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Border Reflections #1

We asked members of our Border Encounter team (Laura, Bethany, Megan, Darin, Brendan, Russell, Amy, and Caroline) to share their reflections on our time on the Texas-Mexico boarder. You can read about the purpose of that trip here and here. Below is one team member's reflection. Ask the team members to tell you more on a Sunday!

Our trip to El Paso and the border region was my first time in Texas. As a Northeasterner, I came expecting big everything—big skies, trucks--and a very big fence. The border fence between Mexico and the United States in El Paso certainly seems big—18 feet high in some places, 30 in others, with additional barricades like barbed wire and fast-flowing culverts. It's a big arbitrary line in the desert, built under three different presidents with the bipartisan goal of keeping people out.

On our third and last day, we stood for a long time next to the fence, coming off of visits to shelters on both sides of the border. We had seen the faces of those in Juarez, waiting and holding out hope that they would have a chance to enter the U.S. legally via the new US government app. We had also seen those who had reached the temporary “security” of an El Paso shelter, where they ended up after being processed by Border Patrol. 

I had all these faces in my mind when we stood next to the border fence. In that moment, the fence seemed to me like a giant set of arms, encircling what we as Americans have and what we’ve decided belongs to us and not to others. It reminded me that my own generosity and welcome of strangers often starts only at the border of where my own needs and wants have been met, and once my own security is guaranteed.  

The good news is that there at the border, committed people of faith are showing a different way to be. Less than half a mile from the fence, at the Holy Family shelter, faithful Jesuits, nuns and retirees from all over the country did the physical, spiritual and emotional labor of cooking, cleaning, serving and providing care to the exhausted people passing through after harrowing journeys. At Abara, American staff in El Paso work to support a Juarez-based team, which in turn supports a network of shelters created by Mexican Church leaders. These leaders act in faith in response to urgent human need and to God's commands to protect and provide for the stranger, not from a place of certainty, financial security, or giving "what's left over."

A pastor we met emphasized to us that God's heart is not just for the immigrant, but that God has a mission through the immigrant to us and to the world. This past week, I've been praying that through the example of those serving at the border, my own capacity for welcome, generosity and faith would grow.

~ An anonymous team member


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