The view becomes hazier the closer you get, A perspective from the border Immigration in the USA

I thought I would have had more to say. After all I live just a few miles from the border. If a wall goes up I will see it often.  I hear as much Spanish as I do English when I am out and immigrants make up a significant portion of the patients in my clinic. My daughter and I go regularly to a shelter that houses families from all around the world. Some have eaten at my table and we have laughed together as we watched our children play.  I have heard their unthinkable stories first hand and I have delighted in the privilege of serving them in the minuscule ways that I can.


Immigration in the US. Liturgy of life.


But recent discussion of the immigration ban has left me mostly speechless. To be clear I detest the idea of a ban. I hate to think of a destitute family being turned away, back to a life of poverty and violence.  My quiet is in part due due to my grief for our refugee brothers and sisters compounded with my inability to stay abreast of the latest news regarding them.

But it isn’t only this. While this ban is undoubtedly hasty and rash, I am also aware that our immigration system is broken.  And that we are a deeply divided nation with an ever shifting sense of moral virtue. Undoubtedly the way we care for those who seek the safety of our borders will, in many ways, direct the future of our country.  Seeing this issue first hand I have had a hard time simplifying my stance on immigration policy as #refugeeswelcome. Truthfully I don’t feel at home on either end of what feels like an incredibly polarized political debate.

If we are going to sincerely address this issue as a culture we need to find a crossroads between welcoming human life in all forms and recognizing the legitimate risk that this involves. I believe that hospitality at all costs is God’s call for us. But the way we as a nation play this out is not so clear. The reality is that hospitality requires a boundary line. You must know who you are and what defines you in order to extend who you are to someone else.  Those on both sides of this issue need to be willing to learn from those who take an opposite perspective and all in between in order to remain unified as a nation, to set reasonable priorities and ultimately to care most effectively for those in need.

To fill the void of my speechlessness I am sharing an article that was recently published in our local paper about the immigrant shelter where I volunteer and a family from Honduras.

I hope this will be the first part in a series. In the coming weeks (or let’s face it probably months at the pace I move) as I share stories and information about immigration in the US.


Valley Morning Star

Honduran Woman Recounts her Journey to the U.S

Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2017 10:30 pm

SAN BENITO — It was a quiet Monday morning when the phone rang at La Posada Providencia, south of San Benito.

It was an official at the Department of Homeland Security, calling to ask if the shelter had room for a severely-injured Honduran woman and her 3-year-old son.

The woman, Blanca Rosa, had just presented herself to authorities in Brownsville and had requested asylum in the United States. She had been involved in an auto accident in Mexico, leaving her with two fractured elbows and multiple bruises and abrasions.

Jerico, the son that arrived with her, was not injured in the crash, but a 6-year-old son was killed.

Another son, age 15, was left hospitalized in Mexico and under the care of a local pastor.

“It’s probably one of the worst cases that I’ve seen,” said Sister Zita Telkamp, director at La Posada Providencia. “We had a case similar to that in March and usually once a year someone comes here like that.”

Blanca and her youngest son were processed by federal authorities and then released to the care of La Posada Providencia, a Catholic ministry for people in crisis from around the world, who are seeking legal refuge in this country.

It was there that she recounted her journey and the reasons she left Honduras.

“We lived in a small town that was under the control of the drug cartel,” said Blanca. “They took over many of the small businesses and homes in the village and charged everyone a monthly protection fee.”

In October, Blanca was standing at a bus stop with a neighbor who had refused to pay the fee. As they were waiting for the bus to arrive, Rosa says a cartel member approached them.

“He walked right up to my neighbor and just shot her dead,” recalled Blanca. “As he was leaving, he turned to me and said he would return on Christmas Eve and kill me if I didn’t pay up.”

During the next several weeks, Blanca — living in fear — made preparations to leave her country. She sold what little she owned and by the first week of December, Blanca and her three sons were on their way to the United States. The crash happened six days into their journey and it took another two days for Blanca to arrive in Brownsville, where she turned herself over to authorities.

“I arrived at La Posada on December 19th,” said Blanca. “All we had were the clothes on our backs and our immigration papers, which I carried in a plastic bag.”

Blanca is one of more than 8,500 people who have passed through the doors of La Posada Providencia. Established by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1989, the shelter ministers to people who are fleeing political and religious persecution, extreme poverty, famine and natural disasters. All of the ministry’s clients have been processed by immigration authorities

La Posada provides the refugees with safety, hope, and a way forward. It provides immediate and tangible support in the form of food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies and care. LPP also provides individualized case management, transportation to clinics, legal aid and social services.

The refugees also have access to on-site communication resources, paperwork/translation assistance, employment preparation, English as a second language and life skills education.

“Transitioning them into American life is one of our main ministries,” said Telkamp, “We feel that if they’re going to be productive citizens and they’re going to establish themselves for the rest of their lives in the United States, they have to be integrated into the American culture.”

La Posada Providencia is one of 20 agencies in the Valley supported by donations to AIM Charities. The non-profit charity was established three years ago by AIM Media Texas, which publishes the Valley Morning Star, The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald, Mid Valley Town Crier, El Nuevo Heraldo, El Extra and Coastal Current.

