About two months ago, I said goodbye to some of my best friends. I wrote letters, crafted poems, and put together gifts to express how much each of these friends and coworkers meant to me. Then, with a tight jaw and head full of mixed emotions, I stepped on a plane and left Tucson. I said goodbye to a city that opened my eyes to oppression, nurtured and empowered me. I said goodbye to a program that encouraged me to live a deliberate and examined life. I said goodbye to an intentional community full of colorful, diverse, and loving characters. I said goodbye to a set of written agreements that dictated how I should live: simply, spiritually, and with a focus on cross-cultural service.
I got on a plane heading for, what they call, “the real world.” As I sailed through the sky, I thought about all the wonderful experiences I had shared during my year of mission. Grateful for the opportunities to travel to border towns in Mexico, hike in the Grand Canyon, and retreat in the forest of New Mexico, I felt warm inside. I have never been so quickly and strongly welcomed in a community as I was in Tucson. I am so thankful for my Young Adult Volunteer community, my BorderLinks coworkers, and the Tucson social justice community. Many of my peers had moved to Tucson specifically to get involved in immigration work and are deeply passionate about their work. One of the things I miss most about being in Tucson is having a directed sense of purpose. On the border, problems were so explicit and immediate. This was overwhelming at times, but I had a clear sense of my role in raising awareness of border issues.
Now, back in the San Francisco Bay Area, I belong to a community where people have a wider variety of interests ranging from literature to technology to education. Transitioning back into not-so-intentional living has been a positive change, but definitely a challenging adjustment. I feel almost as if my eyes were focused on a 250-piece puzzle. This puzzle of immigration and race issues was complex, all consuming, and important. Many of my friends and coworkers were gathered around me helping put pieces together and pointing out challenges. Moving back home has forced me to zoom out from this 250-piece puzzle and see where it lies within a much larger puzzle. I don't know what puzzle I am working on now. Above me are people working on a segment of the puzzle that is focused on creating new efficient apps. To my side, people are working on improving public education. Below me people are designing new luxury apartments. We are all working on our own puzzles and sometimes we forget that they are all connected, making one huge infinite puzzle.
Even so, I have merely moved out of one bubble or community and into a another one. I stepped out of border-focused activist central into startup technology-mania. Obviously there are many cultures, subcultures and ways of living in Tucson and in the Bay Area, but here are some of the differences I have noticed. Instead of seeing Border Patrol trucks, I see luxury busses filled with Google employees. Instead of thinking, “How can we spend so little?” I think, “How can we spend so much?” Instead of eating expired food, I eat organic food. Instead of hearing “Resist!” I hear “Disrupt!”
Yet many things are the same. Many social issues that were in Tucson are also in my hometown of San Mateo. Being on the border has opened my eyes to things I wouldn’t have noticed before. For example, last summer I read many articles about the wave of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border. Little did I know that many of these migrants came to San Mateo and enrolled in the local high schools. I only learned this recently while speaking to a local principal about potential job opportunities. Sometimes you are most blind to what is happening in your own city.
When I feel disconnected or confused, I sometimes think about my coworker in Tucson, Gabriel.* During our educational trips, we would often cross the border into Mexico to learn more about the culture, economy and community. After crossing, Gabriel would take over guiding the group and teaching us about the local issues of his hometown, Nogales, Mexico. Gabriel and I quickly became friendly, as he invited me to his church and introduced me to his family. Together, we led and organized several trips. One day, while we were driving he asked me where exactly I lived in California. When, I said, “San Mateo,” his eyebrows raised in surprise. “I was there last summer,” he said. “There wasn’t work here so I went to San Mateo to work as a gardener. I lived with my daughter on Tilton and San Mateo Drive.”
Although familiar, his words made me feel uncomfortable. I suddenly realized that while I had been working on building bridges of understanding on the border, I had forgotten about the dynamics of my hometown, San Mateo. Last summer while I had been fundraising and preparing to my year of mission, he had been working as an undocumented laborer cutting grass and blowing leaves. Maybe we had passed each while walking around San Mateo downtown and did not know. Thinking about this saddened me, not because of the missed connection, but because if we had met in San Mateo, I’m not sure we would have developed a friendship. It is unlikely we would have gotten the opportunity to work together as peers.
