As I was preparing myself for lay missionary work in Mexico and doing parish pastoral work in Fiji while waiting for my visa, I had heard stories about the places, Juarez and Anapra. I felt tense, but deep down in me I felt the peace my faith encourages, so I moved on.
When I arrived in Los Angeles, I was told we would go for an exposure with Ariel (the U.S. Region’s lay missionary coordinator and himself a former lay missionary of the Columbans) to Anapra and El Paso, Texas. When the plane touched the ground in El Paso I said to myself, “This is it.” Ariel told me “Welcome Home,” and with confidence I said, “Thanks, yes this is my home.”
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We were welcomed by Fr. Kevin Mullins at the airport. On our way to our first stop, Kevin told us about the place. As we came closer to the border checkpoint, I saw soldiers and police, so I sat quietly and looked around to observe what would happen here. Fr. Kevin looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, all will be well.”
Over the bridge I saw the sign ‘Bienvenidos al Mexico.’ Something stirred inside me, and made me believe that I have really have crossed the border to Mexico and was heading to see where I was assigned as a lay missionary. I forgot what people told me about how dangerous this place was. Now I am here to see the reality of life in Anapra.
When we got in to the house I met Fr. Mickey Donnelly. When we walked down to the church there were police patrol trucks on every corner of the street, but we walked calmly to the church. I saw people around just live a normal life. The two priests and Ariel give me courage with their advice and support. I was observing a lot, watching the places where they took me.
I’ve met some of the parishioners in the church, and they are very welcoming people. Hearing them speaking in Spanish urges me to learn and to speak Spanish as well. The day we were told to experience crossing the border bridge, I felt tense at first. I saw a long queue of people lined up to go to El Paso. But I had no problems.
The Mass at the border fence on All Soul’s Day was really touching to me, very symbolic. The Mass was attended by Mexicans and North Americans at the same time, with only the fence in between.
I had a good experience on my exposure trip to Anapra. It has helped me reflect and plan for my pastoral work in the parish when Iget back to Corpus Christi parish after language studies. I also met the two priests in El Paso, Dennis O’Mara and William Morton, who took us around El Paso. It was great time with them during my one week exposure in the US/Mexico border.