By Rubén Ortiz
Our eyes and ears never get a break. Continual sight and sound revolve around the border crisis. Headlines follow one another; news flashes and press conferences interrupt our daily lives. Expert opinions multiply, while solutions diminish. Politicians, logisticians, religious leaders and activists visit the Southern border. They all clamor to be correct about walls, gates, tents, unaccompanied children, overcrowded shelters, nursing homes, failed policies and temporary solutions.
What is behind migration to our Southern border? Above all, human drama. Stories—thousands of stories—of ordinary people who seek to survive, sustain themselves, achieve goals and live. Consider, for example, the story of Enrique Catana, worship leader of Iglesia Sin Fronteras (Christian Church Without Borders) in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Catana identifies with the border drama. He, too, journeyed through the desert as a minor before he finally was reunited with his brothers in the United States. As his story reveals, it’s not easy to choose between desert danger and family love.
“A thousand things could have gone wrong,” Catana said, recalling his trip north. “But the God that my mother used to talk about revealed himself during the entire journey by taking care of me ….”
Trinidad Ramiro, Catana’s mother, had to fend for herself, build a home, put food on the table and educate her children. But her vision for her sons extended beyond their bleak horizon. “She instilled in us Christian and moral values, service and love of neighbor,” he stressed.
Longing for a father, he took refuge in his faith, Catana said. From a tender age, he participated in every event at Iglesia Príncipe de Paz (Church Prince of Peace) in San Rafael, Veracruz, México. The congregation shaped the rhythm of his life, and his relationship with Jesus grew and evolved.
Those years attending Príncipe de Paz prepared him to live in the United States, Catana said. They also instilled in him a passion for service, an attachment to his traditions and a desire to serve his community. He exercised his talent for music and served his faith community in Mexico during Sunday worship. Now, he assists his pastor, Daniel Sostaita, and leads worship at Iglesia Sin Fronteras.
“I quickly identified with the values, vision and mission of Sin Fronteras and… with the great personality, sweetness and simplicity of Pastor Daniel,” he said. “My experience in this congregation has been one of growth because my heart has always been invested in serving the communities.”
Catana is also a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the U.S. government program.
“When the (approval) letters arrived that I had been accepted, I fell to my knees, thanking God,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I quickly called my mother and shared my great joy with her and my family.”
That’s why Catana believes Christians must “continue to advocate for and defend the rights of the immigrant community in this country and continually seek to establish fair and generous laws and policies for all immigrants.” Steps must be taken to eliminate the uncertainty, emotional suffering and instability of those who do not have a legal residency status, he added.
Catana, who works at a major hospital, daily helps families understand the health system. He also helps them overcome the barrier of speaking English, negotiate healthcare without the benefit of medical insurance, and conquer their fear of be discriminated against because they are immigrants.
“I feel blessed and useful that I have been able to prepare myself to take advantage of every opportunity,” Catana said. “From my role, I can be that bridge, that voice, that bilingual resource to provide resources in physical, spiritual, emotional and relational health to people.”
The challenges and opportunities of immigration extend beyond politics, Catana said. Almost every day, he talks to hurting people about faith, relationship with God, and their search for and dialogue with the divine.
He points them to healing stories about God’s love for immigrants. “It is in the Bible, in the stories of Abraham, Joseph and Moses,” he stressed. “It is also pervasive in the New Testament in a Jesus who takes refuge with his parents. Therefore, to speak of migration is to speak of the Bible itself.”
That is why drama on the border is a human story that engages divine truths—an epic saga of how God transforms and shapes the character of his people to resemble him more. “That is why we pray and act to create a more just society,” Catana said. It is a society “with better opportunities to welcome foreigners … and create an environment where, moved by the grace of God, laws are promulgated that improve the lives of the immigrants and their families.”
We cannot understand the story of immigration if we only watch the news, with its trends and calculations, its numbers and the opportunistic reactions of politicians. Behind migration, there are people like you and me. People like Enrique Catana. People who demonstrate the relentless pursuit of happiness is not exclusive to one flag or to one race. People who acknowledge having met God in their own Way of the Cross and found God’s community along the way. People in churches that are no respecter of persons, that are without borders
Catana’s life demonstrates a profound truth: Doing the right thing should be typical of human beings who are created in the image and likeness of God, and seeking to live in love and freedom should be our standard when caring for the most vulnerable.
That is being a Christian here and now.