In February of 1999, I met two boys — one 4 ½ and the other 20 months old, two little angels with smiles that would melt your heart and an openness to love with all that their hearts had to give. They had been born in a place of violence, abuse, neglect, chronic drug use, and a cycle of poverty and hopelessness that was likely to repeat itself for generations to come. These were children born on the margins, refugees from a life that promised nothing but hardship and despair, in a place light years from my own reality, across a border, in regions I could not fathom — yet they were living in the same country and state as me, only 60 miles from where I lived with my wife and son. Born addicted to crack and amphetamines, to parents without jobs and no direction in life but where their next score would come from, these two wonderful boys had crossed the border of race, color, addiction, poverty and despair into the land of foster care and ultimately into the warm embrace of their forever family. Fifteen years later, I’m proud to say that these two African-American young men are are my sons.
My wife, Ann, and I, along with our 6 yr-old birth son, Ian, began a journey fifteen years ago into an unknown future with two refugees from a neglected part of our society that most folks don’t like to think about — a place with circumstances that we truly can’t even begin to imagine — across borders we’d like to pretend don’t exist. We were frightened, unsure of ourselves, concerned about welcoming strangers into our home, unsettling our comfortable life and predictable patterns. We didn’t know if we would have enough time, enough money, enough square footage, enough love. But we welcomed the strangers anyway. And the strangers became friends. Friends became beloved. The beloved became part of us, became our sons.
More than 57,000 children, teens and adults from Central America have entered the U.S. since October 2013, many fleeing gang violence and drug wars. Most are seeking a better life filled with hope and possibility. Many have been sent across by their parents — children striking out alone in pursuit of a better future. The response from citizens and governments along the border as well as communities in mid-Michigan, like Vassar, have been mixed. They have been welcomed and reviled, embraced and rejected, invited in and sent away. As a society, we are being asked, in the words of the biblical author of the Letter to the Hebrews, “ . . . [to] not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Our faith guides us to actions of welcome and hospitality, showing the love of Christ by so doing. Temporary housing of 60 teen boys from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras is the very least we can do; extending our love and our gracious hospitality is our sacred call.
Let us encourage our national leadership to no longer delay vigorous debate and action on immigration reform and to refrain from politicizing the very real human plight of these refugee children and teens. As local and regional leaders and citizens, let us open our arms in a loving embrace to all who seek a better life. As Christians, let us not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so we may very well find angels in our midst, the very messengers of God.
Shortly after Christmas each year, Christians commemorate the loss of children, of the holy innocents of Bethlehem, in the fear-based tyranny of King Herod. I pray a portion of that prayer tonight.
Oremos. Let us pray.
Oh Dios, recibe, te suplicamos, en tus brazos de misericordia, a todas a las victimas inocentes; y por tu gran poder frustra los designios de tiranos sanguinarios, y establece tu dominio de justicia, amor y paz; por Jesucristo nuestro Senor, que vive y reina contigo, en la unidad del Espiritu Santo, un solo Dios, por los siglos de los siglos. Amen.
O God, receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. La bendicion de Dios omnipotente, el Padre, el Hijo y el Espirutu Santo, descienda sobre ustedes permanezca con ustedes para siempre. Amen.
The blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be upon you and remain with you always. Amen.