Updated: Oct 17, 2019
She was a dentist in Mexico. A beautiful, spunky, professional woman. But she lived afraid. She said this repeatedly in her story. How she feared for her safety. How she longed to escape the daily threat of evil. And she did escape. Three times she crossed the border just to be captured and turned away. Sent back to threat of danger. Turned away from the life she perceived as peaceful and good. “Three times I tried it my way.” This is how she told her story. “But the fourth time it was God.”
She doesn’t explain the miracle in detail. Something about God’s plan, and eventually a husband, and then a daughter, and now Angelica lives in Des Moines, goes to church. She shares her story at a breakout session at the conference I’m attending, and I’m at the edge of my seat the entire time.* “I love America, and I love being a Christian.” She talks about being in a country where people follow the rules, do the right thing. “My husband is a good man. I can trust him.” Sitting three rows back, strong and quiet, kindest eyes, and you can see how God has provided.
I raise my hand, ask about her profession, and she thanks me. This, she says, is the hardest part. Losing the career she loved. Not qualified to practice here, but she’s making plans with her husband, to use her skills for short term missions. There’s sadness in her answer, but excitement, too. This is not a woman who easily gives up.
I listen, intently, as she talks about culture. Life in Mexico, and life here in the U.S. Midwest. I know there are plenty of differences between her country of origin, and that of my Colombian sons. But so much is similar. Angelica talks about parties and Christmas and music and food, the things she misses—and how some things are certainly better south of the border. I sit there, nodding. Not relating, exactly, but knowing exactly what she’s meaning. I’ve heard my guys say these same things, countless times.
Felipe, new to Minnesota, once explained in broken English, his view of our suburban neighborhood. “In Colombia grass is broken, and people are everywhere. Here the grass not broken, but no people.” Angelica would have agreed. “Here in the U.S. people come home from work and go straight to their houses. In Mexico, after work, the party gets started. The whole community is together enjoying the fun.”
She—like my sons—longs for parties with music and dancing and abundance of food. The kind that last well into the night. And I admit to her later. My own struggle. Scandinavian, introvert, Minnesota Nice.
She even talks about shoes. Describing her repulsion at walking barefoot in our Midwest homes. Disgusting dishonor. I’m sure I must have gasped out loud. That first year, fighting about shoes, thinking boys were disrespecting their mama; their mama not having a clue.
And I admit it now. How clueless I am. No clue what it’s like to be desperate enough to risk border crossing, not once, but multiple times. No clue what it’s like to leave behind the hard and the good of a familiar life to start from scratch in a foreign country. No clue what it’s like to trade the feisty fun of Latin community, for the reserved freedom of a nice, safe life.
No clue. And yet. God has expanded my borders, increased my awareness. Little by little. As I open my home. Open my arms. Open my heart. Extending my own humble invitation. “You are welcome here.”
*I met Angelica in September at the GOOD FOR ALL conference at Valley Church in West Des Moines, Iowa.