Border Children

Before we go any further – go here and look at these pictures from Breitbart.com of children being warehoused on the southern US border.

 

http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Texas/2014/06/05/Leaked-Images-Reveal-Children-Warehoused-in-Crowded-US-Cells-Border-Patrol-Overwhelmed

 

What do you do when politics and religion collide? How willing are we to bend the knee and topple our idols – even our favorite idols?

 

Full disclosure: I’m a little “l” libertarian. I am not a dues paying member of any political party and have never been one except for several years in my youth when I was a member of the Scottish Nationalist Party. I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians/Independent but, again, in the interest of laying all my cards on the table, I vote for more Republicans than the other two combined.

 

Still reading? Here’s where it gets tricky.

 

I don’t have a solution for the border problem or for the immigration problem. I think we’ve made it way, way too hard for someone to come here legally. At the same time, blanket amnesty and/or not securing our borders rubs me the wrong way. It seems wrong, somehow, to act as if the laws we have aren’t there.

 

But our current laws and legislators and bureaucrats have created a situation in which people are shipping their children to the US. Once across the border, they are stored like warehoused goods, moved to other storage areas from Arizona to Wisconsin, and doomed to a status in legal limbo. They are, however, never moved into the neighborhoods of the rulings classes whose laws and bureaucracy caused this tragedy.

 

Looking at their slumped shoulders and unfocused eyes, I am convinced that this is a time for the people of God to do…something…

 

But…what? For decades, there has been a Sanctuary movement among churches in the US, taking in those who’ve crossed illegally and protecting them from the authorities. Some say that they have just encouraged others to make the dangerous trek across the desert to get to the US and that is probably true. We also have to acknowledge that many who try to make that trip are robbed, raped, beaten, and abandoned to die of thirst and exposure. The numbers who die or who are harmed on the journey each year are staggering. We cannot, therefore, pretend that offering sanctuary is morally neutral or entirely positive. There are consequences and some of them are dire.

 

So should we encourage more to come? And would caring for these children just encourage more to come? Fair questions, but I’m not sure we can settle these issues anytime soon and there are young children stranded in crowded rooms in our country right now.

 

This could be a foreseeable result of the Dream Act and it might be a side effect of the corrupt Mexican government and the cartels that run the border. Of course, the cartels would have no power if Americans didn’t take illegal drugs or if the US legalized the drugs, taking away their power and money overnight. Interesting things to talk about… but there are young children stranded in crowded rooms in our country right now…

 

This is certainly a problem caused by politicians and governments so please don’t suggest a political or governmental fix to it. Politicians gain and keep their power by the myth that they can fix the very problems their existence creates. Quit falling for it. Voting for this or that person is not going to fix this.

 

I know that some of these kids are fleeing horrific conditions in their home countries. I also know that there are TV commercials in Guatemala and Honduras advising people to send their children to the US where life will be better for them. I have no idea who is paying for these commercials (NBC reported on it) but I would suspect politicians at play again. I can’t fix that. Neither can you.

 

In short, I am not asking for anyone to chime in with a “you know why they’re here is this guy did that thing and then there was that law and that party that…” comment. That is political speech. It is not Kingdom speech. While there may be some value to politics, I have given up on it. I want to try the Jesus way…if I can figure out what that is. And I don’t want to be frozen into inaction by making this an academic issue or a “somebody else has to do something” problem.

 

We used to have orphanages in the US. Contrary to countless movies, most people had good experiences there. I know quite a few of them. But we closed those and created a foster care system that is failing our own children and has no room for these children. There is no room in the inn.

 

Church…what can we do? Any political solution is a long way down the road and I doubt that every reader will agree on any one idea. We usually respond to these sorts of things by assuming an attitude of helplessness, by being apathetic, or by viewing the issue through fear. We fear the loss of the kind of country we grew up in, the loss of the two party system (there is no question that immigrants vote overwhelmingly for the Democrat Party…at least at present), the loss of our language, etc. but, as the church, we have been called to be citizens of a different country. We have been told to come out from among “them” and be separate. We are supposed to have our loyalty reserved for the King on the throne of the cosmos (at least, I’m pretty sure that’s what Revelation is about).

