Sunday, 24 June 2018 23:19

Bringing Immersion Home

Written by Kim Nunez
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Kim Nunez – New Orleans Chapter

When I was first invited to go on a Maryknoll Affiliate mission immersion trip, I thought, “What gifts do I have to bring to this experience?” As I began to understand that it was an accompaniment journey to Guatemala, I felt better about my lack of skills and the fact that I did not speak Spanish. We had an amazing experience of ‘being with’ the people we met and spent time with. A part of my heart is still in Guatemala, and even before leaving, I knew that my world view had forever changed. I would never again look at anything global in the same way.

I carried the experience of the immersion mission around with me in my heart and soul. Talking with people who I knew would ‘get it’ helped, but I also knew that I was called to do something else—but I wasn’t sure what that was yet. It would take another two trips to Guatemala before it became apparent. 

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!

 

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