I work with at-risk children and their families, and I was called to a school when a student was having an anxiety attack. I discovered that the child was petrified—mom had already been deported, and she was afraid that dad would be too. She, however, was a citizen and afraid she would be left behind with nowhere to go and no one to take care of her.
But I am telling the story more quickly than it actually happened. It took a while for the child to trust me and share that information with me. Since I am considered to be ‘part of the system’, many undocumented people do not want to trust someone in my position.
During one of the meetings, now that I can understand a little bit of Spanish, the interpreter asked me if I understood some of the conversation. I explained that I had gone on several mission trips to Guatemala, how much I loved it there, and that that was where I had begun to understand the language. Immediately I could sense a change in the room—the beginning of trust had happened.
Word has now spread in my community that I am ‘safe’. So now my work with the undocumented has grown. Although I don’t usually share something personal in a meeting, I realized that without my mention of the immersion mission trips, I am not sure I would have been trusted like I am now; in fact, maybe this is indeed what I am called to do with what I brought home from my mission experience.
I am so grateful for what I learned from the people of Guatemala and the undocumented community I now work with. I think we are both learning from and growing with each other, and what an amazing thing that has been!