SO MANY things have been happening! How do I begin to tell you...
I'll start with today.
I am at Casa de Maria y Martha in San Antonio. I had been hearing about this house run by the Mennonites for a while now, but this is my first time to visit. It is located near the Greyhound Bus Station in downtown San Antonio. Among other things, it serves as a place for those who have been released from the area detention centers to eat and sleep if there is a long wait for their connecting bus.
It is a little bit of heaven....for those who wait....and for those who serve.
Places such as Casa run by a different set of rules. No one seems to sweat the small stuff....about anything. The lessons of life and liberty, humanity and morality are simply lived in this international space of smiles, hugs and the sharing of everything.
Such depths of communication are not dependent upon the spoken language. Such depths of relationships immediately formed will stand the test of eternity.
Those released from the area detention centers? Yes, women and children, as well as young men and young women, are dropped off at the bus station between 5:00pm and 1:00am. Volunteers from the Interfaith Welcoming Coalition, newly formed to serve the influx of those arriving at the bus station, meet the individuals and families at the bus station to assist with understanding bus tickets, and offering food and conversation, and overnight hospitality for the women and children at Casa de Maria y Martha, if necessary.
The stream at the bus station generally starts with the women and children from Karnes who may arrive early enough to get on a bus that evening. Later, about 9:00pm young people from Pearsall arrive. Even later, even as late as 1:00am, women and children arrive from Dilley. It is soul-searing to see faces transform from fear and anxiety and exhaustion to relaxed smiles once the guests realize that persons are there for them.
Kate, Kate, Fatma and Tom, South Texas Human Rights Center immersion guests, and I were able to assist at the bus station a few weeks ago. We assisted three young men who were released from Pearsall. They were easy to recognize in the ticket line because they had no luggage except a thick brown envelope-folder containing their documentation.
|Arrivals from Pearsall with brown envelope-folder
Fatma attempted to explain the nine transfers that one of the young men would have to navigate to get to New York. And his first bus did not leave until 1:30 the following afternoon! I gave an additional $40 to another of the travelers who had only $12 to make his distant journey. The young people gratefully accepted the grapes and crackers offered by Kate and Kate. We decided to re-arrange our own overnight accommodations and took two of the young men back to the hotel for the night and gave them our bag of bagels and some soda before returning them to the bus station the next morning. They left the room in perfect order and had even remade the bed.
The most touching part of the story for me occurred just before we left the station near midnight to go to the hotel. The three young men were standing together as I approached. The one closest to me said, "You are good people" with that look of utter astonishment that I have witnessed many times now. I gestured toward each of them and said, "You are good people, too." The one closest to me with sincere disbelief asked, "Why?" I smiled and gestured toward each of them again and said, "Because you are the children of God." The one closest to me then asked if I was a Catholic. I said that I was and the young man replied that he was as well. All I could think of was: "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they'll know we are Christians by our love."
The night before meeting the three young men, our immersion group met two different young men from Pearsall. One of the young men showed Kate and Kate and I the gifts he had for his mother and grandmother whom he had not seen in 13 years: two simple plastic bracelets that he had made and several traced coloring book pages surrounded by words of love written in calligraphy. These simple gifts from a tall, dark and handsome 19-year old who had eked out life on his own for several years after his father was murdered.
|A loving message from son to mother
And there was the night that Sherri and Jake and I met up with two other volunteers who were assisting a mother and her son. This time it was a volunteer who needed a bit of ministry. The mother of two young sons had come to San Antonio to assist with the bus station ministry. She had been up and on her feet for most of the last 24 hours having assisted those at both the bus station and those seeking food and rest at Casa de Maria y Martha. She had given her all and was on her last emotional thread as she reached for her phone to call her two little ones before they went to bed. She cried quietly on my shoulder.
These are not rare occurrences.
So last night when I walked into the unlocked door of Casa de Maria y Martha which is located in a normal neighborhood, I was happily welcomed by a number of mothers and children and volunteers who were occupying the first floor of a home that seems to unfold to accommodate whomever comes. In the morning, all whom I had met had quietly disappeared to return to the bus station. Replacing them was a 19 year old Guatemalan young woman released from Pearsall who had arrived in the night and was assisting in making tortillas for our breakfast.
To educate about the reality of the South Texas border and the people affected by border policies and practices, the STHRC has begun to organize immersion experiences. To participate in an 8-day hands-on border immersion experience (Sunday to Sunday) of four persons, contact me at email@example.com.
Thank you for your support and prayers!
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