[DISCLAIMER: These blog posts do not necessarily reflect The Salvation Army. Opinions and thoughts do not reflect all Salvationists.]
This morning at 8:05 am, I dropped my son Daniel off for his first day of YMCA Day Camp. I’ve spent the past week prepping him for this day: signing forms, explaining the schedule to him, packing an earthquake kit into a gallon sized ziplock bag. Over the last 24 hours, I explained to him three times that his snack was in the baggie, and his lunch was in the lunchbox. Even so, as I dropped him off this morning in this new place with virtual strangers, my heart wasn’t quite at ease.
This is a reality of parenting for me: having three kids, with three different personalities, in three separate schools, means my heart is never quite settled. There is always something: a class someone is struggling to pass, social drama between preteens, a forgotten “share” for show and tell. I’m fortunate, in that my mom worries are relatively minor. I know, at the end of the day, that my kids are well loved and lack for little.
That glaring privilege has been on full display over the past few weeks, as my newsfeed has been consumed by news from the US Mexico border. News stories of parents attempting to seek asylum and cross into US soil, separated from their children. Queue the debates: Outcry and denial, blaming and labeling, marches, petitions, and executive orders.
As a mother, this crisis resonates with me. After listening to the audio recorded in one of the child only detention centers, I had trouble sleeping for several nights.
When my kids are away at summer camp, I send too many camper emails checking in on them. Should they spend time with other family, or at a friend’s, I have to restrain myself from checking in via text over and over again. As much as I love to sleep alone, to spread out on my king size mattress, a part of me relishes my five year old’s middle of the night visits. When he wakes up, and mumbles “Mommy snuggles,” before burrowing under my arm, I smile to myself and whisper a prayer of thanks.
I simply cannot imagine the helplessness and misery that would accompany a forceful separation from my children.
Many of these parents have left everything they’ve known, traveled hundreds of miles (often on foot), and carry only the clothes on their backs, in a last ditch effort to give their children a better life here in the ‘Promised Land.’
Politics aside, my humanity and my mother’s heart demands that I speak. My words are not eloquent. But here – here – my silence here would be complicity.
In dismay, I’ve seen people I love and respect use stereotypes and overgeneralizations as they parade the party line.
I don’t have a talking point to share, and I won’t argue policy.
BUT, as a mother, a Jesus follower and a Salvationist, I will not be silent.
When I need a face to face with Jesus, and dive into the Gospels, I see a man wildly concerned with the dignity of the people he came into contact with. He consistently broke through social and religious barriers in order to restore, redeem, and rebuild. Whether it be the “woman with the issue of blood” (Luke 8:43-48), Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the widow’s offering (Luke 21), or the samaritan woman at the well (John 4), I see a God willing to forgo the approval of the rule makers in order to love, heal, see, and sit with the last.
After living 12 years ceremonially unclean and ostracized (people wouldn’t sit on the same chair she had sat on! Source) from her surroundings, the “woman with the issue of blood,” as she’s known, grasped Jesus’ hem. And He, in the middle of a crowded street, accompanied by His disciples and the local synagogue (religious and community) leader, Jairus, when the edge of his cloak was touched, Jesus publicly declared her healed and with those words enabled restoration to her community.
This same Jesus, over and over again, leaves the mob for the missing. Seeks the servants rather than the saints. This God-man who came from nothing, lived the life of a laborer, and was Himself a refugee. How would He react to what’s happening now on the border? Somehow, I doubt He’s concerned with which party/or president/or court enacted the legislation or legal precedent that legalizes children and parents taken away from each other for indeterminate amounts of time.
So much of the time, when I’m not sure where I stand, it really does come down to an overused slogan: What would Jesus do? How would my wild, bold, loving Jesus respond to this?
I believe He’s standing outside of the political dogma alongside the thousands of human heads and hearts desperate to be reunited with their heart’s home.
As a uniform wearing, active duty Soldier in The Salvation Army, my duty is clear. The mythological William and Catherine I idolized and obsessed over as a young adult would not be standing by today. Their innovation outpaced their institutions over and over again in the early days. Our historical bragging rights on issues like women’s equality and egalitarianism, sex trafficking, child labor, and restorative justice are useless when displayed in textbooks and museums. I fear in many places our heritage has become our history.
Yesterday’s Salvationists would have been active in today’s refugee and detention camps, actively gathering supplies for children and parents soon to be sent back to their countries of origin, advocating for legal aid and resources for those seeking asylum, dare I say leaving water and food in the desert for the lonely walkers. The founder himself said it best: “We must wake ourselves up! Or somebody else will take our place, and bear our cross, and thereby rob us of our crown.”
I’m proud of the International Position Statement on Refugees and Asylum Seekers and of the recent statement issued by USA National Headquarters. I believe more is required of me. The Practical Responses segment of the position statement is a good start. Supporting the work of Salvation Army units on the border in Tijuana, California, Texas, and Arizona is another. There’s a myriad of ways we can rise up as Salvation soldiers and make a difference. If you’re reading this from nearly anywhere in California, there’s a good chance there are immigration aid and support groups you can partner with.
I’m not a writer. I don’t have a neat conclusion which will rephrase my arguments, include an inspiring quote, and leave the reader with a call to action. I’m a Salvation Army officer and soldier, still in uniform after a 10 hour day: passionate about justice, teen discipleship, and pants for women. I’m a mom, and (real talk) both my boys are occupied on different forms of electronic media while I finish up this piece. Most of all, I’m a Jesus follower: still in need of Him morning by coffee fueled morning, learning surrender anew each day, desiring above all else to reflect a bit of Him to those around me.
This issue, these children, these parents, these people: I know where I stand, and it stems from who I am. Who are you? Who does Jesus say you are?
Where will you stand?
Lt. Jessica Sneed
Jess is a book hoarder and coffee absorber. She hunts regularly for antique copies of her favorite books and believes espresso is appropriate for any occasion. Loudly introverted, she’ll be found leaving early for any social gatherings with more than ten people in attendance.