Due to economic, cultural, and social boundaries, our paths would probably not have crossed in San Mateo, even though we lived just a few blocks from one another. The border wall of El Camino Real separates my wealthy, white neighborhood from his working class, immigrant neighborhood. In many ways, we could have lived parallel lives, on two different tracks that barely cross. I would have missed opportunity to learn from him and become a part of his life.
During my year of service, I though a lot about the borders, visible and invisible, that are present in our everyday lives. I also thought about Jesus’s defiant efforts to break barriers and welcome all to the table. I am still exploring what this means for me, especially in San Mateo, but I think that unity and understanding are built through relationships. Gabriel taught me about his home and, without trying, opened my eyes and taught me about my own home. After spending four years away at college and a year working in Arizona as a YAV, I am now discovering my home again. Thanks to people like Gabriel, I am more aware of border issues both in Tucson and in San Mateo. Although there are new buzzwords, new puzzles and a new community here I am confident that I’ll find my place. Through this transition, I am trying to remain positive, patient, and, well, graceful.
*Name changed for privacy
Hey everybody! Sorry it’s been such a long time since my last update/blog. A lot has been going on, and I’m also bad at sitting and blogging about what’s been going on. Luckily though, I’ve got a couple of blogs coming up, so hopefully that makes up for the past months.
About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Tijuana as a chaperone for a week-long mission trip. We were invited by our friend Nathan to go with the youth of his church in Sahuarita AZ. We were going to Tijuana to stay at a shelter for women and their children who had experienced domestic violence. While there we would do some light construction work, spending time with the kids and their mothers, playing games and doing different activities with them. I could probably write multiple pages describing all that we did and the whirlwind of emotions that I experienced during that week. But I’m just going to focus on our last day (because let’s be real, who wants to hear about my emotions?).
On the last day, we went to see the wall between the US and Mexico that is goes into the Pacific Ocean. Being along the wall is always a conflicting time for me. It causes many different emotions (fear, anger, sadness) and causes a lot of thinking to go on in my head. This time at the wall was no different.
Every time I go to the beach, it makes me incredibly happy. The sound of the ocean always relaxes me. Being out in the sun makes me feel content. And seeing the vastness that is the ocean always blows my mind. It reminds me of all of the fun times I have had with my family and friends at the beach. I can’t think of one unhappy time I’ve had at any beach, for which I am incredibly thankful. This time was weird though, seeing the wall running right through the beach and out into the ocean. I thought back to all of the trips I had taken to the beach, all of the laughter and fun I had there, and the great memories it had given me. However, being there at the wall, I thought about what it would have been like to have a giant sign of division and fear there in all of my memories. How different would my memories be if this wall had been there at my beaches? If during my vacations, there was always a wall there in the background, unmoving. I’m sure we all have those places that are special for us, those places where we have only good memories, where we experienced joy and happiness. Whether they are the beach, or in the woods, a certain town or home, we have special places. Now imagine having something there that separated you from those memories. Or turned them into something fearful. All of these thoughts ran through my mind as I walked along the beach.
Then, as we walked down the beach, we ran into the families that we had been spending the past week with. They had the opportunity to leave the shelter and go to the beach for a bit of fun. It was amazing to see them laughing and playing in the ocean, screaming and enjoying the freedom of being outside. They were so happy and truly loving life, even in the shadow of this border wall. It nearly brought me to tears of joy to see these kids and their mothers having fun, laughing and spending time together. Yet it also broke my heart that people in communities all along the border have grown accustomed to the view of this wall. They live their lives in the shadow of this wall and do yet their best to live as they can. We as human beings can learn a lot from these wonderful people. We live in a world that has a lot of sadness. There is fear, hatred, loneliness, discrimination, and challenges going on everyday. The news if filled with unhappy things that do their best to scare us and bring us down. My hope is that we can be more like these families I got to spend a week with. That we may be able to find the joy and laughter during times of sadness, and learn to love even in times of hatred and fear. Though there is a lot of wrong is this world, I hope we can try to recognize and share the joy that is there also, and learn to step out of the shadows of our dividing walls and embrace all that our world has to offer with hope.
