We parked the bus in Fabens that we had driven cross country and met up with David and, Charissa who had brought Christmas gifts for the kids. We emptied the contents of her trailer into our vans. She had been turned away at the border just an hour or so before. There are a three-wheel tricycle, Legos, matchbook cars, crayons, coloring books, clothing, shoes and perishable food goods.
As we approach the entry port, the only clue that we are entering Mexico, are the signs posted along the road and the 10 foot chain-link fence surrounding the inspection area. The entrance is partitioned by median barriers and the posted speed, five miles.
Beyond the U.S. checkpoint, a 20 foot iron fence looms in the near distance as if ancient Mayan Sentries guarding the entrance to sacred burial ground. When the violence first broke out and the fence completed, we all feared the ramifications of the border being locked down and forever being trapped within its borders.
We now cross through the Mexican checkpoint and explain that we have gifts for the kids at the orphanage. We are given the green light and forge ahead. This is not the same Mexico we had come to live in just short of four years past. Not too long ago, the streets were bustling with beggars, vendors and, pan handlers. But now, just an eighth of a mile in, we pass by a convenience store where 12 people were recently killed, and every 30 feet there on are massacre stories of beheadings and heinous murders too numerous to recount.
On our immediate left are mounds of discarded tar and dirt. On our right, a military post. The sterile, vacated streets are purged of life at 6:00 in the evening. A small wooden hamburger stand remains open. The only other signs that this was once a viable city are the little stores that line the street. There are three dentists, three optometrists and three furniture stores. Most all are gated and locked down.
In contrast, the street to the orphanage is a parody of poverty and obsession. The streets are adorned with fancy lamp posts and palm trees meant for some other place and time. Set amidst adobe houses crumbling a block at a time are an occasional mansion, reminding us of justified injustice.
The orphanage is completely fenced in. The buildings are brightly colored salmon, baby blue, yellow and the like. As the locks are unfastened and we enter through the gates, we can’t help but remember the recent abductions and murders not far from our own front door a few months back. Inside the gates, we experience an incomprehensible peace. Children play freely unmoved by the dark of night.
As I put these words to paper, the gifts were being unloaded and the headlines of the day recounted of the man that was beheaded. His brains and skull surgically removed. His face skinned and wrapped around a soccer ball and neatly placed inside a game.
That night as I pray with the girls before tucking them in, they thank God for protecting us for causing them to grow, for assisting them with bad attitudes and, caring for family members. Their only concern: that no venomous insect bite them in the night. I kiss each one on the forehead and offer mother bear hugs to all that are willing. I praise a God who has not forgotten his children or forsaken His own and turn out the lights.