By Student Servant Leader Sam Amodeo
Every night at Miracle Ranch, where we spent the last part of our trip, I would sleep outside on a cot and look at the stars, feeling myself slowly absorb everything I had seen at the border and in the migrant home, talking with those who were next to me. Realizing how young I was and how much of my life I had left to think about what I was experiencing.
Now, a month later, I’m remembering still, and I’m coming to some more conclusions. Something that puzzled me to no end was how optimistic the migrants and deportees were. Enrique said that he enjoys learning Mexican cuisine and working here, since his chef’s education had ironically taught him every cuisine but Mexican. Juan has finally connected with his family, gotten his stuff that he wasn’t allowed to take with him back when he was deported, and plans to work in Mexico until he can move back. An under-aged migrant who had failed his attempt to cross said with enthusiasm that he will try again.
Most of the people we talked to had a smile on their face at one point, they haven’t given up on their dreams. At Miracle Ranch, the kids are happy and helpful and everyone there believes in their futures. Much much later (now, when I write this), remembering the migrants and deportees being persecuted in and kicked out of the U.S. got me thinking about the topic in church that I was assigned many weeks later to speak on during our group’s presentation: which is derived from a biblical quote: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
When is it ever righteous to persecute a whole population? Persecution IS the mistreatment of people based on race and religion, so in definition it makes sense to target whole populations. Is it righteous? I’m reminded of strict parents obsessively protecting their children from danger and corruption, as if they were a significant portion of what actually awaits them, a Tangled scenario. These people that we met have been through this, and yet, they still smile, they still believe, they still treat others with kindness.
The kingdom of heaven, as I think of it, will not be one country of one people, nor a place with boundaries; it will receive people from all populations and backgrounds, countries of them, and the community will be huge and diverse…and still heavenly. Who could DO that? The quote reads “theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and I think this goes beyond just membership, just going to heaven. We are instead referring to who receives the membership, who creates the atmosphere of mutual friendship between people of very different cultures. If that is so, I can think of no better stewards of heaven than the people who received us in Mexico, with their smiles and stories and generosity. God bless them.
Before we left, we gathered in a circle with some of the kids and Cesar. We were invited by Cesar to speak in prayer to the circle. After a couple people went, I spoke about how the experience was special and that I was so glad to have had it before graduating and entering the big boy world. I insisted that the program should continue to invite college students to come and absorb what I had, as the things in Mexico we had seen had given us perspective that I thought everyone should have. It felt good to thank Cesar and the people around me for making the trip everything it was. I hope to be able to speak of what I learned to my friends and family and remember this for the rest of my life, long enough hopefully to see walls slackened and a number of migrants and deportees welcomed back as civilians. I’ll pray for it; you should too!