I work at BorderLinks leading educational trips or delegations that introduce people to the border and immigration issues. Groups come from colleges, graduate schools, seminaries, and churches across the country. During a delegation, participants meet with different immigration stakeholders such as immigrant-led political organizing groups, border patrol, and pastors involved in the sanctuary movement. In addition, participants learn about topics like NAFTA, Popular Education, border history, and the prison system in interactive workshops led by BorderLinks staff. Delegations are an intense whirlwind of complex ideas, personal stories, and strong emotions. Days are often long, challenging, and eye-opening. Participants leave broken-hearted, inspired, and determined to change our broken immigration system.
I got back from winter vacation ready to lead my second delegation. I was excited, but nervous as it was the first delegation I would plan completely on my own. Reading my participants' applications, I felt uneasy. These students were very different from most people who I know and have grown up around. Most were from the midwest, studying criminal justice, and hoping to go into law enforcement. One of the male participants was planning on joining the Border Patrol after graduation. About half the group had never been outside of the country and most had not lived in multicultural settings. How would this group react to BorderLinks' liberal ideology? Would they feel comfortable in this immersive cultural environment?
After meeting the group at the airport, I breathed a sign of relief. They were great. When I asked them to help put luggage on the roof rack they immediately organized as a team, volunteering to help. Driving back to the office, several of the group members talked about football and hunting. I chuckled, thinking about how different this was from my San Francisco upbringing. When we got into the office, one of the men asked me if there was something to drink. I responded, "There's only milk in the fridge." His face lit up as he said, "I love milk. I'm from Wisconsin." I smiled and thought, this'll be fun.
As the week went on I got to know the participants better. Over meals, we cracked jokes and talked about our personal lives. Many of my participants work at least one job in addition to going to school full time. One of the women goes to school, works as a waitress, and works the night shift at a gas station (10 PM - 6 AM). She only sleeps a few hours from Sunday to Tuesday. I was amazed by my participants' work ethic and persistence. Many of them are first-generation college students, forging their own path.
About halfway through the week, the participants stayed with host families in Tucson. These families are made of immigrants who are active in their community. BorderLinks routinely organizes home stays so participants can meet people who are directly affected by immigration issues. As I dropped off the participants, I noticed several were anxious as they had never done a home stay and they did not speak much Spanish. I assured them that all our home stay families are friendly, welcoming, and have hosted many students before.
The next morning, I got up early to pick up students from home stay houses. While driving, I got call from the group leader notifying me of "a situation." The college president had found a student's Tweet (from Twitter) that said they had been "kicked out of their lodging, forced to live with illegals, and not allowed to call Homeland." My heart sank. Who wrote this? Did someone actually want to call Homeland Security on these immigrant families? Was someone going to call ICE?
Comments like this on social media can be vague, unintentional and extremely hurtful. To me, this Tweet was a threat. My jaw clenched as I thought about the families who had generously and bravely opened their houses to these students. Where they now in danger? Had I put these people in harm's way?
Hurt and panicked, I began to doubt the trust I had put in these students. After reconvening, I immediately sat the group down and explained the severity of inflammatory comments on social media. Also, I described what it would look like if someone called ICE on one of these families. Imagine flashing lights, crying children, not being able to contact your family for days, detention, an expensive bond, and a chance of being deported, separated from your home and family. Disappointed and perplexed, I looked out at the group for reactions. Most participants were shocked and apologetic as this Tweet did not reflect the majority's opinions or home stay experiences. In fact, the Tweet was not written by someone in the delegation, but by their friend who did not fully understand the context.
Although I still felt violated, I breathed deeply, knowing that the Tweet should not be taken seriously. Yet, I reflected on why this may have happened. Many of my participants grew up in environments that have a high respect for cops and believe you should do your best to enforce the law whenever possible. As many are going into policing, they maybe experienced an internal conflict or cognitive dissonance when living with a person had immigrated illegally. Using this logic helped me understand my participants' perspectives, but did not shift my opinion that this Tweet was a callous, disrespectful display of entitlement and power.
Although I dutifully follow most laws myself, I try to think critically about the law. I do not think that government-dictated rules necessarily have higher moral authority than personal or religious values. Even though laws are powerful, foundational structures that control our lives, they can be changed quickly with a politician's signature. In the last couple years, huge cultural concepts such as our legislative definition of marriage has changed. Laws are a flexible, impermanent cultural constructs.
