A Safe Place To Be

June 2022
Tijuana, Mexico

Entering a sanctuaryWhen the weather is dry, driving up the streambed to the sanctuary that sits in the valley that is known as Cañon the Alacrán (Scopion Valley), there are signs of hope.

One pastor, Gustavo Banda, holds space for sanctuary, for safety, for hope.  He grew up in this valley and knows well the terrain – both natural and human.  His work has been unmoved by conditions that seem impossible – politics, poverty, pressures of working to create safe space even without the support of local municipal sanitation bureaus.  Covid has not touched this place and there are some 1200 people – 400 children among them.  How this is possible, who knows.

The external conditions seem impossibly unmanageable on every front:  the physical conditions, the number of people being sheltered, fed, and supported spiritually, and the complete lack of privacy for families – yet, all of that doesn’t deter the love and care that every person seeking refuge will find at this particular place.

There are men and women working – building a school, a clinic that will be used for dental and medical care, kitchens constantly in action preparing meals for all the people who are at the sanctuary, at least twice a day, and children’s laughter as they play wherever there is space, and adults, sit in the shade of a tree having their quiet conversations.

When a visitor enters, the experience can be as varied as the personalities among us.  There are some who are inspired deeply to take action and do whatever may be needed to support the pastor and this community; others see only suffering, and still others see ways to make this time and space productive with gardens, flowers, and everyday living (just not in the most ideal set of conditions).

The thing that is most evident is that this is a place that offers safety, understanding, and care for those who are seeking refuge from violence, certain starvation, and the impact of cartels that have taken over their communities of origin.  The reasons for abandoning home with children in tow, are as plentiful as the number of families who make the walk up the streambed to the sanctuary.

What they find at the end of the road, is not a neat, clean, and orderly place to rest;  rather, a crowded and bustling sanctuary – that will extend the basics:  a place to put down their belongings, get cleaned up, have a meal, and a space to rest – with love and compassion to fill their spirit and soul.  It’s far from perfect, but for those who arrive, it is truly a blessing manifest.