is a vortex, a turbulent and rotating vertical funnel of air.
My border visit felt like an emotional hurricane as I experienced the immigration crisis firsthand. From October 14-18, I traveled to Reynosa, Mexico to visit the refugee tent encampment located at the Plaza Las Americas. This encampment is located across the street from the international bridge that connects Reynosa with Hidalgo, Texas.
I was confident God had something He wanted me to see and experience. The first thing that caught my eye was a group of recently deported migrants from the U.S. exiting an unmarked green ICE bus. They were a few feet ahead of our group, walking along the same bridge. As I walked off the bridge, I could see across the horizon to the encampment and saw thousands of people jammed into an undersized town square. Green porta-potties lined one side of the place and on the other side of the encampment waved a sea of tents and tarps. An unpleasant sulfur-like odor filled the air. The living conditions, smell, and temperature of 96 degrees with a heat index of 105 all contributed to what I would describe as a hellish environment.
As we entered at one end of the camp, Alma Ruth called a migrant woman she had been ministering to for several months. A few minutes later, seven women and their children emerged from the encampment, eager for the opportunity to enjoy a meal together and get to know us. As we broke bread and I heard the stories of these loving and faith-filled mothers, my perspective shifted. In the calm eye of the storm, I could clearly see these women as my sisters in Christ. I had passed through the chaotic winds of injustice and depravity, to the center of the hurricane where the people were. I was inspired by stories of their faith. Some traveled for weeks in the back of a cattle truck with only one bottle of water or Pedialyte per day, and a granola bar every few days. Their goal? To keep their children safe from cartel death threats. Mothers prayed fervently on their knees for guidance, protection, and better lives for their children. All of this I could see and hear because I went to the eye of the storm to listen and to learn.
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Fellow Christian sisters and brothers, resist the temptation to pull away from the storm because it is fearsome and chaotic. Instead, I encourage you to pass through it so you may see the people in the center of it. We serve a God that can tell any storm, “Peace, be still”. I entered into the storm because Jesus told us that they way the world would know who He is is through the love we show for one another. I hope that you will decide to enter into the storm. I did and what I found was God in the center, ministering to his people located on both sides of the border. He is not bound by real estate.
Maria de Jesus Dixon is a student in the M.Div. program at Gateway Seminary with a Theological-Historical Studies concentration. She left a career in higher education administration to pursue her calling of working with parents and children separated at the border in 2020. Maria de Jesus previously earned a M.S. in Criminal Justice, a B.A. in Political Science, and a B.S. in Criminal Justice from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.