My sabbatical will begin in earnest when I depart for Israel on February 17th, 2019. I’ll return home at the end of May. With my limited media and technological skills I hope to be writing La-Vav blog posts from Jerusalem, England and Southern Africa. In preparation for the trip I’ve purchased a panoply of devices; an entry level DSLR camera, an array of adaptors and other things, all of which seem necessary but few of which I have yet figured out how to use. I’d say “keep your fingers crossed,” but doing so seems a little self-indulgent. Please know that it is quite humbling to know that the journey I’m about to take is of any interest at all to those that have signed on to following this blog. One way or another I’ll do my best to share (in words and images) both during and after my trip, what might seem worthy of your time and attention. Thank you in advance for thinking that anything I have to say or report might be of some value to you.
Unexpectedly, this La-Vav blog post has come earlier than I had anticipated. While not a component of my sabbatical, I recently returned home from a rather cathartic, compelling, and personally challenging time; a three-day journey to the borderland cities of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. Before a short reflection on that pilgrimage I would like to extend my thanks to the witness of Ruben Garcia and Christina Garcia, the Rev’d Geoffrey Hoare and the members of the Urban-Suburban Colleague Group in the Episcopal Church, to the Rev’d Winnie Varghese, and to the St. Alban’s parishioners whose generosity allowed me to board a plane and see first-hand what is just one part of an immense humanitarian crisis plaguing immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in so many places around the globe.
Thanks also to reporter Lynette Wilson, whose article written for Episcopal News Service, describes our journey in detail and paints a vivid picture of our time together in El Paso and Juarez. Below are images and thoughts that correspond with Lynette’s reporting:
Pictured above is Annunciation House, where Ruben Garcia and a holy host of volunteers help refugees make the necessary connections with family members for the next step in their journey. Here’s part of Ruben’s address to us, just moments before about fifty or so refugees arrived to be fed and cared for:
As Lynette describes in her article, a compassionate and committed Christina Garcia explained the complicated bureaucracy involved in applying and being eligible for asylum, in El Paso. The picture of Christina below was taken just after someone asked her, “Given all the challenges and seemingly insurmountable odds, what keeps you going?” Her answer: “The wins. And the children. And the children’s children.”
The Rev’d Paul Moore worked closely with Winnie Varghese in planning our pilgrimage. When I showed Paul the picture below, I told him that I had caught him bathed in a divine light. “That’s a little freaky,” he responded. Next to Paul is Hector Trejo, who is pastor to three Anglican churches in Juarez. This photo and the one below are taken in the Iglesia San Jose De Anapra, one of Hector’s three churches.
When Paul and Hector concluded the presentation at Iglesia San Jose De Anapra, located just a few hundred yards from the border between Juarez and El Paso, I walked toward the Eucharistic table and noticed an image on the wall behind; The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The image of the Mexican sacred heart, depicted in many forms, is an image that conveys Jesus’ love for all humanity. Oh did my heart jump when I saw this, a reflection of our pilgrims leaving the church. I positioned my camera such that the reflection showed the doorway to the church as a doorway into Jesus’ heart. A metaphor for the hope that as a country we might welcome refugees into our hearts, and our homes.
Below is a picture taken from our bus as we traveled in Juarez. Through the broken glass of the bus window you can see the border wall. Below that is THE WALL.
The last stop on our pilgrimage was our gathering at Tornillo, which is a concentration camp for what is now 2,300 unaccompanied minors. We got as close as we could, and once there, surrounded by fences and barbed wire and the adjacent cotton fields (Oh God, cotton fields?), we prayed, and sang, for the children, for all of us and for God’s kingdom to come, now, as it is, in heaven.
My belly echoes the howling wind,
Fear behind and fear within,
My pack is heavy and it’s cold tonight.
Hush, mi’jita, don’t you cry.
One step and another: it never ends.
Following footsteps around each bend.
Borders ahead and borders behind.
Hush, my little one, don’t you cry.
The desert is silent, with a moonless sky.
No warmth, no comfort, no lullaby.
The Jordan is near and the sea is dry
but I –
I fear I’ve come to die.
Hush, mi’jita and say goodbye.
Now step in the riverbed;
Take my hand.
Leave your burdens there
on dry land.
do you hear that sound?
The rushing wind
over sacred ground?
See my broken body,
taste the holy wine;
let the waters
baptise and refine.
One crossing behind me; more yet to come;
each letting go brings a breaking dawn.
Mercy lives in the borderlines.
So hush, my little one, don’t you cry.
By Carol Shaw, 12.14.18 // Used with permission
Let us pray: O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you
for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world.
Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and
show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until
our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all
your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.