Let the Children Come

by | Jun 27, 2019

Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’
Matthew 19:14

Like many, I am trying to better understand and respond to reports of how unaccompanied children or those separated from their parents are being treated in US custody at the southern border and in detention centers across the country. Add to that the staggering number of people fleeing their countries and seeking refuge here, and the specter of mass deportation of those whose asylum requests have been denied, and the word “crisis” hardly begins to describe what we’re facing as a nation. 

In times like these, I am grateful for the bonds that unite us across Episcopal Church and the ways we can work together to alleviate suffering and stand for justice. I draw strength and inspiration from the example of others. 

Last week Bishop David Reed of the Diocese of West Texas, which shares 500 border miles with Mexico, wrote to the people of his diocese:

As the immigration crisis continues to roil and divide our beloved country, we find our souls as stressed as our legal and political systems. Our desire to act wisely and compassionately, to “Walk in love, as Christ loved us,” collides with the enormity and complexity of the issues. What we are experiencing within the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas is only a small piece of the human migration occurring worldwide, a movement of peoples that will likely be with us for many years to come.

A simple solution to this crisis does not exist, but we can be instruments of God’s grace and peace. We cannot do everything, but for Christ’s sake, we can do something.

A number of our clergy and people are doing something to alleviate the human suffering along the border and farther north. I commend them for the hope and healing they offer, for their persistent love in the face of suffering . . . They are seeking to serve Christ in the person standing in front of them, whether asylum seeker or Border Patrol agent. Our clergy and churches did not go looking for this ministry; they did not rally to “an issue.” They are seeking to respond faithfully to those in need arriving in their communities and on their doorstep.

We can and should, and desperately need to, have informed, respectful debate on our country’s immigration laws and policies. But the time for that is not when a weary, confused, and hungry person stands before you, whether that person wears tattered clothes or a dark green uniform.

To be angry and resentful is easy, a reaction that takes little imagination. To become cynical is to reject the hope of Christ. To love and to care is much harder, requiring that we extend grace and mercy to one another and to ourselves, but acting in love and choosing to care is the life into which we’ve been baptized. To love and to care is the Way of Christ, and the way of the Kingdom.

Many thanks to those who have contacted me, asking for ways that we, as individuals and a diocese, can choose to love and to care. Here are but a few of the ways we can be of help to those in desperate need, and work for just and compassionate immigration policies.

1. Ministries on the Border

  • The Diocese of West Texas has a broad array of Immigration Ministries in towns at the US-Mexico border that would benefit from financial and material support. 

  • The Episcopal Diocese of Texas has partnered with Catholic Charities in McAllen, Texas to provide basic needs for the 400-600 asylum seekers that arrive daily. Here are ways we can support them.  

 2. Local Ministries 

  • To donate locally, where family separation is happening as well, please consider Congregation Action Network, (formerly DMV Sanctuary Congregation Network). The network is a coalition of multifaith congregations whose primary focus is deportation defense, family support, community education and action. The Network has active clusters working locally in Montgomery, Prince George counties, DC and Northern VA. You can donate or learn more at Congregation Action Network.

  • The CAIR coalition– Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition strives to ensure equal justice for all immigrants. Their Detained Children’s Program provides legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at juvenile facilities in Maryland and Virginia. 
  • If you would like to help locally, please email our diocesan Latino Missioner, the Rev. Sarabeth Goodwin or call 202-537-6441. 

3. Advocacy for Immigration Reform

As Bishop Reed reminds us, to be angry and cynical requires nothing from us. And for Christians, hopelessness in the face of hardship is not an option. We cannot do everything. But in the name of Jesus, we can do something, and for the children’s sake, we must.