Today is my Sabbath – the one day off that I get every week. And, as tired as I am from rising early in the mornings and working most of the day, it has never been harder for me to take a break. My first day in el comedor (the soup kitchen for migrants) was Friday. There is a shelter in Nogales where migrants can sleep for 3 nights – although they can eat at el comedor for 15 days. That means that, unless they plan on sleeping outside while they stay in Nogales, most of the migrants that I have met will leave after today.
And here I sit on my bed, unable to say goodbye and good luck to the migrants with whom I have shared two days of meals. To the man from close to Acapulco who always volunteers to wash dishes after the meal. To the young man from Oaxaca who came here intending to cross but has now heard the stories of the desert and is too terrified to try – but who also has no money or means of returning home (the Mexican consulate only helps people who have been deported return home). To the bearded man who was deported from Los Angeles and came over to help me dry dishes when I faced all of the breakfast dishes by myself. To the man whose group was attacked by a drug gang while trying to cross and later was taken to the Florence Detention Center – where the guards refused to give proper treatment to his broken leg. He does not know where he will go now but every time I looked over during the meals he had a great smile on his face because he says he is happy to be out of Florence and back in Mexico. To the woman who we think intends to cross again but who has not said a word since she first came on Friday.
When I return to el comedor tomorrow, most if not all of these faces that I recognize will be gone. And I can’t say goodbye and I will likely never see them again. That is the life of migration, the life of the Kino Border Initiative. Everyone passes through only briefly, even if they don’t know where they are going next. It is tempting to skip the Sabbath and go to work anyway to see them one last time – but a wise Jesuit professor warned me before I left that in service like what I am doing there will be people who never take breaks. Because those people think that it all depends on them. I have to take a day off as I learn to trust in God and remember to put the migrants in His hands and not mine. All I can do is pray.