In the past three months, I have had the incredible privilege to meet extraordinary people. Some of these migrants will always have a special place in my heart. Such as the woman with two kids in the US who prayed with me for migration officials because “it is just their job – and they have families too.” Or the family who lived in Wisconsin for 12 years and came back to Mexico to visit relatives. Their 4 citizen children went back easily with passports but the parents and their 15 year old son ended up in our comedor twice before eventually deciding to stay in Mexico. After their second deportation, the 15 year old said (jokingly), “Don’t worry – I turned myself in to see you again!” I loved that family dearly and although it was time for them to move on, it was hard to see them go.
When groups visit and ask me about my work I always end up saying “these are people that I love.”
And love changes everything. Migrants often mention to me that they are embarrassed by the fact that they haven’t showered for days and constantly wear the same dirty clothes. I don’t see it that way. To me, they are beautiful when they walk in our door. I spend plenty of time in mundane tasks – sweeping floors, washing dishes, setting tables – but they never seem boring when done in love.
I used to think a lot about the unjust fact that I always have an exit route. If I burn out I can always escape the poverty and look for a well-paying job when I graduate with my Georgetown education. But after 3 months here I have reached a point where pulling out is not so easy. I can’t even go back to school without remembering the man who is trying to cross again to help his 17-year-old US citizen daughter pay for her college education.
As Henri Nouwen writes, service does not get easier as time goes on – it can become much harder. At a certain point we transition from emotion to conviction. I don’t serve because it makes me feel good about myself. I serve because I love these migrants and God has called me to be present with them and fight for them.
That conviction comes from a passage that I have already cited twice in this blog. “We love because he first loved us.” God’s love is what gets me up in the morning and lets me sleep at night.
What would it look like if we all opened our hearts to receive his love and commit with conviction to loving our neighbors?