'When are the gringos coming?' - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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December 2020 newsletter


Rick Dixon, El Salvador

Brandon helping with the wheelbarrow library

Hope often arises in ways we least expect it. No one has taught me this better than Brandon. He is 5 and lives in La Esperanza, a refugee settlement dating back to El Salvador’s civil war (1980-1992). Brandon often asks me, “¿Cuando vienen los gringos?” (When are the gringos coming?)

He’s usually pushing our orange wheelbarrow, the mobile unity from our library, when he asks this. He’s referring to Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ Friend’s Across Borders program (FAB). With the COVID-19 situation, it’s been a year since the last FAB delegation visited our family literacy program — and Brandon.

FAB trip participants do puzzles with Brandon

During that visit, FAB participants gave him lots of loving attention and read lots of children’s books with him. When Becca held him and pointed out words and illustrations from Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat, Brandon’s imagination soared and his face screamed with joy.

So you see, “When are the gringos coming?” isn’t just a rhetorical question. When Brandon asks this his brown eyes grow big in waiting and hope. He feels something strongly, something that summons an experience that hasn’t faded. Time hasn’t faded.

Brandon’s question makes me think of what Jean Donovan said about the children here: “I want to get closer to God and going to El Salvador is the only way I think I can… I don’t know how the poor survive. People in our position really have to die unto ourselves and our wealth to gain the spirituality of the poor and the oppressed. I have a long way to go on that score. The poor can teach you so much with their patience and their waiting eyes. We are all so inadequate in our help. Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could except for the children, the poor bruised victims of this insanity.”

Jean wrote this more than 40 years ago, just before her martyrdom on December 2, 1980. And Brandon’s eyes still say it all: time hasn’t faded. It only gets better as we actively hope for a better world.


Rick Dixon
Rick Dixon is a Maryknoll lay missioner working in several migrant ministries at the U.S.-Mexico border in Mexicali, Mexico.