I Don’t Look for God in the Face of the Migrant #PCUSAWallofWelcome

This reflection was written by Alison Wood as a part of the #PCUSAWallofWelcome Advent Series of reflections on migration gathered by PPF and the PCUSA Office of Immigration Issues. 

I don’t look for God in the face of the migrant.


People migrating are first people, and I know how easy it is to see them as symbols instead. In the church, we’re good at it:


“They’re like the Israelites, moving en masse from Egypt’s unsupportable rule.” “They’re like Ruth following Naomi to a strange land, with no food and no swhere else to go.” “They’re like Mary and Joseph, fleeing Herod after Jesus’ birth.”


Yes. Yes and, seeing Mary and Joseph in these real people should tell us about the humanity of Mary and Joseph, not just the divinity of the people sleeping on my church’s floor.


There’s a Mayan concept, the In Lak’Ech, incorporated into a poem by Luís Valdez. “Tu eres mi otro yo,” it begins, you are my other me.


I don’t look for God in the face of my migrating neighbors — I look for myself.


Sometimes God makes it easy for me, like when:


I ate dinner with some trans women from Honduras at a shelter in northern Mexico, smiling awkwardly across caldo. When I introduce myself as Alison one woman says, oh, that’s the name of one of my trans friends back in Honduras.


I sat on the ground at 10pm next to a barred gate staffed by armed guards outside the port of entry, talking with a pregnant woman who was sleeping on the concrete. (They’re like Mary and Joseph.) She had been waiting since 8am that day to be allowed to make her petition for asylum. She motioned to the sleeping lump under a blanket, her 13 year old daughter. Her name is Alison.


Since I was born, my church has told me my God loves me. Has told me I was made in the image of God. Are not these other me’s made in God’s image, too? These other Alisons, beloved of God?


Here is my confession: my love for my migrating neighbors is motivated mostly by selfishness. I am desperate to reclaim my own humanity. I know I cannot be whole while my other me is sleeping in the street, turned away by guards with guns.


The beloved of God is sleeping on my doorstep, and I am part of the society that says “that is where you should stay.” I am sleeping on the ground with my mother, and there is no room for us in a safe place.

About Alison:

Alison Wood is a white, cisgender, queer woman U.S. passport holder who coordinates a volunteer program in Tucson, Arizona. You can find her online at www.saymoreaboutthat.com.