Pray, Lament, Groan

The recent news and photos coming from the detention centers on our border with Mexico have been harrowing to say the least.  Just last week an immigrant and his nearly two-year-old daughter drowned trying to cross the border caused a stir among some- that little arm around the neck of her father, hanging on as they drowned in the Rio Grande. These are human beings; a dad and his child, a family.  We barely have time to process the emotion before we read about sick, hungry, migrant children who are at risk in detention centers.  Children?  And reports of children combing lice out of each other’s hair?   

We want to look away
 
Some might not even read this blog because of the nature of its content.  For a moment- just a moment– would you, or could you put down your political lens and leanings just to reflect with me about this subject matter?  
 
I propose no solutions here.  There are people more qualified than me to do that.  But I would like to offer at least a way for us as Christians to reflect and respond in our own way.  Because of grace we have a lens and way to view and respond to the things happening in this world.  Let’s not turn away.  Let’s not return too quickly to our summer activities.  Let’s let these reports and images prompt the deepest form of prayer.  Let’s pray, lament and groan.
 
Most of us have been born and raised in this country.  Most of us have never had to think about where we will sleep on a given night, where our next meal will come from, wonder if our son will be taken off into a gang, or if our daughter will be gang-raped, tortured and murdered.  We have been born into the most privileged country ever in the history of the world.  We have all the basics with no questions asked.  And we scramble to get the latest phone, television, luxury car, vacation home, etc.  We have jobs that give decent wages so we can pay the bills.  The point is: we have.  I would argue none of us- not even myself- will ever understand what some of these people are trying to escape from in their Third World Countries.  They are running away from violence, extreme poverty, gangs, corrupt governments, lack of education, etc.  They are fleeing hopelessness.  And they are running towards a chance, a dream, a better way, food, water, life.  They are running towards hope.  What would I or you do if we were in their footsteps?  Would we want do everything in our power to give our children a chance to live freely?  Would we not risk everything- including our own lives– to see that our own flesh and blood will live to see another day?   
 
We can argue politics behind immigration policies.  We can argue our current border patrol system.  We can discuss the protocols in place for citizenship.  We can talk about those who try to skirt the system and enter illegally.  Here’s the point, though: for us as Christians, we always, always, always start with the PERSON.  No one is illegal.  We are all travelers on the road.  Jesus was a migrant whose parents had to flee to Egypt with him to save his life.   
 
And so with any ethical dilemma or moral question, we start with the person.  And they each have a name and a story just like you and me.  What would you do if you were put in a similar situation?  We can’t do everything, but we can do something.   
 
Our detention centers were never built to house so many migrants trying to enter our country.  Our system as it is was never set up to handle the thousands and thousands of requests of green cards, permanent statuses and citizenship requests.  I don’t know if any system could.  There is no policy that could adequately accommodate the vast number of migrants seeking asylum and entrance into this country.  Just last month an ELCA Pastor student serving in a congregation in Racine were deported back to Columbia.  They were arrested in their home in Chicago.  She left Columbia originally to escape Columbia’s bloody, half-century conflict between government troops, paramilitary militias and guerilla insurgents.  She now is returned to those conditions.  We groan the images of children and adults being stuck in cages for weeks and months on end.  We lament the desperate conditions of immigrant families.  We lament the impossible assignment given to the Border Patrol and officials.  We lament the inability to find civil solutions.  We pray for God-breathed solutions.  Lord, please help us.  Prayerful empathy is the first place to start.  This is an incredible mess.  A humanitarian, heart-breaking mess.  As all political parties argue and wonder what can be done, I think we can do what we are called to do.  Pray, lament and groan.   
 
Lament is a cry for mercy or help in a time of sadness and regret.  Because we are uncomfortable in lament, we often look away in times of overwhelming tragedy.  We don’t want to feel grief over the deaths of migrant children.  We are so tempted to turn from the hurting and in some cases, even question whether it’s really that bad.  Politics, cynicism, and fear pull us away from lament, repentance and action.  As this keeps happening, will people keep reading and staying tuned or will this become another example of “compassion fatigue?”  As Christians we are called to weep with those who weep.  We ask for the courage and strength to hear the cries of children and all people.  We commit to do justice for the immigrant, for we are all travelers on the road.  Lead us, Lord, not into temptation and deliver us from evil.  Deliver all from violence, hunger, abuse and extortion. From detention. From despair. We remember Oscar and his two-year-old daughter Valeria Ramirez who died drowning in the Rio Grande.  They matter.  Jesus sees them.  Do we?        
 
As we pray, lament and groan, may these words help keep us centered in our mission as disciples of Jesus:
 
God won’t ask
What kind of car you drove. 
God will ask
How many people you drove who didn’t have transportation. 
God won’t ask
What your highest salary was. 
God will ask
If you compromised your character to obtain it. 
God won’t ask
In what neighborhood you lived. 
God will ask
How you treated your neighbor. 
God won’t ask 
The square footage of your house. 
God will ask
How many people you welcomed into your house. 
God won’t ask
What your job title was. 
God will ask
If you performed your job to the best of your ability. 
God won’t ask
About the color of your skin. 
God will ask
about the content of your character. 
God won’t ask
About the clothes in your closet. 
God will ask
How many have you helped to clothe. 
God won’t ask
How many friends you had. 
God will ask
How many people whom you were a friend to. 

There are no easy answers.  But there is a way for us to at least respond with a kind and prayerful heart. 

Pray.

Lament.

Groan.

  

~P.J. 


One Response to “Pray, Lament, Groan”

  1. Jackie Williams says:

    Beautifully written, Jim! If anyone asks, 2 organizations that are helping the migrants are International Rescue Committee and Save the Children. I’m sure there are churches down there that do, too, but I didn’t research which ones are there and legit.

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