 

I am confused, conflicted, and contrarian on my best days. But I can’t just sit back and see these warehoused children stay in those boxes. What can we do, church? How willing are we to transcend our parties and earth-bound loyalties? How willing are we to trust in God for the future of our nation, even if He chooses to not make its continuance “as is” a priority?

 

What are we willing to do for the children? If I read Matthew 25 correctly, our response here will have an effect on what happens to us on Judgment Day.

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20 Comments so far

  1.    Sarah Smith on June 12th, 2014

    Well said, Patrick. You articulate my own feelings as I’ve been following this situation. I have a heart for children, and I would willingly get involved. But how? What is the right thing to do? How best do we become the hands and feet of Love to these children, to their families who believed this was their best chance? To know the risks they would face on their journey and still choose to send them indicates a far worse fate if they had stayed. I want to do something; I believe the cross I’ve taken up demands that I do something. But what?

    Reply

  2.    Jeff Cutler on June 12th, 2014

    This, Patrick:

    http://www.thevillageofhope.com/

    This is an orphanage in Accra, Ghana, West Africa. It is provided for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of orphans. They provide group homes, a school, a medical and dental clinic, and most of all a church family, all on the same campus. There is no reason this could not be done by the brotherhood for these Hispanic children, with services provided to assist them in their legal travails as they assimilate into life as US citizens. Sending them back is clearly not an option, but neither is imprisoning them.

    They do not need government handouts, that is what the Church is called to do. We need to do what we were called to do!

    Reply

  3.    Duane Henderson on June 12th, 2014

    The first step is pray and ask our Father for wisdom and to guide us. I do not know what to do. I do know our Father does.

    Reply

  4.    Kim lewallen on June 12th, 2014

    Amen brother. I confess I was ignorant to the situation with these children until just yesterday. I had no idea this was happening. Now I am left to ponder, what can we do?

    Reply

  5.    Jason Ridgeway on June 12th, 2014

    I think it is time to open up our buildings that sit empty most of the week. We have church buildings all over the country that aren’t used much. We have kitchens and fellowship halls that can be converted to homes for these children. I am willing to help where I can. These children need loving Christians to feed them, love them and then feed (spiritually) them.

    Reply

  6. Profile photo of dannygill   Danny Gill on June 12th, 2014

    I wish I knew. Or perhaps I don’t. If I knew, it would demand action. Inaction is easier. God have mercy on me.

    Reply

  7.    Daniel on June 12th, 2014

    I find it interesting how different that among the very first commands given to the newly established nation of Israel is this:
    21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
    22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:21-24)

    Are we, his people, guilty of oppressing the foreigners? Are we taking advantage of and mistreating these widows and orphans? By looking at those images in the above link, I think it’s a resounding “Yes.”

    James echoes these obligations when he says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

    If these widows and orphans are not in distress, I don’t know who is. There is nothing about nationality or ethnicity in these verses. God’s regard for human life transcends borders, races, and languages. Yet how many Christians have allowed themselves to become “polluted by the world” of politics and governmental bureaucracy?

    If the church could really unite on this issue, I think we could attack the problem on multiple fronts. More humanitarian aid to Central American countries. Support and provisions for immigrant children and women. A bit of political lobbying here and there where necessary to shore up our borders from those considered dangerous. Tackling the current drug culture in our communities to lessen the demand for illegal drugs. And much, much more.

    We can’t fight this battle on one front. And we can’t fight it divided.

    Reply

  8.    Dawn on June 12th, 2014

    Patrick,
    It’s Ironic you mention Mathew 25 in your ending statement. I know of an organization by that exact name. They were founded in Michigan (I believe) you may have heard of them. I don’t have much time to comment but I want to say, I too feel strongly about the situation with the immigrant children. I think we need to reach out to organizations like Mathew 25 and raise funds, request help and do what we can to provide a safe haven and end result for these precious children of God.

