When we talk about the wall at the Mexican American border, tensions always rise. Opinions have been formed and we aren’t interested in changing them. People prepare to defend their views or silently back out of the conversation because they don’t want to talk about it. Either way, we have put up our borders around our feelings about the border. The challenge with borders and walls is that we don’t always know what is on the other side.
It was with this curiosity that a team of twelve crossed the Mexican American border to learn about life south of our physical border with the leadership of Frontera de Cristo and their partners. As we prepared to cross the border we saw the tall steel wall that divided the United States and Mexico. We watched the lines of cars waiting to cross from one side to the other, some people casually walking and riding their bikes from stores and work to go home on the other side.
It wasn't until we had crossed the border and settled into our living space for the weekend that the other borders began to appear. Language, family size, health, jobs, school experience, and opportunities began to become clear. We visited with families who shared their experiences of looking for work, seeking safety, and building a family. Many of the struggles that the families experienced were much harder than our group had experienced throughout our lifetime and yet we could still understand their needs. We visited with a community garden and after school program to help children get extra help and learn about Jesus.
At first it was the borders that stood out, but slowly the borders suddenly began to fade, instead it was the similarities. We learned that healthcare wherever you are is difficult. We visited with families who had disabilities who depend on a volunteer organization to provide all of their medical care—check-ups, wheelchairs, eye glasses, dental visits etc.
We discovered that every country including Mexico is trying to protect their borders. No one has solved the problem of refugees seeking safety and health, no matter the costs.
Laughing, singing, learning and playing are the same for everyone. Seeing a smile on someone’s face is more than a thousand words.
We visited with people and groups from all over the city, from a community garden, to a refugee shelter, worship, building projects and Bible program. And each visit brought down more walls, some that we didn’t even know that we had.
It is amazing how easy it is to build a fortress around ourselves. Borders are not just about issues in politics, but walls that keep us from seeing others. Jesus tells us to “love our neighbors as ourselves.” How can we do that we when we put up walls to protect us from seeing through someone else’s eyes? Walls that keep us from seeing the poor and all the scope of their challenges. Walls that keep us from thinking about what it might be like to be someone from a different race or ethnicity. Walls that keep us from wondering what people experience as the opposite gender.
Every person and experience is different. Each wall we build keeps us from seeing someone else’s point of view and then we judge unfairly and treat each other without respect. We forget that we are all humans beloved by our one God.
I didn’t expect political views to change, but what was so amazing about this trip was the way we were able to step into another place and see things from someone else’s perspective. It is hard and scary to take down walls and see beyond ourselves. But I hope you do it. It was a gift that each of these people whom we met in Agua Prieta shared a little bit of themselves with us.
I pray that when you look into someone else’s eyes, you might wonder what walls and barriers have they built? What fears hold them back? What brings them joy? And they might do the same with you.