“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24 (NRSV)
The U.S./Mexico border is a place of where the powers of death press lives to the brink. And yet, within that reality stands a defiant hope born from the struggle of seeking safety, stability, and opportunity.
As we walked through the migrant camp along the Rio Grande in Matamoros, the smell of sizzling food caught our attention. The woman behind the griddle beckoned us to come over and enjoy some of the fresh pupusas she was laying out to cool. At her insistence, we ate, and as we did, we listened to their story and shared some of our own.
Like so many, Claudia, Daniel, and their two children had arrived on the border in Matamoros as migrants from Ahuachapan, El Salvador, fleeing violence and a crumbling job market. They sought refuge in the United States even as they mourned leaving El Salvador behind. But now they faced down systems and institutions that would, without much thought, deny them entry and force them back toward danger. They now lingered in the camp awaiting the verdict of their asylum hearings, hoping for the best but planning for the worst.
Daniel and Claudia’s hospitality in that sacred moment gave us pause. A simple sharing of pupusas in such awful circumstances became a sign to us that even the powers of death could not undo the gracious humanity of these precious children of God. By Claudia’s hands, Jesus became our host.
“I assure you,” Jesus said, “that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it can only be a single seed. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Claudia and Daniel’s sacrifice, no less than a life and death decision, intended to make a better life for their children. Like fellow Salvadoran St. Oscar Romero, who decades ago spoke these words from John’s Gospel at what would be his final Mass, Claudia and Daniel defiantly hope for a future — for themselves and all like them — that honors their struggle and their dignity as children of God.
A Prayer adapted from St Oscar Romero:
God our Father,
I don’t want to be an anti,
I simply want to be the builder of a great affirmation:
the affirmation of God,
who loves us
and who wants to save us. Amen.
From the NC Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Immigration Alliance
To raise awareness this week:
Review immigration study guides, available from the NC Council of Churches.
To become educated this week:
Find information about the number of detentions and deportations happening in your community, and discuss with others the trends you are seeing.
To advocate this week:
Begin to advocate with neighboring immigrant churches in your community.
Patrick Murphy is an elder in the North Carolina Conference currently serving as the associate pastor of Front Street UMC in Burlington.