AIM Media Texas absorbs all administrative costs associated with the charity, ensuring 100 percent of the public’s donations goes directly to the charitable agencies and the people they serve.

“Many times when someone gives me $5 and says, ‘It’s not much,’ I reply that I’m grateful because it purchases five loaves of bread,” said Sister Zita. “We’re just grateful for AIM and the money we received last year. We stretched our dollar and it has gone a long way.”

Blanca and Jerico have since been reunited with their husband and father in Chicago. She agreed to share her story in hopes that it would help others. “I wanted people to know the situation in Honduras,” said Rosa. “I want people to know the cartels are actively threatening and killing people. If I had stayed, there’s a good chance I would be killed. At least I’m alive and I have an opportunity to live.”


You can link to the original article here.

If you feel compelled to give to an organization that is helping new immigrants first hand please go here.

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On Living with Dying Liturgy of Life Reading Group: Reflections on Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich

This week in our reading group we began Tolstoy’s, The Death of Ivan Ilyich.  It shouldn’t surprise us by the title that the book begins with the death of its main character.  We find Ivan Ilyich in his coffin and the funeral about to start.  Meanwhile Tolstoy introduces us to the people in Ivan’s life, his friend’s like Pytor Ivanovich, his wife and family.  Some are grief struck, others are wondering if the funeral will disrupt their game of cards or more importantly if Ivan’s death will affect them financially.
On Living with the dying: Liturgy of Life Reading Group: Reflections on Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich


“Apart from the speculations aroused in each of them by this death, concerning the transfers and possible changes that this death might bring about, the very fact of the death of someone close to them aroused in all who heard about it, as always a feeling of delight that he had died and they hadn’t.

‘There you have it. He’s dead, and I’m not’  was what everyone thought or felt.”


a few pages later . . .


“He had changed a good deal; he was even thinner than be had been when Pytor Ivanovich had last seen him, but, as with all dead bodies, his face had acquired greater beauty, or, more to the point, greater significance, than it had had in life. Its expression seemed to say that what needed to be done had been done, and done properly. More than that, the expression contained a reproach or at least a reminder to the living. The reminder seemed out of place to Pyotr Ivanovich, or at least he felt it didn’t apply to him personally. But an unpleasant feeling came over him, and he crossed himself again, hurriedly- too hurriedly, he thought, the haste was almost indecent- before turning and heading for the door.”


I admit I know the feeling of self preservation that Tolstoy describes, dashing through my mind, too quick to stop, every wave of sympathy is paired with pure selfishness, “at least the shooting wasn’t at my kid’s school,” “at least it wasn’t my husband who died in the car crash,” “at least I don’t have breast cancer.” It seems there is a deeply rooted human impulse to protect oneself from disaster before allowing oneself to share in the grief of another.  And I wonder if it is this very attitude which leaves so many feeling isolated and forgotten during times of sorrow.

In my other reading I’ve been working through a book on the history of Christian Hospitality.  In it the author develops the idea of “cultivating marginality” that is, intentionally developing in ourselves a solidarity and familiarity with those on the margins, whether they are there due to illness or violence or economics.  This idea has deep roots in our Christian heritage.  We have always been a people called to move away from comfortable places. We use  disciplines of fasting and prayer, alms giving and  service of the poor to accomplish it.   We are intentional to align ourselves with discomfort until it becomes a familiar place so that the suffering can find themselves comforted by one who understands grief and be aided in encountering the true Comforter.

Ivan Ilych knows more about this than any of us.  He has fought the final battle, he has crossed over from death to life and  faced  head on the reality that fills us with constant dread, that one day we too shall die.  Ultimately those of us living will not know the realities of death until it is our turn. But we have opportunity now to follow in the path of our Christian fathers and mothers and align ourselves with those who suffer, not to turning our faces away in fear or self protection and not to distracting ourselves with entertainment or worries of the world.   Ivan’s knowing face would probably make all of us who live a life trying to flee the realities of death feel uncomfortable because we are intended to live differently, to engage with the marginalized, to sit at the bedside of the dying, to consider the immigrant our friend and in this we will ease the pain of those who suffer and perhaps even prepare ourselves for our own end when it comes.

This post is part of our Reading Group series. Right now are reading Tolstoy’s, The Death of Ivan Ilyich. We would love for you to join us.


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A Plea for Open Conversation between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Voices

A Plea for Open Conversation between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Voices

Yesterday was the Women’s March on Washington. It was beautiful to see women gathering all across the country to speak with a common voice.  I have friends who participated with eagerness. I know others who questioned its purpose.  And I know some, like my friend Shannon, who wanted to participate but felt excluded because of their Pro-Life stance on abortion. Hers is just one of many stories I’ve heard from women, holding opinions on both sides of the abortion issue, feeling isolated and excluded from a community of women because their stance on this topic separates them from the dominant culture around them.

Like most complex topics, when it comes to abortion there are intelligent people arguing it from many different angles.   And while plenty of folks seem quite certain that they have the “right” answer, the reality is there are valid arguments on both sides.

