“Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the Lord:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the Lord:
your children shall come back to their own country.”
— Jeremiah 31:16-17
Examine this picture from Michael Hyatt award winning picture book Migrant Artifacts: magic and loss in the sonoran desert.
This picture is the single greatest reason why the publisher opted to publish Migrant Artifacts. I originally saw this book in a place called BorderLinks, which is a nonprofit organization in Tucson, Arizona, along the border. They help impoverished travelers along their way, advocating for them. When I went there I was part of a group called “Pastores Caminantes,” established through the Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. Ismael Ruiz-Millán led us on a trip called “Encuentro con la Frontera,” or “Encounter with the Border.” This image in this book was one of many that were life-changing and life-challenging.
While we were at BorderLinks, one of the workers there explained to us a bit more about the picture with El Diario De Ana Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank. More than any other image, this one led the publisher to be reminded of an underlying connection between the Holocaust of the Jews (which is the backdrop of Jewish Anne Frank’s diary) and the 21st century worldwide immigration crisis. The Nazis were a direct threat to millions of Jewish people, and although it was not easy, it was simple, which direction the world’s energy ought to move, in order to neutralize the threat. What is not simple now is where we must move to eliminate the threat to millions of refugees and immigrants across the world.
Over the past 60 years the United States of America has initiated dozens of armed, military interventions in Central and South America, some of which have had the effect of destabilizing governments and empowering maniacs, problems which have caused fearful and dangerous living conditions. These conditions are the settings from which people flee, coming towards the USA. These conditions, often caused by our foreign policy, are what create the immigrants and refugees in our back door. Part of the problem has been created by our consumer culture, which has stripped other countries of their resources and even created the need for illicit resources which our country also consumes — the sex trade and the drug trade.
When I was at the USA-Mexico border, The most horrifying thing I saw was the image of a, “rape tree,” which is a common occurrence. It is a tree on which women’s and children’s clothing are flung, as their bodies are ravaged. This is a painful reality for you to read about, but imagine if you lived in an immigrant community in an Eastern, North Carolina county where this was people’s experience. Every woman and child who crossed the Devil’s Highway on the way to this country — whether they entered legally or illegally — had to face the brutal reality of rape, starvation, and death. It is a veritable holocaust of humanity.
Against the forces of evil that seem so invisible and so entrenched, it seems almost impossible to accomplish anything meaningful. However, simply seeing people has a profound and lasting impact. This devotion that I write is reaching many people, because I saw the above image, which one human saw and documented. Seeing people and sharing the stories that you hear, especially when done with the grace and prayerful love of Jesus Christ, has the weight of divine love. When you share the story, it carries the weight of divine love.
Reflect: What is one powerful and meaningful story, which you have heard from the immigrant community, that you can share? Are you willing to type it up and either email it or posted to social media or share it with your friends, as part of your journey to Easter?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, who saw us when nobody else would, we thank you for being present, not just with us but with the people we pray for also. We thank you that you are present with the dispossessed, even when they’re in the midst of life‘s greatest pain. Amen.