    Thank you for sharing your heart for Gods children.

    Dawn

    Reply

  9.    Tyler on June 12th, 2014

    Very well articulated, Patrick. My knee-jerk reaction upon reaching the end of your piece was frustration that it did not ultimately resolve into a solution. However, in situations like this, there are no nice, neat solutions, gift-wrapped in bows and ready to save the world. These are complicated, complex issues, and beyond showing love (whatever that looks like in this scenario), I too am at a loss. There are no easy answers, but God forbid we, as Jesus people, ever stop constantly asking the questions.

    Reply

  10.    Jill Roper on June 12th, 2014

    Now that I have read the article I have to ask, what is the right thing to do? We who feel led to help are not going to be allowed to just walk into one of these facilities and ask those in charge to allow us to take a few of the children home with us? So on a practical level, what do we as a church do Patrick?
    By the way, I was one who was raised in a real life orphanage and when I became an adult did foster care for 30 plus children in a 20 year span. So what do you suggest?

    Reply

    • Profile photo of Patrick A. Mead   Patrick A. Mead on June 12th, 2014

      Jill, I’m not at the suggestion phase, personally. I am looking for ideas. Of course, if every one took one…

      Reply

  11.    Joe Mounts on June 12th, 2014

    Patrick,

    I just read your Wineskins post regarding the children and I could not
    agree more. As a former foster parent who had well over 100 children in
    my home in the last 5 years, I know too well that the government system
    for protecting needy children is broken beyond repair. Our nation/states
    are already failing the children that are in the system and there are
    millions more American children that are left with unfit parents simply
    because there is no room at the inn. Compound the problem with the
    millions( yes I believe this trickle will become a flood of epidemic
    proportions) of unaccompanied children and I see the potential for a 3rd
    world style humanitarian crisis here at home.

    I also agree with your assessment that the church is the best hope for
    these children. For some years I have felt called to look into
    establishing a youth home/ orphanage like you are proposing. I have never
    acted on it because, simply put, I know kids not government red tape. I’m
    also a retired (due to back injury) preacher who chose to work with
    mission churches, hence no big financial backing.

    I believe God is calling the church/myself to action. I have some
    contacts and have done some preliminary research on the concept of a
    youth home/ orphanage that is church sponsored and not dependant on
    government funding, hence less regulation.

    I would appreciate any input you might have, especially with start up or
    conceptual design. Thank you for your input. I know you are busy, please
    reply at your convenience.

    A little bio:

    Joe & Lawanda Mounts have been married for 27 years and are the proud
    parents of 10 children ranging in age from 26-2 ( 4 of whom were adopted
    via foster care). Joe was a minister working with small churches of
    Christ for 15 years until forced to retire due to a back injury. Since
    that time he has volunteered regularly working with teens placed in a
    temporary shelter for troubled youth. Lawanda is a certified teacher,
    having worked for 20+ years in special education classrooms, both
    preschool and school age. As a family we recently ceased working as
    foster parents. In the last 5 years, we had had well over 100 children
    and teens in our family. We feel God’s face is seen in the eyes of EVERY
    child and they all deserve to know the love of God thru loving adults.
    God bless you. God bless the children. Please pray for them.

    Any who wish may contact us at:

    Joe & Lawanda Mounts
    Pob 1154
    Ozark AR 72949
    Ozarkmounts72949@gmail.com

    Reply

  12.    Nancie on June 12th, 2014

    Hi Patrick (not sure if this posted the first time, so don’t approve it twice, please),

    I have been thinking about this situation for quite some time. Thank you for posting. As long as we work to create a country that provides freedom, education, access to medical care, capital gain, etc., we will have people who are desperate to enter our borders. What a blessed people we are!

    Very simplistically, these are the ideas I have had:

    1. Pray: Pray continually for these children, the people supervising them, and the families they left behind.

    2. Legal representation: Many of these children as young as 5 must represent themselves in immigration court. You’ve probably heard of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). Children who are not in the country legally do not have access to CASA or legal representation. Even if we are not legally trained, we can still stand with these children in court to say “you are not alone”. We can look into organizing Christians based on the training already established by CASA.

