The Journey Continues...
My journey this week took me to McAllen, Texas, because for several months Judy and I have felt the urgency from the Holy Spirit to understand the needs of the undocumented immigrants crossing the Rio Grande River in south Texas. We connected through the Texas Baptist River Ministry.
Our duty time was 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. last weekend at the Catholic Charities Respite Center. We volunteered in McAllen so that we could stay with Eloy and Nancy Chavez, friends we have known since our Baptist Academy days.
Volunteers had come from all over the United States. We met two professional men from Greensboro, North Carolina; a father who works at the Walt Disney museum and his daughter from San Francisco, California; a young mother with a nonprofit from Atlanta, Georgia; and a retired RN from Kerrville, Texas; as well as local volunteers.
The standard progression for an undocumented immigrant who either turns himself in or who is apprehended by the Border Patrol leads to processing at an ICE detention facility in one of the ICE Texas cities including McAllen. Those chosen for political asylum review were given ankle monitors and a court date to appear in an immigration court closest to the address where they would be staying with family or friends. They were then dropped off by ICE vans at the bus station where Catholic Charities workers provided transportation to their Respite Center. Assistance awaited them in the form of a hot meal, a shower, clean clothes, a phone call and help with making travel arrangements for places all over the United States. These were the people we served.
While serving soup and tortillas to patiently waiting individuals, my heart was filled with the blessing of servanthood.
The kitchen staff explained that soup was served as the first meal because it was easier for empty stomachs to digest. Judy and I washed dishes, mopped floors and helped with endless sandwich making. We personally made 198 packages each containing four ham and cheese sandwiches. When a family or individual had their bus tickets and were scheduled to leave, these sandwich packs were included in a bag that also contained two bottles of water, two bags of chips, two cheese cracker packages, two granola bars, a bag of pretzels and a bag of either animal crackers or cookies. As many bags as needed to feed the travelers on long bus trips were provided.
I could feel the pain of fatigue in both the immigrants and the staff. Considering their challenges and long hours, I was amazed by the sweet spirit that prevailed – no pushing or shouting from the 125 to 150 immigrants served daily. If you would like to volunteer, contact Cesar Mata, volunteer coordinator, at 956-884-3087 or 956-702-4088 or go to www.catholiccharitiesrgv.org.
“In all things we are guided by these simple words: ‘Creating a world where immigrants, refugees, migrants and people on the move are treated with dignity, respect, welcome and belonging,’” Kim Burgo, the director of Catholic Charities USA, based in Washington D.C. said.
Her life verse is:
“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, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”