I Have Heard You Calling in the Night…
by Kathye Hamm
Ruth Cruddas, Donna Kaelin and Marilyn Minke of Christ Lutheran Church in Aptos, heard a call and answered it in late October. That call was to go to Las Cruces, NM to spend six days working with Border Servant Corps at Peace Lutheran Church welcoming refugee families just released from detention. Twenty-eight immigrants (13 families) arrived on the ICE bus on a rainy Tuesday evening, scared, tired, dirty and very hungry.
After being reassured that they were at a church and were safe, the refugees were fed and then given new, clean clothes, showers, and a chance to speak with their sponsors and arrange transportation to their sponsor’s home town.
Ruth, Donna and Marilyn were with those refugees through the whole process as they replenished their bodies and spirits while waiting for the next part of their journey and a chance to pursue asylum here in the United States. All 28 were from the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) where they had lived in poverty and in fear for their lives. During the time they were detained (anywhere from a few days to three weeks), they had passed the first hurdle of being granted asylum – the “credible fear” test. Now they needed to find a way to get to their sponsors (usually family members) and their first check-in at an asylum court. Those refugees who are released from detention are released with nothing but the clothes on their backs and an ankle monitor on the parent. This is the point where churches and NGOs step in. Their job is to get them on to their sponsors who are scattered across the United States.
During the few days that it takes to arrange their transportation, those 13 families found hope through the efforts of Border Servant Corps and its cadre of volunteers. CLC’s intrepid three-some provided continuity of caring as they ate with the refugees, talked with them, laughed with them, cried with them, prayed with them and finally drove them to the airport or bus depot and hugged them as they departed. They watched fear lessen and hope blossom. They watched children relearn how to laugh and play after the trauma of being locked up. They saw the joy on faces as they emerged from the shower with clean clothes on their bodies. They saw fear and fatigue dissipate because of a good night’s sleep. They saw hope reborn even while much of the fear about their uncertain future remained.
Ruth, Donna and Marilyn will never forget those 28 faces. They heard God’s call to welcome the stranger and responded. The need will not end any time soon. Every day ICE releases 200-400 refugees in El Paso alone. The numbers will continue to increase as the situation worsens. Without the commitment of faith communities, these immigrants have no way to reach their sponsors who are waiting to help them. Christ Lutheran is committed to walking with our friends at Border Servant Corps and Peace Lutheran Church as they reach out with love to the strangers in our midst.
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