by Rev. Gabriel Lopez
Leviticus 19:34 (CEB)
34 Any immigrant who lives with you must be treated as if they were one of your citizens. You must love them as yourself, because you were immigrants in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God
I am an immigrant from Mexico. My immigrant experience has shaped how I see every aspect of the world, including my theology.
Leviticus 19:34 calls me to not only treat the immigrant well, but to remember my own journey.
Due to violence, poverty and political corruption in South America, thousands of people traveled to the U.S, through Mexico, in search of refuge. This has been called “La Caravana Migrante” (The Migrant Caravan). But in reality, this is an exodus. An exodus of people seeking to survive.
I had the opportunity to travel with the Matthew 25 movement (Matthew25socal.org) to visit the DoC Church in Tijuana, Mexico who is serving this large refugee population. There, I witnessed the moving hands and feet of Jesus. Iglesia a Todas las Naciones, led by Pastora Lupita Castillo, has been a lighthouse for refugees who left everything behind. The church cooks meals, gives clothes, hygiene supplies and provides psychological and medical attention to refugees from the caravan.
We visited refugees who stayed at the first large shelter location. City officials wanted all refugees to move to a new location, so they took away all the portable restrooms and did not allow any food or drink to be distributed. Since we couldn’t supply this group of about 300 people food or drink, we asked if we could go in to talk and pray with them. They allowed us to go in and my heart broke in a way that is so hard for me to put into words. Children were playing and sleeping on the street. Mothers with babies in their arms were looking for food and a tent to sleep in. Men were preparing for rain that would flood the streets. I was able to speak to young men from Honduras who are escaping gang violence and violent consequences if they do not join. I met a mother who traveled with her 3-year-old girl because her husband was killed, and she didn’t feel safe. Families that lived in fear for their children’s lives. Story after story was filled with pain and fear. But at the end of each story, there was hope and faith. They all believed that things would get better. That God had not left them. They would see hope in those who saw them as human and not just a faceless number. They decided to believe that they would be accepted somewhere to create a new home.
Some of those I spoke with are in the U.S now waiting for their asylum case to begin. Some got their asylum request rejected and went back home. Some decided to stay in Mexico and begin a new life. Many more are still waiting to find out their fate. We will continue to walk with them.
There is so much work to be done here and in other places. I trust that we will all feel the call to remember our own Egypt journey and engage in the work that each feels called to do.