by Ticie Rhodes, Sanctuary Everywhere Core Team Lead
Anticipating the launch of Sanctuary Everywhere volunteer trainings, Foothills’ program to accompany asylum seekers and provide them Sanctuary both within the church walls and without, I was asked to write about how developing and working with this program has affected my life.
To do so would tell only a fraction of the story, so as I invite you to join in this work with our team, I will try to share the larger story–of how it has affected my life, yes, but also how it has affected others’.
Since last October, Sanctuary Everywhere has grown from providing in-church Sanctuary to Ingrid, an immigrant from Peru with a deportation order over her head, to accompanying asylum seekers living in detention under circumstances you’ve read about; to working with lawyers to get parole for them; and to providing housing with a host family, and a Village to support them as the asylum seeker navigates their new life in this country.
Many of you met Lorenzo and his young son Pedro during their brief in-church Sanctuary stay at Foothills in July. Lorenzo’s 48hrs living at our church bought his lawyer time to reopen his case, removing his deportation order. Two Sanctuary Everywhere team members accompanied Lorenzo and Pedro to their next ICE appointment, shared their relief that all went well, and returned them to their family–wife and their five month old–elsewhere in Colorado.
But what other lives have we touched, as we’ve launched this program?
We accompanied — that is visited in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention and funded for communication with family and additional food — ERP*, who now lives with a Foothills member and works in Fort Collins, supported by a Foothills Sanctuary Everywhere Village.
We accompanied MJC*, and helped her find and get paroled to a host family near her own family, elsewhere in Colorado.
We accompanied ILC* briefly, until she was deported to Guatemala.
Currently we are accompanying BT*, awaiting word that he may be paroled by ICE to a host here in Fort Collins before his court date later this month. A court date while in detention almost always results in deportation–in his case, back to his home where he was arrested and beaten by police for political activism and where his father, a political activist, disappeared almost 20 years ago.
Recently when I sent BT a money order, he sent me the following handwritten note on a scrap (yes, scrap) of paper–
Dear Lettice Rhodes. good day. I take you money, and I want to say to you thank you very much. you so help me in my hard time. God bless you!!! I will never forget you help. Thank you so much!
So, how has Sanctuary Everywhere affected my life?
I get to send money orders… and know that it makes a big difference to someone who needs that help and some hope.
I get to drive an asylum seeker to get root canals and fillings in her too-long neglected teeth… and the chance to connect across a cultural chasm and make an important difference in her health.
And yes, I get to go to meetings and hammer through the challenges of caring for individuals trapped in a vicious system, for Davids against Goliath… and forge deep connections wrought by working in a small group of committed people for work that speaks to us.
And when I feel small and discouraged, looking for ways to help, I remember this, that we are stronger together, and the words of Edward Everett Hale (1822–1909) American author and Unitarian clergyman.
I am only one; but still I am one.
I cannot do everything; but still I can do something;
and because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
We’d love for you to join our team. Signup for one of our upcoming Sanctuary Everywhere trainings here.
*Initials used to protect anonymity.