    3. Toiletries: Housing these children is incredibly expensive for tax-payers, but very inefficient as you know. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, feminine products, etc. were acceptable donations by the government agency with which I once worked. I assume we could get them into these facilities, as well.

    4. Education: Let’s volunteer to teach these children, English, reading, and basic math skills. This gives us an “in” to introduce these children to Christ, provides them an extra measure of security by placing more adults in the facilities, connects them with local churches, and trains these children to be productive members of society. These children may stay in the U.S. or return to other countries, but it benefits everyone to educate them and provide them the resources they need to improve their little corner of the world.

    5. Finally, again, PRAY. We are not citizens of this world. All that we have belongs to God. Pray for increased love, wisdom, peace, and God’s kingdom come. Always.

    As you know, border states bear the largest burden of illegal immigrants. Consequently, churches in these states are in the most advantageous position to help these children. If we cannot go ourselves, we can support these churches.

    I have no idea how to stop people from entering this country, without destroying its desirability. Again, how blessed we are!

    Long-term, we need to make it easier to enter this country legally. I hate having people in this country illegally, but I cannot fault any parent for trying to provide a better life for their child by changing their geographic location. I would do the same thing in their shoes. We can also legalize drugs (scary!). Let’s start treating drug addiction as an illness and allow people access to support and rehabilitation rather than making it a crime. Take the money out of the hands of the cartels. These are government issues that will take years, but we need to hound our politicians to change the policies and decrease the outrageous fees people must pay to become citizens of the U.S.

    That’s all I’ve got.

    (I’m not an authority on illegal immigrant children in the U.S., so I do not feel I have I have a great understanding of the issue. I hope I have not offended, and I look only to increase the light in this world and drive out the darkness.)

    Reply

  13.    Donna Lohr on June 13th, 2014

    Well. I don’t know what to do either. Will look at the Matthew 25 organization someone mentioned. And pray. Thanks, Patrick. I had no idea.

    Reply

  14.    Crystal Silva-McCormick on June 13th, 2014

    The fact is, however, that it is and has been *only* children who are suffering at the hands of crushing poverty and violence in Mexico and in countries in South America. So, while I am encouraged that many faith communities are moved to invest in problems related to immigration, I bristle at the sole emphasis on children [and women]. I also bristle at the notion that churches who have offered sanctuary to undocumented immigrants have erred. It is those churches who have defied unjust laws (we can look to Jesus’ breaking of the Sabbath as a model here) in order to provide for people who take many risks to survive. The issues related to undocumented immigrants need not begin with the polarities that come with “red” and “blue” and “right” or “left;” instead, they ought to begin with Jesus. They ought to begin where the previous commentator Daniel noted, in our faith’s call to care for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner. And, if we are to be brutally honest, we ought to look at the policies and history which have encouraged immigrants to cross the border for survival. (A good resource for this is author David Bacon. Bacon identifies the roots of the problems related to immigration). If our compassion and faith commitments move us to care for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner and that makes a “political statement,” then so be it. Our goal is to love as Jesus did, not to be red or blue or even somewhere in the middle – particularly when it comes to feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

    Reply

  15. Profile photo of Brian McGonagill   Brian McGonagill on June 13th, 2014

    First, we need to know what we can do. I dont think the government will release these children from the facilities where they are currnetly being held. I believe we can “visit them” by making sure they have adequate food, water, clothing, etc, everything the government will allow us to do. I believe we can and should provide Bibles and all the spiritual help we can. I believe we should pray fervently for them and their situation and petition our government to make good choices about what is in store for them.

