Five years. That’s how long it had been since I’d hugged Omar, eaten real tamales, and dug a foundation in the kind of heat that only exists in Reynosa in the middle of summer, at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. Five years since I’d shaken every hand in the church while singing Dame la mano, since I’d watched Lupe, Cheque and Angel work their magic on the construction site, since I’d played with little girls and boys all fidgety and underfoot as they watch their new house take shape.
In those five years, a lot has happened. Since I interned with Faith Ministry in 2008 and 2009, the border has changed. We all hear uncertain news of the violence, incidents near places we recognize, a conflict always in the background and never going away. We wonder how close it is to the ministry, and how it will ever resolve.
In five years, things have happened in my life, too. I studied abroad, graduated college, served two years in AmeriCorps, and got married. It was never the “right time” to come back. My sister and my dad came with our church three times in those five years, and my heart ached each time, but still, I didn’t come back. “I couldn’t get the time off, it’s a lot of money…” And I stayed away.
As I’ve thought about the week we spent in Reynosa this June, I cannot get one story from scripture out of my head. This may sound like a stretch, but stick with me:
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Do you know this one? The parable of the prodigal son. It might sound silly, but I felt this way, coming back to Faith Ministry after all this time. I didn’t necessarily go squander an inheritance, but after so long, I wasn’t sure how it would feel to return. What I found was a community of people waiting to throw their arms around me, kiss me on the cheek and rejoice that we were together again.
I was welcomed back, prayed for and loved in the same open, free, enormously generous way that I find to be unique to this place. That touch of the Holy Spirit as I’ve felt it most strongly roared back. Hugs, jokes, stories, songs. Sweat, aches, splatters of cement. As if no time had passed. In the words of another former intern who also returned this summer, “it was like being hit with a load of bricks, why have I been away so long?”
How long has it been for you? How much longer will it be for you? Indeed, some things have changed, and there are reasons to feel worried sometimes. But we are so blessed that the ministry complex in Reynosa remains a safe place to work. And what I find truest is how little the important things have changed. How much love, how much spirit, and how much need there is in Reynosa has not changed at all. There are families waiting for real walls to surround them at night, for a roof that will not leak. Families waiting for their homes.
Written by Kate Baker, a former Faith Ministry intern. She and her husband David, also a former intern, live in Greenville, North Carolina.