She lifts her hands to her face in an effort to hide her tears. She has spent the last three days in a US Detention Center, a place she describes as Hell. If we are honest with ourselves we can no longer turn a blind eye to the horrors that are happening there. It is Hell. Mothers and children sleeping on cold cement floors with nothing to cover themselves but a silver, paper thin, space blanket. Guards find humor in mocking refugees who are fleeing their homes because violence and poverty are running rampant in the streets. They get a sandwich a day, with little water to drink. And they are held for an undisclosed amount of time.
This is their first taste of America.
As the applause surrounds her entry into Sacred Heart Catholic Church she seems to melt where she stands. This simple act of applauding her restores her value and proves our love for her and her children. It’s genius.
With her newfound courage she makes her way to the registration table. Volunteers shuffle through her paperwork and her bus tickets. They do all that is possible to make sure she get’s where she is going and the rest of her journey from Brazil is more hopeful than what she has endured so far. Her ten year old son cradles close. He can see the joy in his mothers eyes and he wants to be a part of this special moment.
Members of our team are called over to escort the family to the dinner table where they are given a warm cup of chicken noodle soup as we scramble through piles of donations to find new clothes for them. After their journey through Central America and Mexico in the same set of clothes, they are more than ready for a change. We show them the showers and take them to brush their teeth. If they want to see a doctor they can. They make a phone call to their family members and are taken back to catch their bus with bags of goodies for the road.
We sit down for a break and it still hasn’t hit us. We were just face to face with Jesus Christ.
I have been a part of many mission trips. Every one proves to be different than the last and it is always true that as the body of Christ we are His hands and feet. We are Jesus with skin on. And that was certainly true this weekend.
Our God is transcendent, and His news is good. If we come away from this experience with an understanding that Christ was in us as we showed his love by serving those in need, then our thoughts have only made it halfway. Surely Christ was in those we served before we entered their story. God is at work everywhere, in every place, and in every person. He has been close to their hearts for a long time.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40 NIV)
Last weekend we were invited to join an effort to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, embrace the stranger, clothe the naked, bring a doctor to the sick, and visit those just released from detention centers (or prisons, or Hells). I have spent years seeking the face of Christ. Last weekend I found Him, and He was more beautiful than ever. He was in the eyes of the children eating a hearty meal for the first time in days or weeks. He was in the hearts of donors sending gifts from all over the US, most of them packed with an individual note for a refugee. He was in Eli, and Vanessa, and Mayra – those faithful volunteers that give all of themselves every day at the church, and have been since the beginning. He was in the Mission Discovery team as we gladly gave up on our plans and continued to work, well over our scheduled times. He was at Anzalduas Park as we prayed for compassion on those crossing the borders to escape violence and poverty.
He was smiling as light was brought into a dark place – as Heaven works to unclench the claws of Hell.
God draws close to the weary and gives strength to the weak. I am thankful that Mission Discovery played a part in His story on the border. May God always be close to those who are forced to leave their homes in search for an acceptable future. And may we continue to have the courage to run towards the hells of this world, instead of away from them.