Will you let me be your servant,
let me be as Christ to you?
Pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant, too.
We are pilgrims on a journey,
we are trav'lers on the road.
We are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the nighttime of your fear.
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping,
when you laugh, I'll laugh with you.
I will share your joy and sorrow
till we've seen this journey through.
When we sing to God in heaven,
we shall find such harmony
born of all we've known together
of Christ's love and agony.
- Richard Gillard, 1997
It is just after Easter and a time to reflect on what Jesus's life and death and resurrection mean for today. Utmost in our minds are the verses of the above hymn that we sang together at our retirement service in Greensboro, NC, and again with the San Antonio Mennonite Church on Maundy Thursday.
We remember two of the immigrant mothers this past week who said they were going to be joining their husbands--one who had been in the U.S. two years and the other four years. Neither of their husbands had met their young daughters. We can only imagine their emotions as they waited at the airport for the final leg of their long journey from homelands in Honduras and Guatemala. It takes great stamina and strength to travel for over a month to get to this point. The one woman recounted having gone at one point for four days without food or water, sleeping on the dirt by the side of the road.
None of these women or their children are fleeing just "for the fun of it," or "to take our jobs."
They have very legitimate fears for the well-being and safety of themselves and their children from gangs, abuse, extortion, extreme poverty, etc. We have heard that many of them, if not most, will have a court hearing and be sent back if they don't get a good immigration lawyer.
But for several hours on any given day that we help them at the airport, we get to bring a sliver of peace and hope during a traumatic time. Most have never flown before, only speak Spanish, an Indian language, Portuguese, or French or even sometimes Russian or some other language. So our job is to help them get their boarding passes, take them through the security area and on to their gates, explaining where on their tickets to find their travel times and flight number and other important information.
We are working at the airport three days a week for 7-8 hours each day with one or two other volunteers. We help 85-125 women and children who are released each day from the detention centers that are located in towns about 1.5 hours south of here. Also, another 60-85 go through the bus terminal here in San Antonio each day. Volunteers with Interfaith Welcome Coalition help there, as well. (The detention centers bring them to the airport and bus terminal and drop them off.) The airport and bus personnel have been grateful for our help since it makes their job much easier.
Our Spanish has been coming back to us and we feel we are getting better at it each day. Jim is even better than me at remembering vocabulary, but one day I was waiting with a mother and her eight-year-old daughter for over an hour and talking with them most of the time. After 40 minutes or so, the girl asked me (Ruth) in Spanish, "Do you know English? I want to learn English." Wow! I didn't think my Spanish was sounding that authentic!
The days we aren't working at the airport, we have been enjoying the sites and things to do and see here in San Antonio, as well as participating in the life of the local church. We are only a mile from downtown and can walk to festivals there that happen almost every weekend. The River Walk is also a favorite place to go. We've seen four of the five old missions from the 1600's. We hope to get to some of the museums. Days are full, sometimes stressful, but always filled with ways to be the presence of Christ in someone's life.