You are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
Deuteronomy 10:19

When launching his presidential bid in 2015, candidate Donald Trump had this to say about our neighbors to the south: “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best… They're sending people that have lots of problems… They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

I have a different take. I am an American who has sought refuge in Mexico—not once, but twice—and was received graciously both times. I know it can be a complex subject, and I am not advocating illegal immigration. At the same time, I know how it feels to be between a rock and a hard place and how parents will do whatever they can to give their children a better chance at life.
Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán

My first sojourn in Mexico began on September 16, 1997. I remember the date clearly because it was Independence Day, a national holiday, and the airport in Mexico City was eerily quiet. I was traveling with my four children—ranging in ages from 9 to 14. We had arrived on a flight from Los Angeles, our worldly goods stuffed in cardboard boxes and ragged suitcases. We were hungry, weary, and uncertain about the future.
Three months earlier, we had left our home in Virginia and driven cross country to make a go of it in California. I was legally separated and had sole custody of the children. Old friends put us up for a week here and a week there, but I needed to find a job, and the kids needed a home. I desperately wanted to put down roots, but nothing seemed to take hold in a dry and weary land (Psalm 63:1).
A friend of a friend of a friend knew a realtor who invited us over for a meal. He knew of a house for rent, and after lunch we drove over to take a look. The neighborhood seemed nice enough, but when we stepped inside the house we were greeted by a horde of fleas hopping madly off the living room floor. We made a quick exit, the realtor leading the way out.
Over the course of the next week, I cast about for work (unsuccessfully) and we continued looking for an affordable place to live. One afternoon, we drove over to Long Beach to look at an apartment that sounded like it might be just the ticket. An older lady, the owner of the complex, showed us around; it was up on the third floor. Whether I’m imagining this or not, I seem to recall I could see the Pacific Ocean in the distance and hear the surf breaking on the shore. I’m probably making that part up; it was most likely the noise from the freeway nearby. What I vividly do recall, however, is the sight of my two daughters running room-to-room, talking excitedly about who would stay where and how they would make the place look nice and pretty. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the owner smiling. “A good sign,” I said to myself. “She’s revealing a soft spot for my kids. Maybe she’ll come down on the rent.” She was polite, but firm, however. There would be no lowering of the rent.
I decided to take everyone to a movie before driving back to our tiny motel room for the night. What was I going to do? Nowhere to live. No prospects for employment. I guess going on welfare was something to explore, but I wasn’t there yet. Back at our tiny motel room, I gathered the kids around me and played my last card.
How would you guys like to go live in Mexico?

Toluca, Mexico
That’s another country, Dad.
I know.
But we don’t speak Spanish.
You’ll learn. You're young.
Where will we live?
Not entirely sure. But I have a friend there, and he’s willing to let us stay with him at first.
I explained how I had spoken a few days earlier with Sergio Dávila, a pastor I had met a few years previously through a film I made, ¿Con Quién Te Vas? He had agreed to receive us should we make the decision to go to Mexico. As you might imagine, the kids continued to pepper me with questions and concerns. I think I finally won them over with promises of good food and a spacious house to live in.
Pastor Sergio Dávila with Cris
And so it was that Sergio Dávila and his son, Jorge, met us at the airport in Mexico City that fateful day in September 1997. We weren’t “the best” America had to offer… We had our “problems” for sure, and my oldest child, was showing early signs of mental illness. None of that mattered to the Dávila family. They received us with open arms, and for the next three weeks, we lived in their home in Toluca until we could find a place of our own to rent.
It turned out to be a spacious house not far away with all the amenities, including a skylight above a large fountain in the main entrance. (The fountain didn’t work, but it sure looked pretty.) We were able to hire a housekeeper who cooked our meals; we bought new furniture and slowly began to build a new life for ourselves. The church family in Toluca rallied around us, too, giving us the love and moral support we needed. What would I have done without these brothers and sisters, especially when I began finding freelance work that took me to other countries in Latin America for a week or two at a time?
Church youth in Toluca
Altogether, our sojourn in Mexico lasted one year—almost to the day. Had my two sons not had issues better addressed in the United States, I would have remained longer, perhaps permanently. Instead, we returned to Virginia. I tried to save my marriage, but couldn’t, and divorced in 2006.
Not long thereafter, I returned to Mexico the second time, staying for two years. The story was much the same… Dire circumstances… Dim prospects… Love and acceptance… Aspects of that story will appear in my next film, The Puzzle Factory.  
Yes, Mexico has been good to me. Mexico received me as a lost child and the people showed me kindness. Was that true of everyone I met? No. But I have learned that people are people wherever you go.
Let us remember to love the stranger among us. The roles could be reversed, you know.
I know.
And so I say, México lindo y queridoBeautiful and beloved Mexico…
Thank you.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (Matthew 25:35,36).
P.S. Feel free to reply to this email with your comments. I read each one!

We remain terrifically excited about the progress made to date on The Puzzle Factory, and the addition of Associate Producer Sabine McDowell to the team.

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Cristóbal Krusen is a filmmaker and author. He founded Messenger Films in 1988.

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