Mike Wilson, a member of the Tohono O'odham tribe in Arizona, is known for his controversial work distributing drinking water for passing migrants on the Tohono O'odham nation. Although, this is against his tribe's laws, he continues to do it because he believes the God's law is greater than any man-made law. If we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would give them water. If we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would help them through deadly terrain. If we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would let them live in peace with their families.
Acts 5:29: "But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'"
Despite this negative moment during my delegation, the rest of the trip went well. The participants expressed a greater, more complex understanding of immigration policy, undocumented immigrants, and minority-police relations. One participant wrote, "The most impactful part for me was the home stay...being able to talk one-on-one with them really opened my eyes... This will inform my decisions in my career in law enforcement for my whole life."
I thank this delegation for opening my eyes. They taught me more about police work, the military, and what it is like to live in a different part of the United States. I think we both shocked, challenged, and comforted one another. Most of all, we reminded each other to meet people where they are in their life journey without making hurtful comments or assumptions.
Feliz Año Nuevo (Happy New Year) and I hope all had a great Holiday season. I would like to again thank everyone who have generously supported me, the YAV Tucson Borderlands program and Frontera de Cristo over my time on the border. One of the things I am most grateful for in this year is the wonderful community I have on the Douglas and Agua Prieta border. It has been such a blessing to meet so many wonderful people who make Douglas and Agua Prieta feel like home for me. Like many people I have come from far away to be on the border, but so many people have opened their lives to me, shown me hospitality and accepted me like family.
The month of December has been one of the busiest months for me as they have been filled with many posadas. For those who are not familiar with posadas it is a celebration in Mexico to remember the journey of Mary and Joseph who were forced to leave their home and could not find a place of shelter or refuge when they arrived to Bethlehem. It is a tradition when people open up their house and show hospitality to others just as Mary and Joseph were in need of hospitality during the birth of Jesus. Sharing this time with people on the border has been a very special experience and a great celebration of the blessing of community that I have on the border. However, it has also been a time that has really allowed me to reflect about how I show hospitality and acceptance to others, especially strangers, foreigners and immigrants like Mary and Joseph.
The struggle of Mary and Joseph with Jesus as immigrants has really impacted me this year because I find many similarities to the current immigration crisis on the border today to, especially when I am looking at and praying for crosses of immigrants who died in Cochise County and there are many people with the names of Maria and Jose (Maria and Jose mean Mary and Joseph in English). So while this Christmas season was a time to celebrate all the blessings I have, it was also a time to reflect on the tragedies of immigration I have confronted on the border.
Volunteering at the Migrant Resource Center along with my job of teaching English classes this year, I have meet many immigrants and learned about their lives and the pain they have suffered as immigrants. There are many ways people find themselves at the Migrant Resource Center, but for all the U.S./Mexico border is a cruel reality that separates families and prevents people from finding a safe haven and better opportunities. I don’t think I could describe an average immigrant at the Migrant Resource Center because they are all very unique individuals with special life stories, but I have found that many have an inner strength that allows them to laugh, smile and hope despite their pain, separation from family and uncertainty in their lives. Many times at the Migrant Resource Center there are many limitations in how much we can help migrants other than connecting them with the resources like shelter, food and locating family members. But, I have found volunteering at the Migrant Resource Center gives me an opportunity to listen to the stories and know the lives of immigrants.
One of the most painful things to see is immigrants talking about how they are separated from their children and families. One of my favorite people I meet was a young man about my age who was with a childhood friend from his hometown in the state of Puebla. As these two young adults were my age and loved to talk and laugh we quickly became friends. He immigrated from his hometown in Mexico to New York City when he was a teenager to look for better opportunities. There he started a new life (probably became the friendliest New Yorker in the city) and had a son. However, when I meet my friend he found himself in a very difficult situation as he had returned to Mexico for family reasons and now was separated from his two-year old son who was living with his sister. As he was a person of strong faith in God we had a conversation about our faith in God that showed me how much we were so similar and yet so different. As both young adults who share a Christian faith we talked about how God gives us strength and hope in life challenges and our desire to follow God’s will in our lives. However, the questions I ask about God’s will in my life are so different than the questions my friend was asking.
