The following is from my 9-minute talk at the Q Conference:
There is a daughter I mother
A daughter I love
But she is not mine & I am not hers,
There is a mother she loves
A mother who loves her,
For love is like water.
No human border can keep it out.
Yes, love is like water
It moves above in clouds, & below in soil
Yes, love is water.
In February 2018, I became a foster mom to a 5-year-old Honduran girl, Julia, who had been labeled an unaccompanied minor when she crossed into the U.S. But she wasn’t unaccompanied.
In October 2017, she along with her mother, Lupe, and stepdad, Carlos, were at the mercy of the smugglers they paid $7,500 to as they journeyed from Honduras through Guatemala and up through Mexico to arrive at the US.
But at the last stop in northern Mexico, the smugglers took Lupe, the mother, as a hostage. Julia and Carlos crossed the Rio Bravo, but Lupe stayed behind, and was exploited sexually.
It’s unclear why Customs & Border Protection separated Julia from her stepdad after processing them. Carlos was deported, and Julia was placed into a sponsorship family.
A few months later, Lupe, the mother escaped the smugglers and returned to her home in Honduras about the same time that little Julia entered foster care due to neglect from her sponsorship family.
Over a period of four months, with the creative and determined help of local social workers, the Honduran Consulate, and my family… in July of 2018, my husband Andrew and I traveled with Julia back to Honduras.
At the airport, when Julia saw her mother, she gleefully ran through the automatic doors. Lupe scooped her up and Julia laid her head on her mother’s shoulder, letting tears fall as her mother’s arms enveloped her. Wordless groans and squeezes communicated a love—a longing—a thirst—too deep for words. Eight months apart was eight months too long.
It was an incredibly beautiful and heartening reunification, complete with an Elsa-themed welcome-home party. If you don’t know who Elsa is, ask any 5-year-old girl. But be careful, you may get an unwanted song stuck in your head.
Love is like water after a long, hard battle with red tape working to undo what our government is responsible for. 2,737 children were forcibly separated from their parents when they crossed into the U.S. under the zero-tolerance policy between April and June of 2018. Reports are now showing thousands more had been separated prior to April, and more had been separated after June.
Love is like water no human border can keep it out. But,
Are just some of the ways love has been contaminated by a source that SHOULD NOT have access to it.
Forced separation causes lifelong trauma for both children and parents. We don’t want to admit how familiar all of this is in America. African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Latino Americans have all suffered forced family separations at the hands of OUR government.
Beyond the zero-tolerance policy, families are separated every time ICE deports a parent, leaving behind children. I had an opportunity to visit an immigration detention facility in the fall of last year. There, I met another immigrant mother, Jovita. In front of her 6 and 8-year-old American daughters, Jovita was handcuffed by ICE and taken away from her decade-long home in Alabama. Her 8-year-old has since tried to commit suicide, in constant fear that ICE will come for her father just as they came for her mother.
In response to family separations my friend and poet Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros wrote a poem called Blessed Be the Mother. This is a small portion of her words:
On holy land, between a mesquite shrub
And a Mexican willow whose purple buds bow
In adoration, a mother sets out on a pilgrimage…
On holy land, between a tent city in Tornillo
And the lurking eyes of government institutions,
She prays her rosary, beads she must recall by faith
Since their confiscation at port of entry…
Blessed be the mother who spreads her wings in resistance.
Blessed be the mother who reclaims her land.
Blessed be the mother who meets the devil nose to nose
until her hijitas and hijitos are returned to her.
Bendita sea la madre.
These pilgrimages don’t always end in reunification. Bodies are beaten and broken when mothers try and try to cross a border fighting to bring life to the lives they brought into this world.
As Christians in the United States, we must look at the holy ground of our southern border. We must look and lament. [pause]
At my work, we talk a lot about the UNCONSCIOUS stories that guide our behavior. The question is, deep in our core, what do we believe a human being is?
If human beings are only their souls, then we can justify ANYTHING done to the bodies of our neighbors. Concerning ourselves only with eternal salvation, we become complicit in state- and church-sanctioned acts of dehumanization.
If human beings are only their economic worth, we then dehumanize our neighbors and ourselves as we filter the world through a scarcity mentality. WE, the followers of the God of communal abundance —the God of Jubilee— FEARFULLY decide there’s not enough to go around.
The Good News, the whole gospel of the kingdom of God, is that Jesus is making
all things new. Christ — being fully God and fully man — breathes abundant life into our humanity. He is the Good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, freedom to the oppressed.
We must not forget that the body of Christ our King was beaten and bruised and broken as he fought to bring abundant life and light into this world. King Jesus is The King of the Broken.
We are ALL broken,
All seeking to flourish
All desperate for neighbors who seek our flourishing
All called to be neighbors who seek the flourishing of others.
Yes, love is water
Love is Living Water
And we are all thirsty.