When Sarah Jackson visited the US/Mexico border in 2012, it changed the course of her life. She spent time with people who’d been deported, listened to their stories, and learned about their reasons for migrating and the dangers they’d faced. She also witnessed families being separated.
Her own family is super close—the kind of tight-knit family that looks forward to every minute together. They also believe in treating others compassionately. So, when Sarah saw families being torn apart, she couldn’t look away. She returned to Colorado, but there was no going back to normal.
Back home, Sarah took stock of her resources: a one bedroom apartment, a love for volleyball, and a belief that families belonged together. It wasn’t much but it was enough. She began hosting families separated by immigrant detention and launched Volleyball Internacional, a volleyball league that donates 100% of its profits to pay for operating expenses of the hospitality home. She’s been hosting and helping to reunite families ever since.
If you ask Sarah how she does it, she’ll laugh and say it’s not rocket science. For the thousands of people whose isolation has been eased by the Casa de Paz community, it’s something even better. It’s love.
To Sleep with a Thousand Strangers
When an immigrant is released from detention onto the streets, they might as well be on another planet. They know no one, have nowhere to go and usually no money, with no permission to work. It’s the most dangerous—and most preventable—gap in our entire immigration system. That’s why Casa de Paz, my hospitality home, exists: to assist the 3,200 guests we’ve hosted from 79 countries who’ve crossed our path. Together with 2,000 fellow volunteers, I’ve seen the timeless truth behind the Good Samaritan story—and the powerful reasons why, deep down, all our souls yearn to be a neighbor to strangers.
The Third Journey
An immigrant isn’t somebody trying to sneak across our border. An immigrant is a conflicted soul who makes three journeys: The first drives them from their beloved home. The second places them in a grueling, hostile, soul-breaking detention system. The third is a joyous trip to reunite with loved ones—or a soul-wrenching deportation away from them for years. I’ve discovered—alongside 2,000 other volunteers—that it’s possible—and essential to all our souls—to stand with them through those journeys.
The Eternal Pull of Hospitality
We’re wired to welcome strangers. That’s the meaning of hospitality— philoxenia, “love of the stranger.” When I opened my hospitality home for vulnerable migrants, a mentor told me, “People will want to join you without knowing why.” Nine years, and 2,000 fellow volunteers later, we’ve all discovered the “why” behind this mysterious pull—a secret both timeless and glorious.
For Such a Time
I never knew when I baked hamentashen as a child that I was enacting a story I would live out as an adult—in the company of 5,000 friends! Jews know the biblical story of Esther, a woman who defied every odd to stand boldly alongside a people in peril. I only discovered the full beauty of her story as together with 2,000 volunteers—and 3,200 migrants from 79 countries—we’ve pulled off a stand Esther might be proud of. In a world where populations are always in peril, our voice—alone or in community—will always matter. We have to ask: For whom will I stand and speak?
How a Family Story Becomes Holy
Almost all of us are immigrants. No one who was ever happily rooted, with thriving children and a bright future, has migrated to the US. Most of us came here from some kind of pain. That’s true of my housemate—an international soccer star who fled here for his life, then worked years at a menial job hoping to bring his wife and young daughter. His bitter story was traumatic—yet it suddenly became holy as he reached out to help other migrants. His story could be ours.
The House That Love Built