During a recent visit, the gentlemen spontaneously expressed profound thanks to CWF for gifts they have received from us. It was quite overwhelming to hear:
– “You are people with heart that listen to us.”
– “You provide clothing if needed for our [deportation] trip.”
– “You are a blessing!”
– “We thank you so much for your time and the resources that you put together to be able to help us. Such an enormous blessing and we thank you so much.”
– “God bless you guys and bless your families.”
– “Thank you Lord Jesus for your immense heart and beautiful heart and big heart. You are special peoples. You care for hungry peoples, for immigration peoples. You’re Americans and have big hearts.”
– “You gift us with this time, so valuable.”
– “We feel happy because we can converse. We have found new friends. This is a great blessing.”
– “I want to thank you all for the birthday cards you sent for my birthday. Many, many thanks to all who sent cards for my birthday!”
– “You listen to us. I feel more calm because I don’t have family here. And the first thing my family said was to judge me. You all don’t judge me. You don’t ask about the problems we had. You have other conversations with stories, very great distractions. Upon leaving here, many people will judge us.”
– “This time together cheers us up, relaxes us, is therapy for us.”
– “[During CWF visits] We don’t think about the jail. We think of other things. We enter another world, e.g. of the donkeys and monkeys (story by Ed) and a dog that rescues people (joke by Steve). We live in a different place in this moment.”
– “I am very thankful for everyone at CWF to help me and everyone else go through this not alone.”.
– “I just want to really say that I’m very grateful for all of you loving and caring people of CWF to take the time and effort out of your busy day and time away from your families to write us, as in ICE people, every week.”
– “…thank you for all the letters that you send me with those lovely messages that fill me with encouragement to help me continue here….So how your messages fill me with dreams and hopes.”
– “We want to write to you to thank you for your help, support, collaboration and friendship for/with us. God puts angels in our difficult moments and you all show your love. A Christmas greeting and prosperous 2022 to you all.” (from a 12/15/21 email to CWF).
Note, though, that this is not a one-sided relationship where one person is the giver and the other is the receiver.
We CWF volunteers receive from those with whom we have the honor and distinct privilege of writing and visiting. The gifts we receive are opportunities:
– to come to realize that people jailed by ICE are not “the other” but rather unique, vulnerable human beings like us;
– to affirm others, acknowledging the injustice of our immigration system and the pain and suffering and emotional trauma of awaiting and/or being deported;
– to be that person who figuratively puts a hand on someone’s shoulder, letting them know that members of the community care about their health and safety, something that is so very important, especially for people who have no one;
– to witness the intense faith of many people who feel God has a plan for them and will accompany them on an uncertain journey;
– to practice our faith and serve others with compassion and love and, in so doing, serve our God;
– to be warmly welcomed/accepted as visitors and letter writers into their space;
– to personally learn of the injustice and indecency of our immigration system that jails people who have usually already served their criminal sentence and accepts deportation and the resulting family separation/destruction as an allowable form of punishment;
– to advocate on their behalf, e.g. by calling senators, congresspeople, family, friends and others, educating them about the struggles and realities of those detained based on our first-hand, personal knowledge;
– to get a sense of our own privilege by witnessing the pain that others are experiencing;
– to be enlightened, as we are after reading “S”’s letter, by other people’s perspectives;
– to learn about our pen pals’ birth countries, e.g. favorite foods, important holidays, current conditions, and as a result create a stronger connection;
– to express our own hearts, after receiving letters in which our friends express theirs, and have an authentic relationship.
Our relationships are often mutual relationships, both sides giving, both sides receiving. How wonderful we can celebrate these relationships, especially during the holidays of Christmas (12/25), Hanukkah (11/28 – 12/6) and Kwanzaa (12/26 – 1/1)!
A Merry and Blessed season to all!
Steve Kraemer, CWF Exec. Director, 12/15/21
From the 12-15-21 CWF Newsletter