By Mike Tenbusch | December 02, 2022
In a letter I mailed to your home last week, I talked about how often I find myself in tears in the course of our mission at International Samaritan. If you were wondering, “Has Mike just gotten soft?” I wish you had been at our book club on Wednesday to get a sense of what I mean.
We were discussing American Dirt, a fictional tale of a group of people trying to immigrate illegally to the United States. It has been called The Grapes of Wrath for our time. It’s also been criticized as being too violent and sensationalistic. The book opened my eyes and heart to the perils of the journey to the North, and I’ve been asking friends who’ve made the trip about their experience.
Toward that end, one of our scholars from San Pedro Sula in Honduras joined us on the call. Yessenia told us how one of her cousins had successfully made the trip to the U.S., but had been deported and was determined to return. She pleaded with Yessenia to join her and eventually convinced her. In August of 2021 they set out, together and alone, on the 1,400 mile trek to the border.
Yessenia and her cousin were from the same town and of the same age as two of the characters in the book, and their journey mirrored the horrors of the book she had lived, but not read. Like the characters in American Dirt, they also learned to jump on moving trains called La Bestia (The Beast) to avoid thieves, cartels, and immigration officials. She saw one woman trying to board the moving train fall under its wheels and die. She saw another boy fleeing migration officials on a slowing train jump off of it, stumble and lose his arm on the tracks. She saw friends she had made along the way getting beaten and robbed. Going for days without food forced her to beg for money on the streets of Mexico.
After three months of these conditions, and within sight of the U.S. border, Yessenia decided she had had enough. Starving, broke and scared, she gave up and returned home to San Pedro Sula.
Three of our team members on the call helped to translate Yessenia’s story—and all three were needed to get to the end of it. Stoically, Yessenia recounted her experiences. As she spoke in Spanish, a team member translating for her was forced by tears to stop, unable to say in English what had happened. Three times this happened, but Yessenia continued, unphased. It wasn’t until her story finished that this changed.
“I came home last November,” Yessenia said, and then paused, unable to continue. The emotions she had clearly fought to control now all came bubbling up, overcoming her. “And yesterday,” she said through her tears, “I graduated.”
Like Yessenia, I was in awe of the saving grace that had preserved her life and of the difference that had been made in it over the last year.
You know Yessenia. Last month I wrote to you that she recently made the training program for the Honduran soccer team. Two weeks ago, she applied for a passport so that she can travel with her team when she is called upon one day to represent Honduras at matches in other nations.
None of this would have happened without a team of her own. Not just the team we have in San Pedro Sula who is helping her and almost 100 of her peers achieve their dreams. But also those people who opened the letter we sent last week and said, “Yes, I can help.”
You are a part of the most amazing team I have ever been on. Thank you for the role you play in preserving all of our scholars’ lives.
We are doing everything we can to finish the year in the black by January 1—and we still have $182,000 to raise in year-end gifts. If you would like to give now, simply and quickly, to help Yessenia and 800 other young people like her in five nations, please click here.
Yessenia at her graduation, pictured with Erika Cuevas, our program director in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
With her friend, Anthony, after a soccer match between teams of our scholars from San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.
With our team members from Ethiopia, Selam Terefe and Selam Kahsay, in Honduras in October.
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