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. 

Mary Beth getting the nursery area of the Respite Center ready for the kids.

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. 

Laurie making paper airplanes with a young boy who is waiting for his parents to complete their processing.

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).


"W"'s art.

It's hard to be unmoved by this 10 year old's talent - and his love for Jesus.

Calls, Choices, and Inflection Points



The past 24 hours have been filled with many questions and almost as many answers. Our group of six intrepid travelers met for the first time to pray together and finally meet face-to-face. Each group that I’ve worked with over the years has its own vibe - a feeling you get from the group as a whole - that determines a lot of how the trip will go. In a word (or three), this group’s vibe is “let me help”. That’s awesome for the type of trip we are taking. 

At 2:30AM our group leaves for the Texas/Mexico border to work with Sr. Norma Pimental. Our mission is to be a welcoming face to those families that have crossed the border from Mexico. Feed, clothe, welcome. Some are families, some are unaccompanied minors. Most will be nervous, unsure, scared. Almost all only have the clothes on their back. Each and every one of them a child of God. 

As I reflect back on the way this endeavor came together (as I will surely do repeatedly this next week) I am compelled to think of the apostles working their nets around the Sea of Galilee. Along comes this Jesus - maybe they’ve heard of him, maybe not - and he calls them by name. “Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17). They had no idea what they were saying yes to. On a much smaller scale, I’m feeling that way. I think I know what my “yes” to this trip means - but at each turn and with every question asked and every answer proffered, I realize that I don’t have a clue what I am getting myself into.

I know many things about myself (I really am self-aware despite what some of my closest friends say). I know that when I am confronted with an issue I am compelled to hit it head on, sink my teeth into it, rip it apart, study it and try to solve it. I know that we will be confronted with reality - people’s realities - that I want to change. I know that I will be confronted with choices - some made on the spot, on the ground, others will gnaw at me over time to be made later. I pray that during this trip we are able to make the inspired choice - the choice that aligns with what God wants from each of us. 

Sometimes I think that ’this is the moment’ - you know, the moment that ‘everything changes’. The apostles had moments like that - many. Sometimes momentous opportunities are presented to us many times in our lives. The apostles accepted their call and while they were filled with human foibles, they walked the walk while they talked the talk. This moment feels like an inflection point to me. When I experience the plight of the refugees will I be able to go back to my life as it was? I certainly can’t answer that question now…I’m not sure I will even be able to answer it when we return on Sunday.

I hope you can follow our journey this week and I ask that you pray for our groups from Metuchen and Camden.

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When I summon him, he shall approach me;
how else should one take the deadly risk
of approaching me? says the LORD.
You shall be my people,
and I will be your God.
— Jeremiah 30: 22