This year I feel like I’ve been placed right in the middle of tense debates and discussions.  Right between two groups of people who experience and think about immigration very differently. At times it was very challenging for me to hear the stark contrast between what different individuals would say, and to be in the midst of both groups, not fully part of either, but also no fully separate from either. 

Below is a poem I wrote about bridge building between groups after experiencing a good amount of tension and frustration…


A suspension bridge only works when forces are acting upon it.

At the same time, thees forces must be taken into account for the bridge be able to do its job.







A pulling force,

Pulling something taught,

Stretching it,

Stretching me,

The way I think,

The way I act,

The way I see things,



A pressing force,

A pressing of an object,

As it is acted on by gravity,

Like a spring,

Getting closer and closer,

Concerted energy,

Compacted emotion,





As winds of change and difference take a toll,

The winds of conflict and discouragement,

Hope being wrung out like a washcloth,

Only to be restored.



Forces pushing or pulling in opposite directions,

                               “We need to respect the rule of law”

                                “And protect our borders”


“I’m not sure what to believe”

“I need to protect my family”


“They should have come the legal way”


“I can’t imagine living separated from my children”


“Safety and security”


“My abusive husband is threatening to call immigration on me if I leave him”

hurt,                                     conflict,

     pain,                         division,

       frustration,     anger,

and those are only the internal forces acting on the bridge…

External forces:

[the dynamic load]

fear of terrorism,

fear of losing jobs,

fear of violence,

fear of uncertainties,


[the static load]



“They hate us”*

“Mexicans and white people can’t get along”*

All factors must be taken into consideration when building a bridge.

If not taken into account, a bridge will easily crumble and cause extreme damage.


*These two statement came from an activity I did with the middle schools during one of the after school programs. Our kids are predominantly of Mexican heritage, 1st or 2nd generation I would say for most. Many identify as an immigrant or as a family members of immigrants. I was asked to share about immigration because of my work with the immigration legal aid program. I decided to lead an activity with the kids determine “the truth” from “the lies”. I made a list of statements like “Jesus was an immigrant”, “The immigration system is complex”, etc.  These two statements “They hate us” and “Mexicans and white people can’t get along”, were meant to be solidly on the “LIES” side of the board. But as I read them aloud, for both of the kids yelled a mix of, “Ummmmm”, “Ehhhhh”, “True!”, “not true”, “Yes”, etc. So I settled by putting these statements in the middle of the board, not absolute truth, but certainly not clearly false to them. I finished the activity with a tangible picture of how some of the kids in our programs see themselves and see others.





Worship at the Border

Standing at the fence, staring at those I care about but not able to get to them was a powerful, jarring experience. No matter what I did there was a rusty fence, maybe 20 feet tall in my way. I could see them, but could not make direct eye contact. I could hear them, but couldn’t get close enough to give them a hug.

Friday morning a group of Christian community development practitioners from the Border/Southwest region of the United States gathered at the border fence to worship. We stood, huddled together on either side of the tall, metal fence that outlines some parts of the U.S.-Mexico border. We lifted up our voices and sang to the Prince of Peace and the Author of Love. As we prayed and sang praises, tears streamed down my face. To many, the wall is a source of pain and suffering, division and separation. To sing to united as people of God on both sides of the fence has an overcoming and restorative power. After we finished praying and singing, we formed a large circle, hands linked together, united though divided by the physical boundary of the fence. Together, we prayed the Lord’s prayer out loud.

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”.

[Photo courtesy of Dan Dalstra Photography]

The Beauty of Unity

January 2017, my church in El Paso began a new ministry – temporary housing to Central and South American refugees*. The initiative arose in response to an influx in the number of individuals being released from immigration (ICE) detention centers. The number of individuals being released averaged over 1,000 a week. This was a drastic increase from the pre-influx numbers of a few hundred individuals being released each week during non-influx times. The “refugees”* were from different parts of Central and South America, many coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Brazil.

At first I was frustrated with how slow my church in El Paso was moving. I felt like it was taking them forever to get through all of the necessary steps: determine a plan, figure out if it’s feasible, discuss with the clergy, talk to the leadership board, hold a forum with the congregation, etc. To me, it felt like by the time there was a consensus and a plan that the crisis was going to be over and we would have missed out on an opportunity to serve the Lord’s people. But much to my surprise, the people of the church mobilized and what resulted was so beautiful and unified, it is hard to describe.

Over the course of 3 months, the church hosted over 90 immigrants- moms, dads, teenagers, toddlers, and infants. I was amazed by the generosity and hospitality of the church. Over 100 people either volunteered or donated items to the efforts. People cooked meals, donated clothing, coordinated transportation, drove people to the airport and bus station and even spent the night to make sure everyone was safe.

To me, what stood out from this whole experience was how the church pursued unity while striving to act with compassion and mercy. The church that I am involved with in El Paso represents a wide variety of political and social opinions, and so rushing into an initiative like this could be very divisive if it were not done with care. Nonetheless, the church aggressively sought unity and love throughout the whole process.