I have been blessed by God with a great family, childhood, many skills and talents and a great education. The question then for me has been how can I serve God and others and make positive changes in a broken world with my gifts, education and passions. It is a question I think many people ask, but a question not everyone has the privilege of pursuing. I feel my friend was also very smart and gifted, but his question about God’s will in his life makes me realize how this world and our societies can be so different and just unfair. As he had already tried and failed twice to cross the border, he was beginning to question God’s will in his life. Was it God’s will for him to try and cross the desert to be united with his son in New York City? Or was it to return to his home town, but at the cost of being far from his son without knowing when they would be reunited. Either option does not seem very ideal to me as I could see the sadness and pain in my friend’s eyes when he talked about being separated from his son. But, the fear and difficulty of crossing the border again for the unlikely chance that this time he could successfully cross to be united with his son was also becoming an unrealistic dream. Either way I don’t think a God that loves us deeply and united people like myself and my friend under the life of Jesus Christ has this purpose of division, death and inequality in mind for the U.S and Mexico border.
However, after living on this border in the communities of Douglas and Agua Prieta I think God has shown me a small taste of the beauty and love he has for this border. I was thinking about this when I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets in my life over the mountains just west of Agua Prieta. The Sonora desert is a great example of the beauty and sacredness of God’s creation, but people and governments on both sides of the border have turned this beautiful creation into a nightmare and place of death for so many immigrants. I have also seen the beauty of when communities and people meet across cultures and countries united by God’s love, a border and care for their fellow human beings. However, like many places in this world this purpose and beauty can be distorted by drugs, lack of job opportunities, violence and poverty on the border. The good news is that God has always been present here on this border working in the lives of broken and flawed people whether they are from Mexico or United States. And he will always be present on this border and desert working with us to create and preserve the beauty and love he has for this border.
Before I came to the border I thought of the US/Mexico border as a dangerous place filled with violence, drugs, kidnappings and cartels. This makes a lot of sense because our media and politicians portray the U.S./Mexico border in this way. However, in my time being on the border I have found that our media and politicians are ignoring the most important things that are on the Arizona/Mexico border: strong sense of community, friendly people and a place of cultural and language exchange between two countries.
The most surprising aspect of life on the border for me is that I have never seen two separate communities work together better than Douglas and Agua Prieta. I really value this because at my high school in Wenatchee, WA students would commonly fight other students from the rival high school in East Wenatchee. Unfortunately, these fights occurred because the students were simply from different schools. Many students saw other students from the other town not as people they could befriend, but as outsiders to their social structures and community. The only physical barrier that separates these towns is the beautiful Colombia River. In Agua Prieta and Douglas not only is there a large fence to separate these communities, but there are many people guarding that fence making sure that these communities are separate. But, despite those barriers the people of Agua Prieta and Douglas continue to work and get along better than most communities in the United States.
In the United States I feel we are divided by so many things like race, income, politics, culture and religion that are the result of many complex factors, histories and differences. However, with my work at Frontera de Cristo and living here on the border it seems that strong bridges are made between communities and organizations in two different countries that also have very complex histories and differences. In my time on the border and being an intern with Frontera de Cristo I have found two key components that allow bridges to be made across borders. The first one is a commitment build relationships and work together. Many people in Douglas and Agua Prieta including myself naturally feel a strong connection as I spend my time on both sides and have built relationships with good people and friends on both sides of the border. People also share the commonality in that both communities lack good job opportunities and many struggle to meet end meets. However, they see the border not as a place of danger and difference, but as an opportunity to work together to be a place of trade, exchange of culture and create solutions to the root causes of problems like drugs and poverty in a global economy.
Despite, the strong community on both sides of the border, I would not feel that bridges between the two communities would not be as strong without working for Frontera de Cristo and the faith community here on the border. I believe that I feel this way because people are not only building bridges made of friendship and economic ties, but of love. I think love is truly the most powerful thing we have to understand and care for our neighbors, and God’s love has the potential to bridge people and communities of great divide.
