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Dismay and Hope

A Letter from Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar, serving at the Mexican border

August 2018

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Write to Miriam Maldonado Escobar
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I am dismayed and I am hope-filled, I am angry and I am determined.

In June at the Evo DeConcini Federal Courthouse in Tucson, Miriam became a US citizen together with 44 other persons. It was a beautiful ceremony — persons from different backgrounds, young and old from 13 different countries throughout the world becoming part of the fabric of this country. Judge Raner Collins reminded them in the ceremony that they are a renewing force in our nation. He reminded them that we are a nation of immigrants who have the Statue of Liberty as a symbol to the world that we welcome “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Tears came not only to my eyes but to many people’s eyes.

Judge Collins encouraged people to share their thoughts — he said that this is the only good thing that happens in this courtroom, and he wanted to hear people’s hearts. Immigrants are a strength of the nation and yet are so often demonized.

The same courtroom where Miriam and her fellow new citizens took the oath has been the scene of Operation Streamline five days a week since 2006, where 70 of the tired, the poor, and the huddled masses are criminalized each day. Streamline was a dramatic change in policy that began prosecuting people who were migrating to the US without documentation. The policy that was begun in the Bush Administration continued in the Obama Administration and continues in the Trump Administration.

And then, the Trump Administration, on our behalf, instituted a policy to separate children from their parents, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions actually used the Bible as a justification. Can you imagine Jesus, the one who had to flee Herod’s deportation force with his family, taking a child away from their parent? Can you imagine Jesus, the one who said, “let the children come to me,” traumatizing a child in such a way?

Just last month, as we were grieving the sad reality of families being separated at the border, we received good news from Café Justo. Madelin Ballinas graduated from nursing school. She is the granddaughter of Doña Soraida, a founding member of Cafe Justo and daughter of Mundo, a member of Cafe Justo.

We are grateful for the witness of Café Justo, a coffee farming cooperative who brings people together over a delicious cup of coffee. Café Justo makes it possible for families to be reunited, to be together, to stay together, to celebrate together and to grieve together.

Soraida helped form Café Justo when she was past US retirement age because she wanted to create an economically viable alternative to migration so her son would be able to return to Mexico from Atlanta, GA, to live with his family. Soraida’s granddaughters, Madelin and Nilda, were young children when their family was separated because of economic necessity. In a recent visit, Madelin shared how difficult it was as a young girl to know that she had a father who provided economically for them, but not to know him, not to have him at home.

When Ydelda, Madelin’s mother, was asked what Café Justo meant to her, she responded without hesitation: “It means my daughters can have their father by their side. Our family can be together.” And so it was that Madelin, Nilda, Ydelda, Soraida and Mundo celebrated a milestone in their family together, a milestone that Café Justo helped make possible.

Each Tuesday at the Healing Our Borders Prayer Vigil, we pray for the families whose loved ones have died crossing the border. Because of economic and social conditions beyond their control and because of our choice to use deserts and mountains as lethal deterrents to those following the torch of Lady Liberty, thousands of children and parents have permanently been separated from one another in this lifetime — they have died alone far from their loved ones in the beautiful yet harsh mountains and deserts along the border.

Café Justo has instituted a new benefit for their members. The cooperative will provide the casket for each member who dies. Don Bibiano Galvez’s family was the first of the members to receive this support from the cooperative. But even more important than the casket, Don Bibiano’s son Jose, who returned to the community to farm alongside his father because of the opportunities provided by Café Justo, was able to be by his father throughout his last days, to help lay his father in his coffin, and to grieve with his family.

Eighteen years ago, my colleague Chuy and I were sharing some of the bad news that we were experiencing on the US/Mexico border, specifically the story of a coffee farmer who had to leave his land because of the drop in coffee prices and had faced tremendous hardship. One of the members of the church challenged us: “It’s easy to talk about how bad things are … you need to do something about it.”

Yes, in the face of bad news, God calls us not only to lament but also to live out good news. We are grateful for the vision and perseverance of men and women like Soraida who put flesh on the good news of God by bringing together families, individuals, communities, and organizations to create new opportunities for families to thrive together. For those of you who choose to live out good news through the simple act of drinking delicious organic coffee provided by the Café Justo Cooperative — thank you for helping farming families celebrate and grieve together. For those of you who have yet to partner with these farmers, we encourage you to prayerfully consider brewing justice in your homes, offices and churches.

Today, I am proud to be a US citizen, and I am ashamed to be a US citizen. But even more important, I am committed to following the way of Jesus. I am committed to repenting of ways in which I participate in systems that lead families to be separated from one another. I am committed to working for a world in which families can live together in peace.

I am grateful to be a part of a ministry that not only helps me to do this, but also helps individuals and churches on both sides of the border live into the reality of the kin-dom of God. I am grateful for the financial support that you provide to help make possible our participation in this incredible ministry that faces the dismay that we encounter in the world with the hope of Jesus Christ!

May God give us wisdom and courage to be a force for keeping families together!

Mark and Miriam

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