'The Children Come': A New Hymn on the Exodus of Children from Central America to the U.S. Border
This new 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. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has led many mission trips to Honduras for the past sixteen years. The brother of a child that Carolyn sponsored in Honduras was recently killed there.
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Carolyn wrote “The Storm Came to Honduras” in response to Hurricane Mitch that was sung and used by many to support the relief work. This 1998 hymn was featured on national PBS-TV and is in Community of Christ Sings (2013).
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 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 Children Come
The children come, not sure where they are going;
Some little ones have seen their siblings die.
They’ve traveled north—a tide that keeps on growing,
A stream of life beneath the desert sky.
Their welcome here? Detention, overflowing.
O Lord of love, now hear your children’s cry!
The children come in search of something better;
They’ve traveled here with nothing in their hands.
On one boy’s belt, a number carved in leather
Leads to a phone, a brother here, a plan.
They come alone—or sometimes band together;
They bring a plea that we will understand.
O Christ our Lord, you welcomed in the stranger;
You blessed the children, telling them to stay.
Be in the desert, with the tired and injured;
Be at the border where they are afraid.
Be on each bus where children sense the danger,
As angry crowds are shouting, “Go away!”
God, let each one know justice, peace and welcome—
And may your gift of mercy start with me.
For unto such as these belongs your kingdom,
And in each child, it is your face we see.
May we, your church, respond in truth and action,
And with you, Lord, say, “Let them come to me.”
Biblical references: Matthew 25:31-46; 19:14-16
Tune: Jean Sibelius, 1899.
Text: Copyright © 2014 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved
New Hymns: www.carolynshymns.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hymn Use Permission: Churches that support Sojourners have copyright permission to use “The Children Come” in their local church.
This new hymn can be shared with pastors and church musicians who might want to use it in this Sunday worship (maybe read or sung by a soloist as part of the prayers of the people) to encourage Christians to respond to this crisis. Permission is given for its free use in local churches who support Sojourners. The tune, FINLANDIA, is in the public domain and best known for being used in Be Still, My Soul” and "This Is My Song, O God of All the Nations" (Audio recording and MIDI).
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of Songs of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and Gifts of Love: New Hymns for Today’s Worship (Geneva Press, 2000); she and her husband Bruce serve as the co-pastors of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware after serving churches in NJ for twenty years. Sojourners' past postings by her includes hymns for Human Rights Day, Loving in Truth and Action (I John 3:16-18 ), World Water Day, Blessing of the Animals, relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, September 11th anniversary, creation care, economic justice, Matthew 25/disaster relief, immigration, and war in Iraq. A complete list of the 200+ hymns by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, many with peace and justice themes, can be found at www.carolynshymns.com.
Image: Children playing at sunset in Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India. Courtesy Seema Krishnakumar/Flickr.