Saying he’s interested in people not politics, a Texas pastor is traveling with the migrant caravan in Mexico. Gavin Rogers, associate pastor at San Antonio’s Travis Park United Methodist Church, has been documenting his journey—and the relationships he’s forming—on Facebook.
Rogers writes about long days of traveling with 6,000 refugees via a wide variety of methods. Reaching Guadalajara, for example, involved covering 400 kilometers in “23 hours of walking, hitchhiking and police escorts. Walking. Car, semi-trailer, truck, police truck, dump truck, bus, shelter.”
On November 11, the pastor posted, “It is a long road. But life is good when you are with people filled with love and hospitality.” A Mexican truck driver who volunteered to drive some refugees to their next shelter site said he acted “because I’m human.” The subway in Mexico City also provided free rides to the traveling refugees.
Misleading Images Create Fear of Caravan in Mexico, Rogers Says
Hoping to dispel fear and falsehoods about caravan members, Rogers is sharing photos of what the migrants and the people helping them really look like. “Kindness is all over the place,” he writes next to posts of “real images of Mexican police officers and refugees.”
The pastor criticizes people, including Christians, who are sharing images about “the supposed violence in the caravan.” When someone posted to Rogers’ Facebook page photos depicting violence, an image search revealed they were actually from 2012. One such post has been removed, probably because of its misleading nature. Local officers Rogers has talked to say the caravan has been overwhelmingly peaceful, with no police-related conflicts.
“Creating fear is a tactic that is continually used to separate people and label the other,” the pastor writes. “People, especially people who proclaim Christ, who post such obvious posts should apologize and delete the garbage. Love conquers hate.”
An Inside Look at the Migrants’ Stories
In online interviews, Rogers introduces some of the refugees he’s been meeting, saying his friendships with them “will last forever.” Many of the travelers have young children and are pushing strollers, he notes, adding that “the love these families have for each other is outstanding.”
The group Rogers is traveling with is heading toward the border town of Tijuana, Mexico, and likely won’t arrive for several weeks. Many of the migrants have family members who are already in the United States, while others want to get legal help in applying for refugee status.
Rogers reports that the migrants he’s meeting are wary of seeking asylum in Mexico because of the country’s unstable political situation and rampant threats of violence, drug cartels and gangs.
Refugees sharing their stories with the pastor tell of having their children kidnapped and other relatives killed in Central America. Their journey, Rogers says, is “not about a better life in American terms, it’s just about living.” Their goals, he adds, are to seek an education for their children and “be free from violence and rape and murder.” Rogers admits that claim may sound “extreme,” but says he has firsthand knowledge, obtained by being “willing to talk and learn,” that it’s “exactly what is going on here.”
Putting Christian Beliefs Into Action
The motto of Rogers’ church, Travis Park UMC, is “unconditional love and justice in action.” Previously, Rogers gave up his home for Lent in order to minister to people living on the streets. During high school, he went on a mission trip to Honduras, when some of the refugees he’s now meeting would have been babies and children.
The only Christian response to immigration, Rogers says, is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” He points to Old Testament verses, such as Leviticus 19:33-34, that instruct God’s people to not mistreat foreigners residing among them but to “love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”