I like to be sure of what is true.
But in daily life here, we simply don’t know what is real. Especially when we document abuses, it is no easy task to clarify stories and verify accuracy.
Part of the difficulty comes from the disorientation of the journey. A group of migrants can suffer together the same robbery and each one may report not just a different day but even different times of the day. Sometimes stories are muddled. For example, a migrant who arrived a few days ago was attacked twice in different places but it took some time before we even realized that there were two separate episodes because he mixed the two stories and always returned to the earlier, more traumatizing incident.
Some migrants for a variety of reasons may invent stories. The risk of the journey can make migrants paranoid. Perhaps the taxi driver was trying to kidnap them. Or perhaps he really did just want to give them food. Perhaps there were sex traffickers trying to kidnap women. Or maybe they were just ordinary robbers looking to take advantage of migrants.
Others could very well be telling the truth, but if no one corroborates the story we aren’t sure. This past week, a migrant said that he had witnessed a mass kidnapping by the Zetas on the train. His story seemed believable. But there are neither other witnesses nor other evidence.
And then many are too afraid to talk. Our count of reported abuses is probably much lower than the actual number because migrants have little reason to trust us with their stories. About a week ago, a 17 year travelling alone came into the shelter insisting he wanted to return toHondurasin a tone of anxiety and fear. It seemed he had suffered an abuse but as we asked him he continually reaffirmed, “Hasta ahora, todo tranquilo” (Up until now everything has been peaceful). Is that true?
We simply do not know.
And it is hard for me to live with not knowing.
But, on a deeper level, I think it is a lesson on living and, for me, living with faith. One of my friends’ favorite verses is where a centurion tells Jesus “I believe, help my unbelief.” As much as I want to be certain of what is true in the stories of migrants, I even more so want to be certain of God, of His character and His plans. But sometimes I just don’t know. So I fall on my knees and say – “I believe in you enough to know that you can accept my doubt.”
The analogy is not perfect. But I think learning to live with uncertainty about reality in the physical or visible world is teaching me a great deal about accepting my own doubt in the spiritual world. I hear migrants’ accounts and tell myself, “I can never be sure, but I have to decide whether to trust or mistrust the story. Knowing that trust is tinged with mistrust.” And I look at God and say, “I can’t be certain, but I have to choose whether to believe or not believe. Knowing that belief is tinged with unbelief.”