I can’t see anything about immigration or refugees in the news without thinking of my friends and my family. People I consider my blood. Some people are my blood. My wife is Guatemalan. My daughter is half Guatemalan. My two oldest brothers are also half Guatemalan. My blood flows in theirs and theirs in me. My mother-in-law and my father-in-law – some of the hardest working and best people I know – immigrated here decades ago to provide a better life for their family. My brother’s mother immigrated in the 60’s as a teenager.

A small sampling of my wife's family

A small sampling of my wife’s family

I’m in tears as I think of the beautiful brown people that helped and comforted my mother and my sister when my father died abruptly while they were all living in Mexico. They brought in food, made sure my mother got sleep, brought my sister and mother to the hospital every day and so much more. These were the very same people that my father had come to know and love as a missionary himself in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

The Barker family, August 2015. Back row, left to right: Bryant, Paul, Michael, Jonathan, Maygan. Front row: Mom.

The Barker family, August 2015. Back row, left to right: Bryant, Paul, Michael, Jonathan, Maygan. Front row: Mom.

I think of the my mission president and his wife and family – all from Mexico – and how they comforted me at that same time while I lived more than a thousand miles away in Argentina. I think of the amazing example they all have been to me and hundreds of other young Mormon missionaries, then and still. I have so many stories of my president’s kindness and mercy. I have even more of his wife’s comfort, of her love and her generosity. I’ve broken bread with their family; people do not come any better than them.

I think of the hundreds of people I came to know in northwest Argentina. How they opened their doors to me. How they opened their hearts. They let some tall white kid – a Yankee – dressed in a white shirt and tie into their homes. They didn’t know then that they would be changing my life. They still have no idea how big of an impact they have had on my life.

A long time ago, in a land far far away, I was a missionary.

A long time ago, in a land far far away, I was a missionary.

Through all this I’m thinking – “Am I not the least of these? Are they not my neighbors?” They have helped me become who I am today. They have formed me. They have been there to wipe tears away, pick me up when I have fallen – sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively, as if there were a difference. They have celebrated some of my biggest victories, helped me realize my dreams and helped me overcome my greatest fears and obstacles.

And so yes, I’m invested in the immigration debate. As a white, Yankee, gringo, I’m invested. As a father of, husband to and brother to and friend of amazingly beautiful brown people – I’m invested. I am biased. I have put a face to people who are in need of refuge. I know names of people who have immigrated. They are my family. They are my friends.

emery

My offspring. My heartbeat. Her mother gave her life and by so giving, took my breath away.

They are our neighbors.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said unto him, “What is written in the law? How readest thou?”

And he answering said, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself.’”

And He said unto him, “Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live.”

After serving his mission in Salta, Argentina from 2005 to 2007, Jon came “home” to Utah. He is married and living in Southern California. He graduated in 2012 from Utah Valley University, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Digital Media. He runs a couple online businesses on the side while working. He loves doing any outside type of activity including camping and snowboarding. He and his wife have one beaitiful little daughter.

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