Letters to Ingrid

from Ximena Meissgeier

Spirit Quest is a seven-day summer camp for Unitarian Universalist middle schoolers. This was my first-year volunteering as a counselor, and one of my duties was to come up with a service project that the campers could do. Immediately, Ingrid Encalada came to my mind. Ingrid is now taking refuge at the Boulder UU church, and she often comes to mind when I hear disparaging comments made about immigrants. She is a mother of two young children, who once had the courage to come to America in search of the American dream. Today, her only dream is to care for her children, which she does out of sight within of the church.

I explained to the children the story of Ingrid, but I did not expect that most campers already knew about her story, even if they were not members of Foothills. I encouraged them to write letters to Ingrid showing their support for her fight.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Dear Ingrid, do you remember me? My name is Graciella, I played with your two sons. I hope you are doing alright, please tell them I said hi. We love you and support you at Foothills” -Graciella

“Dear Ingrid, I am sorry our President is dumb and doesn’t see you like I see you. You are the most courageous woman I know. Please Stay Strong.”  -Mia

“Dear Ingrid, Do you like pizza? I do. I hope you can stay in America, I want you here.” – Kian

The following weekend, I went to take the letters to Ingrid in Boulder with my husband. My intention was not to crash a wedding, but that’s what ended up happening. As soon as we opened the doors to the church, we walked into the middle of a wedding ceremony. I quickly walked to Ingrid’s room before the bride could see us. When I finally found Ingrid, she was at the playground with her sons. I greeted her in Spanish and her eyes lit up.  I realized she probably had not spoken to anyone in her native tongue for some time. 

My husband motioned Bryant over, threw a soccer ball on the ground, and began to play with him. Immediately, they started to do tricks and became engulfed in their game. I told her, “Well, at least they will be tired tonight with all this exercise.”  She looked up for a split second and shrugged.

“No, they will be up all night because our room in next to the hall where the party is being held. The music will keep them up well into the next day.” I never thought about that, what life is like living in a church.

I sat next to her and showed her the handwritten letters. When I came across one that read, “I hope you don’t get deported, and stay in the U.S.” My heart stops. It was too late, I didn’t read this one before. But I had to read this aloud since she had already seen it. I translated the letter and reality truly hit me— this is why I am here. Ingrid is going through a battle and the outcome might be losing her children.

Her youngest tugged at her constantly. He asked her to open his juice and hugged her tightly when the wind picked up. He feared the noise the wind was making, and I realized just how dependent these children are on her. Ingrid pressed her hand on his back and comforted him. I looked into his eyes. Like Ingrid he has soft, peaceful eyes. I wanted to hug both and tell them that I am here for them. Instead, I picked up another letter and read it to them.

I wish I could tell Ingrid, “It is going to be okay,” but the truth is I am not able to. I do not know if she is going to be able to stay in the United States with her family. I can’t take away the anxiety she feels every night, not knowing what her future holds. I can only tell her that my congregation and UU’s everywhere are rooting for her.  At Foothills, we will never be afraid to be “too political” about issues that matter. I can assure her that we are working hard for her cause and that families are saying her name over dinner and are keeping her in their thoughts. I can tell her that her life is worthy of not only sanctuary but freedom as well.