Chris Hoke’s memoir, Wanted, describes what it’s like to be a minister “through jail, among outlaws, and across borders.” This comes at the end of a chapter called “Birds of the Air,” which tells the story of Arnulfo and Magdaleno, two illegal migrants who are working in the camps where Hoke has been ministering. Hoke tells us that many migrant families move south as the weather cools, staying together, but Arnulfo and Magdaleno stay put in the Skagit Valley of Washington state.

51a6uubmrql-_sx330_bo1204203200_Hoke learns they have no family. As everyone else in the migrant camps leaves for the season, he becomes friends with these two middle-aged men, and learns that what they really want to do is fly. Arnulfo has friends in New Jersey who have started a construction business and their plan is to meet them there, to escape the “migratory loop” of the West Coast. They do not have access to a car, and Greyhound buses are a frequent target for Immigration Control. So, they ask Hoke to fly with them. As a white man, they will be given some credibility.

Hoke agrees, and brings his girlfriend along, too. As they enter the airport, though, things get dicey. Moving through security, Arnulfo’s and Magdaleno’s Mexican IDs are given a double-take. Hoke, his girlfriend, and the two illegals are asked to step aside once they move through the body scanner. Hoke immediately begins to feel like a failure—a “bad coyote, a bad pastor”—for misleading his friends into the certain future of deportation paperwork and fingerprinting.

But then a miracle happens. No one is there when they pass through the body scanner. Like Peter in Acts 12, no one is there to lock them up, to charge Hoke for “aiding illegal aliens.” After a minute, they walk on to their gates. Which leads me to the best part:

Arnulfo’s and Magdaleno’s boarding documents had never been initialed by the TSA agent like Rachel’s and mine had been. They were never cleared. I looked over at the attendant by the open gate; sure enough, she examined every boarding pass handed to her.

I got out a pen. I studied the initials on mine. I’d forged signatures before, like my mom’s on checks for pizza and my dad’s for field trip permissions as a kid. This was even easier now, only two capital letters. But they were a government employee’s initials, not my legal guardians’. What if, I thought, I used my own two initials? I imagined myself sitting in an interrogation office, or on the stand in court, trying to explain what right I had to approve these travelers. What authority did I have? I’d heard preachers yell, “He has given you authority!” and “Claim it in faith!” and “In the name of Jesus!” much of my life. I’d never really known what that meant, or where that authority became tangible. Now, however, I had an idea. Or at least a place to try it out, on real documents.

So with a lift of nonresident faith, I quickly rehearsed signing my friends’ papers with two very famous initials—JC—like a personal signature. It would feel good to exercise a foreign authority, one that would allow my friends to step through that gate with us into the sky. I wasn’t sure—and I’m still not—what the right thing to do would have been. I was sinking in this dilemma while the plane engine fired up. What’s important is this: Arnulfo and Magdaleno approached the gate ahead of me, treading lightly toward takeoff in their black boots, white long-sleeved shirts, and earth-stained fingers. I watched the attendant carefully examine their boarding passes. We held our breath. Then, one at a time, she tore them in half and placed a piece into each man’s open hand—then Rachel’s, then mine—with a liturgical smile. “Enjoy your flight.”