“B” turned to me, just before loading into the car that would take him to the airport to be reunited with his wife, and pronounced a blessing.
God is going to bless your life and fill it with joy overflowing because God is a good God.
“This week, God is going to do the seemingly impossible for you and those you love. God is going to bless your life and fill it with joy overflowing because God is a good God.”
Words of gratitude come often in this ministry of hospitality. Joy is a defining characteristic of the asylum seekers we welcome into this place of sanctuary.
B.’s story is not unlike many other guests we’ve welcomed at Casa Alterna. He left Haiti about four years ago. Natural disasters, political assassinations, corruption, and grinding poverty led this young man and his spouse on a long journey in search of a dignified and peaceful life. They traversed open waters and foreign lands. B. even picked up Spanish after spending years itinerantly toiling for his passage to the United States.
B.’s spouse was pregnant when they arrived at the U.S. border. In order to request asylum, the two had to demonstrate to a US official that they had “credible fear” of persecution should they be forcibly returned to their country. While our government made this preliminary determination, the young and valiant couple was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and confined in separate facilities.
The unspeakable happened; B.’s beloved suffered a miscarriage.
Then the unspeakable happened; B.’s beloved suffered a miscarriage.
In my brief but intimate conversations with B. he never projected blame for the death of his unborn child who the couple expected to be born in their promised land. Of course, B. was grieving. He never intended to be separated from his spouse when they followed the “legal way” to seek safe refuge in this country. B. never blamed God, himself, the long arduous journey, or any governmental entity for this soul-piercing sorrow. I chose not to mention to him that my own spirit was pointing an accusatory finger at a immigration detention system that has notoriously treated women’s healthcare as an afterthought.
To hear this dispossessed man speak confident words of faith and blessing into my life was as jarring as it was humbling. I wanted to apologize to B. for our country’s economic and immigration policies; for the way we discard his humanity, his imageo dei. I felt embarrassed that it was he, the recipient of our hospitality, who was showering me with blessings at a time when, if I’m honest, I needed to hear those words of unconditional affirmation.
B. offered a genuine blessing that welled up from an authentic faith that has stared death in all its ugly forms and is still clinging to a hope that resurrects.
It’s encounters like this that remind me of the holiness of hospitable companionship. To be fully present, even if just for a moment, with one of the millions of displaced peoples of this earth, is a true privilege.
Out of respect for the confidentiality of B., I’ve not shared his first name. But as I write this I’m realizing my interaction with B. was a living testimony to the beatitudes that Jesus preached to the poor. B. is an exemplar of what is often called the “upside-down” kingdom of God.
Blessed is B., for his is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed is B., who comforts others even as he mourns.
Blessed is B., whose meekness has taken him all over the earth.
Blessed is B., whose righteousness fills the heart.
Blessed is B., whose words of mercy portray his confidence in a merciful God.
Blessed is B., for in the purity of his heart, there is God.
Blessed is B., and may his unborn child rest in peace as a child of God.