Whatever channel you watch, I’m sure you’ve watched the unending flow of illegal immigrants over our southern borders. My husband and I live in Texas and I can assure you this is a real and troubling problem for all Americans. But, as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the principles and precepts of God’s Word, I’ve struggled aligning my feelings against the plumb line of the Word.
‘Til our LifeSavers Edit group last Saturday.
Thomas Jefferson said, “A nation without borders, is not a nation.” We must pray for our leaders. These are difficult issues. And without God’s help we will not make righteous decisions.
Author and friend, Kathie Melville, wrote the following article of her journey and has agreed to share with us. Kathie and her husband are volunteers with Texas Baptist Men. Please welcome my friend to the blog this week.
CHILDREN CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE
The disaster relief organization called “Texas Baptist Men” sent an email to me, a TBM volunteer, in May 2014 describing an unusual job assignment or call-out. Homeland Security requested assistance from TBM with a crisis not yet known by the general public. Overwhelmed with the influx of young children who had crossed the Texas border without parents, the border personnel needed a way to provide showers, clean clothes and oral hygiene essentials for hundreds of children.
TBM assignments normally come in response to a natural disaster–something no one could have prevented. But these children? Away from mothers and fathers? Couldn’t this have been avoided? When the call-out came, I didn’t want to go. Please leave me out of such a mess!
But visions of tired, dirty and frightened children invaded my mind. The communication noted a preference for women to serve. Many of the girls suffered sexual abuse by men during their travels and needed a woman’s gentle touch. Reports of preschool children wrenched my heart as I pictured young children sent from their homes to travel without parental protection or comfort.
Politics and questionable parenting ceased to matter when I thought about the children. They needed to know Jesus loves them just as I know He loves me. Isn’t that what Jesus commanded? As James 1:27 states: “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (NIV). Although, possibly not literal orphans, these children were essentially parentless and in distress. I knew in my heart I had to go.
Our TBM van entered through a gate and passed brick walls topped with curls of barbed wire. Reminders these children lived in a jail facility because they had broken the law. Two TBM shower unit trailers sat in the hot sun on the grassy grounds outside the buildings. Little tents provided shade over the line of white plastic chairs where the children would wait for their turn to take a shower and brush their teeth.
A group of girls walking in line, soldier fashion, followed a female border guard out of the building and sat down in the row of chairs by the shower unit as the interpreter gave them instructions. My limited Spanish became a source of frustration as I wanted so much to converse with them. Our smiles and quick responses to their needs helped them relax and smile back. Many said “thank you” and smiled their appreciation as we assisted them. One girl told the interpreter she had been traveling for nine months. Another said she hadn’t bathed or brushed her teeth in fifteen days.
As the day progressed, groups of boys came out. One little boy could barely reach over the sink to brush his teeth and sprouted a white toothpaste beard. Our laughter brought smiles to otherwise somber faces. Others came out of the shower stall holding up pants too big for them. We had to go back to the piles of clothes and hope to find smaller pants.
The dirty clothes on their back comprised the total of each child’s personal belongings, although, one small child had a couple of tiny dinosaur toys in his pocket. Those clothes had to be washed, but surrendering them to us after they showered and dressed in donated clothes sometimes brought tears. We promised to give them back after they were washed and dried, but the children often left for another location before they received back their own clothes.
My fellow workers and I wondered how parents could release their beautiful children to travel so far without them, risking disease and danger on their way. What kind of situation would move a parent to such desperate measures?
We were not allowed to take pictures and only our leaders saw the children in their crowded cells. I pictured around twenty children in a small jail cell and didn’t like what I visualized.
Lice and scabies are almost impossible to control in such tight quarters. Our job expanded to include lice and scabies treatments. The TBM volunteer nurse sobbed when she told us the girls with lice must have their hair cut short. Sheared locks of thick, ebony hair added to the growing loss of personal possessions and home.
On the last day we worked, I watched the final group of children walk away toward the border guards. Tears filled my eyes as I remembered combing out some of the girls’ hair and telling them “Jesus te ama.” I remembered how my heart filled with a joyful sadness seeing their tears when they opened their hearts to God’s love. I remembered when I heard their sweet “gracias,” and felt their hugs.
Though exhausted from the long, hot work and anxious to return home, I thought, what now? What will happen to them now? What are they going to do without us?
We worked long hours for several days in over 90-degree heat and slept on the floor of a small church. Did it matter? Yes, it matters for eternity to children who responded to the Gospel shared with them by our interpreters.
Is the control of our borders a crisis? Yes, it is. Should the flow of illegal border crossings be stopped? Yes.
But there must be compassion for children caught in the middle. God allowed the flow of alien children to happen. Maybe our fears of going to Central America, because of dangerous criminal activity in those countries, resulted in God sending them to us? Could it be that He knows it’s an opportunity for some of these children to meet Jesus and become members of His family? During the eighteen days TBM provided aid to these children, ninety-three of these precious ones accepted Christ as their Savior and became my little brothers and sisters in Him.
Whether the children go back to Central America or stay, we must choose how to relate to them while they are here. Will it be with anger or compassionate love? Which response has God extended to you?
“The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow…” (Psalm 146:9 NIV).
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26 NIV).
Kathie Melville is a teacher, writer, mother, and grandmother. She is an active member of North Texas Christian Writers and The LifeSavers, an adult edit group. Her devotionals appear in the Secret Place.