Today started in the parking lot of St. Joes where the six intrepid travelers from the Diocese of Metuchen gathered to travel to Newark Airport at 2:30 AM. As far as travel days go, this was one of the easiest and smoothest I've encountered - a sure sign from the Holy Spirit that our trip is sanctified.
Upon arriving in Texas we met up with our sisters and brothers from the Camden Diocese and made our way to the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan - which we will call 'home' until we leave on Sunday. After a short lunch in the cafeteria we traveled to the Respite Center run by Catholic Charities in McCallen, TX. For those that don't know what a Respite Center is, don't be troubled - neither did any of us. Simply put, the Respite Center is a place where immigrants who have been 'processed' by the border patrol and are now legally in the country can spend some time to get a shower, have a cup of soup, arrange for legal support, visit a medical clinic and rest in the loving embrace of a community of volunteers that treat each of them like they matter.
Why, you may ask, do they need a Respite Center? Consider this amalgamation of some stories that we heard today. A young couple and their two children ages 2 and 5 made their way from Nicaragua to the US border seeking asylum due to the violence they experienced because of the drug cartels. Prior to crossing the US/Mexico border, Mexican guards detained them and demanded payment (bribes) from them in order to allow them to continue. After 16 days of travel, with already meager possessions and money, they were forced to give up all they had remaining in order to take the chance on a better life for their children. Having nothing but a plastic bag of clothes and each other, they were processed, the parents were fitted with ankle tracking bracelets and put on a bus that let them off in the outskirts of McCallen at the Respite Center run by Catholic Charities.
Food, clothing, shelter.
Our group welcomed them and the 120 other immigrants that day as they arrived. We listened to their stories, got them food, took care of their children as they washed and relaxed, helped them call their families in the states, arranged for their transportation. In short, we treated them like human beings. In truth, we took care of them like children of God.
Tomorrow brings a new day and new experiences. Thanks for following along with us! I'd love to hear from you so please comment below.
A Tracking Ankle Bracelet
The artist at work
"W" makes name tags for all the volunteers as a thank you.
World's Best Jenga Game!
Sam and Luisa enjoy time with "A". (Note, faces of the children are blurred for privacy reasons).
It's hard to be unmoved by this 10 year old's talent - and his love for Jesus.