Standing at a border will always refocus horizons. A group from our synod has spent the past week (Feb. 2-9, 2015) on a Border Immersion Experience in El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico; hosted by Cristo Rey Lutheran Church of El Paso and led by the Rev. Brian Erickson of Faith Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virg.
“On our border immersions we hear the stories of people living on the border, many of them in families where some members are undocumented. We visit the Border Patrol and an ICE Detention Center. We talk with folks working directly with immigrants and with organizations working to change policy, many of them non-governmental organizations (NGOs),” described Pr. Erickson in an interview with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).* “Our goal is for participants to connect emotionally and to learn how to think critically about our policies and laws.”
Border patrol officials are not hazy characters in a news story for trip participants. They are now represented by Bustamante and Yanez, two men who gave an “outstanding briefing” according to group participant the Rev. Mark Olsen. Pr. Olsen thanks the officials for their informative conversation and service to our country.
Nor are faceless many women, men and children living out border stories met by the group in both Texas and Mexico. “Yesterday, we ventured back across ‘la frontera’ (the border) into Mexico to the colonia (colony/community) of Anapra,” wrote Pr. Olsen of a Feb. 7 trip to a clinic run by Dr. Mendoza. “Not enough time or space now to describe the poverty of this community. Pictures capture some of it,” which are posted to his congregation’s Facebook page. “[Dr. Mendoza is] an amazing woman of faith and tenacity, providing an invaluable service to this community.”
Upon return, it is Pr. Erickson’s hope that participants tell of their refocused horizons. “Through all of these experiences I have not only learned about the issues, but I have heard stories and made friends,” said Pr. Erickson in the LIRS interview. “The faith and courage of the people I have met empower me to want to make sure their stories are told and heard.”
Contact a participant for more information.
The Rev. Kate Davidson of Hope Lutheran Church in Clinton, Md.
The Rev. Brian Erickson of Faith Lutheran Church in Arlington, Virg.
The Rev. Joel Guttormson of New Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Lovettsville, Virg.
The Rev. Rosario Hernandez of La Sagrada Familia Lutheran Ministry in Silver Spring, Md.
The Rev. Tom Knoll of First Trinity Lutheran Church in D.C.
Dorothy Mugubu on synod office staff
The Rev. Mark Olsen of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Haymarket, Virg.
The Rev. Ray Ranker of Lutheran Campus Ministry in College Park, Md.
The Rev. Sue Tyykila of St. John Lutheran Church in Riverdale, Md.
* “VA Pastor Equips Congregation to ‘Connect Emotionally and Think Critically’ About Immigration Reform” by Linda Hartke (Redefining Welcome blog post, LIRS, 1/29/15)