Volunteering at the El Paso, Texas Border

Thursday, May 16, 2019

By Sr. Gabriela Ruiz CBS

Bon Secours is at the border, those were the words from Sister Dorothy when I sent her a text sharing the help being provided to our immigrant brothers and sisters.  If we focus in the meaning of Bon Secours, good help, it is what we want to leave in the minds and hearts of all the Central American cultures that have fled to escape violence and poverty conditions.

From one perspective, I felt very fortunate that my native language is Spanish because I was able to help and communicate directly with them from 7am to 7pm; to be at the border during Holy Week and Easter was a privilege like no other.  Each story told of their trajectory through the towns and deserts, holding their babies in arms, mistreated by the guides and coyotes arriving with nothing but a dry mouth, wounds on their feet, unable to sleep and hungry.  Many had not taken a shower for weeks; it was as they were living the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ through the inhumane treatment they endured through the miles traveled.  I confess that the pain and heartache got the best of me and part of me wanted to cry.  But time was of the essence and I was there to serve, help and give them hope.

I would welcome newcomers twice a day once they left the immigration buses and I would tell them, you are safe, you made it.  They would smile and hug me as if I was their families.  The following day, it was great to see them rested and clean.  Some were ready to travel further in the country to see their loved ones; I’m sure it felt like the Resurrection.  I was there for two weeks and I lost track of time.  I had time to pray with them before they traveled by bus or plane; was able to explain directions to their flights or bus stations and gladly shared some survival tips.  They enjoyed and appreciated the advice and made promises. For example, I would tell them not to forget their faith and to find a Christian community, to pray, to keep unity in their families, be good citizens and be grateful to the country that welcomes them.  Each group left rejoiced, grateful and gave us loving hugs.  This was an experience to be servants and to say mission accomplished and wait for the next group to come.

I want to say that personally I am very vulnerable when it comes to children, pregnant women and the elderly.  I feel much compassion for this population that is most vulnerable. I can’t thank God enough for this opportunity to have been a volunteer at the border and hope to come back again in the future; our mission of Bon Secours: compassion, healing and liberation were truly present for our immigrant brothers and sisters.

This summarizes my experience of service in the border of El Paso, Texas.  There were 15 shelters, hotels, each day 80 to 100 immigrants arrived.  They were families, single mothers, single fathers, pregnant women.  I want to encourage for all of us to pray daily for them, for our immigrant brothers and sisters that left everything behind.  May their lives be full of hope and may they be able to reach their dream:  THE AMERICAN DREAM.