Of God and ladybugs - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Summer 2024 newsletter


Rick Dixon, U.S.-Mexico Border

Kids finding ladybugs

Mariana (right) and other children from Oasis del Niño search for ladybugs on their soccer field.

It’s spring. Mariana is 7. Her eyes are full of wonder. We are on the soccer field at the Oasis del Niño Center searching for ladybugs with 15 other children. They are picking through overgrown grass at the edge of the field.

Mariana shouts she’s found one. She picks it up between her thumb and forefinger and puts it into a white plastic bin half filled with grass. Her eyes are shining, but suddenly go dull as if someone was there and now gone. I ask her if she’s ok. She says my head hurts.

Hunting ladybugs

Rick helping with the ladybug hunt

Fleeing violence and poverty, Mariana came to Mexicali with her parents five years ago from the Mexican state of Sinaloa. They had been in Mexicali barely two years when her mother died of a drug overdose. Her father then crossed into the U.S. promising he’d send for her. More than a year has passed, and neither she nor the three Religious of the Sacred Heart who run the Oasis Center have heard from him.

She usually blames her headaches on math homework; this is the first time I hear her say this while searching for ladybugs, which we did a lot of this spring. Perhaps she’s thinking about the things she’ll tell her father when he comes for her. She sometimes laughs too hard and too loud, as if needing to feel something, or perhaps making sure her little body is alive.

I pick up a ladybug and show it to her. “Oh, no,” she says in a worried voice. “Those ladybugs bite. They don’t have black dots on their wings. Take it out.” I obey and then ask what she’s going to do with the ladybugs that have black dots. She explains that they will be taken to the garden in front of the girls’ dorm and she’ll take care of them.

In a world that has crushed her with absurdity, she is the go-to ladybug boss. The other children show her their captured ladybugs, and Mariana checks them carefully before giving the OK to put the bugs into the bin. “The wing is broken,” Mariana cries as she checks one bug. There’s a forest fire in her eyes. The world is burning. “I’m here for you,” she whispers.

After an hour we’ve captured dozens of ladybugs. Perhaps she’s thinking, We’ll move in with you, Papa, and make a garden. When I first met her, she wanted to learn phrases in English, but her interest has since waned, and when she says “Good afternoon” to me with barely an accent, there is a flare of hope across her face.



Most of the other children know her story, or at least sense her pain; they graciously go along with her demands and commands. They work in earnest.

It’s said that play is the work of children, but this afternoon it’s also the work of solidarity. Each child has a complex story, and their play submerges them into God’s creation and God in themselves, or, as Rumi wrote: Beyond the ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there. Here they learn not only to survive but to run and laugh together, lay a bit of their disquiet to rest.

It’s getting dark and just before ending our search-and-rescue mission, Mariana smiles and her hands wave into peace signs.

Please consider supporting my mission work at the U.S.-Mexico border with a donation through the link below.

I invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


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