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I Am An Immigrant

During the early years of Texas independence a lot of land was made available for settlement. Soldiers of the Republic of Texas had been paid in land grants and many of them needed money. After beTexasstate, from 1850 to 1860, the population grew from about 212,000 to over 600,000.  The recognized population was mostly settlers of European origin, but also former citizens of Mexico who owned and lived on land north of the Rio Grande River.

One of the 400,000 arriving immigrants was Johann Dube, my great-grandfather. He was among 600 Wendish immigrants who left Lusatia in Europe due to religious persecution by the Prussian ruling classes.  They found a former Texas soldier and purchased his league of land, about 4,000 acres.  This was divided into farms, with acres set aside for the church, school and cemetery in what became the town of Serbin.

“I am an Immigrant” is a song by John McCutcheon, a prolific singer/songwriter living in Virginia.  His songs help listeners interpret the conditions of their times.

 

I am an immigrant

I am a stranger in this place

Here but for the grace of God go I

I am an immigrant

I have left everything I own

To everything I’ve known

I say goodbye

 

During the Wednesday education session, MDS volunteers heard about the history that created the “colonias”.  They heard immigration stories that are recorded in the Bible.  They heard that their Mennonite ancestors fled persecution and violence to eventually settle in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Virginia.  They heard stories of Central American immigrants fleeing the same conditions and arriving on the Texas-Mexico border.  They heard that the US has been and is a beacon of hope for people fleeing violence, corruption and gangs in their home countries.

The new houses being built by MDS volunteers are symbols of hope in their neighborhoods.  One of the houses stands on the main street leading into the Indian Hills colonia.  Crew leader Jason has handed out many information slips to people asking how they could get a new house.  The bold exterior colors chosen by the clients help the houses to be beacons for all who pass by.

At House #1 Keith and his crew got down to a short punch list of items.  One need is to get full electrical power connected.  On the last day there, the ladies in the crew brought out the cleaning supplies and scrubbed everything, high and low.  We are looking forward to dedication next week.

At House #2, work on the inside of the house progressed well.  The tile flooring is completed, as well as painting the cabinets, doors and interior trim.  The installation of the interior items is nearing completion.  Permanent electrical service is also needed at this house.  With those pieces coming together, crew leader Jonah is predicting this house will also be ready for dedication next week.

The volunteers at House #3 also had a good week.  In the first half of the week, interior walls received a final sanding and cleaning prior to applying primer.  In the second half, Jason, the crew leader. made some strategic trades for volunteers to head up the vinyl tile installation.

We left House #4 without a crew for the first half of the week while we focused on House #1.  On Thursday, Keith led his crew to start again on this house.  Cold, rainy weather slowed the exterior work, but electrical, insulation and drywall installation progressed well.  On Friday, despite the cold wind, the hearty crew applied paint to the exterior trim and siding.

New House #5 got off to a great start with Jay leading the crew there and Andrew providing back-up. The client worked with volunteers on the block foundation, so that went well.  Work on the sub-floor, trusses and framing also moved along quite well.  Having the house “dried-in” by week’s end was achieved with final roofing shingles installed before quitting time Friday.

The job card for the sixth and final house was signed on Thursday afternoon.  The smile (sonrisa) on the client’s face was a glowing expression of hope.  She and her four children will soon have no need to share her mother’s cramped home.

  

McCutcheon’s song was written during the 1984 centennial celebration of the Statue of Liberty.  The chorus refers to words inscribed in the plaque at the base of that monument.

 

She said: “Give me your tired”

Lord, you know I’m weary

When she said “Give me your poor”

She was talking to me

One of your huddled masses

Yearning to breathe free

And I never have lost sight of

What this journey has been for

See how she lifts her lamp

Beside that golden door

 

Great breakfasts and suppers by Em and Dorothy included some local influences, along with the basic staples of European comfort food.  As with any MDS project site, no volunteer will go hungry while in McAllen.  It takes a lot of fuel to build beacons of hope.

From the MDS McAllen project… 10 descendants of immigrants.

Don, Em, Andrew, Dorothy, Jay, Jason, Keith, Jonah, Bob and Carl