i got to know naomi* and her sister, mary*, since they came to our youth group years ago as middle schoolers. naomi had a feistiness that covered up her deep insecurities. mary was soft-spoken and terribly shy. over the years of youth group meetings, retreats, outings, supporting their dance performances, car conversations driving to youth meetings and back home, they made their way into my heart and the hearts of all the youth leaders. the faithfulness and courage that they’ve shown, each in their unique ways, have been such bright spots for us. it has been a privilege to witness the deep love that Jesus has for them. it has been amazing to see them come out of their shells to embrace Jesus and courageously shine His light to their friends. because of them, our church youth group has more than doubled in size from when they first started coming to our church.
they are now in their senior year of high school. naomi is class president at her school and mary is one of the few teens my wife and I trust to be alone with our children. needless to say I am so proud of them.
they have become like daughters to me.
they are undocumented immigrants.
naomi and mary were born in juarez, mexico, a place notorious for the disappearance and murder of women. their father left them at a young age, other tragedies befell their siblings, and their mother sought work and a better life in the u.s. bringing them over with her. but life in america was not easy. naomi recounts
“I would watch my mom struggle and get angry. In her moods she would say ‘Estudia para no ser como yo.’ Which translates into ‘Study, so you won’t end up like me.’ That’s when I decided that her work would not be in vain, I would not embarrass her nor diminish her efforts.”
both naomi and mary have worked hard in school and have applied (and been accepted) to universities. It breaks my heart to see the heightened fear they must now live in with the news of recent policies and practices of the immigration and customs enforcement, intensified under the current administration. i can’t imagine how their mother is feeling right now.
nevertheless, i know that, in Jesus, fear is not the end of the story.
Jesus’ love drives out fear. yes, we should do our part to educate ourselves and others on the issues. yes, we should equip ourselves and our undocumented immigrant neighbors with resources to protect them. but if i am to love them as my neighbors, as my daughters, as myself…it also means that i must walk with them in the love of Jesus, even if the path is now longer and scarier then we would prefer. we do not fear for He is with us.
*names have been changed to protect identities