Maggie is a beloved 4th year (UVa’s term for senior) who attends my church. As she’ll tell you, she and a group of students from two college ministries took a piligrimage to the US/Mexico border during their spring break to bear witness to the complexities of life on the border. Her story – and the stories of others who visited – were, at once, bleak and hopeful. In any situation that seems insurmountable, there are people who are determined to find a way. In Maggie’s story, we get to meet some of them.
It’s my feeling that you can benefit from the heart of this story whether you identify as Christian or not, so please know that you’re invited to this conversation no matter your practice or belief.
This story recalls the words of Barbara Kingsolver at a talk she gave in town recently: “Hope is a moral imperative.”
Two weeks ago, I returned from a pilgrimage to the US/Mexico border.
Although I’m back to my regular 4th year schedule of going to class, spending time with friends,
and spending a slightly ridiculous amount of time in the architecture studio, my soul is still
pretty tired. On the Mexican side of the border, one of my favorite parts of the trip was having
the opportunity to spend time with what is maybe my favorite demographic of people, badass
Many community engagement experts will tell you that if you are trying to get something done
in a community, it’s a lot easier when you have the grandmas on board.
The kids are hard to
reach without buy in from the parents, and the parents are too busy, but the grandmas – the
grandmothers are often underrated as the group with the most influence and the most passion
to make the world better for their children, and their children’s children.
On our trip to Mexico, I was struck by how many abuelas opened up their homes to us, fed us
delicious food, and then would slowly start to tell us about the awesome selfless work they had
done in their lives. They had fought against huge systems of oppression, all to make their
community a safer and healthier place for their families and all the members of their
One woman worked trying to rescue children who were trapped living in tunnels under the
border where they were abused and exploited by cartels, used as drug mules and mercenaries.
This woman worked with others to get the children out of the tunnels, into orphanages and
halfway houses to teach them how to read and write, and get them the help they needed.
Unfortunately, the organization of women she was working with had to stop when trying to
help the children in the tunnels was putting their own immediate families in serious danger
from the cartels.
Another group of mothers and grandmothers we met had started a permaculture cooperative,
a kind of community farm.
After seeing so many men in their town stop working because of an
influx of charity and donations from well-meaning white people on the other side of the border
fence, they knew they needed to set a better example for their children and grandchildren. So
this group of women started making adobe bricks by hand, and then they built a workshop, and
after that they built a greenhouse, and they built a shed to keep bunnies, and all this time they
have been working the earth, repairing God’s creation, to grow fresh healthy fruits and
vegetables for their growing children and grandchildren, and to teach them that they are worth
something, their work is worth something, that they can provide for themselves and their
families, that they are not victims of their circumstance.
In systems that are set up to oppress them and put them at a disadvantage, these mothers and
grandmothers are fighting the good fight to spread God’s love and the hope of God’s kingdom
[In John 19:26-27] Jesus tells Mary, here is your son, and to John, here is your mother. He calls on them not to love
and take care of each other as one colleague to another’s mother, but as a family. Jesus calls on
all of us to love our neighbor as our family, and just like a family, we may not like each other all
We are called to love each other, and protect each other from injustice, and rescue
each other from hardships too vast to save ourselves from, just as Jesus loves us and works to
pull us all out of systems of oppression and injustice.
Jesus no longer walks our mortal realm,
but we walk it together.
Dear God, who watches over us like a mother hen who gathers her chicks under her wings, and
comforts us as a mother comforts her child, help us to protect and comfort each other, loving
each other as you have loved us.