By Bishop Richard F. Stika
Imagine being a parent of five children and living with the very real expectation and fear that one of them, or worse yet, all of them, could be the targets of a ruthless and violent gang that you have no power to stop.
The circumstances that have led to our recent crisis on the border are complex and the solutions have fueled debate.
The images of children fleeing their homes in Central America and arriving at our southwest border seeking help have ignited the passions of many people—including mine.
I have been moved by stories of these children traveling hundreds, and in some cases thousands of miles, through strange cities, over land barely habitable for cactus and rattlesnake, putting their lives at risk by moving on without adult supervision, or worse yet, accompanied by an adult more interested in exploiting their situation than helping.
What is taking place far from East Tennessee, in Texas and California, is a humanitarian crisis that is often framed politically.
I want to change that. The story I offered at the beginning is based on fact. As Christians, we need to act.
One concrete way of doing so is to support an organization that has worked for more than 60 years to support children in their home countries—places from where many of the border children are coming.
Founded by a Catholic priest, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos has been providing love, guidance and care for abandoned and orphaned children in Central and Latin America since 1954. NPH does so in a Christian setting, with a spirit of family—allowing children to break the cycle of poverty and become productive citizens at home.
I see how this may provide a positive alternative for them in their home countries, avoiding the need to make a perilous journey to arrive unwanted at a distant border.
As your bishop, I am asking you to consider helping these children before they become victims.
Last year, I became an NPH sponsor of two boys in El Salvador. The cards, letters and photos I receive from them have filled me with a great sense of peace and happiness—knowing that these children will one day have a path to a good life at home.
I invite your parish to consider hosting a sponsorship weekend and please give prayerful thought to sponsoring a child under the care of NPH. You can do so by visiting my sponsorship website at www.nphusa.org/helpbishopstika.
I also encourage you to read the accompanying article written by Ashley Siferd, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Lenoir City. Ashley recently returned home after spending one year as an NPH volunteer in El Salvador. Her story is both poignant and tragic—and it offers insight into why these children are seeking our help.