Submitted by James Camp, Ph.D., Thomas More University professor of sociology
By God’s grace, this past July (2018) I was called back to serve in response to the crisis of migrant family reunification. In my experience of over ten years of service to the migrant, the ten days of late July were the most emotionally challenging I have known. The call to be a welcoming presence in the face of such suffering, fear, trauma, and uncertainty was both joyful and ominous; joyful in meeting the privilege of the call to serve but ominous as I questioned my ability to live up to the call. The joys of parent and child becoming one again, the joys of hope and freedom lived in communion with anger, fear, and mistrust. The face of the migrant came to me through Maria, a Guatemalan mother who had been separated from her four-year-old son, Franco, for six weeks. I was blessed to be her advocate and by God’s grace their reunification was made possible the day before the end of my service.
Witnessing the journey of the migrant raises many questions. Are we called to become a welcoming presence in the world? What does Christ want for our lives? How are we to be the salt and the light of the world? How do we become . . . can we become the incarnation of the peace, love and justice that flows out of the pages of both Hebrew and Christian scripture? Time and time again Christ calls for an emptying of the secular world and its material baggage liberating us to move toward to true wealth of spiritual communion with God. Does this liberation put us on the migrant path to the Father?
Is spiritual fulfillment found in communion . . . in community? If this is the source of spiritual fulfillment then we must welcome the stranger because without the stranger the completeness of community and communion with God is not possible. In recent months, the parent/child separation of migrant families has called into question the spiritual and moral ground upon which we lay claim. In recent months over two thousand parents were separated from their children and even now hundreds of parents and children are still separated. Can we get closer to God by heeding the call to welcome the stranger? Are persons of faith and conscience challenged to understand and empathize with the causes and struggles of the migrant? I hope so. I pray so.
James Camp is a professor of sociology at Thomas More University, joining the faculty in 1998. Since 2000, he has been educating students in the field setting of El Paso, Texas/Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua as director of the Border Studies Program. Since 2010, Dr. Camp has also taught and served with students in communities in Jamaica through the Jamaica Service Learning Program. He currently serves as the interim chairperson of the Board of Directors at Annunciation House, Inc.
Annunciation House, Inc., recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. During the past 40 years, Annunciation House has provided hospitality for hundreds of thousands of migrants and was one of four agencies that took a leadership role in family reunification in July 2018.