For almost two years by the southernmost tip of Texas across the Rio Grande in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, thousands of vulnerable women, men, and children lived in a makeshift “tent city” while awaiting rulings on their applications for asylum in the United States. These families slept in donated tents at the mercy of extreme weather conditions where temperatures could rise above 100 degrees, and when it rained, the downpours knocked down their only refuge and left them in the midst of mud pits. Imagine living in such uncertainty, where you would have to depend on outside organizations for food and water, where you had to cook over a campfire daily.
For some in our nation it was easy to turn a blind eye, as these families were not within their view. But how could we not cross the bridge to reach out to them? How could we not respond to God’s call to love, to be present to that Christ who is before us?
Bishop Daniel E. Flores from our Diocese of Brownsville reminds us often, “Caminamos juntos o no vamos a llegar.” We walk together or we are not going to arrive.
We lived a daily grace as we accompanied these families and did what we could to provide hope in the form of a hug, a smile, a meal, a place to rest their heads; we witnessed also their resilience and the gift of our faith alive in actions. In today’s reading we hear the Lord say, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.”
There will be struggles and there will be joys. After two years of waiting, we witnessed a triumphant moment when these families were finally allowed to cross into the United States. We were grateful that we could be God’s presence to them, that we could walk with them in solidarity. We could only do this by following the one who calls us.
As I accompanied them and crossed the bridge together, I looked back to where they had been waiting, it was as if there was a blanket of grace over the camp. God’s hand had brought a gentle presence of loving care to them because of those who followed Him.
Don’t be afraid to wake up early and ask God, “Where do you want me to follow you today?”
And to respond, “I’m ready. ¡Aqui estoy!”
- Where do you hear God’s voice? Where are you being called to follow the one who calls you?
- What bridges must you cross to respond to God’s love?
Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J., a sister with the Missionaries of Jesus, is the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. She oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing oversight of different ministries and services in the Rio Grande Valley through emergency assistance, homelessness prevention, disaster relief, clinical counseling, pregnancy care, food programs, and humanitarian relief to immigrants.