HOW DO WE MAKE SENSE OF IMMIGRATION?
A family came all the way from South America with their little dog, Doki. They took videos and pictures of their dog along the whole journey. Watch the story we put together from all of these images in the video below.
The San Antonio Mennonite Church hosts asylum-seekers each night at La Casa de Maria y Marta, our hospitality house a block from our sanctuary downtown. San Antonio sits at the crossroads of the migration routes; within a mile of our church a number of highways cross, linking the most popular border crossings of El Paso, McAllen, Brownsville, and Eagle Pass. Immigration Detention Centers ring our city.
The two-story house has 11 bedrooms and both floors have central common kitchens and gathering areas. Each room is comfortably furnished and stocked with comforts for recovery, healing, and next steps for the journey. We have a shed of clothing options and cots to extend our capacity for emergency nights.
WHO DO WE HOST?
We receive Asylum-Seekers primarily from Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador) and Central Africa (Congo and Angola) though there have also been waves of Haitians.
Generally, we pick up stranded travelers from the downtown bus station, but we also receive Asylum-Seekers directly from the Detention Centers. Sometimes we will sponsor families trapped in the immigration prisons--working to get them legal representation and bond money. Other times Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will call us directly when they need to release a family or individual but have nowhere to place them. Sometimes we will receive calls from the local hospitals who have taken emergencies from the Border Patrol and need a place to house immigrant families.
HOW DO WE RUN THE HOUSE?
Members of our Church maintain the hospitality of La Casa de Maria y Marta. Guests at the house help cook and clean, wash clothing and sheets, and prepare the house for the next pilgrims on the way. Most families stay for a night or two, but some have no safe-place to go and stay longer. Some families have settled long-term in our church and have become leaders in our community.
La Casa de Maria y Marta
La Casa de Maria y Marta is a residence in Southtown that offers food, shelter, safety, and counseling to asylum seekers who have been recently released from detention.
La Casa de Maria y Marta is a safe space for mothers and their children, where they not only get such basics as food and shelter, but also get the comfort of a community that cares about them.
Everyone we receive has suffered extreme and multiple traumas: in their homelands, on the journey, and then at the hands of our immigration authorities. Some are separated from their children. All have seen violence, hunger, and exhaustion. We use trauma-responsive techniques in the layout of the house and the training of our church members to maximize their experience of safety and rest.
Secondary trauma is also a significant threat to our community. We hear stunning stories, and see an ocean-tide of human suffering. We are intent on clarifying techniques for recognizing and healing from secondary-trauma, and we create a rhythm of group prayer, based on the trauma-responsive patterns in the ancient scriptures.
We also use our experiences at La Casa de Maria y Marta to train other churches and organizations in trauma-healing techniques.
You can see a documentary centered in this hospitality house. ACROSS is a film series made by another organization seeking to learn about immigration, hospitality, and theology.
Watch the difficult journey of one family of migrants and their dog.