The Christmas Miracle — Comes to the Border

By on December 12, 2011

The Christmas Miracle Comes to the Border

By Peg Bowden, for


The Nativity Comes to Life


What Child is This….traditional English air

•December 9, 2011 • 1 Comment


The place is bedlam. The comedor in Nogales, Sonora, is packed with travelers from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chiapas and Oaxaca, all draped in colorful ponchos and backpacks. It is December, and the temperature at our ranch was 17 degrees this morning. My eye focuses immediately on a vision across the room—a young woman and a small baby wrapped in several layers of shawls and blankets. She is gently rocking a baby and her eyes look swollen with tears. She is Maria, and her baby is Jennifer, eight months old. They have been in the desert for three days, and “in jail” for thirteen.


Maria and baby Jennifer



Her husband is on crutches, and he explains to me that he fell down a ravine and injured his leg. They are both shivering with cold in this humble shelter on this frigid morning. Returning to their village in Michoacan is their wish, and they have no money. Their backpack with immigration papers and meager supplies were stolen somewhere along the way. This couple has nothing, literally, but the clothes on their back.


Travelers from Honduras



So the Samaritans gather together, along with some high school students visiting from Portland, Oregon, here on an “immersion week” in Mexico. We learn that tickets for this family will be  over one-hundred US dollars. Everyone pitches in what little change they have, and we come up with the money. A cheer erupts in the shelter, and my Samaritan colleagues march over to the bus station with money in hand and the little family in tow. I must say, we are feeling pretty good about solving this problem, and there are lots of high-fives all around.


And then we have our own “immersion” experience. Learning that because this is a Mexican family with a baby, Immigration Services of Mexico will pay for their bus ticket.  Wow!! Incredible!!  This is wonderful!!  So we march back to the comedor and return all the money to the students, the Samaritans, and other contributors.


Once again we return to the bus station with the family, and the bus driver refuses to let them on the bus because “they do not have the proper


Children of the Comedor



immigration papers.” Well, yes, we explain—because the papers were stolen. It is a comedy of errors. Now the bus officials want the money. And of course we have returned the money to the generous donors, who are long gone. The whole thing starts to feel like one of those O.Henry stories, full of surprises and twists.  New facts emerge, new rules present themselves, and we bounce back and forth from bus station to comedor like a ping-pong ball. 

There are always lessons to be learned when it comes to immigration politics. If a migrant has the proper paperwork, and there is a small child involved, Mexican Immigration pays to have the family returned to their home village. But without the paperwork, you must have the money. Business is business. So we all reach into our pockets once again and come up with money for one ticket. Maria’s husband tells us that his wife and baby must return home to their village, and he will stay (with his brother, who is also a part of this drama). They will attempt to cross again into Estados Unidos. The man is on crutches and can barely walk. It is an impossible situation. He is insistent. Maria is crying. It is freezing on this particular morning. There is no way these two young men can survive a “crossing” across our border.


Hands Across the Border



So once again it comes down to the money. My Samaritan colleagues come up with the money for one ticket and food for the journey for Maria and her baby. With promises from the Samaritans to pay for the rest of the tickets next week, the bus officials allow the whole family to travel back to Michoacan. It is a sweet Christmas miracle at the bus station. The total ticket cost for mother, baby, husband and brother is $160. Next week at a Samaritan meeting we will pass the hat and pay off the tickets. Thankfully the bus station officials know the Samaritans well and trust that they we will pay off this debt.


So with smiles all around, we offer this family money for food, some extra blankets, and warm clothing for the long trip home. Once again there are high-fives. Maria and her family look on with an expression of mild bewilderment and amusement at our cheers as we jump around the bus depot. And I just shake my head at the complexity of humanitarian efforts on our border. But I sleep better that night knowing the family is together and heading home.



The Reality of Migrant Women, a conference poster in Nogales


The mailing address for donations is:

Good Shepherd United Church of Christ

17750 S. La Canada Dr.

Sahuarita, AZ.  85629

In the “memo” corner of the check, put
“Samaritans”, and all money will go to the Samaritans.  No one in the Samaritans get paid—it is allvolunteer.  So all monies go for food,
medical supplies, van repairs.  There are more than 100 people that show up twice/month for the Samaritan meetings.  I don’t think anyone is under 55 years old.  Pretty amazing group, really.



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