Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Community of Divisions

I was bubbling with anticipation as we pulled up to the Humanitarian Respite Center. I had heard so much about it and was waiting to experience their ministry to immigrants just released from the detention center. I expected to see a bustling place, filled with life and love. But as we walked up to the door, the tents outside were empty and once inside, only a handful of volunteers populated the place. I was puzzled. What happened to the hundreds of immigrants I saw in pictures and videos of the Humanitarian Respite Center? They were gone.

Empty tents at the Humanitarian Respite Center.

Life here in “the valley” has truly been affected by the various executive orders signed by our president in the past month. What was once hundreds of immigrants being released from detention each day, is now no more than 30 each day. If a wall is built, it will be harder for companies who employ people on both sides of the border to do business. There will be fewer jobs and legal immigrants will not be able to see family as often. In addition to less new immigrants, the threat of deportation is always looming for families in the valley, but the people still have an immense amount of hope. The threat is real, and deportation is pulling families apart. One woman was just deported a few weeks before her daughter, a US citizen, was to get married. Now she is stranded in a Mexican city she does not know, and a country she has not lived in for at least three decades. And, she will not be able to witness the marriage of her daughter. But still, the people have hope. I wonder, where does this hope come from? Christianity is a part of their Latino culture, and that gives them hope. For many, they have experienced much harder realities, and since God saw them though those tough times, why would God abandon them now? God never abandons us.

With Sr. Maxine and a volunteer from the Humanitarian Respite Center. After having been born in the US, but living in Mexico most of his childhood he said, "We have something in common. We both left our countries fleeing violence." He hopes that his experience with immigration helps him to relate with and show compassion to those we serve.

As lent began this week, I have been using Lenten reflections on connectedness from Judy Cannato's book "Quantum Grace". Two lines have stuck with me all week, "We are called to bare our hearts, to stand naked and vulnerable before God. This is the prerequisite for restoring unity." I can't help but think that what our country needs, what our border needs, is a healthy dose of vulnerability. There are visible divisions here and around our country. How can we, as Christians called to "rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God" (Joel 2:3) show our vulnerability and work toward unity with our brothers and sisters - no matter where they are or who they are.

We are indeed all connected by the very dust that we came from and return to. We all certainly house the divine and are made to bring that image to each other. How can I be more aware of others' vulnerabilities this lent? How can I make myself vulnerable before God and before my fellow humans? How can my actions work toward unity and not toward division?

Join me as I try to make myself more vulnerable before those I encounter and play one small part in healing divisions in our country and on our border.

Ok, one last story. Last week, Sr. Maxine and I convened a group of people in the parish who would be interested in a grief support group. Because Sr. Maxine cannot speak spanish, the group was to be in english only. When we arrived at the meeting, it became apparent that people of all language abilities were interested. How could we turn them away? So here we were, some who speak only english, others only spanish, others bilingual, and everything in between. But there was no problem. Everyone made sure everyone else could understand. As the meeting went on, because everything was being translated by multiple people, it was as if the community were speaking rather than individuals. Communication is a community event. In order for a community to speak, the members must be vulnerable with each other. Unity in the midst of things that should divide us. I am learning a lot about community from my brothers and sisters on the border.

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