A chance to travel to the borderlands often conjures up anxiety and fear in the participants. There are good reasons for this… wars and skirmishes are fought in the borderland… disease is often more pervasive and medical care is often primitive… crops are not planted and tranquility is mostly unavailable… refugees are trapped and often live there (no home, no food, and no future).
I read last year an article by the World Health Organization about the Myanmar refugees trapped in the borderland between Myanmar and Thailand. Over 100,000 have been registered and live in nine camps in the borderland, and some estimate there may be thousands more that are living there outside the camps illegally. The interesting thing about the article was that they literally have nowhere to go. To go back to Myanmar is certain death, and the rest of the world does not want them. They exist there literally at the mercy of aid agencies. Unless someone or some country rescues them, they will live their lives and die in this borderland. The average time there, after escaping certain death in Myanmar, was over 10 years with little food, little health care, no education, little socialization, and no hope!
While my heart weeps for those caught in the borderland of countries embroiled by war, famine, and political unrest, my burden is not for them today. Rather, my burden is for those caught in spiritual borderlands. The borderlands of their church, their families, their organizations, and other spiritual borderlands. Like the Myanmar/Thailand border, many will live there in the borderland for their entire lives unless someone… some country… some church… rescues them! While it may not be true, they often feel unwanted, unloved, and uncared for by both those from where they came and from where they would like to go!
Some have left the world, but cannot find their place in the family of God. Others have left the church, either by choice, force, or confusion, but don’t really want to be absorbed by the world. And others don’t really know how they got there… all they know is the borderland has been their home for a very long time. Some of them sneak in the back doors of the church a few times a year and sit on the back row. They sometimes arrive late and leave early so no one can ask their name or where they are from. But really, like most people in the borderland, they only want to know that that this is a place where they can belong, are loved, and wanted. But they feel trapped and often don’t give anyone the chance to know them! So, they return to their spiritual cardboard box, eat the spiritual rations they stole when no one was looking, and cry for the spiritual rain to fall! Where is the well of living water for them? Who will draw the water for them? The borderland has no respect of persons; those wandering there are former pastors, ministers, lay leaders, deacons, family members, saints, etc.
Some are living in the borderlands because of mistakes (yes, sins) that they have committed. As one said to me through tears, “How long will my sins be held against me?” Others are living there because of the sins of others. And yet others have just lost their way and wander in the borderland where they have found it easier to give up than to try to find their way home again. Borderland Ministries are committed to one immutable fact, all souls living in the borderland, regardless of the reasons, are worthy, as one created in the image of God, of rescuing. Each of them are worthy of the efforts of God’s people to bring sustenance, assistance, healing/care, and guidance back to a land of safety and peace.
A large portion of our current ministry is dedicated to making (figurative) trips into the borderlands of the church to lead people that have lost their way back into a place of safety, love, acceptance, and the eternal arms of the Savior. Who will join us in this quest? Not everyone can make this journey for many reasons, but all can pray for those caught in the borderlands. Not everyone has the survival skills to make the journey, but everyone can stand in the doors of the church with welcoming arms and a heart of love when the border dwellers stumble home…