Heartbeat Team Travels to U.S.A./Mexico Border

Frannie Kieschnick on the border in Hildago, TX

Photo credit: David F. Choy

“I’m enraged, and I’m going to do something about it,” were the words of Heartbeat Board Member Frannie Kieschnick after spending a week at the U.S.A./Mexico border last summer. She was seething at the inhumane separation of children from their parents at the border. This was part of the United States’ racist ‘zero tolerance policy’, which was the government’s catastrophic stopgap in response to the flow of people moving through the region last spring. Frannie’s experience and resolve struck a chord with me. When she told me about her trip, I heard five distinct elements that I thought would make an effective and meaningful pilgrimage experience: volunteer action, protest, prayer, witness, and accompaniment. We didn’t waste any time moving forward. Next week a team of 10 people will assemble in El Paso, Texas, for a new Border Pilgrimage with those objectives.

First and foremost, this team is responding to the needs of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees who are crossing the border. We will raise funds and volunteer at the Annunciation House, a designated respite center that is caring for 400-600 people each week as they make their way through the region. The team will also visit a detention center, meet with local leaders and advocates, and cross the border into Cuidad Juárez, Mexico.

In addition to responding with assistance and accompaniment, we will also embody the posture of a pilgrim – on a journey of deeper understanding and growing in awareness. The team will visit the construction of a new border wall in downtown El Paso, learn from migrant advocates, and study the historical context leading to today’s injustice along our borders. We will pray and reflect, seeking clarity of vision as we discern our ongoing response – both individually and as an organization.

In recent years HEARTBEAT has supported refugee relief efforts across the globe. Founders John Philip and Ali Newell created the ‘William James Newell Refugee Fund’ named for John Philip’s father who did international refugee work, most notably in camps which housed refugees needing to flee Cambodia as a result of the Killing Fields in the 1970s. The Border Pilgrimage is a small but significant expansion of our efforts to offer relief and engage issues facing people who are on the move.

The specially selected team for this trip is made up of a group of talented young leaders who have participated in or led previous Heartbeat pilgrimages. They gather from Maine, Arizona, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Texas, Oregon, California, and Georgia. Vanessa Johnson, former Heartbeat board chairperson and current resident of El Paso, will offer support and guidance during the pilgrimage. Border Hope Institute, a grassroots organization working to deepen solidarity across borders, is providing consultation, logistical support, and cultural training.

Please hold our team in your prayers as we travel to El Paso/Cuidad Juárez. Please also pray for the migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees who are risking everything as they seek safety and a new life in a new land. If you would like to support our efforts, donations designated for HEARTBEAT’s Refugee Fund through October 29th will be directed to our Annunciation House Respite Supply Drive.

Ben Lindwall is the Executive Director of HEARTBEAT. He and his family are based in Portland, Oregon. Ben is a certified spiritual director and has been leading spiritually oriented trips for over fifteen years. He made the pilgrimage to the Isle of Iona in Scotland in 2011 and has since been mentored by John Philip and Ali Newell.

“More love please”