As a border fellow and someone interested in this kind of initiative, members of the church were candid, open, and transparent with me about the difficulties of starting an emergency-response ministry to immigrants. I watched as the church mobilized for something they knew was important in a way that maintained as much unity as possible within the congregation. Through the wonderful members of the Church of St. Clement, I was able to see the beginning of a new ministry first-hand and learned a valuable lesson on unity and acting boldly in love.

“Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8

* The individuals we served were, for the most part, technically asylum-seekers. Most of the families presented themselves at the border and declared that they wanted to seek asylum in the United States. They were then processed and released by immigration and needed somewhere to stay until travel arrangements were made to get them to their next destination where they would continue through the immigration legal processes. We colloquially referred to them as refugees because they are similarly vulnerable and are seeking refuge in a new place.


New Ears and New Eyes

I wanted to write this blog about mentors. How crucial they are to individual and community growth. How I’ve loved being paired with a mentor here. A woman from the church who is open and honest, who wants to get to know me and help me along during the beginning stages of my post-grad life. But instead, I will share about my experiences of being on the border, serving an immigrant community, getting to know people from all walks of life here and how that has affected how I see the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.

The day after the election was joyful for some and very sad for others. For many here on the border it means much more than a win or a loss. I walked into the immigration legal aid office where I was to job shadow and there was a somber tone. The executive director and other staff were clearly flustered, speechless, in shock. They knew what this election could mean for so many of their clients.

There was an impromptu press conference called for mid-day by the Border Network for Human Rights. I drove over to the press conference. Local representatives from the city and county spoke. Immigrant rights activists spoke. DREAMers shared their experiences. Local leaders shared encouragements and consoling words. Immigration lawyers spoke on what may be to come and how the immigrant community in El Paso can continue to mobilize and push for immigrant rights and humane laws. There were tears of sadness, confusion, frustration and defeat. But there was also an implicit and explicit resilience. La lucha sigue. The fight continues. The community members that had mobilized and had been advocating for human rights and just immigration laws were not going to stop out of defeat, but were going to work harder.

Later that day my organization gathered to pray. We prayed for our nation. Weeped for our nation. Reflected on the times. Knowing that this means more fear and ostracism for our families in the community, many of who are first or second generation immigrants from Mexico. Knowing that we will see the kids today when they come for our programs and they will know that the President of their country, yes, their country, says they and their loved ones are rapists and drug dealers. That the supreme leader of the land has said he wants to deport their family members. They have heard the insults and the hate. They have heard the threats and know that he does not see them or people near to them as welcome.

Being on the border leading up to this election has given me new ears and eyes for how politics and this election affects immigrant communities in our nation. And whether or not half or more of the country agrees with the hateful and aggressively prejudiced things our new President has said, the children hear it. The children receive the messages in fear and defensiveness. And now we, as people who stand against such hateful words and bigotry, must figure out where we go from here. I will continue to listen and to see. I must join the ranks of those who have been working so long and so hard to make sure that the dignity of humanity is upheld and that love has the final word.

Oh…so that’s immigration…

October 17, 2016

Two months in.

Am I “getting settled”? Well, sure. I feel like my feet are firmly placed on the ground and now I can start to walk, or crawl, down the path that I have been set on for these next 10-months. So, in the sense that I am no longer bumbling through El Paso semi-aimlessly, yes I am settled, sort of.

This past week I was in Manassas, Virginia for a Basic Immigration Law Training put on by World Relief. It was a 40-hour intensive course. And intensive it was. We covered many different areas of immigration law, such as family-based immigration, asylum, grounds of inadmissibility, grounds of deportability, and on and on. We also discussed how to set up a Board of Immigration Appeals recognized site, how to become accredited through the BIA, and discussed challenges of the current immigration system. I attended this training as part of my part-time job with Ciudad Nueva. I am working with Ciudad Nueva, community partners, and local leaders to start a BIA-approved legal site. So for those of you who have never heard of this before (that was me 2 months ago), it is a process by which churches or non-profits can become legal sites with trained legal representatives who provide immigration legal services. The site becomes recognized and then the individual becomes accredited (seek links below to learn more). I attended this training as a first step in the process. For those of you from the Falls Church, VA area, we will be doing work similar to that of Just Neighbors.

Amidst all of the new legal jargon of immigration processes, a major takeaway is how incredibly complex, inconsistent, and ever-changing the immigration process can be. On the first day of the training the presenter pulled up an image of a maze, a very complex maze. It showed a family at one end and an American flag and the words “citizenship” at the other. The slide was titled “The Path to Citizenship”. And after 40 hours of learning about immigration law, I understand why a complex maze is a good metaphor for our immigration system. There are so many conditions, exceptions, and disqualifiers that can derail you as you seek a “green card” or citizenship. And I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. For someone who may or may not be familiar with our legal system, who may not trust authorities, or who may not speak English, this system can be even more perplexing and discouraging.

