The Last, the Least, and the Lost – Part Two

We got back from South America and returned to the Methodist pastoral ministry in 1986. If I ever get around to recounting my days in the pastorate, I’ll tell you about 1986-2008 sometime, but for now I’m sticking to my subject – the last, the least, and the lost.
In 2008, I was appointed to the East Jackson District Hispanic Ministry. I served in that capacity until 2013, when I retired. During those five years, I had many experiences with the very poor among Latinos, almost 100% of whom were illegal aliens. They came mostly from every country in Central America, and a few from as far away as the continent of South America. I love them all very much.
They feared to have checking accounts lest they be required to provide proof of citizenship. So they had no bank accounts and dealt only in cash. They carried big amounts of money on their person, because it would be stolen from their bedrooms. Most of them went in with other undocumented Hispanics and rented all the rooms of a house. Each one would live in one room. They were at the mercy of thugs who would beat them and rob them of their money, because they were afraid to go to the police. And with reason: police in many towns would turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a heartbeat.
The houses they live in are very low rent. This means cockroaches, flies, and no air conditioning. They do the best they can, but are ignorant of how to get rid of cockroaches. I would take them to the drugstore and explain to them how to use boric acid powder.
They couldn’t get married, either. To get married, you have to produce identification. So couples live together and have children together without benefit of marriage. They crowd together and have baby cribs in their one bedroom.
They don’t know basic rules of health. Their children rot their teeth drinking sweet drinks through a straw. I took them to the dentist. They don’t know basic rules of nutrition. If it were not for WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), many Hispanic children would go hungry and be malnourished. Their children are born in the U.S., and right or wrong become U.S. citizens. Because the household income is so low, they qualify for welfare through age 18. The fathers love their children and wives, but even if they have somehow found a way to get married, they must hide it.
They send money home for a reason. Men have wives and children back in their home country who would starve if they didn’t receive money from their men. In our little house church, we were constantly raising money for so-and-so’s grandfather who had two broken legs and no money for the hospital, etc. etc. This is why they are so highly motivated to come work in America. They can make five times as much money per hour here. It is a matter of survival for their mothers, fathers, sisters, wives, and children that they sneak into the U.S.
A high percent of women who cross through the deserts of Mexico are raped. I know one woman in her thirties. At first I thought she was in her 50’s or 60’s, judging by her face. She had been beaten and raped by Mexican men and left naked in the desert to die. Someone on the edge of the desert heard her crying, and brought her a roll of toilet paper which she used to cover herself. She told me it was an angel. She was delirious from heat stroke. She survived all that, got clothes, and made it to Mississippi. She got a room with bare floor and walls, about the size of a prison cell, living on the charity of 14 Hispanic men in a house on the edge of a town. This is where she became due to have the baby. I took her to the hospital. The University of Mississippi took her as a charity case. When the lady doctor, with me interpreting, told her that in America women have their babies while lying on their back, she panicked. She wanted to have it on her hands and knees, which she considered normal. Both she and the doctor would not let me leave the room; both needed me to interpret so they could communicate. I did not have time to be embarrassed, and neither did the woman or the doctor.
The doctor was giving instructions and I was translating as fast as I could. My friend was telling the doctor how unnatural it was to have a baby on her back, she wasn’t going to be able, she would die, etc. This being her third child, the labor didn’t last long. The baby boy was born and was fine. Now covered back up, the mother told me she wanted to name the baby after me! Yikes! I got her to settle on David as a name instead. Later, taking her to the county health clinic for follow-up on her and the baby, I overheard the nurse ask her if she wanted birth control rods inserted in her arm. She said she did. I realized then how she was paying for her place to stay with those 14 men back at her house. As far as I am concerned, she had a harder life than the barefooted Aymara women living in their mud huts on the altiplano of Bolivia, eating chuño, cooking over a wood fire on the ground, and wearing homespun clothes. Chuño, you may recall, consists of small potatoes dry frozen by pounding them with the feet every morning to squeeze out the liquid. Tastes like dirt because the dirt gets pounded in. My Guatemalan friend had all her belongings in a black garbage bag on the floor of her room, plus the few things the hospital gave her for her baby. Other than that, there was a light bulb overhead. No windows.
