After a blessing by our Mayflower family, nine Mayflower members left for a trip to the border accompanied by seven members of First Congregational in Mankato and a member of Peace in Rochester. We are grateful to the 6th and 7th grade Sunday School class for painting the crosses that we brought with us and placed on the border wall. We saw some of last year’s crosses on the Mexican side of the border wall. We carry you with us on this trip. Here is a brief summary of what we witnessed and took part in.

Rev. Randy Mayer, pastor of The Good Shepherd Church, hosted us for the first two days of our border encounter and arranged for us to make a desert walk (on a path immigrants have used in the past and where some lost their lives). We stopped to pray at one of the sites where local people buried the bones that were found. We also returned to witness called Operation Streamline, the fast-tracked court procedure for immigrants who have reentered the country. We were troubled to learn from Dan Millis of the Sierra Club in Tucson about the devastation the border wall causes to wildlife and to the earth. We were treated to a wonderful dinner at Casa Mariposa prepared by Yesenia, an asylum seeker from El Salvador who shared her immigration story with us.

We participated in a vigil at the Eloy Detention Center with hundreds of others who had come to participate in the SOA Watch border experience. Immigrants we saw in court are now serving time here before being returned to the border. This is a private for-profit prison that has the highest death rate due to poor food and health care. (pic)

We marched to the border wall in Nogales, led by the Veterans for Peace. Part of the group chose to participate on the Mexican side of the wall and the other half on the U.S. side. Rev. Randy Mayer and Rev. Deb Lee led UCC folks in a communion service at the wall. SOA offered many helpful workshops that provided us with vital information about what is happening that drives immigrants from their countries to enter the U.S.

The SOA Watch Encuentro ended with a about 1500 people along the border wall lifting up the names of immigrants who have died making the difficult journey to reach “safety” in the US, while the crowd yelled “presente” after each name was called.

We have so much to share with you about these experiences. Watch for the date. Thanks to the Mayflower Foundation for its support of this trip.