Bendiciones de la Virgen (Blessings of Our Lady)

June 15, 2012 in Ramblings

I arrived in Brownsville yesterday early afternoon. The sun was scorching and I was drained. I looked everywhere for a cheap, clean hotel. Couldn’t find one so I had to choose…cheap OR clean. I chose cheap. ($40…that was the cheapest I could find). I layed down in the A/C and fell asleep immediately. I power napped for an hour and was up and around. The Motel did not have Internet so I was off to find a Starbucks…and luckily there was one 2 miles down the street.

Now that I was in Brownsville I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about Mexico. It was clear to me that the previous Embassy official that I spoke to backed out of his offer and I was stuck with no clear path to the Basilica. It bothered me the whole way from Corpus Christi to Brownsville. I was torn between a quick drive over the border and back into Texas or going the entire way through Mexico and making a run for the Basilica. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. My plan was to wake up the following morning and head over the border and whatever was going to happen was going to happen.

I arrive at Starbucks, order my coffee and take a seat near the bar. The short guy after me makes a joke about coffee stunting his growth…and I make the spontaneous comment “You too, huh”? and we both laughed. He says “Is that your bike out there”? I said “Yes”. He then says “My friend is the founder of an organization in Texas that helps kids heal from sexual abuse”. “REALLY”? I said.
“Yes, he founded it over 10 years ago…he’s done a lot of good”. “So where are you headed”?
Oh, I *think* I am headed to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe”.
“ON THAT?!?” he says, pointing to my bike. “Yes, on that”. He gets a very serious look on his face and says “You are going to get yourself killed”. To be honest, that shook me up a little because he was a local and he was telling me that…I figured that as a local, he had a pretty good bead on the level of violence in the region.
He then says “Excuse me for a minute, there is someone I would like you to meet”. He walks across the restaurant and starts a conversation in Spanish with a man dressed from head to toe in black.
They both approach me and the second man introduced himself. He says “Please do not do this” with a very serious and very stern look on his face. He asked me “What is it that you are trying to accomplish with this journey to the Basilica”? I explained all of my reasons and stressed that one of the main goals of this journey is to raise awareness. He told me “If you are trying to raise awareness, we can help you with that”. He gets his phone out and makes 3 phone calls, all in Spanish. He says to me “Be at the border crossing bridge with my associate Juan (the man I had just met) tomorrow morning at 10 am. You will be interviewed by two news agencies and the major newspaper. The first news agency is the biggest in all of Mexico and your message will reach hundreds of thousands if not millions of people throughout Mexico (and he mentioned two other neighboring countries that I can’t remember). He then asked if he could buy me dinner. We went to a nice restaurant next door to Starbucks and had an awesome dinner. The two men were very open with me and shared with my their efforts to advocate for the good of Mexico. The one gentleman held a diplomatic position. He said that what I was doing was very important because child sexual abuse has no boundaries and it was commendable that I was going beyond my physical, mental, and emotional boundaries to help others. He said that it was also important that I chose to go beyond the boundaries of my own country and engage Mexico and Canada in this UNIFIED fight against child sexual abuse. WOW! you could tell this man was a diplomat…he spoke so elegantly!

So after dinner Juan took me for a tour of Brownsville and told me all about the town…the GOOD and well as the bad. Later we met a friend of his and went out for some fantastic taco’s…then over to his friends house. His friend just closed down his motorcycle shop and had an entire back room in his house FILLED with clothing, helmets, chrome, parts, etc. …I was in heaven…
He gave me some merchandise to have a raffle or auction to raise some funds…he donated a nice helmet, windbreaker, and riding gloves.

Afterwards they lead me back to the motel for some much needed rest. I did not sleep very well because my bike was outside so I was up every hour checking to make sure it was still there. I was up for good at 6am because we were going to meet for breakfast and be at the bridge by 10am. I wanted to get the signs on my trailer translated into Spanish so we went to Kinko’s after breakfast at Whataburger and I had them print the signs on some cheap white paper and I taped them over the English text.

