February Prayer Partner: Prayer Requests from the Border
It’s been a volatile few months on the US-Mexico border. Since last August we have seen big swings in the numbers of individuals and families arriving from a variety of countries. In the El Paso-Ciudad Juárez region where my family and I live, those arriving from Venezuela and Nicaragua have increased dramatically, while those arriving from Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico have continued to remain high.
In the midst of these demographic shifts there has been general uncertainty about changes in policies affecting the border. The biggest question is related to the lifting of Title 42, a public health directive that has been used at the border since the beginning of the COVID pandemic to expel migrants of certain nationalities without the opportunity to seek asylum.
A mix of circumstances, including the anticipated lifting of Title 42 and the unexpected arrival of a large group of Nicaraguans fleeing extortion in Mexico, resulted in extraordinarily high numbers arriving in December 2022. This led the El Paso mayor to declare a state of emergency in order to open up pathways for additional federal humanitarian assistance. In response, governor Greg Abbot sent Texas National Guard members to El Paso.
The arrival of the National Guard seemed to disrupt the situation even further, as they set up rolls of concertina wire and lines of humvees, blocking off areas where Border Patrol personnel had been processing migrant arrivals. Since there were no pathways left to officially present themselves at the border, many desperate people felt they had no option but to try to enter the US elsewhere and without documentation, further exacerbating the situation.
Upon entering the country without documents, migrants were prevented from accessing the largest shelters which led to many people unnecessarily sleeping on the streets, even in sub-zero temperatures. The community rallied amazingly to prevent this from happening. Those without shelter represented a small fraction of the bigger picture, but the reality of people sleeping on the streets in cold weather served as an easy visual representation of the dysfunction in the system.
Where have followers of Christ been during all of this? Many in El Paso across denominations have opened their doors to temporarily house migrants. Churches in Juárez have been doing the same for years, some for over five years without a break. Faith groups, both local and national, have supported these efforts. The presence of Christ has more than anywhere been powerfully present among those arriving from all over Latin America. You can rarely get through a conversation without a migrant expressing the depth of their faith in God that has sustained them on the journey, even through unimaginable suffering. Their resilience, kindness, gentleness and humility constantly humble me.
I think most of those who follow in the way of Jesus who have responded to assist in this effort have asked themselves the same question in some form or another: will they stop along the road to check on their neighbor who is hurting, or will they pass him or her by, hiding behind layers of convenient religious or political reasoning.
If I may, I invite you to join with me in some of my prayers and yearnings:
- For opportunities and motivation to see beyond simplistic, dualistic narratives that are tempting to perpetuate (possibly bearing false witness against our neighbors in the process)
- For a hunger to understand the systems that are not working, especially for those who are hurting most – root causes in regions experiencing forced migration, US attitudes and policies, global forces
- That our minds and worldviews would be ever-transformed into the likeness of our Creator, that we would continually pursue growth in our understanding and love for God and for our neighbor
- For inquisitive spirits, the wisdom to recognize truth, and the courage to say yes even when we are scared
- For opportunities to draw close and be in proximity and relationship with those most affected by injustice and suffering, first of all in our own communities
- For safety and comfort for those who are distressed and mourning
- For the pursuit of mutual flourishing for all of God’s children
For those who would like to pray with others, the Evangelical Immigration Table has a monthly prayer call over Zoom; this month’s will be on Monday, February 27th at 4 PM ET/3 PM CT/2 PM MT/1 PM PT. To join, just click here or add the call to your calendar.
Executive, Director, Abara, El Paso, Texas