Welcome the stranger

Motus Theater series asks faith leaders to read the stories of undocumented individuals


“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

— Matthew 25: 31-40

A church in San Diego helped change Alejandro Fuentes-Mena’s life. 

His mother left 2-year-old Alejandro in Chile to set up a better life for them in the United States. She’d bring him north just as soon as she had enough money. 

“America wasn’t as friendly and as she had hoped,” Fuentes-Mena says over the phone recently. “She never actually made enough money to purchase my plane ticket over here.”

Then the church his mother had joined in San Diego pitched in and brought her son to California. He hadn’t seen his mother in two years. 

On Sunday, June 7, a church will again be a part of Fuentes-Mena’s story as Reverend Pedro Silva, of First Congregational Church in Boulder, reads Fuentes-Mena’s autobiographical story of the journey, hard work and love his family endured to help him become one of the first teachers in the country with DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — status. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision on the Trump administration’s challenge to the protected status any day now.

This performance is part of Motus Theater’s Welcoming the Stranger series, a collaboration with religious leaders who read aloud the story of an undocumented person and reflect both personally and theologically on the impact of stepping into their shoes. 

“To me, Christianity, and all religions really, are stories,” Silva says. “Stories that tell people some of the fundamental questions that we wrestle with in life: Where do we come from? Why are we here, and where are we going? Each human wrestles with those questions. And what Motus does is it gives people an opportunity to hear people’s stories that don’t typically get heard. And when we hear people’s stories, if we’re listening, we hear that commonality of where did you come from, why are you here, and where are you going. They’re highlighting the commonality in our humanity.”

The reading will be followed by reflections from both Silva and Fuentes-Mena, examining their feelings on sharing someone else’s story and having your own story shared.

“When a person is willing to take [on your story], when they come with the intention of actually trying to step in another person’s shoes, I think it makes your story feel sacred,” Fuentes-Mena says. “It makes your story feel like it has dignity and that somebody is attempting to understand a piece of you, a piece of your trauma. You feel accepted when somebody is actually willing to hold your story, breathe in every word and try to understand where it is that you came from and how, despite all of that, you are now an individual that’s standing in front of them.

“All we’re trying to do, which is sad, is convince others of our humanity.”

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