Lection Connection - Spirit Sightings

April 28, 2019: Love’s Disruptive Witness

From Sandra Rooney


The Sonoran Desert along the U.S.-Mexico border in Southern Arizona is a beautiful wilderness. It is also a dangerous place for migrants making the trek north into the U.S., seeking safety and a better life. Since the 1990s, some 8,000 people attempting to enter the United States have died in this region, where summer temperatures are often over 115 degrees, and in the winter can be below freezing. Water is scarce; shade is almost nonexistent. Volunteers with a number of humanitarian groups regularly go out into the desert to leave water in hopes of preventing deaths. On occasion they also come across the remains of those who have died.


Cabeza Prieta national wildlife refuge is located in one of the most remote areas of the Sonoran Desert. There are the iconic saguaros, the unique North American pronghorn, petroglyphs, and rugged mountain ranges. Members of the Arizona-based group No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, hike year-round out into this rugged terrain to leave water, food, and blankets along known migrant trails.


In January of 2018, eight No More Deaths volunteers were charged with a variety of offenses including driving in a wilderness area, entering a wildlife refuge without a permit, and abandoning property – leaving water, food, and blankets. The judge found them guilty of abandonment of property and of entering the refuge without a permit back in 2017.


Earlier this year prosecutors agreed to drop criminal charges against four of the volunteers and they now face civil infractions carrying a fine of $250 each. On March 1, four other No More Deaths volunteers were convicted of federal misdemeanors and issued fines of $250 per defendant and sentenced to 15 months of unsupervised probation.


On January 17, 2018, hours after No More Deaths released videos showing border patrol agents emptying water bottles left for migrants, Scott Warren, a professor at Arizona State University and a volunteer with No More Deaths, was arrested and charged with a felony for harboring migrants after Border Patrol allegedly witnessed him giving food and water to two migrants in the west desert near Cabeza Prieta. Warren faces misdemeanor charges for his work there as well as three federal felony charges for other humanitarian aid work. He is set to go to trial May 9. The government says he was harboring undocumented immigrants. Warren argues he was helping migrants in distress. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.


Humanitarian groups live by the motto, “Humanitarian aid is never a crime.”


Explore…Acts 5:27–32

  • What were the disciples thinking during those days following Jesus death?
  • What motivated their actions?
  • Who today do you see living out the love of Jesus in the face of the authorities?
  • Where do you see a call to face up to authorities to live out your faith?
  • What might be the consequences of such action?



God of love and mercy, we are called to be your witnesses. Embolden us to speak truth to power, to be a loving presence and a voice for justice. Amen.


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