La Posada Providencia serves as a temporary home and shelter for men, women, and children who flee their countries because of religious persecution, enslavement, and other life- and limb-threatening terrors. First they are sent to detention centers (jails) operated by U.S. Border Patrol. If they are determined to be authentically fleeing horrors, they are placed on a track to receiving papers and staying in the U.S. This process takes time--a day or more; a week or more. Once they are declared eligible to receive documentation (another time-consuming task), they are ejected from the detention center. There are no bathing or diaper-changing facilities on the inside, so that baby, child, youth, man, or woman who emerges into the San Benito daylight is, more often than not, an unbathed, unshaven, hungry person who speaks no English, knows no one, and owns only the clothes on his or her back.
La Posada gets calls from border officials at all times of the day and night telling them that someone is being let out and is in dire need of assistance. Staff members climb into a van and drive the few miles to meet another refugee who hasn't a clue that he or she is walking into the arms of people who live, walk, and talk the Gospel of Christ. La Posada provides a toothbrush, bathroom, bed, food, and clothing--in short, hope.
When the Associates' Mission Committee learned of the need that clients of La Posada Providencia had for pieces of luggage, they went to work, collecting hundreds of bags of various shapes and sizes. They enlisted help from their parish groups, friends, and neighbors. Luggage came in, yes, and clothing and cash.
Sister Zita Telkamp, program director of La Posada Providencia, also collected donations of furniture and other items this summer when she was in Pittsburgh for our annual Assembly. All of these treasures needed to be transported to Texas.
Marlene McClain, an Associate from Monaca, Pennsylvania, came to the rescue! She filled her RV with the donations and is now transporting everything to Texas. We will "follow" her as she journeys from Monaca to San Benito.
November 6: Via con Dios, Marlena!
On November 6, Marlene pointed her sizable motor home out of her Monaca, Pa., driveway and drove toward Pittsburgh where she joined Sister Marlene Luffy for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast at a Panera Bread restaurant. Her next stop was to have Father John, pastor of Epiphany Church, bless the RV, its contents, and its driver, as they embarked on this journey of love.
Ordinarily, Marlene would sleep in her motor home each night of the trip from Pennsylvania to La Posada. This time, her bed has been raised two feet off the floor to accommodate all of the boxes and other items. The RV's outside compartments are packed full as well. Even the front seat harbors precious cargo: a mum plant for Sister Zita. Marlene will sleep in a motel most nights of this journey.
By early afternoon, Marlene stopped in West Virginia to walk her canine traveling companion, Mollie. The weather was crisp and clear and warm.
Next stop: Morehead, Kentucky, to her cousin's house for a short visit.
November 7: Sunseeker
That's the name stenciled on the outside of Marlene McClain's RV, and true to form, it purred south from Pittsburgh to Morehead, Kentucky, for the first overnight stop. Marlene's cousin, Loretta Brown, had a surprise waiting: her sons and daughters whom Marlene hadn't seen for years gathered at their mother's house and waved welcome. Halloween decorations still fluttered in the warm breeze while they dined and exchanged family stories.
Loretta competed in the Senior Olympics; she has first-prize ribbons ("in the cupboards somewhere") to prove it. Loretta has been in bowling, horseshoes, and curling competitions. She's 92 years old.
Marlene fell into a real, uncluttered bed and slept soundly. By 8:30 a.m. she was back on the smooth Kentucky roads under a sunny sky, paying $3.09 for a gallon of gas and heading toward Nashville, Tennessee, and points south. Stay tuned!
November 8: Way Down Yonder in New Orleans
Motel 6 left the light on for Marlene and Mollie in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. From there, they drove through Mississippi, the sixth state of their journey. The trees are just starting to turn color. Marlene reports that she "is very relaxed, just has the road to attend to with none of the usual pressure that busy days at home serve up" in large dollops. The sky is clear, there's a warm breeze, gas costs $2.94--it's a lovely time to be traveling.
That may change, however, since her route takes her through Houston, Texas, where cars are generally bumper-to-bumper in a perpetual rush hour traffic mode.
Tomorrow: D Day. Destination: San Benito, Tx., La Posada!
November 9: D Day!
Houston roads were true to their reputation: traffic-challenged. The temperature was in the 70s, gas at $2.79 per gallon.
Marlene, wearing her Divine Providence sweatshirt, pulled the Sunseeker into the La Posada driveway. Sister Therese, the first to spot the welcome visitor, directed her to park between the garden and the new school building.
It took mere moments for the word to go out. Sister Zita, staff members, and clients gathered around the RV, eager to help clear bags, cartons, and furniture. Within minutes, Marlene's bed was lowered and most of the donations were carried to the office. Now Marlene has her "home" back and her proper place to live for the next five months as she stays at La Posada to volunteer.
Mollie, delighted to be on steady ground, was greeted by the two resident canines who growled at first, but soon remembered her from last year.
God bless you, Marlene! The thoughts and prayers of Sisters and Associates will continue to be with you. Living in the abundance of God's loving Providence, you dare to risk.