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Bishop Escobedo-Frank’s Response on the Border: Would You Harbor Me?

An old gospel song, sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock, echoes through my brain, my body, and tonight, through my soul. The haunting lyrical sound moans:

Would you harbor a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew?
A heretic, convict, or spy?
Would you harbor a runaway woman or child?
A poet, a prophet, a king?
Would you harbor an exile or a refugee?
A person living with AIDS?
Would you harbor a Tubman, a Garret, a Truth,
A fugitive or a slave?
Would you harbor a Haitian, Korean, or Czech?
A lesbian or a gay?

After a repeat of the lyric above, the song ends with the reciprocate phrase:

Would you harbor me?
Would I harbor you?
Would you harbor me?
Would I harbor you?

That’s the question that is repeating in my soul tonight as I hear from the people who are on our southern border attempting to help people stay alive and even, hope of all hopes, feel welcomed after their long and dangerous journey.

These who are “boots on the ground,” who live in the areas that are making the news, who see the real events in real time…they are telling me about the desert town called Jacumba Hot Springs, where a growing peaceful crowd is moving between two borders: the wall on the Mexico side and the wall on the US side. There they wait in the hot desert days and cold desert nights, and there they move on to the places where the volunteers are providing food and water. The United Methodists have a church there, Jacumba UMC, near the gas station that has become a staging area for the town. The townspeople are doing their best to help provide food, water, and shelter. There is a quiet, determined move to provide aid for the people who have arrived in their town.

The shelters are not full. The churches in nearby cities are waiting with temporary housing and with food and water. The travelers include children, and babies, and pregnant women, and teens traveling alone. And they, the people who are able to make a difference, are doing what they can to change a little part of the world. They are providing harbor spaces for our traveling friends.

And so, as I go to bed this evening before Mother’s Day, I hear the words rumble in my every cell:

Will you harbor me?
Will I harbor you?
Will you harbor me?
Will I harbor you?

Dear God, as I lay down to rest this night, may You create a miracle of justice, mercy, and shelter. And even more, may You help us to welcome our hurting and tired neighbors. And even more, would You help us create a politic of love and policies of compassion? We are tired, weary, and worn out from the callous and inhumane behaviors of our world. Save us, O Merciful God of Love! Amen and amen and amen.

Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank
California-Pacific Conference
The United Methodist Church

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