By now you’ve likely seen the photo from several weeks ago. Father, Oscar Alberto Martinez, and his two-year-old daughter, Angie Valeria, drowned in the Rio Grande as they attempted to cross into the United States. Along with his wife, Tania, Oscar was seeking work in the United States and a better life for Angie. They had waited for several months in Mexico waiting to speak to the US Consulate, but no one would talk to them. So, they decided to cross illegally. Oscar and Angie never made it. The photo of their lifeless bodies lying face-down in the Rio Grande captured the tragedy one Salvadorian family, as well as the tragedy of the many nameless, photo-less people who perished before them and those that will follow. Lives lost in search of hope, leading them on a perilous journey to the United States.
Immigration is at the forefront of our national dialogue. We can argue and fight and talk in circles about what responsibilities we have as a nation, what responsibility we have as individuals, and how to fix an immigration system nearly everyone agrees is broken, but no one can agree on how fix. And we should continue those conversations – calling and writing our elected officials, seeking an immigration system that is as just as it is compassionate. But the border is not the problem. The border is just where the problems begin to touch us.
Oscar, Angie, Tania, and the millions of other immigrants who have crossed our borders, been apprehended crossing our borders, or died on the journey all fled “home.” Wherever home has been for them (historically, the majority of those crossing our borders have been from Mexico; recently, the majority have been from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), a dangerous and uncertain journey to the unknown in the United States has been their only source of hope. They flee injustice, oppression, poverty, and violence. Many lack the resources and opportunities to survive and thrive, and they long for a better life for their children but don’t believe that will ever be possible at “home.” That is the root of the problem.
This is a prayer offered at our church the Sunday after the photo of Oscar and Angie was circulated:
O God, we confess our often blindness and indifference to the sufferings of your children throughout the world until they show up on our doorstep. We pray for our sisters and brothers in the human family who lack the resources to survive and thrive; whose daily lives are filled with trauma and violence; who live in fear and amid unrest. We mourn the fact that a perilous and uncertain journey to an unknown land is the only hope for many. We pray for a swift end to injustice, oppression, poverty, and violence. We pray for the right use of resources and equitable distribution of the abundance of creation. We pray for those serving, supporting, and advocating for the vulnerable people of our world. We pray for your kingdom to come, O God, on earth as it is in heaven.
As I looked at the photo of Oscar and Angie, I cried. I cried for them and their family. I cried for the numerous others who have perished just like them out of public view. I cried, knowing that the child and father in the photo could just as easily been from Zone 3 in Guatemala City where Safe Passage works. Safe Passage, the organization we will be working with in Guatemala, brings hope, education, and opportunity to some of Guatemala City’s poorest residents. Over 300 families are served by Safe Passage’s programs…hopefully 300 families that have hope for the future at home rather than risking the journey to the US.
As our family prepares to move and begin our ministry in Guatemala in a few short weeks, we are reminded this week of the importance of the work we get to be a part of. It is not hyperbole to say that this work has life and death consequences.
If you would like to partner with us in our ministry in Guatemala, we would be grateful to have you as part of our community of support.