Far from home…

Yesterday at our church, St. James’ Episcopal, a group of ten persons showed up unexpectedly. They were sitting on a rock wall while we were preparing for our monthly Vestry (church board) meeting. The group, consisting of six children and four adults, were migrants/refugees from Venezuela. Their only possessions were carried in paper Wal-Mart shopping totes.

Luckily, we have a member of our church board who speaks fluent Spanish and we were able to find out where they came from and what they needed.

They simply needed a place to stay while they awaited what they hoped would be a more permanent home somewhere, possibly in the United States.

They told us they had been in a “military camp” on the border where they had been treated badly. It was not clear if the “camp” was in the United States or Mexico. They said they had been told that there might be temporary room for them at the Holy Cross Retreat south of Las Cruces, but they had no transportation to get there.

Two of our church members and I helped load them up in two SUVs and drove them the relatively short distance to Holy Cross.

When we got there, we were told by officials at the facility that there was no room for the families and that they could not stay there. I made a call to the Las Cruces Community of Hope and was told that they had no accommodations for the ten, but that they could provide them someplace to be for the day and get two full meals.

We loaded them up in the SUVs again and drove to the Community of Hope. After some discussions with officials at that facility, there was glimmer of hope that some other agency in Las Cruces might be able to give them shelter temporarily. We left them there and they all thanked us for our efforts. I had forgotten my money clip that morning, so I regrettably had no cash to give them.

I’m not sure what happened to them. I hope they found a safe place to shelter for the night.

This is the second time I’ve dealt with immigrants/refugees from Venezuela who came to our church for help.

Venezuelan flag

Venezuela is in a terrible place now, with a corrupt government, decimated economy and mass exodus of its citizens looking for a better life, not just to the United States but throughout South and Central America and the Carribean. I read that more than 90 percent of the country’s citizens are in poverty.

It occurred to me what tremendous courage and love of family these people had to travel thousands of miles to somewhere where their future was uncertain, while holding hope that a better future awaited them than if they had stayed in their own country. It also makes me angry that someone likely took money from them to “ship” them to America and sold them a “bill of goods” about what they could expect.

I won’t get into the politics of what is happening at our border except to say what my good friend Jim said the other night regarding the furious national debate surrounding gun control.

“We need to have a conversation about it, not just yell at each other,” he said.

The same is true immigration policies, I think. We need to do something other than have the President, Governor of Texas, Vice President, and various members of Congress on both sides of the aisle travel to El Paso to stage photo ops and then return to their offices and start yelling at the other side. And it’s not, as one of my cynical friends once suggested, just a matter of “who’s going to pay for it.”

I woke up this morning when our dog Chester hopped onto my side of the bed as he often does to demand a round of tummy rubs and ear scratches. It occurred to me as I was petting him that his life is so much better than the 10 people we tried to help yesterday — especially the six children. He has indoor warm shelter, a safe place to be, a constant supply of food and water, many places to lounge, a big yard to play in and lots of personal attention.

We need to pray for these people and others like them who showed up at our church yesterday. And we also need to pray for our political leaders to come together to find a way to address this issue — not just by yelling at each other.

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