The evening sun fell on a beautiful Dallas skyline, minutes before our team of clergy and laypeople passed through security at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The morning before, I had been asked to lead worship for 2,300 migrant boys. In Spanish. The whole experience was surreal.
Picture this: cots are lined 6 feet apart, stretching from wall to wall. Two thousand and three hundred children don KN95 masks and coordinated outfits of navy, grey, and green. Soldier-like, the boys march this way and that – to restrooms, cafeterias, showers. A teen boy sits, protectively, with his arm around the younger boy next to him. They look up, expectantly, but not scared. This is certainly not the scariest thing they’ve seen. Across the room there is a palpable resilience. These boys look just like me when I was in school, though slightly darker and bearing the strength of their shared experience. They joke with each other. They smile and sing along with my songs. They clap along with the beat of my guitar, even as it reverberates through the cavernous room.
When the preacher begins to speak, the boys cheer, their responses continuing to echo his calls. I can’t understand much of what he’s saying, though I desperately wish I could. In this small way, I catch a glimpse of the culture shock that awaits the luckiest of these boys.
Venga tu reino. Hágase tu voluntad en la tierra como en el cielo.
After praying the Lord’s Prayer, we sing a closing song* and receive a Benediction. But one benediction is not enough. The boys swarm Rev. Gonzales, asking for prayers and blessings and rosaries. They hold up their name tags, reminding us all that their lives matter.
One older boy, bilingual, tells me that he used to lead worship at his iglesia back home in El Salvador. He asks if he can play my guitar, and he starts playing these beautiful songs. Several younger boys crowd around, and I step back. He ought to lead worship next time. A curly haired boy looks back at me with glistening eyes. I meet his gaze and we share a brief moment of humanity that transcends language and culture.
The logistics of immigration are complicated. Simply getting 2,300 boys showered and fed every day requires many moving pieces. But they wouldn’t be here, cooped up in a sweaty convention center, with resilience and bravery shining in their eyes, if they hadn’t needed to.
Our closing song was Tú has venido la orilla or, in English, Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore. The boys weren’t familiar with this song, and, afterwards, several of them asked us if we could repeat the lyrics over and over again. They wanted to remember these words, and, looking back, I can see why. I invite you to read these lyrics and pray for these brave young men seeking “other seas.”
READ: A More Holistic Response to the Immigration Crisis
Tú has venido a la orilla
Tú has venido a la orilla
No has buscado a sabios, ni a ricos
Tan solo quieres que yo te siga
Señor, me has mirado a las ojos
Sonriendo, has dicho mi nombre
En la arena, he dejado mi barca
Junto a ti, buscaré otro mar
Tú sabes bien lo que tengo
En mi barca, no hay oro, ni plata
Tan solo redes y mi trabajo
Tú necesitas mis manos
Mis cansancios que a otros descansen
Amor que quiero seguir amando
Tú pescador de otros mares
Ansia enterna de almas que esperan
Amigo bueno que asi me llamas
Lord, You Have Come to the Lakeshore
Lord, you have come to the lakeshore
looking neither for wealthy nor wise ones;
you only asked me to follow humbly.
O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me,
and while smiling have spoken my name;
now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me;
by your side I will seek other seas.
You know so well my possessions;
my boat carries no gold and no weapons;
you will find there my nets and labor.
You need my hands, full of caring
through my labors to give others rest,
and constant love that keeps on loving.
You, who have fished other oceans,
ever longed for by souls who are waiting,
my loving friend, as thus you call me.