How do you put into words an experience that changed mindsets, transformed hearts and inspired hearts? It is challenging to express, but a recent T.B. Maston Foundation retreat on immigration truly had a profound impact on me.
I knew little about the intense journey and challenges of immigration prior to this retreat. I felt the need to assist with the physical needs at our border but didn’t know where to start. The Maston retreat helped me recognize the God-given humanity in every person, informing me and making the information meaningful through interactions.
The retreat consisted of informational and biblically founded lessons, conversations with people involved in migrant ministry, as well as interaction with real-life immigrants at the border. I came in with an open mind, unsure of what I would experience. I soon came to learn that the border issue is sadly being treated as a political game of football rather than focusing on fixing the humanitarian crisis that is truly taking place. Misinformation and lack of information are some of the unintended causes leading to seeing migrants as political pawns rather than as those created in the image of God.
“I soon came to learn that the border issue is sadly being treated as a political game of football rather than focusing on fixing the humanitarian crisis that is truly taking place.”
On Jan. 4, our team traveled to Eagle Pass, Texas, to meet with Lorenzo Ortiz, a truly humble and God-fearing man who helps meet the basic physical needs of migrants, indicative of the name of his ministry, El Buen Samaritano Migrante. This trip was the most powerful part of the week as we met with asylum seekers in a small transportation center. These were people, mostly from South American countries like Honduras, who had suffered much. Some were single, others were families with young children. You could see the pain in their eyes and feel the heaviness of their hearts as they shared stories with Pastor Lorenzo, who translated for our group.
One young woman told how a Mexican cartel had kidnapped her cousin and she would likely not see him again. I was shocked to hear how common this was. Pastor Lorenzo told us many people who don’t have shelter on the border are forced to sleep on the streets, where they are kidnapped and held for ransom money from their relatives. Sometimes, if the families of the victim cannot pay, they are forced to work for the cartel. In fact, Lorenzo told us he was kidnapped just a few months ago for his work, as the cartel could not understand why his ministry would help people for free. Lorenzo was calm as he shared his own story, and I came to realize this is the kind of man who has real faith put into practice.
No one can prepare you for the life change that occurs when you visit the border. I can honestly say this experience has changed me and encouraged me to make a difference. Despite being hours from the border, I still can push for change in the way immigrants are treated, both in social and legal realms. Everyone has their own opinions on immigration, but few have actually seen the border or met any migrants. If you have, you know the impact it has.
After attending this retreat, I plan to urge churches in my community to think differently about migrants by identifying families in need of help and having more intentional interactions with international students in Abilene.
Jesus tells us to go and tell the nations, but the nations are among us. Why would we deny them the love and knowledge of Christ?
Madison Lewis is a senior at Hardin-Simmons University double-majoring in Christian studies and strategic communication. She is a Maston Scholar through the T.B. Maston Foundation.