Beloved Community: Episcopal Migration Ministries
By The Rev. Michael Wallens
I have the honor and joy to be a part of Beloved Community: Episcopal Migration Ministries. Within this amazing ministry are various wonderful organizations and gifted, compassionate people, who support one another in our desire to serve the stranger among us, by accompanying, advocating for, and ensuring that the rights of immigrants and refugees are protected within the United States’ immigration system.
We have two biblical visions which inspire and guide our ministries. The first one comes from the Book of Exodus. Out here in the Big Bend, Far West Texas, we have been visiting with unaccompanied minors in the Pecos Children’s Shelter. I had the opportunity to meet a parent who drove from Lincoln, Nebraska to be reunited with her child. While driving home, I began to reflect on how parents could leave their children to cross the border into a strange land, not knowing what would happen. The word which came to mind in my prayers, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, was ENTRUST.
When you think about it….the story of unaccompanied migrant children is as old as the story of baby Moses in the book of Exodus, Chapter 2.
It took many people, who were willing to take risks, to cross borders, to transgress orders, to open up their hearts and homes, to save baby Moses from danger:
– The Sacrificing Mother, willing to sacrifice and risk her life for her child’s survival;
– The Protective Sister, who stood vigil – stood watch – and accompanied baby Moses through the dangerous journey;
– The daring and clever Midwives–Puah and Shiprah – managers under the Egyptian Empire- finding ways to not implement destructive laws, but to protect life and all children;
– The Pharoah’s daughter… the “Other” – even the daughter of the “enemy,” willing to have her heart moved with compassion; able to see the sacredness and humanity of every child, beyond the categories and labels she had been taught. Willing to love another as family.
The second vision is one of Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. When most people talk about Jesus being a refugee, they’re not talking about Bethlehem. Rather, they are talking about the family’s flight to Egypt. Sometime after Jesus’ birth, Herod got panicky about rumors of a new king and sent soldiers to kill all the newborns in Bethlehem. An angel warned Joseph and Mary to hightail it to Egypt, where they could safely lay low. Egypt made for an ideal hiding place, connected to Judea via a well-traveled and relatively safe trade route known as the Via Maris.
Father James Martin notes “refugee” is in the actual biblical text. The angel’s word for “flee” in Matthew 2:13 is pheuge, from which we derive our modern “refugee”.
Based on Matthew, Chapter 25, it’s important to note that Jesus is still a refugee, per His own words. He is looking for work, saving up money to bring His family over. He is detained at the border, waiting for a lawyer to take up His case. And He is waiting in a refugee camp, hoping that He will be safely resettled and find home. This is what motivates us to treat the “least of these” with compassion today. We meet Jesus in the migrant, the asylum seeker, and the refugee.
We, with Episcopal Migration Ministries, strive to live in the Biblical narrative in our own time – to find our place in the stories of modern-day Moseses and modern-day holy families. God is entrusting our kin-folk at the border, waiting to cross, crossing and working to create a safe place in this country, into our care. God is entrusting refugees, asylum seekers, and our Afghan allies seeking safety in our country, into our care.
I invite you to join part of the greater Beloved Community called Episcopal Migration Ministries and enter this adventure of love, radical hospitality, and compassion. Learn about how you can join us at www.episcopalmigrationministries.org.
The Rev. Michael Wallens is the Vicar of an Episcopal church in Marfa, Texas and serves four other churches in the Big Bend region of Far West Texas. The Rio Grande Borderland Ministries (www.riograndeborderland.org) that Mike serves covers all of New Mexico and Far West Texas. The ministries of Rio Grande Borderland Ministries include working with the Anglican Diocese of Northern Mexico as well as shelters on the U.S. side of the border. Mike helps coordinate responses to the humanitarian crisis along the southern border of the United States, maintaining open communication with the Border Patrol in the Big Bend Sector and supporting Rio Grande Borderland Ministries’ partnership with Boquillas Beyond Mexico Mission, Inc.
Mike is a founding volunteer co-facilitator of Episcopal Migration Ministries’ Asylum & Detention Ministry Network. Learn more at https://episcopalmigrationministries.org/ministrynetwork.