November 14 – November 16, 2018
Loews Hotel, Philadelphia, PA. Learn More »
Originally published on Judith's blog One Step at a Time.
As we gathered in the basement of Casa Vidas to introduce ourselves, we were asked the questions. Tell us who you are? where you're coming from? Who did you say goodbye to last when you were leaving?
Over the course of the week, we became like family. We suffered through different experiences together. We traveled to the fence that divides God's children. We looked into Mexico and spoke with children on the other side as Border Patrol watched our every move. Those kids helped us say goodbye to our old selves, and say hello to a life-changing experience.
|Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Photo by Judith Myers.|
We ventured to Juárez together and learned that Christina Estrada doesn't own just a library. It's a safe space for over 100 children to gather after school. They are tutored by high schoolers/role models. They're taught how to read, they're fed, and allowed to clean up. She's an inspiration. She has no interest in finding a new life in America. She's proud to be in Mexico and proud to stay in Mexico. She wants Mexicans to stay...and help the change from within. Christina's job isn't easy. She's worked hard and she's lost a lot. The biggest problems in her work: working with kids who don't know how to read, working with parents who think it's more important to make money than to study... Christina is their number one advocate. She goes to school with them- asking what they need (new shoes, school supplied), what they need to work on, etc. Christina doesn't claim to be a teacher. But she is .. and so much more. She's their social worker, mother, friend. Christina is a one-of-a-kind lady. Christina helped us to say goodbye to our old selves, and say hello to hope for that culture.
|Group listening as Sister Betty talks. Photo by Judith Myers.|
We met with Father Peter and Sister Betty. They have immersed themselves into the Juárez community, helping whenasked and loving others for exactly who they are. We saw names and names of lives that have been lost over the years. An excerpt from my notebook:
"And as I'm sitting in the Casa Tabor's courtyard..listening to the chatter and intentionality of this community, it's inspiring. There are different groups of people..speaking snapshot one another, asking questions..wanting to know more about the names on the wall. It's a wall of victims- journalists, matriarchal or patriarchal figures, those who died trying to cross the border- I give thanks for Peter and Betty. I give thanks that there are people here who had no intention to change people when they moved here. They only wanted to live among the people. They would help when asked... but they had no desire to change anything or any one."
These two helped us say goodbye to our old selves, and say hello to continuously putting others' needs before our own.
|A section of the border fence between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. Photo by Judith Myers.|
We met with Luis who works with a shelter in El Paso for Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC, humanizing name isn'tit). He shared with us experiences and statistics. We talked about the children who either come across the border voluntarily or by their parents. They're typically fleeing from violence. They're running away from gangs (either they were in a gang and want out, or the gang threatens if they don't join...double edged sword) and the danger. The children (when they come alone) go through the Office of Refugee and Resettlement (not Homeland Security) and are put in Foster Care if there's no support already established in America. What a blessing it was to listen to Luis, his experience and advice. It motivates me to look in the RVA area for shelters for UAC. Luis helped us say goodbye to our old selves, and say hello to continuous prayer for children facing this journey alone.
We met with the court system (the hardest thing I've done to date). We watched sentences and arraignments for people who have crossed the border illegally. They've done nothing wrong, but yet they shuffle in the courtroom in shackles and blue jumpsuits. The judge doesn't see the shackles any more. He doesn't notice the blue jumpsuits or the despair and hopeless look on the faces. He just dismisses the cases with time served, and sends them on their way back to Mexico. I pray for all who face a judge..that they be charged not with deportation, but with a chance to succeed. This broken system helps us say goodbye to our old selves, and say hello to the responsibility to speak up about injustices in our world.
|Lorena speaking to the group at Centro Mayapan. Photo by Judith Myers.|
We met with Lorena. From the beginning, women have been paid less than men. And hispanic women have been paid less than white women. So they fought. And they protested. As they slaved away in the garment factory, they would take what they made, and hold them hostage until they were paid. They handcuffed themselves to sewing machines. They organized a union. They've fought so hard and they've still got a ways to go..but for those moments, we rejoiced in how far they had come. She was inspiring and empowering. I respect her and those women's desire to stick to tradition and not conform. Lorena helped us say goodbye to our old selves, and say hello to empowerment and the excitement to cheer on people as they change the world around them.
|Ruben Garcia speaking to the group. Photo by Judith Myers.|
We met with Ruben Garcia, the Director of the Annunciation House. He'sthe kind of guy that stays awake at night asking himself, how do I explain my right to occupy space on this planet? He taught us that it's okay to be unsettled by truth. We are constantly given the invitation to be an incredibly human being. Lives are gifts. You really begin to understand that when you're at the border. You're faced with the reality of injustices. What are you going to do about it? Ruben helped us say goodbye to our old selves, and say hello to being unsettled by truth.
The people we said goodbye to. The community we left behind. Returning with a hurt heart,
and not knowing how to respond.
Who did you say goodbye to last before being completely changed?