Sherry and I have been friends for a decade since we met working together at a Christian bookstore. Somehow a couple months ago we got talking about the immigrants trying to get into our country through the southern border. Sherry is Christian and she not only knows her Bible but also walks the walk. She was a missionary for ten years in a Latin American country. I asked her some questions about what was the situation in the countries down there. She answered and our conversation turned to the many unkind things we have heard Christians say about immigrants. You know the "they are drug dealers" and "they want a handout" type of comments. Where is the compassion Christians should be noted for? She shared her journal entries from three years ago with me and I asked her if I could share them on here. She agreed but took out the names to protect people.
Because of our conversation I spent four hours one Sunday trying to educate myself on what was going on. Specifically I was trying to understand as a mother and a Christian how in the world could these parents let their young children and teenagers be separated from them and enter a foreign country without them. You have to be pretty desperate to do that and I wanted to understand the "why" of it.
Here is an article on what the problems are in the region. It gives you an overview, but not the personal stories.
The reasons why parents would be so desperate to send their children across a foreign border unaccompanied are violence and extortion, food insecurity, and poverty. That is a generic answer and I dug a little deeper to try to understand the "why" of it. Just google "personal stories of why immigrants fled Latin America." This particular article pierced my heart. When faced with the same situation, I would do whatever it took to get my children to safety.
Four gang members forced Sofia into a car, drove her to the countryside, beat her and raped her repeatedly. “This is what will happen to your daughter,” they shouted at her over and over again, “if you don’t pay us what your husband owes.”
And now to Sherry's journal from 2018.
My People Are Suffering
By Sherry Vechery
June 19, 2018
A friend contacted me this evening. She shared news from our other country, news in Spanish, both the text, and the audio. The friend who sent it is from that other country and now lives in the States with her husband. Her mom, who was among my closest friends when I lived in the country, still lives in the same place where I lived for a long time. The pink bag in the photo contains the body of a little boy who was murdered by gang members. He lived near my friend in her country, and his body was discovered beside the road this morning because a toe was sticking out of the bag. My friend's young nephew, who lives in the same area, was also threatened by gang members, and they are trying to get him to sell for them. They will kill more people. The police are part of it, or if they try to help, they are killed. There is no help. This is why people leave. Leave or die. What kind of choice is that? If they have money, they flee in ways that are legal, at least for a while. Then visas run out, and they don't go back. Do you know why they don't go back? They don't go back because facing whatever they have to face here is better than having your child's body found on the side of the road with his toe sticking out. Oh, and as for the people who cannot afford a visa and a plane ticket....They get out any way they can. AND I FOR ONE SUPPORT THEM! This is no joke! It is real! It is terrible. People I know have been murdered for not paying for protection. People I know have been kidnapped. People I know have lost parents, cousins, siblings, children. I am in agony. I cannot stop crying. I have been crying for days. Here are my Sunday School notes from 6/17/2018: She said, "Send them back." She said, "They deserve to be separated." She said, "They don't need to come here." She prayed, "Thank you, Jesus, for all the love in this room." I ask, "What love?" The book says, "We're broken, and we need help." The Big Book says, "Be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you." So why do I keep coming here? The Big Book says, "But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed." These people do not even know that they, sitting here, are locked up. They are held in the custody of confusion and ignorance. They are their own jailers, holding their own hearts captive to a lie. I am in agony.
A friend’s father murdered for not paying for protection. She found his blood-soaked body. The grandfather of several of my friends – kidnapped. Missing. Found by a man out with his dog, his body shredded by buzzards. A friend’s husband kidnapped. Missing. Ransom was demanded. He escaped. A friend’s mom, an honest lawyer. Criminals went to jail. She received many death threats, and unsuccessful attempts were made to kill her. They finally did it. There was collateral damage. A friend’s dad worked in drug enforcement. I forget for which government. He had a body guard, and his daughter figured out that his life was in danger. He was a target. Each day when this dad dropped his daughter off for school, they cried together. One day after dropping his daughter at school, he looked at his body guard and said, “Go home. You have family.” He was killed that day. This is only a portion of the suffering. June 23, 2018 It was late when I arrived home last night, nearly 9:00. I didn't see that there was email, and I was struggling with a migraine (as I still am). There was a meeting of a Latino/Hispanic organization that I attended from 6 - 8 p.m. It was excellent. My skin is pale, but my heart is brown. We talked. It was positive and uplifting. When I was a child, we were "the hunkies in the muck land." Hunky is the Hungarian equivalent of the N-word. My Dad taught us to be proud of being hunkies. We were forbidden from using similar words for people from any other country or ethnicity, but we embraced hunky. That's how Dad prevented our souls from being stabbed, and taught us respect for everyone, no matter their background. My Grampa was born on the way from Hungary. There was no birth certificate. He was baptized in a Catholic church in the United States. There is Jewish history in my family, but they hid that from us. And by the time it reached my grandparents, they truly were Catholic. There are unproven rumors that my family originally migrated from Russia to escape pogroms there. (My soul is exhausted.) Here I am, along with my sisters, in spite of it all. They made it work. All of them made it work. I have shared what I wrote on Tuesday with others, but I took out place names to make it slightly less identifiable. And I have been talking with friends in three countries and all over the States. We need each other. We cry together. I also shared what I wrote on Tuesday with my supervisor at work the next day. I'm raw, and I needed her to know that in case I fell apart. I didn't fall apart. Not on the outside, anyway. Internally I am in shreds. My supervisor understands. She has a heart for those of many backgrounds. Her daughter is a Latina. Some of my coworkers are Latinas, and I am an honorary Latina. When I lived in my other country, they gave me a nickname that bestowed honorary inclusion upon me. In many ways I am more comfortable in the Latin cultures (yes, more than one culture) than I am in my own culture. It is embarrassing to be an evangelical. Maybe we all need to lose some sleep. Maybe then we will wake up. I hate politics, but what is being accepted is an atrocity. I still love people, I just can no longer be still. But speaking up won't work. I am so tired. Have I told you about Christian people mocking me because I work with Spanish speaking people? Yes. Too much. In my own church. They don't know that most of the people I work with are believers. I don't ask about legal status. I never will. But I know that those who don't have legal status do not receive all the aid that people claim they do. And I know that it is pointless to try to convince those who believe it that it's not true. Some of my people were born here. They speak better English than those who tell them to go back to where they came from. My family was told to go back to where they came from.
God has set a high standard for how we should treat foreigners.
He tells us, "Love your neighbor as yourself."
If your heart is moved to donate or volunteer to help the situation, here is a local Cabarrus County organization Sherry highly recommended and a local Charlotte ministry that helps a specific community and which I have been involved with in the past. Be a part of helping others.