Last week, my mom and I, along with a team from global(x), went to Texas with Border Perspective. This organization helps people learn about what’s really going on at the U.S./Mexico border and serves those who are affected by the complex, often harsh realities of immigration and poverty. We saw so much with our own eyes, had great conversations about God’s heart for immigrants, volunteered at a Catholic Charities shelter, and smelled like sulfur whenever we got out of the shower (that’s another story for another time).
I went into this trip nervous about my anger. In my Social Work classes at Auburn, I used to play this game with myself called, “What am I going to be angry about today?”. It seemed like every day, I learned about a new injustice to spark more rage, from police brutality to child abuse to sexual assault. Then, when I interned with the refugee resettlement agency Inspiritus and spent six months in Lebanon working primarily with Syrian refugees, immigration and refugee issues became one of my core passions. I care so deeply about this population, people who have been through so much and are often forced to leave their homes behind, only to encounter some very not warm welcomes. I was worried that I would see the realities of the southern border and walk away pissed. off.
And while there were certainly experiences that made me mad and sad, I was surprised to walk away from last week feeling much more hopeful than I had expected.
When we saw “the wall” (which is definitely more of an incomplete fence), we didn’t wish that it was bigger and taller. Instead, we talked about how the millions of dollars spent per mile could be better used to treat immigrants more humanely, instead of ineffectively attempting to keep them out.
When we volunteered at the Catholic Charities shelter, we didn’t shove families into cold rooms and take away their shoelaces. Instead, we gave out food, clothes, hygiene items, and other supplies to the immigrants who showed up with just the clothes on their backs, sometimes cell phones, and ankle monitors to keep track of them until their court date.
When we flew out of the McAllen airport on Friday, we didn’t point, stare, or wonder why families at the airport had no luggage. Instead, we did what we could to help these families who were traveling to their family members, friends, or other sponsors, where they’ll wait for their immigration hearing.
All of these experiences were like Blistex on the chapped lips of my soul, shining light when I was anticipating so much darkness.
In the past several months, I’ve been struggling with the gloom and doom of the world. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the multitude of crises we live through and witness from afar. Our brains are actually wired to tune in more to the negative than to the positive, because it’s useful for survival when you need to pay attention to negatives like poisonous food or a bear approaching. In those moments, you don’t really need to look on the bright side; you need to focus on the freaking bear. But in the world we live in today, we’re almost consumed by not only our fears, heartbreaks, and traumas, but also the fears, heartbreaks, and traumas of everyone with Internet access. After months of feeling like the weight of the world was on my shoulders, I was so worried that I would feel even worse seeing the border crisis up close and personal. But instead, I was encouraged, because I was able to help in teeny, tiny ways, and I was surrounded by other people who care.
My week in Texas reminded me that, no matter how much I care for immigrants, God cares infinitely more. I saw how God has actually given me anger about injustice, because God is angry when the vulnerable are mistreated, too. I talked, learned, and laughed with a group of Christians—a group that’s gotten so many things about immigration so very wrong for so many years—who want the church to make a positive difference in this area. And with each layer of this chapstick added onto my grieving heart, I felt refreshed and lighter, the burden of an international crisis slipping from my shoulders, which were never big enough to carry it.
Sometimes, it feels like it’s impossible to make this better. And by this, I mean immigration, but I also mean racial justice, gender equality, wars and displacement disasters, and everything else going wrong in the world. How the heck can we “solve” these problems? My perspective from the border is this: nothing is impossible with God. God is the great Carer. When God cares about something, God acts. We can either fall in line or get steamrolled, because God’s justice will roll like the Rio Grande along the U.S./Mexico border. And I’m genuinely excited to be a part of it.
If you’d like to hear more about my time in Texas, I’d love to tell you about it! Comment below, or send me a text or email, so we can set up a time to chat. Thanks for reading! And remember: let’s choose love over fear. Everyone, everywhere, every time.