There is a woman named Ericka who used to live in a village in Honduras and had a small store in her adobe home selling used clothes and household goods. Gangs moved in and demanded she pay rent to them. She could not, and in December 2017, her 22-year-old son was murdered. The gangs continued to demand payment, and when she was unable to meet that demand gang members killed her mother.
She had to abandon everything with her two children and flee to a refuge because the gang members had promised to murder her too. Ericka left the country because there was nowhere else to hide. Women like Ericka and her children will be in the caravan that is making its way to the U.S. from Honduras.
Why Are People Joining the Migrant Caravan From Honduras?
Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world. Between 12 and 20 people are murdered daily. That is more than seven thousand murders a year, and according to the United Nations, only 4-6 percent of criminals are ever charged with their crimes. There is a 70 percent poverty rate, and the minimum income is $358 a month, which few businesses pay. In reality, most people earn $125 a month. Even those supported by government aid programs have payments delayed for months and face hunger and fear while waiting. There are widespread corruption and violence and the country seems unable to fix its own brokenness.
The police are even complicit in the crimes. One ministry was raided by police in the middle of the night without a required warrant. A missionary was thrown to the floor, kicked in the stomach and had a gun put in her face. She filed complaints to the anti-corruption unit and nothing happened—besides two more raids.
Ericka landed on the doorstep of missionary Gracie Travis-Murphree, the president and co-founder of Heart of Christ-Corazon de Cristo Inc., and the Honduras Justice Project in Morazan. Gracie has taught gospel justice models in three countries, is an expert on violence and gangs in Honduras and El Salvador, and testifies in asylum cases for U.S. Immigration courts. For thirteen years, Gracie has had a front-row seat to the horrific never-ending violence that has led the citizens to flee for their lives and truly need asylum.
For Gracie and her husband, who run a refuge for women and children fleeing violence, death is a daily affair. She stopped keeping track of how many friends and colleagues have been assassinated after noting that during a twenty-six-month period more than thirty-two had died. The number is now over one hundred. She herself has survived five assassination attempts.
Gracie will tell you it is God’s grace that makes her who she is, and God’s grace-filled gospel is what speaks hope to those to whom He has called her to minister. Gracie tells her story on ministering to the victims of violence in Honduras in her book, Journey to Justice: Finding God and Destiny in Darkness (Equip Press) scheduled for release February 2019.
Do We Have Reason to Fear the Caravan?
Gracie sees the caravan of Honduran refugees headed to the United States and believes they are being manipulated by polarizing politics—both in the U.S. and Honduras. “Both sides are using suffering people as pawns”, she says, “I see so many families suffering for lack of jobs, corruption and gang violence. If things could be fixed here, then they would not go to the U.S.A. But there are some who are really fleeing for their lives in the caravan and truly need asylum, like Ericka.”
Gracie hears God’s command clearly calling all Christians to act in justice. The Spanish version of Isaiah 59:14-16 particularly resonates with her because it says God sees there is no justice anywhere and is “disgusted to see that there is no one to intervene”.
“Everyone told Ericka that she needed to get to the US, and ask for asylum,” said Gracie. “But in order to do so, she must set foot on U.S. soil first. For her, doing so legally is impossible.” The process to even obtain a visa to come to the U.S. is very complicated and unrealistic. One of the requirements is that the person applying has to have a certain amount of cash in the bank, own land, businesses or have work and things that tie them to this country. Ericka had none of those but needed asylum nonetheless.
There is a U visa for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other serious crimes and thousands of illegal immigrants are given legal status under it, but demand exhausts the number of U visas available, creating a years-long backlog. As part of the asylum process, applicants must also pass a “credible fear” test, proving to immigration officials that their lives would be in danger if they returned to their home countries.
Much of the fear–filled response to the refugee crises and the caravan that could soon be here may come from the valid fear that those corrupt individuals from Honduras will be among the innocents. They will be. There are always wolves among the sheep. We must be more concerned about the mission of Jesus who has promised that His perfect love will cast out all fear, than the overthrow of a certain political party in an upcoming election. This is a time when we must unite and have the courage to look beyond our own fears, and beyond the politics to the real humanitarian crisis that is unfolding before our very eyes.