Reynosa Verano

This summer has gone by in a blur.  I have roughly two weeks left of my time in Reynosa and it is crazy to me that the time has gone by so quickly.  One thing I have had to learn about myself again and again every time I find myself in a new situation, up against new challenges and in the midst of completely different circumstances and relationships, is that I am, for whatever reason, a post-processor.  I attribute it to my personality and to the particular ways in which I react to things, but I normally do not have a lot of emotional response when I am still in the middle of something new and different.  When I return home, back to normal and pick up my life and my routines again, everything hits me like a bus and I find that God brings it all back and imbibes my experiences with new revelations and wonder.  For this reason, the adjustment period when I return home is always a little intense and exhausting but also beautiful and rewarding.

All of that to say, while I can't write a long post about fifteen times I was moved to tears within the last few weeks, or about thrilling revelations God has splashed across the sky late at night for me to see (though there have been a couple), I can write about some things I have learned so far.  Earlier this summer, when we took a team retreat to Real de Catorce, I sat down one morning and made a list of everything God had taught me so far.  I want to share outtakes of that list today and add to it from the last couple weeks.

1.  Reynosa is a border town, and at this particular cultural moment in America, when the conversation about immigration and legal status and citizenship and the separation of families is so constantly and deafeningly a part of the national conversation (too nice a word to describe something that is usually not civil or coherent), it is a fascinating and heartbreaking place to be.  In the first couple of weeks we were here, the issue of family separation was at its peak, and it was the subject of many discussions with the missionaries here, and while I believed that the immigration system was deeply flawed and dehumanizing before I even came, that belief has been reinforced by seeing it with my own eyes.  The day I arrived, we drove across the border into Mexico, and there was a group of about thirty asylum seekers camped out on the Mexican side of the bridge, waiting to be processed.  They had no access to toilets, they were sleeping on blankets that they had been donated to them, and they had young children and babies.  As an American, one can believe whatever s/he wants about immigration laws.  One can think that all the illegal immigrants should be thrown out, but there is rarely any kind of true understanding or awareness about what that actually looks like.  It is so important to recognize that there is deep lack in our perspective, even if we consider ourselves to be well-informed.  It is an entirely different thing to see human beings stacked up along a bridge, denied entry into a country we call our own, denied basic dignity because they lack a few papers.  One couple we talked to had been forced out of their home in Eritrea because of persecution and war and because they escaped, had no form of identification from their own country and therefore could not enter the U.S.  They were asylum seekers, and yet they were not allowed in, even though that qualification was designed with their circumstances in mind.  Beyond the legality of it all, however, it was shocking to see how dehumanizing the whole process is – to actually see how immigrants and asylum seekers are treated.  They are denied basic necessities like access to bathrooms.  They are so closely guarded by border police who look as if they are attending prisoners.  They are treated like criminals, for simply seeking a better life.  I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be able to have witnessed all of that with my own eyes this summer.

2.  I have gained a greater respect for all that it means and what it looks like to shine the light of Christ wherever I am.  It doesn't always look like bubbly, happy friendliness or extroverted talkativeness, though sometimes it does. It doesn't always mean long, serious conversations about hard and complicated points of theology and stages of life that confuse us, but sometimes it does.  What I do think it means, all the time, in every way, is allowing, encouraging, at times even forcing that deep well of joy filled by an awareness of Christ's love and sacrifice to bubble into every interaction, conversation, and action.  It looks like living in the freedom of Christ and loving really well and really hard and being fearless and confident because I am loved fiercely by the greatest love of history.  We are all between the paws of the true Aslan, and that grace holds us secure, safe enough to chase his Father heart and pour out his love wherever we are.  

3.  I have learned what it is like to travel to another country and be thrown into a community of people I barely knew and be accepted and loved like family almost immediately.  This place, this ministry, this family of missionaries and friends feels like home.  I have been given the sweet gift of belonging this summer and I am so grateful.  Leaving is going to be rough, let me tell you.

4.  In the same way, and for this reason, I have learned how to be more deeply relational this summer – how to love and be loved by new friends, all the time, even when we're tired and frustrated and hard to like.  It hasn't always been easy or come easily, but it's less about trying and more about just doing.  We love because we were first loved and because we are family, bound together by grace and the love of Jesus.

5.  I have learned a little more about what missions looks like from within: what is looks like to be missionaries from within a community of them.  I came this summer, in part to see what that looks like and my prayer is and has been that God would use all that I have seen and experienced to direct my path and open my eyes as I pursue what I believe he has laid out for me.  

6.  I have gained a deeper love for deep, abiding friendships both since I've been here and before I left.  God has done good, hard work in me over the last couple years regarding the way I think about and appreciate friendships and relationships and the way they have supported me this summer, both before I left and while I have been here has been beautiful to watch and experience.  I am so grateful God has worked in my heart and opened me up to new people and new friends, for his faithfulness in providing through loss and hurt, and his grace in giving me what seems like the best in the friends department.  I've seen it here too: these girls I've been interning with have become such good friends and I'm so thankful we were thrown together this summer and have gotten so close so quickly.   I have been taught by them and loved so well by them, and I am just so stinkin' grateful for them.

7.  I have come to appreciate the closeness of my family even more deeply this summer.  I have the best siblings, the best parents, not just because they are mine but because they are just the coolest people in their own right.  My siblings are my best friends, and as much as I have loved this time on my own, I have missed their faces a whole lot.  I am grateful to be going home with a fresh perspective on my place in my family, my church, my life, and with my friends. 

8.  I have learned to be more flexible this summer. I've learned to trust God and his faithfulness and his promise that he will never leave us with too much handle. When the people we work with changes week-to-week with new teams from the states and dynamics have changed and then changed again, my routine-loving heart has felt stretched and pulled and pushed and softened into obedience and trust.  In that, though, I have seen God's care in the small details – I have seen his mercy in new friends, in new jobs, and in new mornings and late nights. One of these new jobs was tiling walls in the new bathroom that has been one of our many projects this summer.  I kept a few of the spacers we used to remind me of this.  God's grace sometimes looks like small mercies on long, hot days.

I am thankful, thankful for these two months: for everything I've learned, for all the people I've come to think of as friends, and for the gift of living in this place and see God's work and his Spirit all around me.  This has been the best summer.

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