One of the hardest places along the migrant journey I’ve been was the two months I spent in the Albergue Decanal Guadalupano in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz. Every day, dozens of migrants from Central America would jump off the top of the freight train to stop for a meal, a shower, and a short rest before leaving in the early evening on the train again. They had experienced or witnessed horrors, including assaults and kidnapping, in the 400 miles they had traveled thus far, less than a third of the way through Mexico.
At the Kino Border Initiative aid center in Nogales, Sonora we hear similar stories of abuse, near-death experiences, and the wrenching pain of family separation. Yet as a volunteer in Tierra Blanca it was harder to know how to best live out a ministry of presence. In Nogales, many arrive with a great need to talk, be open, and be listened to because of the rawness of their pain. In Tierra Blanca, migrants were acutely aware they were less than a third of the way through their journey. They couldn’t afford to open up or to mourn. They had to fix their eyes ahead, on the destination, to journey through the suffering yet to come. They had to remind themselves of the love of their family that motivated them to set out in the first place.On the Wednesday of Holy Week, Jesus is in the Tierra Blanca moment of his journey toward death and resurrection. He knows he has already been betrayed by one of his trusted disciples. His heart is heavy in pain and loneliness. The Psalm and Isaiah express the sense of weakness, weariness, broken-heartedness of the day. Yet Jesus must keep his eyes fixed ahead, because Good Friday and Easter Sunday are both yet to come.
In these moments, breaking through means staying the course. St. Ignatius encourages his followers: “in time of desolation, never make a change.” Even on that Wednesday, Jesus stayed the course and chose to keep loving, he chose to still invite Judas to the table.
So too we set our faces like flint and remind ourselves why we set out on this journey in the first place. We feel the full force of anguish and lamentation as we accompany people who fear death, who languish in detention, and who have been ripped away from their family. And we keep journeying together, still believing that the Kingdom is yet to come.
Joanna Williams has served at the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) since 2015. She was named the executive director in March of 2021 and before that worked as the director of education and advocacy for six years. She graduated with a B.S. from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and received a Master’s in Public Policy from Arizona State University.