Day 5 McAllen 2016
Ximena and Cody will be dropping some knowledge on ya today, live from McAllen, TX, in the lobby of the Hotel of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle. On this wonderful Thursday, we loaded up the Momma rockets (vans) and drove over to Sacred Heart Parish in McAllen for a Spanish mass at 8:15.
Even though it wasn’t in English, our Catholic mass is structured enough that we always knew what part of the mass that we were at, and tried our best to follow along.
After every mass at Sacred Heart, the community always came over and thanked us for being there, as well as checked in on how our week was going. They were very happy to pray with us. Their genuine interest in our work, and their joy in celebrating faith with a group of young people made us feel very at home and welcome.
We then transitioned over to the refugee center, where we snapped into action with 18 refugees arriving in the 9:30 group. This was the biggest group that we had served so far. By now, everyone had found a place in which they enjoyed serving, whether it was walking with a family through the process and picking out new clothes for them, or maintaining the showers outside. We all bounced between these and other duties throughout the day, eventually welcoming 29 refugees with an enthusiastic Bienvenidos!
It was very eye opening to see that most of the refugees coming through were a parent with one or several children. We thought that it was very interesting to compare the common perception of immigrants coming and taking American jobs, when most of the immigrants we have met this week were under the age of 21, and unable to work. It was incredibly humbling to listen to their stories about the violence, poverty, and injustices they were leaving behind, and the hardships that they had along the way. Coming here from Central America, these families had journeys lasting anywhere between 17 and 24 days, and they had to walk for a great part of it.
At the end of our last day here with the refugees, we got to literally walk with them for a short part of this journey. The head of the center, whose name is Eli, asked our group to accompany the refugees to the bus station, about three or four blocks down an alleyway from the church. We walked amongst the parents carrying their children through the darkened alley, and it was a very powerful moment for all of us, because it almost felt like we were getting a glimpse into what it was like for them to walk into the unknown. It allowed us to imagine ourselves walking with them in their previous journey, though we knew it could not compare to it at all to it. Moving alongside a smiling father holding his sleeping infant and a mother clutching her daughter’s arm with loving concern amidst the silhouettes of the rest of the traveling family of refugees pushed down the walls of life that may have been separating us, and let us step into their reality for a brief, but beautiful, moment.
There are really no words to describe what we saw and experienced, but it was a love and understanding which we won’t forget.
Afterword, as we were leaving Sacred Heart, Red Leader (Dan) spotted a group of people worshiping under a big awning in another alleyway. We quickly stopped, piled out, and hustled over to join them. They greeted us with hugs, kisses, and hallelujahs, and welcomed us into their praise and worship. After clapping along to “When the Saints Go Marching In,” we decided to depart to more hugs, kisses, and hallelujahs. What we thought was going to be a Mariachi street performance, turned into an awesome experience of faith on the streets of McAllen.
Oh by the way, things got a little tongue-and-cheek today when Eli slow-cooked a cow tongue and cheek for us in his Dallas Cowboys crockpot. We both preferred the cheek, though both were authentically delicioso; one of the many new experiences in our time down here in Texas, USA.
In Tar’s words, it was a knockout day, and we’re really excited for all that the Lord has left in store for us on this trip. But for now, as NSYNC so deftly put it, “You may hate me, but it ain’t no lie, baby bye bye bye, BYE BYE!”