As soon as our team landed in El Paso, we took to the windows at our gate to admire the Franklin Mountains and surrounding landscape. “Where is the border?” and “How close is Mexico?” were our initial responses as we made our way to and through Las Cruces, NM during our first days.
After a day of settling in and getting our bearings at Peace Lutheran Church in Las Cruces, we were ready to dive in and learn more about the communities around us. We started the day by assisting friend of Border Servant Corps, Carmen, in making gorditas (a masa pastry stuffed with meats, veggies, and spices). We also met our peers and fellow leaders from Augustana University, with whom we shared fellowship and the preparation of our meal.
Each of us was moved by God’s presence in Carmen’s life as she shared her story with us after lunch. Carmen felt an urgency to cross into the US when her daughter became in immediate need of a kidney transplant. She left behind her three sons with the mission to give her daughter the treatment sufficient to keep her alive. Upon reflection, it was clear that many of us related to the “angels” she cited as hers and her daughter’s saving grace. God placed people in Carmen’s life to get her daughter the care necessary to live a longer life and keep them out of the eye of immigration officials. A few of us recognized angels in our own lives who have guided us through difficult moments and reinforced our faith. Above all, Carmen instilled in us that no matter the hardships we face emotionally or economically, we must maintain a strong foundation of faith. She stressed that material possessions and wants are nothing without the reinforcement of our beliefs, a sentiment that hit close to home after experiencing the aftermath of last week’s tornado.
We spent the remainder of our afternoon at Peace Lutheran Church learning about the legal advocacy happening in the borderlands with the ACLU. This presentation planted the seed that there are things we can do in our communities to advocate for immigrants and their families.
The day ended on a high note with a surprise private concert from award-winning New Mexico artist, Gilbert Uribe of the band ‘Nosotros’. Gilbert’s songs shared the message that we are all born of the same earth, the same God, and that we all should recognize that this human experience binds us no matter where we are from. We enjoyed his music and message in a beautiful courtyard on this sunny day. This experience allowed us to see how many positive elements are born out of immigration and how immigrants have influenced American music and culture for decades.
As we headed back to the church, we walked around downtown Las Cruces to get a better view of Organ Mountain, whose peaks captivated our attention during our drive into the city on our first day. The Mountain serves as a reminder that each of us have our own steep hills to climb, both in this weeklong journey and in our own lives back in Nashville. The peaks and valleys of the Mountain signified the emotions we’d experienced during our first days as well. Most notably, the mountain views have grounded us in the midst of thinking about our anxieties this week.
I choose to close with Isaiah 2:2: “In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills and all nations will stream to it.” Although we are at the beginning of our experience here, it is clear that we share common ground in the pursuit of safety, security, health, happiness, and in many cases, faith. Borders may divide, but it is clear that God is working in the lives of people in both of the nations on our minds this week.
Lauren Lauzon — Team Leader