By Melody McAllister & Ryan Murphy
In early July, Ryan Murphy (known in his circle as Murphy), husband of Kelly, and father of three, put a Facebook shoutout for anyone who wanted to accompany him to the McAllen border for a missions trip to be of service for the migrants being detained there. All summer long you have probably seen many mission trip photos from countries all over the world, but this mission was different. This one was intended to be in our home country, and as a resident of Texas, practically his backyard. My only claim as Murphy’s friend is pretty loose. We are friends of friends, joined together because we love Jesus more than our politics, and we want to show what it means to live that kind of faith out loud.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
So when Murphy put his call out, it was already on my heart to find a way to truly touch the lives of migrant children and adults at our southern borders. I had been praying for a way to really help another human, more than giving money to immigration lawyers, although giving to RAICES is very helpful. I was hoping it meant I could join his group and travel to McAllen, TX, but that just wasn’t in the cards for me right now. Murphy gave me information about the trip and said he would fill me in on everything and we both hoped this would lead to more trips to the border. He was glad to fill me in on his plans, and I felt compelled within my spirit to give financially, though he did not ask that of me, and I entrusted him to use the funds for however it needed to be used the most. He left July 21st and returned July 25th with two of his friends, Ryan Uran and Vanessa Trevino, both whom are bilingual, which made genuine communication with the people they wanted to serve, possible.
After the trip was over, Murphy called me and filled me in on the entire trip! We talked for almost an hour about how the events they experienced unfolded. There is so much going on at the border, that while I touch on, I would have to study the law intensely before giving an accurate account. But there is one story that we want to share with you: the story of one man,*Pedro, and his daughter *Julia, from Honduras (names have been changed to protect their identities). Anyone could easily discount this duo as lawbreakers, illegals,or aliens, and never give them a second thought. In fact, under our current presidential administration, those entering our borders are being processed as criminals. But after reading the story of their journey to the United States, we are hoping you’ll see dignity, hope, and value in the lives of those sacrificing everything to be here. We hope their story will help to cut through party lines and politics and restore humanity to the thousands of people daily trying to reach our shores. Many loud voices are constantly shouting for us to be afraid of these people, that they are here to steal our jobs and cause terrorism. And while there will always be evil wherever there are people, we believe that most people face the perils of coming here to experience the paradise we know and love as The United States of America.
Murphy and his two friends, Vanessa and Ryan, began their mission at the Catholic Charities of McAllen, a mission helping immigrants after they have been processed by ICE. This mission sits across from the bus stop that will take thousands of people to their sponsors, mostly family members who are here legally. This charity gives each person a set of clothes, food, toiletries, shoes if necessary, and pays for their bus tickets out of McAllen. This is where the trio worked to go through clothing donations the first day. But what they discovered is that they loved being near the children. Children who were sick and exhausted from a long, arduous journey. Children who had not felt like children for weeks…or maybe longer depending on life in their home countries.
One child, Julia, found her way into the affections of Murphy and Vanessa with her shining personality (before the last day, Ryan Uran had to leave). She wanted them to teach her English. She already knew some and decided to practice on them. Murphy and Vanessa spent the last day with Julia and all the other kids, but when it was time for them to leave and return home, Julia didn’t budge. She pleaded with them not to go. Her father, close by, came over to thank Murphy and Vanessa for all the time they poured into his daughter and he explained that they were on their way to Tulsa, OK. Through the interpretation of Vanessa, these Hondurans’ story came to be known to their new American friends.
What came next can only be described as wisdom from the Holy Spirit. For Murphy felt compelled to drive this duo to Oklahoma himself, as it was only a few hours from his own home. Pedro could not believe this invitation but accepted. Murphy went through the proper channels and was granted permission to take them to Pedro’s sister, who would be sponsoring them. This saved the charity two bus tickets for two more people, and it gave Murphy and Vanessa even more time to build human connections with two people many of us would never have given a second thought.
Murphy described that as soon as they left the charity, both new passengers were glued to their windows in disbelief of the beauty of cars passing by, fast food restaurants, houses, and things that are so normal to us, we would never dream to label as beautiful. To them, they saw Heaven. Murphy looked back at a silent Pedro, with tears streaming down his eyes, as he looked upon Julia, who had fallen into a deep sleep next to him. A kind of sleep, he explained, that she had not experienced for four weeks on their journey through Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and finally, here.
They dropped Vanessa off at home and because they had started this long drive in the late afternoon, Murphy asked Pedro if they’d like to spend the night with his family outside of Fort Worth, Texas. At home, Murphy’s wife, Kelly, got their guest room and bed ready for their visitors. When they arrived, their daughter took Julia and played with her, like little girls play, with makeup and hair, and clothes galore. Murphy’s daughter was happy to give Julia some of her clothes. Murphy recalled they all slept in late the next morning, but Julia slept in the latest. One can only imagine the peace she finally felt being loved on, being fed, feeling valued, having a warm shower to herself and feeling clean for the first time in weeks.