We drove over to the bridge where the border crossing was located and moments later news crews started to arrive. They spent about an hour interviewing me, filming, and taking photos. Somewhat surprising…they asked me about my faith in relation to the sexual abuse. I told them that it was my faith that got me through it for all these years and then they started asking MORE questions about my faith. I mentioned “Our Lady” and they really loved that…I was privileged to be able to talk openly about my profound respect and deep love for her. One of the reporters gave me a beautiful playing-card-size picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe and they filmed me taping it to the battery box on my bike. I was THRILLED that they were so open about letting me talk about my faith and how it really was the most important thing in seeing me through this (otherwise) tragedy. I don’t think a US news agency would have done that. The Mexican journalists actually encouraged it…and that made me so happy. I felt God’s presence so strongly during all of this…inside I felt lighter than air. I also felt the presence of “Our Lady”…it was so powerful…such a motherly love and a motherly presence…it’s hard for me not to write about it and not get emotional. I felt heaven shining down on me and I suddenly realized that it didn’t matter weather or not I physically reached the Basilica. I had been given THIS gift…the gift of reaching hundreds of thousands or maybe even millions of people with a message of HOPE. A message that there can be a quality of life after child sexual abuse if you have the courage to fight for it. I was privileged to tell all those people that if they had been abused that they too had the courage to fight for a better life. And isn’t that what my Journey is all about? **Thank you God. My plan to go to the Basilica was not your plan…Your plan was a lot better. …I was able to remain safe and reach multitudes of people with a powerful, pointed message of hope.

And as far as “laying all of this down”…I realized that this is not a one time event. I believe that this is a process that will unfold as I continue through my journey”. I still hope to one day go to the Basilica…but for now, I am truly ok with continuing on…

After the interviews were over, I still had to actually drive across the bridge and let my Ruck tires touch Mexican soil. So I drove up to the gate and paid my SIX DOLLARS to cross …”Sorry sir, you are driving a tri-axle vehicle”…”Your moped is two axles and the trailer is a third” “Dual-axles are $3, tri-axles are $6…Now was not the time to get into the whole “It’s not a moped” speech…so I paid the $6 and continued across the bridge. Here’s where it get’s awkward…I pull up to the Mexican border patrol agent and he starts speaking in Spanish. I say “English please”. He said “What is your business here”? I said “I am on a charity ride and I just need to cross over the bridge to symbolically touch Mexico” I will then ride back over into Texas” He replies “WHAT IS YOUR BUSINESS HERE”? I suddenly felt nervous and tried to explain that I wasn’t actually staying in Mexico…I just wanted to cross the bridge and drive back over into Texas immediately. Apparently, my crazy American mentality did not translate very well…because he made me pull over to an inspection area and he called another guard over…so I had two guards asking me what my purpose was for coming to Mexico. I tried to use a lot of hand gestures…and made “air drawings” of my 10,000 mile long heart…and tried to answer their questions as honestly as possible. I showed them my translated sign on my trailer “Viajando 17.000KM para combatir el abuso sexual de ninos”. Eventually they got it and let me cross to the other side of the bridge…I sat there for about 40 minutes in bridge traffic. I felt bad for Juan because he told me to drive half way across the bridge…(“half way over you WILL be in Mexico…then spin it and come back across…the whole thing will take less than 10 minutes”) Problem was that there were cement barriers across the bridge and there was no way to spin around and back track. Well…almost an hour later and no Tom…by the time I reached him he was LITERALLY TREMBLING. He said he thought something bad happened to me. Eventually, when he calmed down he made the joke that “Oh, no, I thought I killed a poor little white man”…I laughed SO hard at that…

After my official border crossing, he took me to his friends house that founded the agency Texas Foundation For Safer Children (http://www.texasfsc.org/) and I spent the entire afternoon with “Frank” and his family. We talked about so many things and he too spoke about his great faith that drives him to fight for sexually abused children. He told me “Faith is the foundation of my journey”.
Right now, I am in another cheap AND clean motel set up by “Juan”…and I am much happier.
Oh, and tomorrow I have a meeting with a State Senator from Texas! Also being covered by the media. Set up for me by Frank.
So huge multitudes with hear my message on the US side of the border!
My head is still reeling from all of this…it’s been a fast and furious ride for the past day and a half. I feel like I’ve been on a roller-coaster adventure ride and inside I am holding on for dear-life. Absolutely AWESOME