We’re noticing a lot more Central Americans roaming our streets panhandling and riding the trains north. In fact, in our 8 years of living here in San Juan, I’ve not seen as many of these travelers as we’ve been seeing in the past week or two.
Most of the recent wave of migrants have been black. I spoke with one yesterday at a red light while handing him a bottle of Member’s Mark water. He’s Honduran. I figured he probably was. The Honduran Caribbean coast is lined with villages of Garifuna people. He spoke pretty good English. He probably has had a lot of contact with American tourists.
On Friday, my co-worker Brock and I were driving across town and came across a Garifuna family. The dad was panhandling in the middle of the street straddling a speed bump. His woman was off to the side of the road with 2 or 3 little ones, including a baby.
Breaks our hearts to see this. We’ve talked to a lot of Mexicans over the years who’ve journeyed to the USA on foot. It’s one of the most dangerous things a person could do.
Brock was telling me of a man he knows who was with a group of about 300 men, women, and children who crossed the border some years ago. That group ended up having a mortality rate of well over 50%. Most died from the heat and dehydration in the desert of southern Texas.
That sounds like the norm for most groups of migrants. Women and children typically don’t survive the combination of extreme heat, dehydration, the river crossing (which is surprisingly dangerous despite the tranquil appearance of the Rio Grande River, many are pulled under by tricky currents and their bodies are often never found, some of these bodies even reach the Gulf of Mexico), falling off or being pushed off a train, vehicle accidents involving grossly overloaded trucks and cars, and dangers from all sorts of armed government forces, drug cartel members, gangs, wild animals, etc.
Every time I see a family panhandling on their way north, I’m always struck by the morbid thought that they’ll probably be dead within a week or two.
I never give them money which they’ll need to finish their journey. I hope to slow down their trek toward potential death. I usually give them a bottle of water (I buy a flat of 24 bottles at Sam’s Club and keep it within reach in the van), and sometimes some food, and sometimes a tract too. It’s usually a transaction that takes place within just a few seconds, so I have to be quick to grab whatever is handy if I’m going to give them anything at all.
Yes, they’re traveling illegally, but ultimately they’re traveling through God’s world in whose image they’ve been created. They have a Savior of infinite worth who died with them in mind. He didn’t check their passports before submitting to thorns and nails.
While some might say we should shun them, I am ever mindful that I am no less an alien and a stranger in this world, and I have a Savior who did not shun me. So who am I to shun another poor soul who might be looking for safety or shelter or food or money but who has an even greater need for a Savior? A Savior who graciously knows me, and I know Him. I must not withhold my hands and feet and mouth in sharing Him with those who are likewise traveling through. For I am but a spiritual migrant in a world of sorrows and needs and also a world of fellow travelers, who like a vapor, are here today and will be gone tomorrow.