By Pilar Castrillo
Migration as a situation that affects those who migrate, but also where they migrate has become a challenge for communities of faith. How to reconcile the biblical mandate to help others, and especially others who come to live in your community and whose language is unknown.
Communities of faith, society in general, face a dual challenge. The first is to help and support those who, like the neighbor in Jesus’ parable, need help. And also the challenge of preaching the gospel to them and fulfilling the great commission in each city where there are migrants that is transformed into a local Jerusalem.
Both have meeting points of mercy and reconciliation.
We both receive them by grace and as Jesus said in his teaching words, you will love your neighbor, while the prophet Micah tells us that we already know what the Lord demands of us.
Let’s look at the second challenge first. Jesus in the great commission sent us to preach the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Well, if the migrants arrive in our cities and communities of faith then they are in Jerusalem and in the practice of God’s justice and mercy he has placed before us the opportunity to preach them, show them the living gospel that is beyond “God loves you,” and take action demonstrating God’s love through each one.
As for helping them, there is an old saying that says not to give the fish to the people, that we teach them to fish. And that’s fine, but let’s walk the extra mile and show you the lake to fish in. That is, let’s help them find work, integrate into society with rights and duties, and break the language barrier that presupposes the lack of communication that is the mother of much confusion.
In my experience as a migrant who came to the United States almost seven years ago with a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine and without speaking English, the invisible barriers were tangible, it seems a contradiction but it is not. When you migrate you face the unknown. The main reasons for migration are fear of dying, fear of being killed and not being able to protect your family in that situation. And that’s my story too.
God has allowed me to have life experiences that can allow me to feel the way they feel and live the way they live. To be genuine in relationships with others, let us remember that the gospel is relational, it demands that we be willing to show the wounds along with the triumphs, the fears along with the mistakes. It is the way to build community, that community that is the training to get to be in the presence of God, because we already know how to be together without judging, questioning and condemning. On the contrary, we are being of support to others and of support to many.
That is what the gospel is about—dying to our desires and giving control to the Holy Spirit so that the character of Jesus is manifested and the parent is glorified.
How to make it real and alive depends on you and me, on us with the community of faith, church and congregation where you are, but it definitely has to start with you, otherwise it would only be obedience, and this is different from being subjected to the God’s will and his teaching. This teaching that leads us to evaluate ourselves and that the grace of God shows what must be changed, to continue in the good fight of faith and achieve the reward for those who finish the race, which Jesus is helping to win as we assume each one the inherent responsibility of being sons and daughters of God.
Pilar Castrillo is a CBF Leadership Scholar and serves the Latino immigrant community in Central Florida through the nonprofit Migrant Journey. She is studying for an MA in Latino Ministries at Eastern University (Palmer Seminary) in Philadelphia, Penn.