By Natalie Schwartz (Member of the Seneca Church and participant of the February Border Mission Trip to Frontera de Cristo)
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.” Ephesians 2:13-14
It was a chilly, rainy Ash Wednesday as I walked along the border wall in Agua Prieta; which even for February was a rare event for the desert city. Our seven member delegation from Foothills Presbytery had been immersed in life on the US-Mexico border for several days and I needed time to pray and reflect. As I walked I stopped and prayed at the murals that adorned the Mexican side of wall. As I walked back to our hotel I noticed that one of the murals was a completely different image depending on your perspective. Just as the murals changed based on our perspective, so do our own thoughts and opinions change when we take the time to see things from different perspectives.
Several times during our trip I had to see the border through someone else’s lens. In the middle of a barren desert outside of Douglas, AZ we planted a cross marking the location where Jose Luis IBarra Lerma, a young migrant in his 20’s, lost his life crossing the border. As we stood there in the sun and wind, thankful for our water bottles, it was clear how dangerous this rugged, barren land could be. One could not help but think about this young migrant in the desert, was he traveling north to support his family? Was he alone when he died, or was there someone there to comfort him in his final moments? Will his family ever be able to visit the cross that we planted? We each left an offering at the foot of the cross, rosaries, coins, shells, rocks and greenery, little tokens that became signs that Jose Luis was a remembered and loved child of God.
As I opened myself to look at the border from a different perspective, as a place of encounter, I began to find Jesus everywhere.
- In the Mennonite couple that care for the graves of six unidentified migrants, in the father carrying the burden of trying to support his family on a maquiladora salary, knowing if he had just stayed and worked in the US longer his family might not be without electricity.
- In the matriarch of of a large family who she fed us and waited to eat until we were all full.
- In the Border Patrol agent offering water to the thirsty migrant. In the social worker helping domestic violence victims.
- In the women that made up DouglaPrieta, a women’s co-op and community garden.
We all came with our biases, our own opinions, and our own ideas of how Washington should fix “the problems” of border security and Immigration. Instead of walking away with affirmations of our own opinions, simple solutions for major humanitarian issues, and black and white answers, we came home with relationships, questions, and the grace you can only experience through radical hospitality. It was through sharing of meals, laughter and awkwardness as we tried to communicate through language barriers, and the shared passion for living Christ’s Call in our communities that broke down the dividing wall. And when we thought of the border as a place of encounter and opportunity instead of barriers and dividing walls, it washed away the images of militarization, walls, divisions, we encountered generosity, hospitality, and Christian fellowship. The physical wall dividing our two countries still stands, but there is no barrier between our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Note about pics:
1) A cross attached to the border wall that reads, “As we live, we are all brothers, we are all Migrants”
2) One of the many murals adorning the Mexico side of the U.S. Border wall, showing hands reaching out for one another.
3) A cross erected where Jose Luis, a 20 year migrant, lost his life crossing the border.
4) A mural at the Migrant Shelter of Jesus riding “the beast”, the train heading north across the border with other migrants.
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