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That is what students who went on a May mission trip to McAllen, Texas, report learning from the experience.
“They came here while leaving almost everything behind for a better life,” said one student. “Some arrived with muddy shoes and clothing. One of the members of the team drove one of the immigrants to the airport at 4 am.”
The mission team spent most of its week working with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley at their Humanitarian Respite Center, getting clothes and food to families, playing with their children and helping them run errands.
Clare Edmundson, a double major in Psychology and Spanish from Arvada, Colo., was a leader on the trip.
“During our time there we were warmly welcomed by those who call the valley their home, and everyone was so eager to teach us about the topic of immigration,” she said. “We truly got a glimpse of what is happening at the border from the people who are on the frontlines.”
Benedictine Father Luke Turner accompanied the trip and said Mass in Spanish at the respite center.
“I will never forget walking through the center and making eye contact with all of the parents who were in need of such basic things as clothing or food,” said Edmundson.
“Telling a mom that we didn’t have a coat for her 4-year-old son was never easy,” she said, but the families “reacted with complete gratitude.”
Since she was a Spanish major, she could do more than help them find their clothing sizes. “I was able to discuss their dreams with them,” she said. “One mom, in particular, expressed her hope to one day have a quinceañera for her little girl.”
She said she heard one phrase in almost every conversation: “God will provide.”
“The way that they said this phrase truly inspired me because you could see in their eyes that they truly believed it with all their heart and soul,” she said. “Each day it was an honor to witness their hope in God’s providence.”
First, the students grew closer with each other. “The team itself was comprised of 10 different personalities, temperaments, and behaviors that made me build virtues as I got to know each person.”
But the mission really came together with the immigrants themselves.
“I took Christian Moral Life this semester and I learned about charity and how love of friendship is taking the goals, needs, and sufferings of others as our own,” he said. Authentic community is “how to evangelize and reach out to those that need to hear the Gospel. This whole mission was an opportunity to become a sincere gift of myself to those immigrants. It also helped me gain spiritual insight and clarity of my vocation.”