A letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar in Mexico
A Dwelling For God—Part 1
“And Maria gave birth to her firstborn and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn”—Luke 2:7.
Maria de Jesus Candelario Rodriguez—Presente!
Jose Luis Ibarra Lerma—Presente!
Jesus Eduardo Hurtado Alegria—Presente!
Two weeks ago Mark arrived late at the weekly Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil sponsored by Frontera de Cristo. The Vigil is a time when we gather to remember the persons who died trying to enter the United States without proper papers—close to 6,000 men, women and children in the 14 years that we have lived and served on the border. 6,000 men, women and children for whom family or economic circumstances south of the border pushed them to make the difficult decision to leave home and go north—men like Jose (Joseph), women like Maria (Mary), and children like Jesus for whom the United States has a “No Room in the Inn” sign strung across our increasingly fortified southern border.
As he was walking the five blocks along the vigil route, Mark read the names on each of the 245 crosses (persons who died in Cochise County) and was struck by just how many Josephs, Marys and Jesuses he saw.
Our life and ministry on the border has deepened our understanding of the scandal of Christmas—the reality of Emmanuel God with us—dispelling the notions of the tranquil and bucolic images of “Silent Night, Holy Night.” We often reflect on the craziness of our God who would forgo the luxuries of being born in a palace to be born “in a manger”—what a strange dwelling for God. This reality has opened our eyes to the reality of how God manifests Godself in unlikely places like the CRREDA, a drug rehabilitation center that is one of our partners in Agua Prieta. We have come to expect God to be in the places where we normally would not have expected or wanted to go.
However, during that solemn walk by himself, Mark realized that the first “Holy Family” had been blessed to find shelter in the manger—the first dwelling for Jesus, God in the flesh. None of the Mary, Joseph, or Jesuses whose names are on the Healing Our Borders crosses found even a barn or a shed to shelter them from elements.
As part of the liturgy of the vigil, a cross with “No identificado” or “No identificada” (a man or woman whose body was found but not identified) is held up and everyone responds “Presente!”—calling into presence the memory of the persons whose names are unkown to us but known to God. The same cross is maintained lifted high while the liturgy continues:
“las mujeres” (the women)—“Presente!”
“los hombres” (the men)—“Presente!”
“las muchachas” (the teenage girls)— “Presente!”
“los muchachos” (the teenage guys)—“Presente!”
“las ninas” (the girls)— “Presente!”
“los ninos”(the boys)— “Presente!”
The liturgy then continues with the cross held separately facing the four directions:
What a strange dwelling place for God—with men, women and children, sojourners in this world who are thirsty but not given a cup of water, who are hungry but not given something to eat—strangers, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, who are driven from their countries of origin yet who find the torch of Lady Liberty turned off for them.
The vigil is a place where we remember that the cross is present in the manger, that suffering and redemption are not isolated from one another, that life leads to death that leads to new life in Jesus.
The Migrant Resource Center—a manger on the border?
The Migrant Resource Center (MRC) is a place where we as a binational collaboration of sisters and brothers from different political, economic, cultural, linguistic and ecclesiastical backgrounds seek to provide a safe space for Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and all their sisters and brothers who are returned from the United States into Agua Prieta after unsuccessful attempts to arrive at jobs in the U.S. or to be reunited with family or after having been deported and separated from family following years of living and working in the U.S.
Laura Stump, one of Frontera de Cristo’s binational interns, coordinates the center with Betto Ramos of the Sagrada Family Parrish in Agua Prieta. Recently she and MRC volunteer Christine Garcia welcomed Celia, a woman from Veracruz, into the center. Celia had crossed the border with Ramiro, her husband, but was separated from him while in custody of the U.S. Border Patrol. She was returned into Agua Prieta, a city she did not know, without her husband.
Laura and Christine provided a comforting presence for her as well as taking care of her basic needs: food, water, coffee (Just Coffee of course), and a safe place to be. They contacted the Mexican consulate and sought to locate Ramiro—had he been sent to another border town, had he been arrested? They were unable to find any information for her. They contacted the Women’s Migrant Shelter, and Celia was able to have a safe place to sleep and a warm meal even though she was still concerned about her husband.
The next day Celia returned to the Center, and toward the end of the day Ramiro walked in. Smiles, tears of joy and relief and hugs filled the center as two loved ones had been reunited in a humble “manger” on the border. For the next couple of days Celia and Ramiro returned to the Center to “hang out” with their new family.
The first week of December we will participate in a multi-partisan gathering of business, law enforcement and faith leaders (affectionately known as the three B’s—Badges, Business and Bibles—summit) in Washington, D.C., seeking to build consensus around the possibility of immigration reform and meeting with elected officials, urging them to act to pass positive and humane laws to reform our broken system.
We ask you to continue to pray with us as we wait and work for the day when there is room in the inn for everyone regardless of the side of the border we find ourselves on.
May God give us eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to serve, hearts to trust, and feet to follow Emmanuel this season and each season of our lives.
The Adams Maldonado Family
Miriam, Mark, Cindy, Anna Flor, and Nathan
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 4
The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 15
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So great to read your reflection and to think of you down there in your beautiful home. I would love to see a picture of your family as they must be quite grown up by now. Could you include one in your next newsletter? I was so sorry to miss you when we went to Chiapas but know that you were doing a needed work in the States. My love to all of you. Evelyn
Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad on behalf of Steffin Hill Presbyterian Church. Christmas blessings! Cathy Kerr