He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 (NIV)
Tucson, Ariz., -- I never imagined being in the circumstance I found myself last month. Driving a 15-foot U-Haul down I-5 South, AC blasting and my favorite songs on repeat while transporting backpacks filled with items of hospitality and hope for newly arrived asylum seekers. Backpacks filled with new clothing and toiletries for men, women and children ready to share with migrants who were detained and processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) - leaving the hands of immigration officials and eager to reunite with loved ones across the U.S.
To tangibly show love and care for asylum seekers, West Coast Mennonite Central Committee (WCMCC) collected over 630 detainee and asylum kits and donations to share in response to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. WCMCC partnered with Catholic Community Services: Casa Alitas, The Inn Project, Kino Border Initiative, Voices From the Border, Frontera de Cristo and other partners to distribute kits to people in their time of need.
MCC photo/Katherine Smith
“Receiving these prepared backpacks at The Inn has made a great impact for our guests,” shares Gretchen Lopez. Lopez works as a site coordinator at The Inn project, partner of WCMCC. “The guests are extremely thankful for the new clothes and hygiene items. Many tell us that after their long journey any bags and personal items had been so worn that being able to head out on the last leg of their journey with these new items helped restore dignity.”
It is nearly impossible to describe the trauma that one may experience in traveling through multiple countries to seek refuge, every encounter stripping you of your dignity and your humanity. These kits cannot fully heal the wounds received or erase the trauma experienced, but they can meet a need and I am proud to say that the kits have done their job, with your help there are people who feel a sense of welcome and belonging. One woman shared, “You have been the best people I have met, I felt like I was not alone.”
On behalf of WCMCC I want to say thank you to all who have participated! Not only for the help in buying supplies, putting together kits, for offering storage, and helping to load and unload the U-haul, but thank you on behalf of the families, the mothers, fathers, and children who will and who have received these thoughtful gifts.
MCC photo/Katherine Smith
“You should have seen the smiles. They were all so excited to get a backpack. It was a big deal,” says volunteer, Kathi Noaker, from Voices From The Border. “Almost like they couldn't believe we were actually giving them the backpacks and not just the things in them.”
The kits are much more than a new pair of socks and underwear or a toothbrush and toothpaste, rather the significance of these kits transcend the material objects that they are and offer a grand gesture of hospitality and welcome.
Click here learn more about MCC’s response to asylum seekers. MCC is asking people of faith to urge their members of Congress to welcome those seeking asylum in the U.S. and to focus any federal spending related to asylum seekers on meeting humanitarian needs and addressing the root causes of migration.