Updates from the U.S. Southern Border...
Today I helped Clare to organize and distribute men's clothing, all of which had been donated. I studied the vocabulary and expressions as if I were a department store clerk. 250 refugees arrived from Honduras. The adults wear a large ankle bracelet with a heavy battery so they can be located. I held a baby while the mother got a clean set of clothing. I held a second baby while the mother was in the shower. Hondurans are small; we are out of small pants but more donated clothing will arrive. One woman asked for prayer, so I prayed aloud with her, although brief, and she was grateful. The refugees are grateful and cooperative. I was delighted to meet Sister Norma, the administrator of Catholic Charities Rio Grande Valley. She seemed calm considering the holy chaos of the center.the volunteers and staff have an amazing energy and commitment.
The four of us are getting comfortable with the chaos that is appropriate here. We see an ebb and flow of tasks/ business that match the morning, the pre-bus afternoon, and the arrival of the buses. [At 3:30 each day] we wait for buses -- expecting 250+. All sections seem ready, resting and happy. We sit with other volunteers in the chairs to hold waiting-to-process line of refugees. We will rise and begin cheering when they enter the door. We will resume our tasks and prepare to feed the children. Eventually we will decide to go 'home' to the hotel. Our hearts say "Stay, this is ministry." Our minds say "We can go, they will be okay." Not sure when we will go home. We will come back tomorrow. Ah!!! A bus is here!
At Catholic charities Rio grande valley. Yesterday the staff and volunteers processed 278 refugees. Today 280 from Honduras. the workers have an amazing commitment to helping the families get food, shower, clothing, bus ticket quickly. They try to get refugees to the bus by the next day. We give them toiletries and a bag lunch. I sorted donated clothing while refugees were given one set of clothing for their journey. I practiced the vocabulary for clothing. We explain to the refugees that they need warm clothing. They don’t realize how cold the winter weather is up north. The refugees are young parents with young children. I asked a young pregnant woman how she traveled. She guardedly admitted the she rode on the roof of the train, la bestia, the beast. I rode with Jim to deliver a father and daughter to the bus terminal. The ticket agent and driver are bilingual and helpful. The father and daughter will arrive in Tennessee by morning. I can’t imagine their trauma.
Sisters Clare, Patricia and Julie Ann are at the Catholic Charities Respite Center at the US southern border. . . We were hoping to be helpful and we were. I helped to prepare baggies of toiletries, make sandwiches, and pack lunches for refugees to take on the bus. Four busloads of refugees arrived from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Staff processed the adults while volunteers helped serve soup and salad, provide a change of clothing, a shower, and a mat. I took children by the hand to the dining area and they followed me trustingly. I got so chocked up that I could barely breathe. Children ran out to the yard and played while the parents were processed. Young families, some mothers were breast feeding. A doctor and health care professionals provide limited medical care. People want refugees to be admitted. Workers are needed in farms, restaurants, and hotels. I gave thanks that I am here.