Local mission group shares experience of trip in Mexico to help refugees
Trip was before recent tragedy in Mexico
JOPLIN, Mo. — It was an experience that still brings Stephanie Clarke to tears when she talks about it.
In October, she, along with 10 other people went on a mission trip, helping refugees that are living in a tent community at the border in Matamoros, Mexico.
“I was handing out soap and water and watching these people very politely stand in line, very appreciative of us coming over, and as I opened the box of soap, so they could be clean or try to be clean, this vision of 15 hands reaching in and looking up and seeing so many of those hands being children’s hands.”
The refugees that live in the tent community lack basic human needs. The community is fenced off from the Matamoros town. People live there as they wait for their asylum hearings.
“I just see these people as having very few supplies and clothing, terrorized. We think we have poverty here, there’s nothing in comparison” added Clarke.
The mission trip was led by the Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Joplin. They go on mission trips once a year, and have helped in Brownsville before, which is right across the border from Matamoros, but it was the first time they experienced that area.
Clarke says that crossing the border was an experience of its own.
“It was quite interesting in the limitations we had and if we were going to go over in a van then that van would be fined by the cartel. One of th volunteers that’s very committed in the Catholic Charities, he let us know that if they take any goods, the main goods that get fined by the cartel are shoes, clothes, and blankets.”
The group was told that the cartels control everything. Traffickers will take from the refugees, money, belongings, even children to be sold or to join the cartel.
Mission organizer, Christy Jones said there were times when she was fearful of the area, especially when she found herself alone at one point. Her first thoughts were that she could be taken at any moment. But she said her fear was nothing compared to what the people that live there deal with daily.
“It was an awareness that where we were, the people we served, deal with that fear, that same fear every single day and their willing to risk that because what they have back at their home country is just as bad, if not worse.”
Although the possibility of danger was there, it didn’t deter them from their mission.
“If we don’t do it, who will? People have to go down there, help cannot stop” added Jones.
For Clarke, she says that she and her husband are hoping to return soon.
“I mean when I got to the camp this little boy ran up to me and hugs me and just “Gracias, Gracias” because that’s their food for the day, that is their fresh water for the day and just to be able to touch a few people because we can’t change the world.”
The mission group also volunteered in San Benito, Texas at La Posada Providencia and the Loaves and Fishes soup kitchen. Then they volunteered in McAllen, Texas, at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center.
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