Mobile Congregation #PCUSAWallofWelcome

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

The mobile congregation is without a building or a set location, rather they are people of faith. What kind a faith is this? What is its meaning and practice? For the mobile congregation coming from Central America, migrating is their faith practice. This particular form a collective movement echoes in one resounding chorus the biblical themes of pilgrimage, exodus, exile, and return. Yet it is also something much more than what these words describe. Such a movement can also be described as tabernacling with God. Here, both God and people of faith are on the move, migrating together.

As the mobile congregation declared to the Mexican immigration authorities at the Guatemalan border, Entramos todos o no entra ninguno/We all enter or no one enters. In tabernacling with God, their togetherness is a source of internal strength, carrying each other’s weak and the vulnerable, sharing food with one another, making space for everyone to lie down and rest after a full day’s journey. Again, they declare: entramos todos o no entra ninguno.   

Where there is pain and hurt, many in the mobile congregation are ready to offer care and accompaniment. Where babies are in need of shade or a stroke, many in the mobile congregation come to their aid. Stories of good times and bad are shared along the way. Hopes and dreams of one member become the hopes and dreams of everyone. Here Again they declare: entramos todos o no entra ninguno.

Only the bare minimum is what they carry with them, A tattered few bags, bottled water, and the heavily worn clothes on their backs and old shoes. Despite these limitations, God continues to provide what they need to keep the mobile congregation on course to the United States. Where on is lacking others share from their surplus. Distributing their sustenance, sharing with each other from their own supply—here again they declare: entramos todos o no entra ninguno.

Keyri is 13 years old from San Miguel, El Salvador. According to her mother Maria, she had three older brothers. her oldest boy died from gang violence. Afterwards, the gang harassed her other two boys. Because they refused to join the gang, their lives were threatened. This forced them to leave for the USA. The gang began to extract money from her daughter. They also began to pressure her to join the gang. Maria decided to bring her daughter to the USA (McAllen Central Bus Station)

What does it mean to migrate with God? What can the mobile congregation teach us about being the Christian church? Again, their words cry out in my ear, entramos todos o no entra ninguno. Perhaps this is what they teach us: unity is a faith practice. Trusting each other, holding up each other, nourishing one another, sharing with one other, crying with one another, caring for one another, catching those among when they are falling.

I do not know about you, but I long for church like this. Where the mission is as the mobile congregation: Entramos todos o no entra ninguno.

Do you long to belong to church where unity, togetherness, mutual care, and equal distribution of resources, and respect are lived realities? Who here desires to be caught when you are falling? Who here is searching for a community of faith that will protect you, nourish you, guide you, pray for you, care for you, and inspire you for something better?

Well I believe that one such church is on its way. They are mobile congregation. Within a matter of weeks this beautiful mobile congregation will be at our border, the Texas-Mexico border. For us in this seminary, which is only three hours away from this border, we are very fortunate and profoundly blessed. We do not have to travel too far to find the church many of long for. For the mobile congregation is coming to us. Did you hear that? They are coming to us—a people of faith who seek to share their sense of unity, their notions of sharing, caring, nourishing, and togetherness. In other words they come to show us God. Nothing is required to join the mobile congregation, no degrees, credentials, or citizenship status. They are coming. Will you join them? And perhaps in joining them we too will proclaim their gospel message: Entramos todos o no entra ninguno.

Again: Entramos todos o no entra ninguno.

Again: Entramos todos o no entra ninguno.

Again: Entramos todos o no entra ninguno.

Rev. Dr. Gregory Cuéllar serves as Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and reads the Bible from lenses of migration studies, postcolonial theory, and advocacy criticism. At the juxtaposition of his interest in art and immigrant advocacy, he is also currently working on an art-based social action project called, Arte de Lágrimas: Refugee Artwork Project.