by Madeleine Naquin '20
This video is one of community, love, and joy – but that was only a small part of the week. It doesn’t show the emotional times, the hard times, the times where we were so shocked as to what we were learning and seeing that we didn’t know what to say. Reading a news article about families fleeing gang violence, persecution and extreme poverty makes it so easy to distance yourself from the issue; seeing, meeting and hearing stories straight from migrants themselves makes for a completely invaluable experience.
I went on this trip knowing how to count to ten in Spanish … and that was as far as my language skills got me. I never knew how significant a language barrier could be until I was faced with it; however, as we learned, there are many ways to build relationships without speaking. Playing tic-tac-toe with a little boy, braiding a girl's hair, crying with a grandmother who doesn't know where her granddaughter is-- these were ways that myself or those I traveled with built relationships with those we encountered, even with a lack of verbal communication. On this trip, I truly learned what the phrase "actions speak louder than words" means.
The people I encountered, from the migrants we worked with, to the citizens of El Paso, to the Marist brothers we stayed with, taught me so many things in the so little time I was there – care for others, have faith and hope and be kind. I have never seen God more than in the eyes and hearts of the migrants we encountered, and I have never met kinder people than anyone we encountered in El Paso.
We left Spring Hill with this mission statement: "The Jesuit Experience Trip, or JET, will be traveling to El Paso, Texas to move beyond statistics and to encounter the real names and stories of people who are affected by immigration. We go with open minds, open hearts and ready ears to hear any person called to share their story with us. In the pursuit of truth, we will engage in informed dialogue and service with immigrants, border patrol agents and the volunteers of El Paso and meet humanity with humanity. We will return as advocates to promote the solidarity within the whole human family." We got back to Mobile with memories and experiences, both good (as seen in the video) and hard, to last a lifetime.