What Would Jesus Do?

Rita Richardson

Posted on October 08 2019

The random nature of violence combined with one of the highest kidnapping rates in Mexico exposes everyone to the high risk of being subject to dangerous situations.   There are no safe areas in Matamoros due to gunfights, grenade attacks and kidnappings. 
US State Department April 2018

"My 7 year old daughter was kidnapped at night from the camp and raped.  When they were through with her she was dumped back at the camp to search for me"
Mother in Matamoros waiting for asylum hearing
September 2019

There are many hot political issues to sort through in America and those debates flood our airwaves, dinner tables and within our own minds.  It's hard to find a perfect solution because there are so many points of view.  Eventually we call upon our personal values and that's where we lean. 

But for those that believe in God and for my part, Jesus, I think there must be a higher calling.  It can't be "America first".  God doesn't believe in that and neither should we.

“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”  Acts 10:34-35

I'm not suggesting that America shouldn't have laws and border security but what's happening now is beyond protecting America.  It is about cruelty.  It's designed to send this message "Do not come here seeking help.   If you try, we will make it as painful, scary and as overwhelming as possible and in the end,  you will lose".

I spent the last 4 days on the border between Mexico and Texas.  I wanted to see for myself.   I traveled across the bridge to Matamoros.  There is a camp at the base of the bridge.  Currently, there’s about 800 people living there until they have their asylum hearing and often beyond that initial hearing because the process has built-in boomerangs. 

Let's start with the word "live" because no one reading this with a heart would wish this life on another living soul.

The Mexican government has agreed, reluctantly, to allow these asylum seekers to stay at the foot of the bridge but will offer NOTHING to them except the ground they sleep on.

As you can imagine---it's hot.  The day I was there it was 97 degrees and humid. 
If you're one of the few lucky ones you have a donated tent, so you get some relief from the blinding sun.  But then the rain comes.  It seems like that might provide a little relief, but most tents aren't waterproof so it's pretty much like huddling inside a giant Ziplock bag:  wet, hot and filled with stifling air.  The ground is so hard from the excessive heat that the rainwater just runs off creating small mudslides that engulf whoever is in their path.

There are 4 portable toilets (800 people) and no place to shower.  They can go into the Rio Grande but it's as brown as the dirt they sleep on so no good hygiene there.

Then there's the thirst.  A family of 4 gets ONE bottle of water a day.  I'm going to repeat that.  ONE 16 OUNCE BOTTLE OF WATER FOR 4 PEOPLE.  And's really hot.

The food and water are donated from various charitable organizations.  Team Brownsville feeds all 800 people a meal once a day.  Any other donated food or snacks are watched carefully by the Mexican border patrol and often sent back before they can be distributed to these needy people.

The charities have been allowed to bring baby formula (it must be mixed with water so do the math) along with diapers.  But nothing more.

There are so many children that I weep thinking about them and how their world must feel like such a scary bad place.  And before anyone rolls their eyes and says, "Well, it's their parents’ fault.  They shouldn't have dragged them across the desert in the first place".....I ask you, who wouldn't do anything they could to save their child? 

These people are fleeing from gang violence, drug cartels, forced prostitution.  They are trying to protect their children from the horrors that await them if they stay.

And more to the point,  you can't blame and punish an innocent child even if you won't concede that you'd do the same thing to save your own child.   I’m confident that we can all find common ground where children are concerned.

The staff we traveled with brought some footballs so we could play with the kids.  There was one football left and I started playing with a group of little boys.  They were so fun and anxious for the distraction from the sadness that fills most of their days.  Football isn't my sport but I managed to do ok and tried not to cringe when the ball rolled into what I hope was mostly mud (I'm trying not to focus on that!).

The time had come to get back across the border.  As I was making my way across our homemade "field" saying "Adios" to the kids a little 4-5-year-old boy just grabbed my waist and hung on tight.  His face was filthy, and his clothes smelled awful, but I didn't want to let go.  I cried all the way to the car.  What will become of this sweet little boy who could still find joy playing a game while living in this horrible place?  When will that spark be extinguished by an overwhelming sense of hunger, thirst and fear?

It doesn't have to be like this.

There are resources available just over the border that are ready, willing and able to house these people until their asylum hearing.  Through donations they feed, provide clean clothes, and a place to sleep.  It's not a home but it's safe, dry and staffed by loving people who put their faith into action every day.

We are called to help those less fortunate.    We could easily be one of those suffering children at the border crying out for help.  "There but for the grace of God, go I". 

The political debates will rage on, but one simple question compels each of us who believes in our Savior:  What would Jesus do?

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  • Joy: September 08, 2020

    Well said, Rita.

    “And I tell you the truth, when you did it unto the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.” Matthew 25:40

    “…Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
    Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” Isaiah 58:9-10

  • Therese: September 08, 2020

    Breaks my heart, Rita. I am grateful you were able to embrace this experience. Love and hugs.

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