Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate
The grim realities here at the U.S./Mexico border of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, are the twin plights migrants and poverty. We, the Columban missionaries living and working in this area, have been accompanying the migrants. We welcome, protect, promote, and integrate migrants when they arrive at the border, both in Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. This has been my mission here throughout the years I have been working at this place where God sent me. During the years I’ve been here, I’ve heard a lot of stories of suffering from the Mexican people. They migrated from their home provinces to Juarez, fleeing from violence and poverty, to find better living and the dream to cross the border to work in the U.S. I journey with them, cry with them, accompanying them in their joys and painful moments.
Sometimes I don’t know how to talk about God’s love for them. My presence in visiting them, greeting them whenever we meet, is a way of showing God’s love. By being here, comforting, listening and accompanying them and giving hope, I am showing them God’s love. My experience of God’s love is not about talking about it but by action. The experiences of suffering people have today made them angry with the church, God, and other people. They do not know who to trust. The action and practice of my faith as a lay missionary is to show them that there are still good people who welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants into their communities. Together we form community. Together we help and care for each other, and the process of healing and peace begins.
In 2018-2019 when migrants arrived from Central America, we, Columban missionaries and the community of Rancho Anapra, reached out to help our sisters and brothers from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. It was another challenging experience for me when I heard many sad and painful stories every day. I felt their suffering and pain every time I listened and cried with them. This has made me pray, pray, pray every day.
One day, as I was tired coming home, I entered the chapel and asked God, “Until when, Lord?” The tears were my prayer that day during the holy hour of the week-long adoration in our parish. I felt the peace of God after that week. In faith I believe that God will listen to our cries; He will help us and is with us always. These migrants drew me closer to God and strengthen my faith.
God is with me and guides my journeys with the migrants every day to show His love to them. God loves humanity, and He uses me to show the migrants that God is with us in our sufferings and one day we will be reunited with Him, in His time.
Assisting them with presence and love is what the migrants need today, because they have been treated inhumanely by so many people. I lose myself to be with them. Without God I cannot accompany, listen, protect, or share hope, love and faith with the people. My country, culture, tradition, language, skin color are different from them, but God’s love made me part of this family.
We are all migrants, forming a Eucharistic community of nationalities from Mexico, the U.S., Fiji, South Korea, Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. We all live in Rancho Anapra, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. We are practicing what Pope Francis said about migrants in his 2019 World Day of Migrants and Refugees message:
“Dear brothers and sisters, our response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration can be summed up in four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate.”
Originally from Fiji, Columban lay missionary Sai Tamatawale lives and works in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.