Updated: Oct 19, 2020
We are full of stories. Stories of strength. Stories of suffering. Stories of healing. Stories of loss. Stories of faith.
This week I heard each of those stories in individual interactions, in small groups, and in the program here at La Casa. I was struck again by a feeling of gratitude that we have created this space to share with each other and by a feeling of right-ness that this is what we should be doing, a feeling that we are on this path towards a place where we are each known and seen for who we truly are. I have had the privilege to listen and I wanted to share a part of a story that was shared with me by one of the young women staying with us at La Casa.
This story that she agreed to share is just one part of her journey here. You might read it and think, that’s incredible, that’s so much harder than anything I have ever been through. Or you might read it and think, that’s incredible, I understand that suffering.
Either way, we are all on a spectrum towards leading whole and present lives. We can all grow in our relationship with God no matter where our starting point and we can all move towards wholeness through listening to and learning from one another.
I had already spent one week in the desert. We had run out of food and water after a couple of days. I had spent so many days without water, without food, without anything. There weren’t stores for us to buy food. There wasn’t anything. But I knew God was with me because I didn’t feel hungry or thirsty.
This was in November of last year. And it was raining and raining. It was like a hurricane. And we had nothing to protect ourselves. It was me and eight other people. I was the only one from Honduras. The rest were from Nicaragua and El Salvador. We only had one phone in our group, because one of the smugglers had stolen our other phones, but it was completely dead. We had no way to get help and we had no idea where we were.
Every night it would get so cold and we were soaked from the rain and we would try to huddle together. It didn’t matter who you were or who you knew. We just made one big group hug and tried to survive the night that way.
After a week, my knees hurt so much from walking. I didn’t think I could walk another step. And then suddenly in the middle of the rain we came upon a trailer. And we said, “Thank you, God! We found something!” The trailer was abandoned and falling down. But it had a roof, so we went inside to get out of the rain. We found the breaker box and amazingly the electricity worked so we were able to charge the phone. We were so thankful to God for this incredible gift. It was just a miracle from God that we found it. If we hadn’t found this trailer we definitely would have died in the desert. We stayed in the trailer for three days.
We called for help and a different coyote (smuggler) sent someone to lead us to Houston. But we were walking the first night, around midnight, and we were surrounded by drones and helicopters and dogs. Everyone else ran but I didn’t. I just waited. And the immigration police grabbed me and put handcuffs on me. Then they took me to the hielera (a term for facilities used by ICE that are kept extremely cold) where I was for three days.
The hielera is a small room but it is freezing in there. And we only had one of those emergency blankets to use and it was really thin. I was wet from when they picked us up because it had still been raining. So it was really horrible. I was dirty, soaking, and freezing. And I couldn’t stand it. I was there with other people and they were all on the floor. There were no beds or chairs or anything, just a room. And they only gave us sometimes two pieces of bread and a slice of ham and that was it, nothing else. And we just got that and no other food. And the lights were on all the time, through the night.
Then I left the hielera and I went to the detention center. And I thought that I would be there for just three days. That’s what I imagined! But then I stayed 7 months there. If I had known it was going to be 7 months I wouldn’t have gone. But I didn’t know. At first I was really in denial. But I realized later that in this place I learned a lot. I started to think about things, to pray, to reflect. I didn’t have anyone there. I didn’t have family. I couldn’t get in touch with anyone. I only had my faith and nothing else, just my faith that a miracle would happen.
After all this, I knew that God had a purpose for me. Because in that place I was able to grow and learn. And so I gave thanks to God for putting me in that situation. I would say to God that only God knows why I am there and everything is in God’s hands. And I turned everything over to God. And it was a huge blessing for me. I would say to God, it doesn’t matter where I go, you, God know what I need to do. And it wasn’t important what I thought I knew because God has a purpose and a plan for me. I had faith in God and I thank God for this gift of the time I spent there and my whole journey