I have written elsewhere about my political views on undocumented (illegal) aliens. I can’t avoid a little politics here, but I am coming from a Christian point of view. Biblically, I believe the U.S. has a right to protect its borders. We consider people sneaking into America to be merely a misdemeanor, which is very lenient. Further, our paying for a flight home for a trespasser is miles ahead of what they do in other countries with trespassing aliens. In Mexico, for example, a first offense lands you in a Mexican jail for two years; a second offense results in ten years behind bars. Therefore, it is highly hypocritical for Mexicans who cross the border illegally to moan and groan about being mistreated in America! If we treated them as they treat us, imagine how they would howl. That is one reason why Guatemalans and Hondurans don’t stop in Mexico. In actual practice, Central American Indians can expect to face a fair possibility of being shot or beaten unless they bribe their way through Mexico if they are men, or being beaten and raped and even killed if they are women. You really have to be desperately poor and needy to risk death to come to America. That makes a difference in my mind.
Furthermore, I know what God says in the Bible. Leviticus 19:33-34 says, 33When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Numbers 15:14-16 says, 14An alien who lives with you, or who takes up permanent residence among you, and wishes to offer an offering by fire, a pleasing odor to the LORD, shall do as you do. 15As for the assembly, there shall be for both you and the resident alien a single statute, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you and the alien shall be alike before the LORD. 16You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance.” Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you took Me in.” (Matt. 25:35)
George Washington had this to say: “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.” He adds, “[T]he policy or advantage of [immigration] taking place in a body (I mean the settling of them in a body) may be much questioned; for, by so doing, they retain the Language, habits and principles (good or bad) which they bring with them. Whereas by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures and laws: in a word, soon become one people.” (letter to John Adams, 15 November 1794) Reference: The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, Fitzpatrick, Ed., vol. 34 (American Memory Co.)
In 1876, the Statue of Liberty was installed with these words at its base: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” That hits me! Can’t help it.
Thomas Jefferson saw both sides of the problem of too much immigration. He said, “”[Is] rapid population [growth] by as great importations of foreigners as possible… founded in good policy?… They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their number, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass… If they come of themselves, they are entitled to all the rights of citizenship: but I doubt the expediency of inviting them by extraordinary encouragements.” – Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.VIII, 1782. ME 2:118.
On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson saw the value of craftsmen from other countries, provided they integrated into the American culture. He said, “I mean not that these doubts should be extended to the importation of useful artificers. The policy of that measure depends on very different considerations. Spare no expense in obtaining them. They will after a while go to the plough and the hoe; but in the meantime, they will teach us something we do not know.” –Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Virginia Q.VIII, 1782. ME 2:121.
It is ironic but true that Mexico used to own the area north of the present border with the U.S. When English speaking settlers came to what was then Mexico, the Mexican landowners faced a quandary. Should they allow what they saw as an invasion of illegal aliens with their English language and customs, which threatened to overwhelm the Mexican way of life? Or, since the invaders from the United States were such hard workers for lesser pay than Mexicans would work for, should they keep the invaders as beneficial to their economy? Eventually, of course, the gringos took over the areas which are now Arizona, New Mexico, California, and so on. This is why there is such indignation among Mexican immigrants about the United States treating them as aliens in a land which was once part of Mexico. Anyone trying to balance the causes of justice must, like Solomon, have the help of Almighty God to solve it.
I believe America wants to, and must, guard its national borders. Yet here is another factor to consider before we decide: The two groups which produce the most babies in America per capita are Muslims and Hispanics. The Muslims hate Christians, and have had a practice of overwhelming immigration and takeover which we see now in the Islamicization of Europe. On the other hand, the Hispanics are 99% Catholic Christians. If we send twelve million Hispanics packing, some estimate that it will only take 50 years for the Muslims to be the majority of our U.S. population! Do you want to keep the U.S. as a majority Christian nation or not?
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord!” (Ps. 33:12) My prayer is that we might remain one nation under God Almighty alone, and that we remain indivisible – that is, a melting pot in which English is the official language, and in which real Christian culture rules.

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