    Reply

  16.    Sharon on June 15th, 2014

    Do we know for sure where the facilities are at? Will they allow churches to help them? Can we get provisions to near by congregations who can take turns ministering to them daily until their fate is decided? If we can, I’m sure these children have no more than the clothes on their back, anything else would probably have been taken from them. Can we, should we, help them to contact their parents for them to let them know they are alive but in custody awaiting a hearing? A doll, toy truck, a Bible in their language, change of clothes, would all be a comfort, a distraction. A a hug, some one to hold them as they cry in desperation and need for the comfort of their mother or the protection of their father they so desperately yearn for, some one to say it’s going to be ok… Will our government let us comfort these children? They were being obedient to their parents and followed their instructions to get across the border. I’m sure that’s as far as the guidance went. They need love and strength, even for a few moments to get them through a few more hours. Christian adults taking turns to make sure these young people aren’t being physically or sexually abused by this in charge who have no respect for God or his children but only their flesh.

    Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that as a CASA, we legally can’t get involved until we are court appointed by the judge. Then that will mean they have officially become a part of our overwhelmed foster care system.

    As a voting Christian bound by a legal system we have little say in their fate but even so we have responsibility to God to be His hands and feet, His arms, His shoulders, His lap, to prove by our actions that we are His.

    If some one can find out for sure where they are and what we are allowed to do we can start organizing. How many children to how many toys and clothing articles needed, how many volunteers to distribute to each facility. I also suggest we reach out beyond our own tribe, my experience in our area is that there is a group on the rise that doesn’t have the doctrine quite right, but have that serving others and going above and beyond in the name of Jesus thing down pat. They can get the job done.

    Let’s Roll Church! With God’s help, we can do this!

    Reply

  17.    Adam on June 17th, 2014

    I just returned from my first trip to Ciudad de Angeles and so this post had a bit more weight for me than otherwise would have. I don’t have solid solutions but I had an idea pop up that I couldn’t shake so I figured I’d put it out there. Maybe a permanent solution is a long ways off. Maybe lasting peace for these kids is not going to happen any time soon. Perhaps that’s the narrowness of my vision, but I’m wondering can we better their living conditions as they wait in “legal limbo”? Is there an empty warehouse (dry, climate controlled, safe) that could be cleaned up, have cots and clothes and toys donated to it, have clean bathrooms/showers, food and staffed with volunteers on a rotation from area churches, and all of this just to give the kids a better place to stay until the issue is sorted out by the government or someone comes up with a more long-term solution? The government may be more inclined to this especially if it could be completely at no cost to the tax-payers.
    Once these kids are in a safe, dry, more comfortable place, and they are allowed to start being kids again, then maybe a little breathing room can be bought to brainstorm more long-term solutions?
    If this solution sounds shallow, foolish and short-sighted, I am sorry. If it shows a lack of faith, I’m sorry. But it was an idea that popped up, and I couldn’t help but sheepishly toss it on the table in hopes that there might be something helpful in it or would rather inspire maybe someone to come up with something workable and effective.

    Reply

  18.    Matt on June 27th, 2014

    I just saw this and am overwhelmed by the troubles in this world, there is so much evil and people trying to escape it. I’m just keeping my head above water with my middle class struggles, then I see this. Mercy.

    I can easily see parents in Central America finding internet access, seeing these pictures, and celebrating. “They’ve made it!” Where we see unacceptable conditions, they see hope. Kinda like Hebrews 11. Some would not see their child but recognize another they left with and try to hang on to a thread of hope.

    The Village of Hope that Jeff pointed out… We have other such examples like Compassion and thousands of smaller efforts. One of these children may well come to shape this country through whatever they grow up to be and whatever influence they may obtain. How do we affect these young souls to see their heavenly Father’s heart for them and their situation? They came looking for the hope of America. How do we show them that dream is truly found in Jesus?

    This will not resolve soon. Patrick, how are the ideas progressing?

    Reply

  19.    Robert Jaquiss on July 12th, 2014

    Hello:
    It is appalling that we have this situation. I agree that we need to reach out to these children; food, clothing, love etc. As for the legal issues, if we can provide legal representation for enemy combatants who truly want to do harm to our nation, then we should provide assistance for children who surely need it.

    Reply

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