Sanctuary updates: Edith, Pilar, pictures

Tomorrow, February 18, is the one-year anniversary of Edith leaving sanctuary.  She lived in our church building for 40 months to avoid deportation.  She has been living with her family in Columbus and now has a work permit.    

Last week a group of us accompanied Edith to an ICE check in (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).  She is under an order of supervision which includes sending ICE a monthly GPS-tagged picture through an app, and coming in person every four months.  It’s a common arrangement for folks without a secure status.  Edith was nervous because her ICE officer had not responded to her messages when Edith communicated she needed to go to Chicago to visit her mother who has stage 4 cancer.  As we learned, the officer has been on maternity leave and there was nothing amiss. Edith was relieved.

She, her husband Manuel, and son Brandow, continue to work with their attorney to get a more permanent status.  After hearing it described I still don’t quite understand the ins and outs.  It’s not a system designed to be effective for the current needs of millions of undocumented folks.

Despite this, it was a good day, with Edith leaving the ICE office and heading back to her home.

Here’s a picture of us in the ICE parking lot.  Edith is to the left talking with press

This week also included an unexpected revisiting of CMC’s first sanctuary experience.  Back in the 80s Neil Avenue Mennonite Church (as CMC was then named) participated in the sanctuary movement welcoming Central American asylum seekers fleeing US-backed death squads, a very hot region and time in the Cold War.  The congregation formed a supportive relationship with a Salvadoran woman named Maria del Pilar Flores, helping her find housing and resources within Columbus.  This is not a story I know well but was a significant part of the congregation’s ministry nearly 40 years ago.

The conversation this week was initiated by Martha McFerran who hosted Pilar in her home for one of those years.  She wanted our congregation to be aware that Pilar is doing well and is opening her own tailor shop at Easton – a lifelong dream.  I called Pilar to congratulate her and she expressed her gratitude to the church for its support many years ago.  Here is a picture of her by her new shop, used with her permission.

Anniversaries (like Edith’s one year out-of-sanctuary) are good times to give thanks for the present and remember that the present is rooted in the past in ways beyond our awareness.