I first realized this power of God’s love only recently when I was listening to a talk from a pastor with the organization Evangelical Immigration Reform. The pastor speaking was holding an immigration meeting for people of faith and had invited church leaders, community activists and politicians in my own hometown of Wenatchee. The story was about a staff member of Dave Reichert who is a Republican that represents Washington’s 8th congressional district and the regional leader of United Farm Workers in Central Washington. I knew the speaker was going to tell a story about spiritual reconciliation, but I first doubted this thinking in my own head, “how can a community that is divided over such little things become a place of love and unity between two groups that are very different in their ideologies”. The preacher told that after a prayer and bible devotion the leader from United Farm Workers addressed the staff member of Dave Reichert and in tears said, “Today I realized that you are my brother in Jesus Christ, brother will you listen to me.” And the staff member said “Yes, sister I’m listening”. What resulted from this love between a brother and sister of Jesus Christ is that the staff member of Dave Reichert was very moved by what his sister had to say, and said he would do whatever he could to help his sister. And now Dave Reichert is one of the biggest Republican supporters of comprehensive immigration reform.
I wanted to tell that story because I think it is a great example of how God’s love can bring people from different backgrounds, cultures and ideals to work for a more just and loving world. I think it also exemplifies the work of Frontera de Cristo here on the border because people come together from two different countries, cultures, languages and value systems to work towards reducing poverty, violence, drug use and preventing deaths on the border. This collaboration also creates and strengthens relationships between people and churches in the U.S. and Mexico, which helps people including myself and churches learn how to be more like Jesus Christ.
I feel so thankful to play a small role in the work of Frontera de Cristo and its partners while being in the presence of so many amazing people. My biggest role has been in education where I have been teaching English as a second language to both kids and teenagers in two partner organizations of Frontera de Cristo. Most are my classes are at DouglaPrieta Works which works in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Agua Prieta through education, community gardens and permaculture. I also teach English at New Hope Community Center, which is an neighborhood recognized by the United Nations for having a very high percentages of alcoholism. Kids and teens in both neighborhoods face intense pressures like drugs, poverty and gangs, but like everywhere I have been on the border you find so many loving and kind people. What I like most about my work is helping both DouglaPrieta and the New Hope Community Center be a place of community and education where kids, teens and adults can have a place to meet and learn new skills. At the same time I have enjoyed utilizing my passions for education, cultivating relationships and community and living out God’s love in my life for me and others.
Antes de llegar a la frontera, pensé en la frontera de Estados Unidos / México como un lugar peligroso lleno de violencia, las drogas, los secuestros y los cárteles. Esto hace mucho sentidoporque nuestros medios de comunicación y los políticos retratan la frontera México / Estados Unidos de esta manera. Sin embargo, en mi tiempo de estar en la frontera he encontrado quenuestros medios de comunicación y los políticos están ignorando las cosas más importantes que están en la frontera de Arizona / México: fuerte sentido de comunidad, la gente amable y un lugarde intercambio cultural y de lenguaje entre dos países.
El aspecto más sorprendente de la vida en la frontera para mí es que yo nunca he visto a doscomunidades separadas trabajan juntos mejor que Douglas y Agua Prieta. Realmente valoro esto porque en mi escuela secundaria en Wenatchee, WA estudiantes serían comúnmente luchar contra otros estudiantes de la escuela secundaria rival en East Wenatchee. Por desgracia, estas luchas ocurrieron porque los estudiantes eran simplemente de diferentes escuelas. Muchosestudiantes vieron a otros estudiantes de la otra ciudad, no como personas que podían hacerse amigo, pero como extranjeros a sus estructuras sociales y la comunidad. La única barrera físicaque separa a estos pueblos es el hermoso río de Colombia. En Agua Prieta y Douglas no sólo hay una gran moro para separar estas comunidades, pero hay muchas personas que vigilan el moro de asegurarse de que estas comunidades están separados. Pero, a pesar de las barreras a la gente de Agua Prieta y Douglas continúan trabajando y se llevan mejor que la mayoría de las comunidades en los Estados Unidos.
