When I was 11 years old, my family and I left our home with tears in our eyes and precious memories in our hearts.
The year before we left Brazil, World Cup ‘94 provided us all with a perfect final year there –
watching the beautiful game with beloved friends, crying together when Leonardo was suspended and couldn’t play the final, eating all the popcorn, cheesy bread, and ham flavored crackers while sipping crisp, cold Guaraná soda.
I remember exactly where I was when Brazil ultimately triumphed over Italy in a penalty shootout.
It was Branco who led our team to victory with a classic fake-out, a beautiful kick and we could almost hear that heavenly swish as the ball soared into the goal.
I was sitting on the floor, bouncing my knees and very stressed; then on my feet within seconds of that fake-out, jumping and screaming and celebrating.
The next year, we left to come to live in the United States. I know from my recent experiences that leaving the mission field as a missionary – even after only 6-8 weeks in a place you love is heartbreaking and soul crushing.
After 11 years of service in mission , my parents journeyed that difficult path without our (the kids’) support because we were so mad about being pulled from our homeland.
I’m lucky though, because as an American with parents who grew up in small Alabama towns, I had family here and friends of both sets of grandparents who couldn’t wait to dote on “the girls.”
I was welcomed into homes for lunches and dinners after church, and it took me a while to make friends but that’s just because I’m pretty odd.
I was adopted as an infant and self identify as Hispanic as a nod to my biological heritage which is about the only thing I know about my genetic makeup.
Even so, most people are always taken aback when I say that I identify as Hispanic.
Because I don’t look like an “other,” I was able to mostly seamlessly assimilate into US culture,
without being stared at with fear, or called an animal, or without anyone assuming that my ancestry naturally contains drug dealers because of their country of origin based on horrific stereotypes and false narratives.
I missed my home. The food, the slower pace of life, the culture of hospitality.
Thankfully, I found pockets of community wherein I could be myself and share my culture and learn the new one.
People asked me “how do you say this in Portuguese?” And wanted to hear about school over there and my favorite Brazilian foods.
The hospitality of listening to my story, of letting me talk of the the things I missed, of teaching me the ways of my new context – without judgment – was just why I needed to heal from the trauma of leaving home soil and planting in a foreign one.
I hope that we can shape up and be fellow humans to one another as we journey through a border crisis that is seeing weary travelers fleeing home soil with tears in their eyes and precious memories in their hearts,
hoping to be planted in new soil, only to be met with rocks and thorns and dry ground; suspicious looks and inquiries, the trauma of separation from their family systems of support in a time of exile; fear and hate.
I plan to be, instead of a suspicious thornbush only interested in my safety and the protection of my assets (which is pretty much limited to my violin bow),
a bed of soft, rich and fertile soil where strangers/foreigners/(un)documented immigrants/“illegals”/FELLOW HUMANS can plant their tired roots, shed their sorrowful tears and share their stories.
I want to be a flower bed that bears witness to pain, soothes away hostility and seasons impossible situations with the grace to see through the eyes of the other;
and I hope to see Christendom become a community garden of blooms and foliage that complement each other,
learn and grow with one another through the sharing of stories, through hospitality, and the breaking of bread,
be it Brazilian cheesy bread, Mexican, Honduran or Guatemalan tortillas, Venezuelan arepas or Sister Schubert’s dinner rolls.
“A new command I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one anOTHER.” – Jesus