Today’s guest post is by Craig Doerksen
Dear Christ Church,
“Help me see.”
That was the closing sentence of my journal Tuesday morning in El Paso, a loaded prayer and perhaps the simplest description of why twelve of us from Christ Church were there for three days. We were encountering the realities on our southern border with the help of staff from Abara and Ciudad Nueva, an encounter I think we each will be processing for many days.
Abara uses the word ‘encounter’ to describe what they seek to give their guests, and I find it deeply appropriate. So much of our normal days are spent in activities and interactions that do not ‘leave a mark’, so to speak—shallow busyness that is hardly an encounter with anything. We have to work hard to have genuine, relational encounters with one another. And many of us have to work even harder to encounter on a personal level the challenges facing those on the margins of our world.
I once read the Christian gospel described as “the truth that is troubled.” Untroubled truth is plain, factual, unmovable. Truth that is troubled is personal, invested, responsive. It is not at peace with brokenness, evil, suffering, loneliness, and oppression. It is troubled by it. But that also requires seeing it. So, we went to the border as an effort in turning towards the troubling.
Matters of immigration, asylum seeking, and border security are troubling. Looking at them risks steering into partisan polarization, subjects that divide and silence because partisan claims have been staked, positions hardened. As followers of Christ though, we do not get to avoid them, for Jesus did not. “When were you hungry, and we fed you? When were you thirsty and we gave you drink? When were you a stranger, and we welcomed you?”
Our three-day encounter taught us a ton—it brought great informational clarity to the realities many of us have read about or heard about through television, social media, and other channels. It also put faces and human lives into the story. In the three days we had time with border guards, asylum seekers in front of their tents in Juarez, an immigrant legal advisor, staff and volunteers, art created by unaccompanied minors held in Tornillo, and with the border itself, including those now infamous metal bollard fences. We had time together to discuss, wrestle, and pray. We discussed the refugee communities in our city and other ‘strangers’ in our midst, and how we as a church might welcome them.
There are so many stories we could share—many troubling, but also just greatly moving: the sacrifices and risks people are taking to not only flee corruption and evil, but to reject it and seek refuge; the people who are helping them do so—all at great risk and improbable odds: they are beautiful, heroic people.
We left troubled, I think. But also inspired, hopeful, and grateful that we as a body allow ‘the truth that is troubled’ into our hearts and congregation.
A pastor in Tegucigalpa, Honduras was asked what he would want Christians in America to hear. “Learn about the realities in our countries,” Father Alexis said, “Build bonds. Develop relationships.” Christ Church will be leading some groups later in 2020 back to El Paso and Juarez, and I strongly encourage you to consider going. If you want to know more information, contact Wes Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org). If “help me to see” is a prayer of yours, the encounter will be a part of the answer.