En los Estados Unidos siento que estamos divididos por tantas cosas como la raza, el ingreso, la política, la cultura y la religión que es el resultado de muchos factores complejos, historias ydiferencias. Sin embargo, con mi trabajo en Frontera de Cristo y vivir aquí en la frontera parece que los puentes se hacen fuertes entre las comunidades y las organizaciones de dos países diferentes que también tienen historias muy complejas y diferencias. En mi tiempo en la frontera y ser un interno con Frontera de Cristo he encontrado dos cosas que permiten a los puentes que se hagan a través de fronteras. El primero de ellos es un compromiso a construir relaciones y trabajar juntos. Muchas personas de Douglas y Agua Prieta incluido yo mismo naturalmentesienten una relacion fuerte como yo gasto mi tiempo en ambos lados y conozco buena gente y amigos de ambos lados de la frontera. Las personas también comparten el carácter común en que ambas comunidades faltan buenas oportunidades de trabajo y muchos luchan para proveer sus familias. Sin embargo, ellos ven la frontera no como un lugar de peligro y la diferencia, sino como una oportunidad para trabajar juntos para ser un lugar de comercio, el intercambio de la cultura y crear soluciones a las causas fundamentales de los problemas como las drogas y la pobreza en una economía global.
A pesar de la fuerte comunidad en ambos lados de la frontera, no me siento que los puentes entre las dos comunidades no serían tan fuertes sin tener que trabajar para Frontera de Cristo y de la comunidad de fe aquí en la frontera. Creo que siento de esta manera porque la gente no sóloestán construyendo puentes de amistad y los lazos económicos, sino de amor. Creo que el amor es realmente la cosa más poderosa que tenemos para entender y cuidar a nuestros vecinos, y el amor de Dios tiene el potencial de salvar las personas y comunidades de gran división.
Me di cuenta de este poder del amor de Dios sólo recientemente, cuando estaba escuchandouna platica de un pastor con la organización Reforma Evangélica de Inmigración. El pastor tuvouna reunión de inmigración para gente de fe y había invitado a líderes de la iglesia, activistas comunitarios y políticos en mi propia ciudad natal de Wenatchee. La historia era sobre un miembro del personal de a Dave Reichert, que es un republicano que representa octavo distrito del Congreso de Washington y el líder regional de la Unión de Campesinos en el centro deWashington. Yo sabía que iba a contar una historia sobre la reconciliación espiritual, pero yoprimero dudé este pensamiento en mi cabeza, "¿cómo puede una comunidad que está dividida sobre este tipo de cosas poco convertido en un lugar de amor y unidad entre dos grupos que son muy diferentes en sus ideologías ". La pastora dijo que después de una oración y devoción bibliael líder de Union de Campesinos dirigida al miembro del personal de a Dave Reichert y llorandodijo: "Hoy me di cuenta que eres mi hermano en Jesucristo, hermano me escucharas?" Yel politico dijo: "Sí, hermana estoy escuchando". Lo que resultó de este amor entre un hermano y una hermana de Jesucristo es que el politico de a Dave Reichert estaba muy conmovido por lo que su hermana tenía que decir, y dijo que iba a hacer todo lo que pudo para ayudar a su hermana. Y ahora, Dave Reichert es uno de los politicos republicanos que apoya una reforma migratoria el mas.
Quería contar esta historia porque creo que es un gran ejemplo de cómo el amor de Dios puedellevar a la gente de diferentes orígenes, culturas e ideales para trabajar por un mundo más justo y amoroso. Creo que también es un ejemplo del trabajo de Frontera de Cristo aquí en la fronteraporque la gente se reúne de dos diferentes países, culturas, lenguas y sistemas de valores para trabajar hacia la reducción de la pobreza, la violencia, el consumo de drogas y la prevención delas muertes en la frontera. Esta colaboración también crea y fortalece las relaciones entre las personas y las iglesias en los EE.UU. y México, lo cual ayuda a las personas incluyéndome a mí mismo y las iglesias aprender a ser más como Jesucristo.
Me siento muy agradecido de estar en un pequeño papel en el trabajo de Frontera de Cristo y sus socios y en la presencia de tantas personas increíbles. Mi mayor papel en la educación ha sidodonde he estado enseñando Inglés como segunda lengua para los ninos y los adolescentes endos organizaciones asociadas de Frontera de Cristo. La mayoría de mis clases estan en DouglaPrieta Trabaja que trabaja en uno de los barrios más pobres de Agua Prieta a través de la educación, jardines comunitarios y permacultura. También enseño Inglés en New Hope Community Center, que es un barrio reconocido por las Naciones Unidas para tener un muy alto porcentaje de alcoholismo. Los niños y adolescentes de ambos barrios se enfrentan a presionesintensas como las drogas, la pobreza y las pandillas, pero como en todas partes que he estado en la frontera que se encuentran tantas personas cariñosas y amables. Lo que más me gusta demi trabajo es ayudar DouglaPrieta Trabaja y el Centro Comunitario Nueva Esperanza ser un lugar de la comunidad y la educación, donde los niños, los adolescentes y los adultos pueden tener unlugar para aprender nuevas habilidades. Al mismo tiempo, he disfrutado de la utilización de mispasiones para la educación, el cultivo de las relaciones y la comunidad y manifestar el amor de Dios en mi vida.
