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A team of students from Hope Presbyterian Church in Richfield, Minnesota traveled to the South Texas border on a service-learning trip in partnership with Border Perspective. From volunteering at a local immigrant center to serving alongside immigrant pastors, these opportunities gave this team an eye-opening and first-hand look at ministry alongside immigrants communities. Mia Franklin, Youth Ministries Director of Discipleship and trip leader describes her team’s service-learning experience in South Texas.
This past July I had the privilege to help lead a group of 16 high schoolers on a trip down the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. The youth ministry team that I am a part of wanted to provide our students with the opportunity to learn and serve this summer in a relevant way and partnering with Border Perspective allowed us to step into serving at the border with a learning posture. We had a group of students that were diverse in race, ethnicity, and life experience, and we bonded deeply as we learned about the intricacies and elements of the border in the Rio Grande Valley. Taking time to learn about the area and the many kinds of experiences that people have living there was the more than necessary groundwork that was laid before we went to serve. Students were asking questions and learning about the trade between the US and Mexico, the influence of drug cartels, and the many reasons why people are seeking asylum at the border. There are so many elements at play at the border, and these things are difficult for most adults to understand, so to have this time to learn and ask questions was integral to setting our students up well to serve in a local immigrant center the next day.
Serving at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center was an experience that I personally will never forget, and I know this is also true of each of our students. To go from seeing events happening at the border only through the news or social media to being in the room with so many people who were simply seeking safety and provision demanded a perspective shift. No longer were we able to scroll past the images that were painful to see, and these images are made even more painful because we usually think there is nothing we can do to change anything. Along with our students, we sorted clothing, handed clothing out, and cooked meals for those at the center. Our students who could speak Spanish helped people contact their families and sponsors as they planned the next leg of their journey. At one point I turned to my coworker and reflected, “There is nothing that we could bring our students to do that would be as important as this, right now.”
Having spent most of the week at the clothing counter with my students, I fumbled through my Spanish vocabulary to give out socks, shirts, and underwear to the hundreds of immigrants who passed through the center that week. We spent roughly five minutes with each family, and I am still overwhelmed by the gamut of stories, paths, and journeys represented by each of these families. We did not have time or the language ability to share these stories, but they did not need to speak to be present. As Mr. Rodgers has famously said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” Our group was privileged to hear the specific stories of a few families, but the collective story of the sojourner was impressed upon our hearts and spirits in every moment that we had the great privilege to share time and space with those in the Rio Grande Valley. Our hope is that our students left with a deeper understanding of what it means to be human in a world that is often inhumane. These are lessons that even the most talented teachers cannot teach in the way that experiences can.
Border Perspective offers service-learning trips that are immersive, educational and intentionally place you into the lives of immigrant leaders serving families on the South Texas & Mexico border. During this journey, you will hear and learn directly from pastors and community leaders embedded on the border. You will learn more about the issues immigrants on the border face day to day and how local ministries are overcoming the challenges of ministering in this tumultuous region of our country.