Lucy & Rosa @ the Border

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Written September 1, 2019
About the Texas Impact / Pastors In Action 2019 experience at the McAllen border
Rev. Stephanie Evelyn McKellar

Tears streamed down her face as Rosa’s story poured from her mouth. She had approached us, longing to be heard, witnessed, and known.

Rosa was wearing a pink shirt over a tank top, red flats, and jeans. She looked about the age of students in my youth ministry years, but the cognitive dissonance of the facts I’d been learning began to dismantle familiarity: how long had she had gone without a shower, a decent meal, or a proper hug? I wondered about the plastic bag in her hands, filled with snacks and other various items; I wondered if she carried her belongings on her at all times. I wondered about the blue towel I’d seen so many other women carrying. Perhaps it was given for sweat in this heat, this makeshift handkerchief has made many appearances in just this short hour for tears streaming while people tell their weary tales. Why must we hand them towels instead of safe trips across the border? Instead of drying tears couldn’t we change systems so the tears are less frequent?

Lucy listens as Rosa tells her story. Amy translates for us, and I’m horrified, first by the look on Amy’s face as she understands, and then when she speaks it to us in English. Kidnpapping, death threats on two of her eight siblings, a life-threatening illness from which her father suffers, cleaning house in a home of man turns out to be a sex trafficker, authorities who won’t even listen though she’d gathered all the minutiae of paperwork and red tape. It feels like the odds are stacked against her, and she sits crushed in the vice of her circumstances; weary, weeping, and wandering where help could possibly come from.
Lucy gazes deeply, listening intently. Her face is soft and kind, while still fierce and empathetic. A tear rolls down her cheer as she sinks deeper into the present moment with Rosa.

I can’t talk to my mom because it hurts too much. I’m trying to help my dad and my family get healthy and to safety. I can’t go back, and I can’t go forward. I don’t know if they’ll survive to my court date.

I feel like it’s all my fault.

Where is God in this?

I’d rather die than go back to El Salvador.

Where is God in this jagged and winding road of right attempts met with road blocks?

Amy is still translating, Rosa is still sobbing, and as Lucy breaks her pattern of listening, she interjects and sends chills down my spine and tears down my face.

It is not your fault.
It is not your fault.
It is not your fault.

You aren’t the reason this is happening to your family; the people who are threatening your family are.
The God who has brought you in safety here, along this road, and out of the hands of a dangerous man, is still with you, now.
God is everywhere, and present with your family.

You can trust that God will always be with your family.
God does not need you dead, God needs you alive, and your life is worth caring for.
God is with you now, and God cares about your life. Your life is precious to God. It is not better if you were dead, it is better if you are alive to go on living, because God is not done with you yet.

Rosa’s tears soften, as she nods, and leans into me for a hug. She leans into Lucy too, still nodding. She picks up the thread Lucy has started, telling us she believes God is with her on this path, and goes ahead of her to prepare a way.
As Lucy begins to pray, I find myself leaning onto her arms wrapped around Rosa, as if I need to feel my skin soak in the prayers she’s praying over Rosa. I need to breathe closer to her prayers and her confidence, I need to feel more tangible the hope she has in God’s fierce and constant presence. I lean in lacking confidence, I feel more desperation and hopelessness. In a few moments, we will leave Rosa behind, we will safely cross that border, and I need to carry something in my body of the hope that God can indeed be trusted with this situation.

God is here.

In listening and witnessing and letting ourselves be affected and shaped by her story.
In solidarity with the one who walks, and weeps, and cries out for what is just and healthy and life-giving.
God is here in the road and the waiting.

I can’t always find the presence of God, or my confidence. But I believe with my whole being in a God who arrives to the road, alongside the weary one facing the road blocks, who weeps and grieves and hovers and creates, who breathes life into dead bones, and who brings life out of the hopelessness in death. Somewhere, somehow, God is here.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
God of all that is.
My whole being longs and yearns,
For your courtyards.
My heart and my body will rejoice to the living God
When I arrive to your place.
The birds find a home and a nest,
A place where they can provide safety for their young.
In their flight and journey I take hope along this long and weary road.
Those who have gone before me
Along this pilgrim road
Take strength and hope in you,
In anticipation of being in your presence.
They pass through suffering and struggle,
And somehow, their tears are transformed into an oasis
God has shown up at their side,
And they are finding their sorrow transformed into strength
God, hear our prayer
Come closer,
I don’t know if I can reach your courts and where you dwell.
I am weary, and I am struggling.
Come be my shield,
Protect me against all that threatens me on this road.
God has become my light and my protection,
My sun and my shield,
God has arrived to walk with me as I face what lies ahead.

Paraphrase of Psalm 84, by Stephanie Evelyn McKellar