By Mike Tenbusch | November 18, 2022
What would your life be like if you were never able to see your mother in person? If phone calls were the only way you could speak with her, and you had no recollection of her hugs or touch?
On my most recent trip to Honduras, I discovered that this is the reality for Francisco, one of our team members there, as well as tens of thousands of young people from Mexico and Central America like him.
The only picture that Francisco has with his mother.
Hoping to give him a better life, Francisco’s mom left him with his grandparents when he was 11 months old. She made the long, harrowing trip to cross the border in 1998, but her plans to make enough money for them to be reunited never worked out. Francisco’s grandparents raised him as their own son, providing for him as best they could, even selling land that they owned for the $5,000 needed to pay for a coyote to safely guide him across the border. Even though Francisco held no memories of ever being with his mom, he could never shake the desire to see her again, just to be in her presence, when all would be made right in the world again.
Francisco at age two.
So at the age of 20, he took a bus to Guatemala, and then another to Mexico, before meeting his coyote and walking for 20 hours to a town near the border where he was put in a house and told to wait with about 30 other people. He waited. And then waited some more. Thirty days went by with very little food and no news or access to the outside.
When they finally began the long walk across dangerous terrain one night, they were overtaken by bandits with machetes who beat them and took their clothes and the meager cash they had on hand. They returned to the home and were given new clothes and another chance a few days later.
On a cold, September night in 2018, Francisco made it to edge of the Rio Grande. He could see the United States on the other side of the river! Anxiously, he waited in a safe house working up his courage for the dangerous swim ahead while dreaming of what it would be like to see his mother in person.
As soon as it was dark, Francisco waded into the Rio Grande, and his dreams crashed before he could swim. Bright lights and loud shouts from La Migra officials waving guns told him he was caught. He had nowhere to go now but to jail.
Francisco spent 15 days in jail in Mexico. The conditions were so bad that he made a deal with God, “If you get me out of here, I’ll never do this again.” He was freed soon after and deported to Guatemala, where he spent another 15 days in jail, before being put back on a bus and returned to Tegucigalpa.
A few weeks later he got a message from his coyote: he still had two more chances to try to cross the border for the $5,000 fee that his grandparents had paid. Francisco turned him down. He had made a deal with God and he was going to live with it.
It’s four years later now. Francisco’s grandfather has since passed away, just weeks after attending Francisco’s wedding. His grandma lives with him and his wife, and Francisco has become an integral part of IntSam’s mission, giving life to the dreams of our scholars as we work so hard to bring fresh water to their community.
Francisco with his wife, grandfather, and grandmother at his wedding.
When Francisco finished telling me his story over baleadas two weeks ago, I only had one thought at the end and blurted it out in English to Ronia, our team leader in Tegucigalpa, who was translating for me.
“We need you to come to our annual retreat in January!” I said. “Our board would love to hear how the water project is going, and I’ll write a letter to the embassy in support of your visa application.”
Ronia began weeping as she tried to translate this for Francisco. We had done the same for her two years ago, and it enabled her to see her sister in the U.S. for the first time in 20 years. When she finished translating, tears filled Francisco’s eyes, as they do mine now, writing this.
By God’s grace and with the approval of the U.S. Embassy, Francisco will be at our annual retreat in January—and he will get to see his mom while he is here. Please keep him and this request in your prayers. And know that through your giving, you are helping to create conditions so that young people in this same community will never have to make a decision like hers again.
Francisco and I playing soccer in Tegucigalpa two weeks ago.
Why do Migrants Flee to America?
Learn about the pressures and dangers faced by Central American migrants trying to escape to the US in our upcoming book club on Thursday, November 30 at noon EST. We’ll be discussing American Dirt and hearing from one of our scholars who faced a similar situation.
Interested? Email Mike to RSVP!
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