When I decided to participate in the Immersion in Tijuana 2018 experience, I had no idea of what it will mean to my life. I have never had to live the wretched experience of having to abandon my family or my country in search of “better” opportunities. It would be very difficult for me to uproot myself from my family.
There were plenty of experiences lived in this immersion, yet I would like to highlight some that impacted my life the most:
The first one was very moving. We were visiting the wall on the side of the border between Tijuana, México and San Diego, USA; that day we visited the wall on the side of the wall in Tijuana: a space filled with color, hope, nature, sea, beautiful graffiti, resilience, resistance, and lots of desire for the world to be different—including a garden in the middle of the road to symbolize hope in the midst of this wall that separates two totally different contexts. It was a paradox to visit the next day the other side of the wall in the USA, in San Diego; a dry place, spare, arid, colorless, rigid, without a garden... It seemed like the wall would be speaking about the realities of two completely opposite cultures: one interested in claiming and making memories and the other wanting to forget the subject like the place. I had not fathomed this reality until now.
Another experience was the hard work of the churches in these migration processes --Mexican Baptist churches that understood the value of the kingdom of God and understood the mission to shelter with hope so many families from different places in the world.
I am moved by the work of the FBC of Tijuana; their sanctuary became for a long time the refuge for Haitians. Pastor Juan Manuel Serrano told me, “I practically had to live in the sanctuary.” I can understand as a pastor all of the problems this would bring the pastor with his members—perhaps many left because they could not withstand those “burdens” generated every Sunday. My respect to them and their work.
One of my passions is work with women and for women, women who are capable of being resilient in the midst of critical life situations. In Tijuana, we met women from the group DREAMER MOMS. These women were deported from the USA after living there, some even since childhood. One day they were uprooted, and their sons and daughters were left behind. They are left without the opportunity to see one another. They dream of the day when they can be with their children forever, without a wall to separate them. They are lonely women who walk together to heal and above all to encourage each other in the midst of an uncertain future with their sons and daughters.
I still have in my mind the deep look of María, an African woman who comes from Ghana. She had to swim 8 hours in the open sea to finally arrive to Venezuela. Later she went across the borders of Colombia, Panamá and others until finally reaching Tijuana, México. Her desire is to cross to the USA. She would share her heartache with a smile. I don’t know how I was able to hold back my immense need to cry. Once and again María would tell me that she could only thank God for having helped her throughout her ordeal. I don’t know if I would be so happy with God after going through a situation like hers. I said to myself, perhaps “María is Protestant” and asked her to which church was she a part of in Ghana. She replied, “The Catholic church.” We have so many prejudices, believing that only the Protestant Christians are the only ones to develop such a fervent faith. María would not stop from telling me how grateful she was with God. When I arrived home that night, I cried when I thought of her—perhaps because my faith is so weak compared to hers and I have not had to live not even 10% of her story. María filled my heart with hope, faith, and love. A woman I will never forget.
On Sunday we were sharing in the morning service at the wall on the side of the border of Tijuana, México. We sang, read the Word, hugged, shared Communion, and were filled with hope right in front of a wall that only inspires hopelessness and division. Where have we gone? Why do we have to raise walls or borders to separate us because some are “good” and others not as much? That day I experienced how families could only touch each other with their pinkies; it is all that can fit the bars of the wall. I cried when I saw that. The families that were visiting the wall that day, which is allowed only on Sundays for a couple of hours and with certain special requirements, expressed with tears, stories, dreams, kisses, deep bonds that no wall will be able to separate the people who love and dream of living the best moments of life together.
This trip was an immersion that changed my perspective of life. I will never be able to say that I do not accept this or that person in my country because they will take away from me what is mine. In the look of each migrant I met I saw the eyes of many in my family that today are in other countries in a search for “better” opportunities for life. I would like that wherever they go, others will open their lives and their houses to provide them with hope in the midst of the context of hopelessness, of being uprooted from family and land.
Thanks, BPFNA, for allowing me to experience this. I will always be grateful.