Not Just Another Saturday


Children’s handprints from the video of Iglesias Embajadores del Jesus te da la Bienvenida Refugee shelter in Tijuana, Mexico by Lilli Muller

We started at 7:00 a.m., the drive to Tijuana’s sanctuary for refugees living at the southern border. The trips are the same in many ways and so different each time. 

The sameness is in the route, the time investment (usually 16 hours), the vehicle filled with supplies and generosity from strangers who know that people are waiting for the next chapter in their lives, to open. 

Waiting is the thing that is prevalent at the church – some have been at the sanctuary for months.  One woman and her two sons who are 16 and 11, traveled from Honduras after death threats were made against her older son because he helped to stop the beating of another teenager in their village.  The family was given a day to leave their home.  Otherwise the threat of death would be carried out.  The people of that town had seen it before and conditions were getting worse, so they decided to flee.  Her goal was to save her two boys and find a place where she could work and they could finish their schooling.  Theirs is a modest dream, but in today’s climate of fear, almost an impossibility to realize.  They made it to Mexico and because the mother has a sister in southern California, she petitioned for entry into California.  Their wait so far:  7 months and counting.



Imagine living in a place where there are about 250 people, about a third of whom are children, and the mix of humanity speaks Spanish, Creole, French, and English – many have been through trauma to make the journey to this sanctuary provided by a church that sits in one of the poorest valleys in Tijuana.  The pastor and pastora are doing what they can to live into the meaning of love.

The irony of crossing on any given Saturday is that within the short distance of less than half a mile at the International Border, one sees the fast food, insurance, and hotel industries thriving on the U.S. side; and upon crossing, immediately one can see nothing of such enterprises and surely will see people on foot, walking on the freeway heading for places unknown.  The landscape is scarred by a rust-colored wall of metal slats.  Today it is two layers deep and carves its way all along the so-called “border” to prevent crossings – and supposedly more safety and security for the north.

Once in the valley, there is evidence of compassion, humanity, and care.  It’s not by an stretch, ideal.  The conditions are cramped, and constantly dusty and smells of human presence;  yet, there is laughter among the children, aid being brought to treat illnesses that are common this season, and meals being prepared for the hundreds of mouths to feed, both adult and children.

The situation is overwhelming.  Sometimes, one has to wonder whether the trips are worth making.  Then, there is something that happens, something revealed that makes it all worth the effort.  On this trip, and artist named Lilli brought a moment of brightness into this world of waiting.  She shared her gift and made it a real expression of compassion and love.  What was it worth?  Truly priceless.

So at the end of a day, it seems that even though the situation we all face is impossible to solve, for some like us, there is nothing lost or compromised in doing what we can to ease the suffering that so many face.  In fact, this is the place where “doing is being, and being is doing” – and it’s not just another Saturday south of the border.

Posted by admin in Mirror Project