Lindsey Frye is a member of Laurel Street Mennonite Church in Lancaster, PA. She is currently living in Chiapas, Mexico with her husband Chris, and daughters Ramona and Ruthie. She works as an Ecumenism Promoter for an MCC partner organization, The Institute for Intercultural Studies. This blog was originally posted on her personal blog. Photo:The remnants of a house destroyed by the Sept. 7th earthquake getting cleared out to make room for eventual rebuilding. Photo taken by Elena Huegel.
In the moments leading up to a meeting we hosted for a group of pastors in the city of Juchitan, Oaxaca, I stopped to catch my breath. It was 94 degrees and humid, and between the weather change and the images of destruction throughout the city, I was gasping for air, wondering how to summon the strength to do my part in the meeting. I sat alone in a circle of empty chairs, when a friendly voice interrupted my thoughts. It was a young woman swinging a newborn baby in a carrier. She gave me her best, “hi, how are you” in English. I said I was fine and returned her question. “Oh, my english stops there,” she chuckled. “That’s ok, we can talk in Spanish,” I said.
She began to tell me her story. She is from Nicaragua, and had been hanging out in Tapachula, a boarder town on the coast of Chiapas with her 6 year-old daughter. She was living at a center for migrants, and she spoke positively of her housemates; they would bring her food when she was too far along in her pregnancy to work. Her son was born there just a few days before the earthquake. His father is from El Salvador, and she said they had been in a big fight. When I asked if there was any chance at reconciliation she said, “No, he’s been detained. It’s complicated…I didn’t know he was in a gang when I met him.” There were elements of her story that were so raw and painful, they were hard to understand clearly, like where she actually was the moment the earthquake hit.
But somehow, she ended up in Juchitán, one of the most destroyed cities on the night of Sept. 7th. Someone told her not to bother with the migrant safe house there, and to try the church grounds where they were organizing temporary shelter and food distribution. They let her stay there for the past 10 days, and the sisters there said they’d help her find a permanent home. She was unsure of taking that offer though. She said her ultimate plan is to try and cross the Northern boarder, but she won’t try for the next four years, “Not with your current president,” she joked.
At one point, one of the busy-looking volunteers stopped to say hello. She admired the babe and the perfectly-fitted blue onesie the mama picked out of the mounds of clothing piled up five feet high behind us. “He’s getting chubby,” she praised. “He was nearly dead when they got here,” she told me. “He was so dehydrated. Mama hadn’t eaten in days and her milk was drying up.”
I could hardly believe the miracle sitting before me. An indescribable human tragedy, a center for emergency supplies, worker bees attempting to satisfy desperate human need in an orderly fashion (we walked past the line-up of people standing at the gate to receive bags of food and clothing), and in the midst of it all, room for one more desperate story sustained by nothing more than the will to survive and several open serving hands.
I heard the good news for this family at the end of my visit as mama pointed out that baby was born in Mexico with Mexican papers. “No one can throw us out now,” she said as her face beamed with pride. As I leaned down to kiss baby’s new fuzzy head, I knew I was participating in a holy act. On our way home, I looked out at the starry night sky, trying to understand the day. I wondered if Jesus were to be born into this world at this moment, whether he might choose to be born in this family, to a Salvadoran gangster father and a Nicaraguan mother and sister, trying desperately to make their way north on the earthquake-ruined coast of Mexico.