Now That You Know These Things…

March 12, 2010

This post came as a comment off of Pastor David Vasquez’s blog: Faith On the Move. Graciously enough, the author of this entry, LIRS Social Worker Vicki Kline agreed to a guest entry on my blog! Incredible and powerful story. See below.

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” ~ John 13: 12-


I once washed the feet of a young man named Juan. We met as his concerned migrant companions led me to him, sleeping in a shaded patch of dirt under a trailer at a Nogales, Mexico aid station. Humble and shy, Juan and I worked together to gently peel away the socks he had worn inside ragged shoes during his 3-day journey North from Oaxaca. He graciously allowed me to nurse blisters and put salve on his tired, wounded feet.

The oldest of several children, Juan had heard that he could pick oranges somewhere in the U.S. and earn enough to support his siblings and aging parents. Juan was 3,000 miles from home and it seemed to him an eternity until he would arrive. He had been caught and detained in the desert; with his foot in my trembling hand, it seemed as though he were lost between two worlds.

In the years before and after my encounter with Juan, my own feet have been washed by the wanderers who have offered me hospitality of body and spirit. In the homes of migrant workers in Missouri apple orchards, gratitude overflows in the form of heaping bushels of apples, or the welcome of birthday parties and community celebrations. Now, as I work with the families of children who have been detained by immigration authorities and placed in federal custody, people wash my feet with the willingness to open their lives, and to share their stories.

It is as tender an exchange to kneel in front of a stranger, water and cloth in hand, as it is to submit one’s heart to another and humbly listen to the stories. The blisters and ragged shoes are the tales of children fleeing from abuse, or from gangs and violence in communities that fail to protect them. And there is the fragile hope of children who long to reunite with their parents, many of whom they have never known. To submit oneself to these stories is to be willing to travel alongside, experience an often perilous journey as it unfolds.

I think of Juan often and wonder what has become of him. He may not remember the stranger kneeling in dirt somewhere in the middle of his journey. But as the same salve placed on his painful blisters is that placed on the wounds of my heart, I know that by this encounter, I am forever changed.


Vicki works in family reunification with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

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