07/06/2015 12:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Blessed Are the Hands That Strike the Rock: In Praise of the Tucson Samaritans

In my role as pastor of Southside Presbyterian Church, I often find myself doing unusual liturgical rites - at least for a Presbyterian clergywoman. For instance, this Saturday morning, I will stand in our church parking lot and bless cars and trucks and jeeps as they head out on humanitarian patrol in our desert for the annual Samaritans' Flood the Desert. This yearly event commemorates the founding of the Samaritans on July 1, 2002 and is a time of recommitment for the struggle to end deaths in our desert.
Photo by Michael Hyatt

The Samaritans are an organization of people of faith and conscience who provide humanitarian aid to those crossing our desert. As stated on their website, the Samaritans were founded as "a voice of compassion, a healing presence in the Arizona desert." And for 13 years, the Samaritans have sent patrols into our desert almost every day, saving countless lives by putting out gallon water jugs on known migrant trails and providing first aid to any they may encounter.

Since 1999 more than 2,000 people have died crossing our border and on hot July days in southern Arizona, our thoughts often turn to those who are walking through a merciless desert. They are wives trying to return to the families they were torn from through our unjust deportation policies; they are sons leaving the poverty of their home behind in the hopes of being able to find work and send money home; they are children of God, caught in a broken and sinful immigration systems that seeks to solve the complex problems of migration through enforcement-only measures. But what those in Washington, D.C. don't understand and perhaps will never understand is the desperation of those who live in poverty - poverty created by our own economic policies and that when it comes to desperation - no matter how how high you build the wall, no matter how many boots you have on the ground, no matter how many drones you have in the air - there is just no way to deter a mother's love for her children, a father's love for his family, the love of two partners for each other, or our community's love for freedom, justice and human dignity. And so until not one more person dies in our desert, the Samaritans will be there with water jugs in hand, calling out, "¡Somos Amigos! ¡Somos de la iglesia!¡Tenemos agua y comida!

As I stand in the early morning hours of the parking lot of Southside Presbyterian Church, I will take a branch from the small desert willow tree that lines the parking lot and the most sacred of gifts - water, and I will bless their vehicles and with these words, on behalf of the community, I will bless them.

Blessed Are the Hands That Strike the Rock
As the people journeyed through the desert, they found they were without water. The Lord said to Moses, "strike the Rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink." (Exodus 17:6)

Blessed are the hands that strike the rock
flooding the desert with water

Blessed are the feet the hike the trail
walking in the holy footsteps of migrants

Blessed are the voices that call out like choirs of angels:
¡Somos Amigos! ¡Somos de la iglesia!¡Tenemos agua y comida!

Blessed are the hands that heal
washing feet and bandaging blisters

Blessed are the cars and trucks making tracks through the dirt
paving a way out of no way

Blessed are the maps and logs and the GPS devices
sacred guides to saving lives

Blessed are the gallons of water placed on dusty trails
that make the desert bloom with life

Blessed are the make-shift shrines to those who did not make it
¡los desconocidos estan presente!

Blessed are the hands that strike the rock
the hardened hearts of border patrol agents
the seemingly insurmountable wall of hatred and fear
the formidable border of death as a deterrent
Blessed are the hands that strike these rocks!

Blessed are the Samaritans
the hands that strike the rock
flooding the desert with life
until no brother becomes lost never to be found
until no mother stumbles and falls never to rise
until no father is left behind with a jug of water to wait for help that may never come

Blessed are the Samaritans
the hands that strike the rock
and flood the desert with life.