On Wednesday a woman migrant who I knew walked into the comedor. Last fall she had been deported twice along with her husband and 15 year old son. Of all the migrants I interacted with in the fall, they were some that I knew the best and pray for the most. After the second deportation they had decided to return to Puebla. But she agonized this winter about being separated from her 5 US citizen children who live in Wisconsin. So she and her husband had tried to cross again and this time been deported separately. Before she was deported, her husband said “go to Sister Joanna’s shelter and wait for me there.” Other than the fact that I am not in a religious order, they had no idea that I was studying at Georgetown and no longer in Nogales.
Yet there I was to receive her. As if I had never left. And even celebrate her birthday on Friday just as I have celebrated many other migrants’ birthdays through my months in Nogales.
Did this chance encounter make me feel indispensible or as if I should have never left Nogales? Certainly not. I knew I had to leave and I am committed to finishing my studies at Georgetown.
But it was representative of my heart in going, which was to be open to making the most of the moments that God gives me. I only had a week in Nogales this time and I could have woken up every morning wishing for more time. Instead, I thanked God for every moment that I had to love and be present with my friends – the migrants, staff, and volunteers.
Sometimes God gives us four months. Sometimes he gives us a week.
Women sometimes say that they feel so at home in our shelter that they wish they could stay there forever. They joke they will cross again so they can get deported and stay another week. But in truth they are just deeply grateful for the moments of peace and love that they experience there. They know that the time will come to move on and they just take every moment as a gift.
Yes, I love being in Nogales with a profound joy that I can only begin to describe. And going again meant that I was destined to leave again. I could cling onto the moments that I have and be disappointed when I am away.
Or I can love with an open heart knowing that if God gives me a week it might just mean that in that time a good friend will walk through the door.