Will you, for a minute, set aside your own convictions, pull out your imagination, and try with me to put yourself in the shoes of someone standing on the opposite side of the picket line?

Pro-choice women care deeply about women’s health. They have well founded concerns about what will happen to women who seek abortions illegally if this practice were to be abolished in the US. They see a world history that has treated women as second class citizens and they deeply desire that women maintain freedom to control their own bodies.   They fear for children who will be brought into a world when parents don’t have the emotional or financial resources to provide for them.

Pro-life women believe that a baby’s life begins at conception, with this in mind how could they not fight to preserve these lives with the same diligence as they would for the lives of children who are one, or ten or sixteen years old and in danger. They fear for the trauma that women will experience after having aborted a child, grief and depression that can set in even decades later which is often devastating to the woman and her family.  They worry about women being coerced by family and un-supportive partners into abortions that they don’t truly want.  And they are concerned about the medical consequences of abortion.

Pro-choice women are not Pro-death as their opponents like to think, and Pro-life women aren’t Anti-choice. Each side is simply looking at this delicate conversation from a different angle and starting with a different set of values.

There is social and medical science to support arguments on both sides.  There are religious beliefs and cultural traditions that can lead to drawing conclusions in either direction.  There are heart wrenching testimonies from individuals to support both perspectives.

I am not an advocate for taking a moderate stance. If you do your research and feel passionate in one of these directions than certainly speak up, protest, donate, take action.  But don’t make an enemy of those who disagree with you and don’t shut them out of your life. Don’t assume that they aren’t equally motivated by love, and data and respect for human kind.  Don’t assume another is a misogynist or anti-feminist or sacrilegious just because she falls on the opposite side of this issue.  We all want what is best for women and for our country and we all have no choice but to work together to achieve it.  So let’s be the first to sit down with someone who holds a different view and give them a listening ear and an open mind.  Let’s go out and speak up for our side with all our heart but let us never loose sight of the fact that what binds us as women is far greater than what divides us.

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

To Suffer With, Sin Nature and the New Creation a reflection on an act of violence

We all grimaced, just the headline was enough, Four Black Teens Torture Disabled Man. Through squinted eyes we watched a few seconds of brutality before we turned away, our stomachs in knots. In our conversations and on social media we cried out for justice, asking for a punishment equal to the crime.  And then we prayed for peace for the victim and his family.


And yet, at least for those of us who call ourselves Christians, but probably for anyone who calls themselves human, we were compelled to go further.  As our anger softened we began to make room for pity, not just for the victim but for these four young souls. These teens who, in another world, would have been at home with their own families instead of living in a world where kidnapping and assaulting an innocent man is a reasonable or even exhilarating thing to do.  We still wanted them to be punished but in our piety we prayed for them too, to know love, to seek forgiveness and to be put right.


But Christ does not call us to contempt nor does He ask us for pity.

Christ, our sacrificed lamb, asks from us the reward of His suffering. He implores us to bring Him our own broken and bleeding hearts. Hearts big enough for both victim and persecutor. Hearts with open eyes to see each human as our own flesh and blood.

When we look into the face of a stranger we see ourselves, and in this transcendent  mirror we find that we share with them the condemnation for the wrong that they have committed and we are ashamed to realize that they share in ours too.


Each of us is responsible before all, for everyone and for everything.

– Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

If this seems like a stretch, let’s take a step back and think for a minute about The Butterfly Effect.

What if you had $20 in your pocket and instead of giving it to the lady begging on the street you spent it on a frappaccino and gluten-free scone? Meanwhile that lady is down to her last dime and decides her only option is to start prostituting herself to put food on the table.  What if her daughter’s (one of the culprits in this assault that we are discussing) introduction to violence was from the men who came over to buy sex from her mother?  What if by the time she was 18 a beating and some cigarette burns were nothing because she had been through far worse? And what if your $20 could have spared her that? What if the next day her mother would have found a real job?

Each of us sit in our positions of moral authority not because of our intrinsic personal virtue but by another set of  happenstance situations that have brought us just as randomly to where we are today.


Evil isn’t something that someone else does, if we are sinners then sin is something that we do, it is part of us. The words we say or don’t say, the work we do or don’t do, even in our best intentions we can’t help but cause harm.  We inherited a sin nature and we perpetuate it everyday as we continue to live out our imperfect lives.

This may feel like the ultimate of dismal injustices.

But it is also the very truth which allows us to connect with another person, which gives us courage to suffer with and leads us to cry out for justice not just for one act of violence but for every single hurt and failure that has wounded the hearts of all mankind.


“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

-Henri Nouwen

We see ourselves when we see Christ suffering on the cross and we see ourselves when we see the brutality of the soldiers nailing Him to it.

Our hope in Christ does not spare us  or the world from the tangible consequences for our failures. But as we profess with St. Paul,

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”

To Suffer With: Sin Nature and the New Creation: reflection on an act of violence

we see that our story doesn’t stop in our sin. Instead we claim a boundless victory. We celebrate a restored creation and we rejoice in a  grace that is free to us no matter how grotesque our actions.  The vilest sin in the whole world no longer binds us because  we have a new life and a renewed nature in a resurrected Christ.
For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.