By Rev. Marji Bishir Hill
Every winter, the United Methodist Committee on Relief provides resources to eight churches who are a part of the Methodist Border Ministry Network by sending blankets and health kits. This last December, I was part of a two person team who delivered the health kits to each location.
My husband, Rick Hill, is a subject matter expert who is a consultant for UMCOR. I am on the staff of the North Texas Annual Conference. Our conference has a really great truck that we bought last year, and so we put it to good use on this project.
We started out from Plano, Texas, and we drove for 12 days. In all, we drove 3,899 miles! The best part was getting to stop at all of the eight locations and meeting the wonderful Methodists engaged in ministry in the area. In Texas, we went to McAllen, Eagle Pass, and El Paso. In Arizona, we went to Nogales, Douglas, and Tucson. In California, we went to Calexico and San Diego. We learned so much about the people who cross over the border and what kind of help they need. For example, did you know there is a large number of Romanians who fly into Mexico and cross the border?
Each of the eight ministries is different in some regards because of local resources and geographical location. However, they also have some similarities in their ministry:
- They all network and cooperate with the U.S. Border Patrol
- They all help and advocate for migrants on both sides (U.S. and Mexico) of the border
It was interesting to hear how each location has networked with the Border Patrol to make sure the assistance and services they provide are not criminal in nature. They want to help, but they also want to make sure they are not involved in any illegal support or assistance to the migrants. An example of this would be the water and blankets they provide. In many locations, local farmers and ranchers came to MBMN and others for help. The farmers and ranchers were finding migrants on their property who didn’t survive the border crossing. Many factors caused the deaths of the migrants, such as dehydration, cold, injuries (broken ankles, legs or hips) from jumping or falling off the wall and animal (snakes and bear) attacks.
Some of the most remote border ministries contacted the Border Patrol to see what could be done. In Tucson, Arizona, they were told they cannot provide direct aid (which is defined as personal contact) to the migrants during the time of their crossing, but supplies can be left in strategic locations and hopefully those crossing would find the supplies left behind. Deaths because of the border crossing have been tracked for a few years and statistics show that since supplies have been left in the desert by MBMN and other groups, the death toll has decreased.
After we got back, Rick wrote about our trip. He said “I still think about the migrants who left behind family and homes. They come with nothing but the clothes on they are wearing. No food and no drink. Nevertheless, they come. They come to a land, a place where they hope to have a better life. They are travelers taking a long journey across treacherous land, risking injury, capture, and their lives to seek a new way of life. This makes me think of the verses in Matthew 25: 37-38, 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?” The border ministries we visited do these things for ‘strangers’.”
Here is a recap and/or summary of what we did:
- Delivered various UMCOR kits that the North Texas Annual Conference churches assembled at a warehouse in Kerrville, TX. The warehouse is owned and operated by the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. We needed to empty our truck before supporting MBMN.
- In McAllen Texas, we picked up 12 pallets of UMCOR health kits. This equates to 672 health kits per pallet, or 8,064 health kits in total. To learn more about these and other UMCOR Relief supplies visit www.umcor.org/UMCOR/Relief-Supplies
- We delivered kits to the following locations: Eagle Pass, Texas; El Paso, Texas; Douglas, Ariz.; Nogales, Ariz.; Tucson Ariz.; Calexico, Calif.; and San Diego, Calif.
To learn more about MBMN, visit www.umcmission.org.