By Rev. Sarah Hicks
This is the first of four blog posts from participants in the recent Immigration Immersion Experience hosted by American Baptist Women’s Ministries. See bottom of post for information about another upcoming opportunity.
American Baptist Women’s Ministries’ Immigration Immersion Experience, February 28-March 5th, was fast moving, fully loaded, and full of surprises. The word “immersion” calls to my mind our Baptist belief regarding water baptism and being totally immersed. I was totally immersed in the issue of immigration during this experience. The word “immigration” became a living being created in the image of God.
The experience was fast moving in that, each day, we were introduced to several facets relating to this complex issue. We weren’t always given an agenda for the day ahead of time: many mornings we were informed on the spot what we would be doing, and sometimes we didn’t even know where we were going until we arrived. At first, this was uncomfortable. But we learned to adjust.
One day we departed very early in the morning, 6:00 a.m., from Deborah’s House, crossed the border after more than an hour in traffic, and met with U.S. Border Patrol agents, San Diego Sector. We heard the border agents’ side of the issue. They not only shared the objective of their mission statement and incidents of apprehensions but also took us on a tour of approximately twenty miles of the border sector, where we were able to examine this gigantic metal wall up close. The wall includes a row of razor-thin barbed wire at the top and another row a few feet down. These silver “weapons” glistened in the sunlight like beautiful sterling silver jewelry. That attractive analogy quickly vanished from my mind as the agents related stories of capturing people injured while attempting to cross over using a mattress or padding. In some spots we could see where repairs had been made as a result of an illegal attempt to cross.
Later we met with Enrique Morones, founder of Border Angels, an organization that advocates for human rights, humane immigration reforms, and social justice, with a special focus on issues related to the U.S.-Mexican border. We participated in a guided trip to the desert to place gallon bottles of water along migrant crossing routes. Then there was a day when we were instructed to wear comfortable shoes and carry no cameras, notebooks, or bags. I could not imagine an American Baptist woman being without those items!
However, I survived quite well. I also discovered that not having a daily written agenda was full of surprises that we were then able to discuss during our evening debriefing sessions. My emotions throughout the experience ran the gauntlet from compassion, anger, sadness, empathy, disbelief. I also had lots of questions in my mind and heart. How did we get to this situation and what can I do about it? I’m still in the processing mode. However, I will begin by sharing this experience during the State Mission Conference of New Era Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, Inc. in September, as well as with my church, Shiloh Baptist Church.
American Baptist Women’s Ministries is hosting a second Immigration Immersion Experience in August/September, 2016. Click here for more information.