Nancy Hill, president of the Highland Lakes Democratic Women and Marble Falls Library Thrift Store volunteer, packs clothes donated by the thrift store for the Mission: Border Hope Resource Center in Eagle Pass. The center provides clothing, a meal, and a few other things for immigrants who have been processed by US Customs and Border Protection and are on their way to family members in the United States. First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls members helped organize an effort to collect and deliver items to the center. Courtesy photo
EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
It’s easy to get caught up in the politics of the crisis at the Texas border, but when Marti Pogue of Marble Falls looked into the eyes of those gathered inside the Methodist church-turned-migrant support facility in Eagle Pass, all she saw were God’s people.
“I don’t think there’s a right or wrong here, or party thing,” she said, reflecting on her four days volunteering at the South Texas center. “You’re just helping your fellow man. That’s what we’re called to do as Christians, as human beings.”
Pogue was one of several Highland Lakes residents, many from First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls, who were in Eagle Pass from July 10-13. Another group followed July 14-17. They weren’t there to join a protest for or against but to illustrate the love that Jesus teaches. The two groups brought trailers loaded with clothes, toys, and other items to Mission: Border Hope, an organization led by the Rev. Becky Baster Ballou of First United Methodist Church of Eagle Pass.
Mission: Border Hope set up a resource center in a converted building, formerly Las Trinidad United Methodist Church. With a small staff, the mission, which has been up and running for several years, relies on volunteers and donations to help serve the people coming through the center.
Nancy McDougall, a retired United Methodist Church deacon and member of the Marble Falls church, brought together interested volunteers from her congregation as well as from other area churches and organizations. She learned of Mission: Border Hope from George Barnette, a mission chair for the United Methodist Church’s Hill Country District, in early June. When she asked if anyone at her church wanted to help, almost a couple dozen immediately stepped up.
Though the border has become a divisive political topic, McDougall and the other mission volunteers see it in a different way.
“The bottom line is we’re looking at it in a spiritual way,” she said. “It’s like, you need to be the hands and feet of Christ. This is our way of living that out.”
The migrant support facility serves as a stopping point for immigrants on their way to other places, usually to family members living in the United States. The people coming through the center had already been processed by US Customs and Border Protection.
Pogue said border patrol officers would drop off people at the Eagle Pass center, where staff or volunteers would help them continue their journeys.
“We’d check and make sure their paperwork was in order. We’d feed them, give them a change of clothes,” Pogue said. “We’d let them call relatives to arrange tickets, or something like that. Then, they were on a van for San Antonio, where they’d get on a bus or plane to wherever they were going.”
McDougall explained that each person was responsible for the $40 van ticket to San Antonio as well as other transportation costs.
Pogue estimated people spent about three hours at the center before moving on. In those few days she was in Eagle Pass, she learned the stories of so many traveling north through Mexico seeking a better life. Most of the people Pogue saw were families: father, mother, and children, or sometimes mother, grandmother, and children. She couldn’t imagine the journey they faced.
“These people are like you and me, but they’re trying to escape the violence, the abuse, or oppression,” Pogue said.
She’s heard the argument that people should stay in their countries and work to make them better, but, she pointed out, that’s easy to say when you’re not facing the dangers that many of the immigrants are back home.
“More than anything, they’d want to be home, but it’s just not safe,” she said.
McDougall agreed. She estimated about 80 percent of the people going through the Mission: Border Hope center were from Honduras. That journey covers more than 1,300 miles. Yet, for many, the hope of what’s waiting in the United States far outweighs the risks.
“Ultimately, these people would much rather be at home, but they are so desperate,” McDougall said. “They’re looking for a better life for themselves and their children, and they’re willing to take such a risk to get here.”
She met one mother who spent 3½ days on a bus with her children traveling to the United States. They were some of the fortunate ones. Others walk or endure even more dangerous trips.
In the end, McDougall knows she can’t do anything to correct the situations in the countries from which people are fleeing, but she can show them Christ’s love by helping them, even if it’s just for the few hours she was in the Eagle Pass center.
“You know you made a difference,” she said.
And those being helped appreciated it.
Pogue recalled the gratitude she received when she found clothes for people or something as simple as a toy for a child.
“They were so thankful and gracious,” she said.
Pogue is aware some might scoff at the idea of helping those coming across the border, even people who have been legally processed by US Customs and Border Protection. But, for her, it comes down to Christ’s teachings and humanity. She pointed to Chapter 25 in the book of Matthew, where Jesus teaches that helping the least of people is helping him.
First United Methodist Church of Marble Falls is still collecting clothing and other items for Mission: Border Hope. Pogue said they need infant, toddler, and children’s items as well as books and toys. They also need smaller-size clothing for adults, including petite items for women and pants with 30-inch waists or less for men. Donations may be dropped off at the church, 1101 Bluebonnet Drive in Marble Falls. Call the church at (830) 693-4341 for more information.
McDougall and Pogue plan to return to Eagle Pass in mid-September, but if they collect enough items before then, they will deliver them to Medina Valley UMC in Castroville, and a volunteer from that congregation will take them to Eagle Pass.