I walked away from this training with a heightened level of empathy for those who stand at “start” and try to navigate their way the maze.

So what? Why do I need to write about this? How does this relate to those not affected by immigration laws of our country?

To keep it short, the Lord is opening my eyes and opening my heart to the immigrants around me, to His children. I am starting to see His heart for the immigrant. He sees every single person that crosses our border, every family that struggles to get permission to bring their relative over here, every refugee that seeks safety. And His heart mourns for their suffering and rejoices in their joys.

And so I must weep. I must rejoice. I must pray. I must listen. And then I must be obedient.

I don’t know where you’re at with all of this. Whether the immigration debate for you is purely political, moral, personal, or a combination of all of these. Immigration is a human issue. It is about figuring out what to do when there are hundreds of thousands being displaced and it seems like our country is already busting at the seams. It’s about affirming the dignity and value of every person, whatever that might look like.

And for Christians, it is more than that. Immigration is biblical. I was surprised to read in Welcoming the Stranger by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang that the Hebrew word for immigrant or stranger, –ger, is used 92 times in the Old Testament, many times commanding hospitality and care. The same themes can also be found in the New Testament. As a Christian, I must figure out what that means. It is an issue that directly and drastically affects God’s children, my community, and the Church. I know the Lord is just beginning to teach me about His heart for the immigrant, and I am excited to see what is in store.

I invite you to pray with me….

  • That Ciudad Nueva, our community, and I will be patient and persistent as we work to get this legal clinic up and running. That it will all happen in God’s time.
  • That we, all Christians, will seek restorative justice for our families and communities, that we will come together, humbly and in love, under the name or Christ, no matter the political leaning, country of origin, or denomination
  • That politicians on both sides of the aisle will join together to create immigration reform, keeping the humanity and dignity of immigrants at the forefront
  • That churches will open their doors to all of their neighbors, whether or not they speak the same language or “have papers”

 Links to learn more

World Relief’s home page:

BIA Program Overview:

Frequently Asked Questions about BIA R&A process:

If you have any questions, any useful contacts, expertise, or any comments, please reach out to me!


Cell phone: 703-203-6363

A Welcomed Stranger

September 2016

There is a sharp learning curve when you move to a new place. I think I’m at the base of it, slowly but surely making my way up the slope. I’ve just begun a 10-month journey as a Border Fellow to learn about immigration, see what it looks like for Christians to do ministry on the border, and to dive into the life and community of El Paso, Texas. Similar to other programs in The Fellows Initiative, I will be working part-time, volunteering part-time, and taking two seminary classes.

It’s never easy to move to a new place and start from scratch. You have to get into new routines, make new friends, learn a new landscape, and figure out many new social dynamics. My senses go into high gear and I steadily observe just about everything. While overwhelming and exhausting at times, being somewhere completely new has been very refreshing for me.

And above all, amidst all of the chaos and confusion of leaving the lush, fertile land of Herndon, Virginia and moving to the high desert that is El Paso, Texas, God has surely blessed me. One of the biggest gifts has been how welcomed I’ve felt. Even though I am completely out of my comfort zone, miles and miles away from everyone near and dear to me, I’ve been welcomed into the church, into the program, and into my new home like a long lost sister. Co-workers invite me over for dinner, the woman who is hosting me sheds drops of wisdom, and a small group member takes me to a local spot, like it’s second nature. The Church of St. Clement, Ciudad Nueva, Border Fellows Program, and the neighborhood of Rio Grande, didn’t know me, and still barely do, yet welcome me as a member of the family. I’m very thankful for this first month and am excited for the blessings, challenges, and moments of growth that the Lord has in store.

Click here to learn more about the Border Fellows program:

Click here to learn more about the Fellows Initiative:

The road to El Paso

Why El Paso?

Why drive 2,000+ miles? Through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and across all of Texas.

Why stay for 10 months?

Well, there are a lot of reasons that I came to El Paso. There are the surface level ones: like wanting to get exposure to the legal field, the attractiveness of a multi-component fellowship the year after I graduated college, and the opportunity to see if I could use Spanish in my career.

And then there are the deeper reasons, many of which I am just now realizing: like the desire I have to see racial/ethnic reconciliation happen in our churches, communities and nation. The interest I have in learning about the complexities and realties immigration. The fact that immigrants and immigration matter to the Lord, and so He is bringing people to a cause that is near to His heart.

And when you look at it in the context of my life path, or how I got here, it does make sense. When you talk about pressing “social justice issues”, immigration is up there. When you think about ways the people of God are divided, immigration seems to be towards the top of the list. Social justice, bridge building, and cross cultural community engagement are all strands that have woven in and out of my life. But even if it didn’t make sense, here I am. And I am excited for all that God has in store for me and for the community here.