While the cross is a very strong symbol for many Christians and other people including myself I usually have seen the cross mostly as a sign of hope that was used to defeat evil and sin in this world. However, since being orientated to the borderlands in both Tucson and then Douglas and Agua Prieta I have gained a new understanding of the cross. In most protestant Christian traditions you will see empty crosses. And from my understanding this represents that while Jesus was crucified for the sins of humanity, it is now empty because he died for our sins and then was raised from the dead, which gives hope and a new beginning of being free from our eternal bonds of sins. I believe all this to be true, but I also now see the crucifixion of Jesus in a new perspective from my short time already here. In most Catholic Churches and some Presbyterian Churches on the border the cross is not empty, but has Jesus being crucified on the cross. For many people this represents the daily crucifixion of poverty that campesinos (peasants) and the poor suffer. Therefore, the cross is not just a symbol of hope from the bondage of ours sins, but that Jesus continues to be crucified though the lives of the poor. Jesus reveals this to Christians in Matthew 25: 40 and it demonstrates why Jesus is still being crucified through the suffering of the poor.
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
I think this realization for me on how the cross today offers hope, joy and peace, but also represents the continuing suffering of people whom God loves has helped me understand the border more in the contexts of my Christian faith and know that God is present in both the joy and suffering I see and feel on daily basis here. I feel that my work with Frontera de Cristo is seeking and being where God already is on border.
For me and anyone on the border both the joy and the pain are very visible here. For example, immigration is something that can provide someone with a better life or it can bring more suffering to a person. In Agua Prieta many people in my church community come from the southern state of Chiapas in Mexico. Chiapas according to Coneval (the social development branch of the Mexican government) in 2012 had the highest rate of poverty of any state of Mexico at 74.7%. While translating this week for Prescott College students on a border delegation I have found out that many of families in our church from Chiapas ate a diet only of beans. None of the families owned their own land so the children spent little time with their fathers often because the fathers had to work long hours for little wages in agriculture.
However, when the families migrated north to work in the maquiladores (factories) here in Agua Prieta, they were able to earn higher wages (these wages are still considerably lower than minimum wage in the U.S. and make it difficult to provide for a family) so they could buy meats, fruits and vegetables while working only 40 hours a week. Many of the families now also own homes thanks to joint private and government housing programs. Along with all my brothers and sisters at the Presbyterian Church El Lirio de Valles these families have made Agua Prieta an extremely warm, loving and supportive place for me to live. Their joy, humbleness and kindness for others seems to touch every group that does a border delegation with Frontera de Cristo. And their concern for their brother and sisters in Chiapas has resulted in the creation of the fair trade coffee company Cafe Justo, which provides higher wages for families who cultivate coffee. I think it would very hard for anyone to come to the border and meet these families, and not feel like there is hope for this world.
These families who have came to Agua Prieta to make it their home is just one example of the joy and hope I see everyday on the border. But I also see a lot of suffering of people on the border also, one example of this is also migration. The migrant resource center is a place for migrants and people who have been deported from the United States. As an intern with Frontera de Cristo one of my duties is to serve there for one day along with many other volunteers in the community. It is here where we help people who have had their dreams and hopes of a better life crushed, people who have been separated from their families by force, people have been kidnapped and tortured in the desert
and families come to look for their lost ones. In many ways it is a place of deep pain and suffering of people caused by humans themselves through poverty, violence and unjust laws. However, it is in the suffering that is felt by these migrants that God is also present. One lady who had been separated from her family in United States and felt that she had lost all hope after her deportation described the migrant resource center as a place that was like being in the arms of her mother again. So even in the amidst of this suffering and violations of human rights on the border God is at work, and at Frontera de Cristo I have the privilege of being a part of God’s work this year on the border in both the hope and the pain of the cross.