Maria wept as she shared the story of Mary and Joseph when they sought a place to stay in the city of Bethlehem. They had found no room at the inn. Maria shared the tradition of Posada in which the parents of Jesus looked for someone who would offer them hospitality and finding no one, they moved on to the next house also finding no welcome. Her voice was raw with emotion as she shared that Jesus–the one who dwelt within real people continued to seek hospitality in a world that offered him no welcome.
I wondered why this story brought up so much emotion in my friend. I didn’t ask, we had a hard time talking with one another due to a language barrier. I spoke little Spanish, and she spoke little English. Nevertheless somehow the Lord knit our hearts together with a deep love. A few years later, there was an ICE raid in our rural town and I was supposed to meet with Maria’s daughter for discipleship. The two girls in the group had frightened looks on their faces as Maria’s daughter explained that her mom was undocumented. We cried together and prayed. I ached inside as I witnessed the trauma experienced by my young friends.
From that moment on, Maria and her family were in my prayers. I often noticed a shadow of shame fall on her face. As Maria gained more English, we began to talk together about her immigration status. Often we gathered to pray together.
In 2016-18 our little church walked with Maria and her family as she applied for her permanent residence visa. Jose had received his visa during the amnesty of 1986 and become a citizen. Their children were each US born citizens who had lived here all of their lives. My friend began the visa process near the end of the Obama administration. The urgency and anxiety had heightened during the campaign and subsequent election of President Trump.
Maria and Jose are hard working, people of deep faith and impeccable character. They attended church regularly, gave of their time and resources and were the first to help others in need of food or hospitality. I cringed and ached when our President called them criminals. How could he say such things?
During critical moments of Maria’s immigration process, we would meet for prayer. The children often shared their fears of losing their mom if she were deported. Maria needed a difficult to obtain hardship wavier and she needed to process her application at the consulate in Mexico. We prayed, and prayed and prayed for that wavier.
One evening during our small group meeting, Maria and I were in the kitchen alone and I asked her how things were going. Tears welled up in her eyes and she shared her fear with me. I said, “when this is over, we’re having a party to celebrate.” As the rest of the members gathered around the table, Maria shared more about her fears. We prayed together and one of our members received a word from the Lord. She said, I don’t understand, I keep getting the word “party”. Maria and I burst out laughing and shared that we had talked about having a party when she had received her visa. The Lord was reassuring Maria that her visa would come and that we would indeed have that party.
We did have a party, Maria did receive her permanent resident visa. It was more like a worship service as we joyfully praised God for his work on our sister’s behalf. We had witnessed a miracle of justice.
The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. Psalm 146:9