The Holy Spirit has been at work well before we arrived and continues to illuminate our experiences as our group travels together. Yesterday, Bishop Schnase of the Rio-Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, welcomed us and introduced us to this area of southeast Texas. If you have a chance, take a look on a map at McAllen, TX and draw a line straight across. Geographically, one-third of Mexico is above McAllen, making this area one of the closest border crossing areas from Mexico into the United States.
Today, with the sun still rising, we left to cross the border into Reynosa, Mexico. We crossed over by foot on the Hidalgo International Bridge and when we walked into Mexico, we were immediately greeted with a warm smile and handshake from Samuel Oliver-Bruno. Samuel was deported from Durham to Mexico in 2018, while living in asylum at CityWell UMC. We were also greeted by Guillermo “Willie” Berman, Director of Manos Juntas (Hands Together) Mexico, a ministry of The United Methodist Church. Willie also serves as a missionary through the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church.
Willie drove us throughout Reynosa in his 12-passenger van, in which Willie says he experiences God’s faithfulness every time he turns the ignition of the van and it starts up. We first stopped at Casa del Migrante, a place for people recently deported from the United States to receive assistance and shelter. This non-profit provides medical care, temporary housing, warm meals, compassion, telephones, and a place to figure out what is next after deportation. I spoke with a man who spent 22 years living and working in Greenville, South Carolina. He received a simple traffic ticket and before he knew it, ICE was at his doorstep and he was being detained, eventually, leading to deportation. This man’s son is currently enlisted in the Marines, his wife and children are without him for the foreseeable future. This set the theme for the day: displacement.
I heard story after story of displacement at Casa del Migrante and at our next stop, Senda de Vida. Senda de Vida offers temporary housing to people in the midst of their journey to the United States, people from Central and South America, Haiti, Cuba, Africa, and anywhere else. At Senda da Vida, I met a family leaving the only country they knew, Haiti, coming to Mexico, waiting as they seek asylum in the United States. The husband and father asked if I could pray for their family, and after we said, “Amen,” he looked at me, paused, with tears forming in his eyes, and said, “I believe in a God who will see us through this, who will give us a miracle.”
I was told before this trip by people, by voices I heard throughout the news, and by leaders to fear everything about the border, to be on guard not to be consumed by this fear barrier of the border. Instead, I’ve encountered people more tender, more faithful, and more loving than I could have ever imagined. I met people in vulnerable situations who treated me like a person and taught me to do the same.
Before coming here, fear told a story; now the love of Christ is telling a new story.
My prayer for our group, for Saint Francis United Methodist Church, for the church universal, and for myself is we never lose sight of everyone as a sacred creation formed in the image of God. May our fear be illuminated by the light of Christ.
A Prayer adapted from St Oscar Romero:
Let’s not forget, dear Christians,
that the church is holy, because it has God’s Spirit
giving it life;
but it is sinful and it needs conversion,
because we make it up—humans tending toward evil
and at times perhaps with a past that shames us.
Let us be converted,
that we might try—
we might try!—
to follow the Lord.
we don’t follow you as yet with perfection,
but the effort to follow you, Lord,
is what makes us true disciples. Amen.
From the NC Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Immigration Alliance
To raise awareness this week:
Discuss basic facts in your church small group or congregation about current laws and the acts of discrimination facing immigrant populations.
To become educated this week:
Provide your small group or congregation with facts and resources on the pathway to citizenship and the reasons for migration for the immigrant populations in NC.
To advocate this week:
Visit immigrants in local detention facilities.
Tyler Muller-Yoder is a provisional elder in the North Carolina Conference currently serving as the associate pastor at Saint Francis UMC in Cary.