Journey of Willingness

Dear Heartbeat family,

Our team’s visit to the border last October stretched me. I tend to worry a lot and leading up to the pilgrimage I was hesitant, if not a bit scared. We planned to cross into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a few times. This is a city that is on the State Department’s travel advisory list. “Violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking, and robbery, is widespread,” the warning reads. These words pricked at my tendency toward anxiety, and at times I had to dig deep to find the willingness to do my part to make the trip happen.

After arriving in El Paso, I was inspired by my friend Bianca’s resolve, and I learned a lot by watching her. Bianca’s work is very grounded in reality. She facilitates yoga, spiritual accompaniment, and offers counsel to families considering organ donation. While in Juárez with our team, Bianca had a chance to use some of her skills when she met a woman (who we will call Maribel for her safety) from El Salvador. Maribel was trying to decide if she could risk being separated from her children by crossing into the U.S. to claim asylum. Maribel shared about the violence back home, about having a gun put to her head and seeing a man’s throat slashed in the street. Bianca listened with a radical willingness to offer compassion and presence in that moment. It was a difficult story to witness. “If they take my son away, I will die. I will die,” she told Bianca. We don’t know how Maribel decided to continue her journey, but we pray for her often and hold her strength and fortitude in the highest regard.

John Philip Newell often reads an excerpt from the poem “The Poet Visits the Museum of Fine Arts” by Mary Oliver:

every rose
opened in perfect sweetness
and lived
in gracious repose,
in its own exotic fragrance,
in its huge willingness to give
something, from its small self,
to the entirety of the world.

I’m amazed at what can happen with any amount of willingness. Sometimes it feels huge, like a force (what I see in Bianca and the woman she spoke to). But in my case, it can sometimes feel like it is barely enough.

During our time in the border region, I learned a lot. “I take my kids back and forth all the time,” Vanessa Johnson, one of our hosts and Heartbeat’s former Board Chair, told me. “I grew up crossing back and forth, and I cross back and forth every day,” said Ilka Vega who is a staff member at Hope Border Institute, another one of our hosts. No one was implying that certain precautions shouldn’t be made. No one tried to gloss over the danger. But it all made me wonder about the narratives that I have been told and the ones I buy in to. And of course the State Department doesn’t hesitate to play on people’s fear – this sort of ‘fear of the other’ also serves the energies that make villains out of neighbors and is the impetus for the building of divisive walls. These women – Bianca, Vanessa, Ilka and Maribel – showed me what the strength of willingness looks like. Without knowing it they helped make space for me to grow. To learn to navigate worry and also reflect on my own privilege, since it’s all connected. I am forever grateful.

Heartbeat Border Pilgrimage Group and staff at Hope Border Institute
From left: Edwin, Stephanie, Yadenee, Marisa, Ben, Frannie, Ilka, Eric, Bianca, Michel, Emily, Diego, and Edith

And our Border Pilgrimage trip was asuccess, if you could call it that in the midst of tragedy and injustice. Weprotested in Tornillo, TX where over 2,000 migrant children are detained. We volunteered with Annunciation House in assisting immigrants recently released by ICE. We raised over $7,000 to buy basic supplies for some of those immigrants. We learned, we witnessed, and we prayed.

Protest sign for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX
Protest and signs of solidarity for the children held in the detention camp in Tornillo, TX --- "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Because God is always with you." Joshua 1:9
Heartbeat Border Pilgrimage group at protest in Tornillo, TX

I will return to the border next year, co-leading two Heartbeat pilgrimage groups. My willingness is growing, and I wonder if you will join us on this journey. Each year Heartbeat reaches thousands of people with the vision of the Celtic world, partnering with John Philip Newell to offer The School of Celtic Consciousness and organizing pilgrimages. We are making space to join in the healing of the world by honoring the earth and restoring relationships across divides. None of this happens without your financial support. It is your ‘huge willingness’ to give that is propelling a movement of healing and transformation and makes Heartbeat’s work possible. Would you be willing to send a financial gift today?

Thank you for your accompaniment on this journey of willingness. Thank you for your gift in every form, whether prayer, volunteering, or financial contributions. With hope and faith we look forward to the work ahead.

Sincerely,

 

 

Ben Lindwall

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