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An Immigrant Encounter in Laredo

By Katherine Harper

The dirt of Laredo is caked on my boots, a dingy and grey chalk that bears the complexities of the lives of immigrants in this Texas border town, a matter of miles from Mexico.

During Encuentro this January, my classmates and I met two families at Christ Church in Laredo. They are separated from their extended families in Central America or Mexico. They, like many immigrant families on the border, face poverty, often finding only low-paying jobs. They fled the violence and injustice of their homelands, though they are not secure in the US; those who are undocumented – even if they are attempting to get paperwork approved – live in fear of the Border Patrol, deportation and state-sanctioned detention facilities.

These two couples work hard, pray harder and trust God with deep faith that all will be well. One woman shares that she prays God will show her in the face of strangers whether they are to be trusted or not. Her application process for legal status is not complete, so she could be deported and separated from her husband and children here in the US. She exudes God’s joy as she talks, offering a rousing testimony of her faith and experience. I was humbled and struck by how her specific prayer shows abiding trust that God will reveal the true intentions of those she meets, and ultimately protect her.

The other couple beam with love and pride at their children – especially the youngest, three-year-old Christopher. We meet the boy, though we first hear evidence of him in loud thumps from the childcare room. He throws a baseball repeatedly against a wall. They show us videos on their phone of him solidly batting baseballs pitched to him; he’s been doing that since he was not yet two years old! In the midst of their uncertainties of financial stability and immigration status, their children are safe and thriving as US citizens.

The grey dirt of Laredo still clings to my boots. I do not want to wipe it away. I want to carry that dirt with me, so that I will remain sensitive to the vulnerability, the hope and the dedication of people at the border. When we gather at Eucharist – in all manners of documented status and citizenship – the human constructs of boundaries fall away for God’s kingdom is united, embracing our languages and cultures in the body of Christ.

My faith in God has been deepened through this experience. I have been challenged to put my life in God’s hands. Will you?

The January “Encuentro: Mission in Latino Contexts,” is an intensive and broad exposure to the Latino world, especially as exists in the Trans-Mexico border and is a requirement for all MDiv students.

Katherine Harper is a junior MDiv student from the Diocese of Alabama.  Prior to seminary, Katherine worked in the field of public health and wellness for 15 years.


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