Before the kids woke up, Murphy and Pedro had coffee and breakfast together. They spoke mainly about Jesus and the church. You see Pedro is also a Believer in Christ, an Anglican to be exact. He shared his frustrations of the institution of church in Honduras, mirroring much of the wealth driven ministries of our own country. Yet his faith was strong and Jesus was his reason for caring for his family. His faith pushed him to leave the country he loves to this new land that would offer respite, resources, and ultimately safety. They talked about how God loves the immigrant. Pedro asked for Murphy’s Google Translate to say a long sentence, Pedro said, “I have no words to thank you for what you are doing for me and my daughter, but what I do know is that our Father in Heaven has perfect gratitude for you. There is so much Peace in your house, a house that I do not know. Here in this house that I do not know, I feel as If I have been here many times before. The Peace I feel is priceless.”
Later that day, Murphy loaded up his new friends along with two of his children and they took them to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Pedro recalled more of his thoughts to Murphy “When I was on the road to the United States and saw my daughter sleeping on the floor, I asked God for help on my trip into the United States. Yet, I never imagined that God would present Himself in such a direct way through you to help us. At the Center in McAllen I was pleased to meet you, and knew God had introduced us, because I am sure that you are people with God in your hearts.”
The thought of riding the bus to Tulsa, and not knowing English well meant Pedro was afraid he wouldn’t have made it to his sister’s house. Murphy’s invitation to take them to Tulsa was an answer to Pedro’s prayers. It was God showing him that he was valued and loved by His Creator. Pedro felt seen.
When they made it to Pedro’s sister’s house, Pedro’s sister greeted them with weeping and overwhelming joy, saying she was so glad God had brought them home. On the journey home from McAllen, Pedro had shared with Vanessa that Julia had never ridden a bike before because he was never able to afford one. When Julia walked into the house, her aunt surprised her with a brand new bike to celebrate their arrival!
Murphy and his children were invited to eat with them, which Murphy accepted before heading home. But before they left, Murphy gave Pedro a financial blessing, the money I had entrusted to him for whatever purpose he chose along this trip. At first, Pedro would not receive the money, what meant to him was a month’s wages. Murphy showed him messages of our exchanges and Pedro agreed to accept, grateful and with thanksgiving. When Murphy shared this part with me, I wished I had given more. I could not believe that God had literally used our donation to directly help a human being, and it was the answer to my prayers. It was more evidence that our heartfelt prayers were truly from God. The way He aligns our lives together and joins them in such intricate ways is something we could never plan ourselves.
And though I have never met Murphy, Pedro,Vanessa, Ryan or Kelly, we are linked in being obedient to God. As all of us are Followers of Christ, and we know our futures are held in His Hands. We are linked through our brotherhood and sisterhood of our Father who sees us as beautiful and worthy. As a born citizen of this country, I may be recognized by the government of belonging here. But the citizenship of Heaven is open for all of us if we choose. Christ does not discriminate along nationalities, race, gender, or anything else. Murphy, Pedro, Vanessa, Ryan, Kelly, and I see each other as that, accepted as equal in Christ’s love.
You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9
We do not know what will come of Pedro and Julia. Pedro was an electrical engineer in Honduras, but will be sheetrocking with his family to begin making money immediately. He is not here to steal work. He is here to make a better life for his family and he’d like to bring a son over that needs better medical attention. He is a smart man, willing to use whatever means he has been blessed by God to use to make life better for his family. Can’t we all identify with him?
The media and politicians are always trying to make us believe one thing over another. They want us to get caught up in confusion about laws. They want us to be filled with fear. They stir up whatever emotion they can to play us against each other. In our fear and anger we relegate human beings at the border simply as illegals and we go on our way. We may see them as nuisances. Sometimes we see them as humans but we have no idea how to help them. We feel powerless and think our paltry prayers can do nothing.
But fellow Believer in Christ, our prayers are what tie us into our Father and tie us into each other. Never for a minute believe that your prayers are useless. God heard and answered Pedro’s prayers and he heard Murphy’s and mine, too.
If you’d like to be the hands and feet of Christ to migrants at our borders, Murphy’s example has shown us a direct way. We can give directly to the Catholic Charities of McAllen or even plan a visit there to volunteer. After discussing with Ryan, financial donations are best if you want to support this charity. They will use the money to help buy bus tickets for the migrants to their sponsors and for supplies they know they need. Murphy is planning on more trips to our border so stay tuned for this information coming.
But, friend, please notice all the patterns of love shown. The love of Christ in Pedro, the message we all believe, but see how it is lived out by a man who is not like us. The promises Christ made for us, citizens of the US are the same and very real for everyone who believes, no matter where they are born. But also see the love in the trio who sacrificed to make it to McAllen, and in the hundreds of volunteers who help run the charity, daily, so they can be human to many unknown faces. See the love in those who stayed at home, like Murphy’s wife Kelly, to take care of kids and prepare a place of rest for visitors who were accepted as family members. See the love in the children playing, and in the rest and financial offering. See the love in those who are here and sponsoring family members. Where there is Christ, His love abounds.
This story is brought to you to illustrate the humanity people at our borders still need even while others scoff that we should even care about deplorable conditions for those who break the law coming here. This isn’t just an issue of legislation, it is more an issue of our hearts, for those of us who profess to love Christ but fail to take action when it is desperately needed. By sharing this story, we hope more people will see humanity from the perspective of our Father and reach out to be a real light in the darkness.
For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6