(Editor’s note) Each year, Colorado Vincentian Volunteers, part of MISEVI – USA, makes a pilgrimage to the Border between Mexico and the United States. When the volunteers return, they reflect with one another through a process of writing a story about one part of their experiences and then doing Theological Reflection on the stories as a group. Here are two of this year’s reflections.
On Saturday, Sylvia, our guide, took us to a humble one story home in El Paso, Texas where we met Maria. Even though we were in the United States, there were barely any streets that led to this house, and they were all dirt roads. Maria welcomed us into her home and we listened to her story. She told us about her husband being deported simply because he went back to Mexico to visit his dying mother. His visa was not honored. Maria had to raise her children on her own, while also sending her husband money. She prayed that her husband would cross safely over the border, which he did twice but he was sent back soon after each time. As Maria’s husband was in Mexico, Maria would sell tamales in order to make money. She would tell her story to visitors who would in return pray for whatever Maria wanted.
Maria said she kept praying that her husband could cross the border safely and this prayer was granted multiple times, but her husband would get caught on the U.S. side of the border and end up in jail. One day, Maria changed her prayer and prayed that her husband become invisible while crossing the border. Something inspired her to change her prayer.
Soon after that her husband crossed the border. During his journey he wound up in an orchard covered in sewage. When border patrol came into the orchard they should have been able to see Maria’s husband, but they passed him without noticing. It was like he was invisible.
Something inspired Maria to change her prayer and that prayer was heard. She is now with her husband and children living in Texas in a humble home.
As I reflected on her story I realize that God hears all prayers, but sometimes we just need to ask them in a different way. As Mother Teresa says, “I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I pray for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” By Chloe Bowman, CVV Volunteer
It’s late Sunday afternoon, early evening approaching golden hour. My eyes keep trying to take a break but I am so arrested by the beauty of the terrain that I keep forcing them to stay open so I can just try and absorb the images into my brain. We make a turn and I am more awake as I see the beauty of land disrupted by this large metal wall and I am aware that we were on the other side yesterday.
While getting out of the car I am too energized to pay attention to instructions. I reach the wall and start walking along it, thinking about the last few days and my different encounters. I think about Sr. Betty and Fr. Peter and pray that I am that close with my best friend Sam when we are older. I think about the juvenile that we saw in court. I think about Ingrid, her kids and all of the moms and kids we met in Juarez. As I am thinking and walking, I am also praying for them and looking at the beautiful landscape that is disrupted by this wall. And I am desiring to be back there. I keep walking, still trying to figure out how to make my great escape and as I do, I encounter a child-sized shoe in-between two posts. It is in seeing this shoe that I hear God whisper in the silence of my heart, “Take off your shoes, you are on holy ground.” I am drawn back to the present, out of my daydreaming of running away to Juarez. I take off my Chacos and start to walk. First the sand is soft. Later it is painful. In moments of overwhelming pain, what keeps me going is remembering the migrant that might have lost his shoes … or has bad shoes …and uniting my suffering and his to the Passion. When I reach the point that I know it is time to turn around and start walking back, the only thing that encourages me to resist the urge to put my shoes back on is receiving an encouraging fist pump from one of my companions.
There was a moment on the walk back that I stopped and just broke down. I grabbed my Benedictine Crucifix off my neck and put it on the Mexican side of border and prayed for those in Mexico, particularly Juarez, and all those who are seeking asylum. I prayed that God would tear down this wall and remembered that I probably have some distant relatives that I am never going to be able meet on this side of eternity because the border crossed part of my family when parts of Mexico became part of the U.S. I pull myself back together. The sun looks like it is starting to set, and I journey back to the van. By Pam Anderson, CVV Volunteer
Last year, while staying with the Daughters of Charity in El Paso and helping out at a shelter,
I had the privilege of being with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers for a meal and celebration. Meeting them gave me such hope, and now reading this year’s stories/theological reflections has me wishing that more people had the opportunity to meet their brothers and sisters who live on either side if the border. Being with those who are personally impacted by immigration policies can make a person more committed to changing such policies.