Words by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, 2014
Music: tune, FINLANDIA, by Jean Sibelius, 1899
Topics: immigration, welcome, hospitality, refugee, justice, children
Scriptures: Matthew 25:31-46; 19:14-16
This hymn by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is inspired by the crisis in Central America that has caused over 70,000 children to take the dangerous journey to the United States in 2014.
Hymn Note for “The Children Come”
By Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
This hymn is inspired by the crisis in Central America that has caused over 70,000 children to take the dangerous journey to the United States in recent months. Hymn writer Carolyn Gillette has led mission trips to Honduras for the past sixteen years. She wrote “A Storm Came to Honduras” in response to Hurricane Mitch that was sung and used by many to support the relief work. The brother of a child that Carolyn sponsored in Honduras was recently killed there.
The hymn’s reference to “On one boy’s belt, a number carved in leather” is from a news report ("Boy's Death Draws Attention to Immigration Perils") of a body of a dead child found with his brother’s phone number on his belt. “As angry crowds are shouting, “Go away!” comes from the news reports of Americans yelling at the detained children on buses in Murrieta, California. Jim Wallis of Sojourners reflects on this incident in his powerful online essay “The Moral Failure of Immigration Reform: Are We Really Afraid Of Children?" Biblical references in the hymn are Matthew 25:31-46 and Matthew 19:14-16.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) have developed a very helpful “Frequently Asked Questions: The Exodus of Children from Central America”:
Who are these “unaccompanied immigrant children”? How do they end up in the United States alone?
Unaccompanied immigrant children are minors under the age of 18 who cross the U.S. borders alone, without their parents or caregivers. They come to the United States from all corners of the world, but the most recent influx of children has primarily been from Central America — Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. They travel by foot over the border or as stowaways on freight trains. Sometimes they are victims of human trafficking, sometimes they must pay to get to safety, and sometimes they just travel alone. The number of children making this perilous journey has grown astronomically.
Why are they fleeing their home countries?
There are several main push factors: faltering economies, large youth population, and rising crime and gang activity. There are also pull factors: the desire for family reunification and changing operations of smuggling networks.
How old are these children?
They are usually in their early teens, but can be as young as three. They are both boys and girls.