Encuentro: Encounter on the borderlands of Texas
Lecia Brannon is a junior in the Master of Divinity program. Lecia and her husband came to Seminary of the Southwest from Diocese of Camino Real.
Southwest’s Master of Divinity Program requires a January Term course entitled Encuentro: Mission in Latino Contexts. Encuentro or encounter is a keyword to what this course is about, however there is so much more. Over the three weeks of this course our class was presented with people and experiences that will require us to absorb, process and discern. Where might we fit in?
As a native Californian I thought I knew a thing or two about mission and ministry in the Latino community. I quickly found out that what I know of California was not at all the same as the Texas context. The state of Texas has a unique history with Mexico and with their shared border. I have been overwhelmed at times by the complexities and struggles of the lives of the communities on both sides of the border.
Our class heard presentations from some of the best and brightest speakers engaged in issues surrounding the Latino population. We heard from professors, clergy and a seventh generation Tejano who can trace her roots to the Alamo. We traveled to San Antonio and Laredo, Texas where we spent four days seeing first hand the works of men and women whose lives are devoted to living amongst and loving the people who are marginalized and invisible due to their lack of documented status. We stood on the serene bank of the Rio Grande River where we were told immigrants had crossed just an hour before with the Border Patrol’s helicopter hovering above us searching the area for them. This was a moment I will be processing and discerning for some time.
Closer to home, my classmate Jennifer Shadle and I shadowed the Rev. Alex Montes-Vela, the priest of St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Manor, Texas. Padre Alex’s intentional creation of a dual language service honors and unites the Latino community and the Anglo community as one church. St. Mary Magdalene initially began as a home church in 2010. Now they meet at Manor High School and plan for construction of a church building in the future. The hospitality of Padre Alex and the congregation blessed Jennifer and me.
Encuentro has been a mind and soul changing experience. I heard, felt and learned about seeing people with the eyes of my heart. We are all looking for love, acceptance, dignity and a life of hope for better. As Christians we know this hope and as Church we can offer hope and love to all of God’s people.