Chapter 5: Christians at the Border

by

Herb Bailey

“In the beginning,” is a good way to start any book, and this book is no different. M. Daniel Carroll R. summarizes his thoughts in chapter 5, much like any good lesson. This is what we are going to talk about, that happens in the beginning, and the note that we hear from Carroll is what any good student looks forward to hearing from their professor: in conclusion. This is the moment that you sit up, make sure your pen is clicked, or your keyboard is ready, and you review.

Carroll uses this chapter to challenge the reader, not just to ingest information, but to put it into practice. He does this by laying out what not to expect as a result. A positive hint of humility… Carroll lays out what this book was intended to cover and what it is unable to cover. If you are looking for political policy, you will need to look elsewhere.

If you are looking to be challenged as a Christian, to come out from the corners of your particular political idealism, then continue reading, and rereading. Christians have a third way. The double entendre, the meaning behind the title, Christians at the Border, calls us to reconsider what we think we know and to move to a place of Kingdom focus.

I was inspired toward the end of 2018 to go and visit the border, to see what the church was doing. There was plenty of political jockeying, and I knew there was a story that was not being shared. I reached out to some friends on social media to see if any of them knew a believer that was serving on the border. Sami DiPasquale’s name came up and I knew that was my contact person. We talked, I told him what I was looking for, and he assured me that there was evidence of the Church in action, addressing our borders, those who were securing, and those who were crossing. Sami works with Ciudad Nueva, a ministry of community presence that provides opportunities for growth to those living in the downtown area of El Paso, Texas. Directly across the border from El Paso is Juarez Mexico. I was warned by good-hearted people to be careful. “It’s dangerous down there.”

 

I knew the Lord was sending me, a 6’7” African-American male from Pittsburgh with below basic Spanish communication skills to a place where knowing how to ask “Where is the bathroom?” isn’t enough. I knew if the Lord was sending me, He would take care of me too.

Sami opened his house to me, provided me with opportunity to see, first hand, the refugees, both male and female, adults and children, looking for a better life. The level of gratitude was palpable. Of the churches we visited, one was being used to house refugees that had been released from ICE detention centers, fitted with house arrest anklets, and had little to nothing to their names. They slept on camping cots. The men were sweeping up and taking out the trash. The women were caring for the little ones. One man, asked if there was something else he could do. The volunteer that had willingly given up months to be present, relocating temporarily to El Paso, serving twelve hours a day, offered the man inquiring an opportunity to repair some of the cots. He took to it gladly, grateful, it seemed with the opportunity to give back.

 

The next day I spent at the border wall, between New Mexico and Mexico, rows of metal jutting out of the ground and towering above me. The space between the metal pylons offered just enough of a view, if looked straight on, to see the “other side”. There, just across the border was a junkyard. The visual, as striking as it was, was only made bleaker by the sight of a young boy dragging the metal frame of a mattress while being circled by his skin and bone dog. He and other young boys began to come to the fence and an odd exchange began to take place. “Dollar?” The question rang out over and over from the boys. One young boy shimmed into the space between the metal “wall” and began to climb in the vacant space. About ten feet in the air,  he made his return descent.

We did out obligatory photos at the border, but there was something more. Something was troubling me. How can we go on and act like our neighbors don’t matter? I’m inspired by the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

How we do that, how we respond to our neighbor is in direct relationship to loving God. And in the same breath, our lack of loving our neighbor is in direct relation to our not loving God with all we are.

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