This past weekend, Jake, Brenda, Melissa and I went to Tucson to help out with a fundraising event Friday night at St. Mark’s Presbyterian, to benefit both Cafe Justo (the coffee co-operative here in Agua Prieta) and a local family-run pottery business. We were also invited to give a sermon in front of the congregation Sunday morning, taking turns speaking about our experience so far working here. The following is a copy of what I wrote in preparation for my turn; since it turned out to be longer than I realized, what I actually said in church was shorter than this. So if you like, you get to read the whole thing!
So! Everything is still going quite well here in Agua Prieta. However, I would like to share a couple of things that have happened and the insight they gave me into this crazy thing called a YAV year.
Earlier in the week, Chris and I were transporting some blankets across the border to distribute to various organizations in Agua Prieta. These blankets have been in the Frontera De Cristo garage for a while now, so we wanted to go ahead a cross them over to clear some space for organizing. Plus, with the cold nights of winter coming, there is a greater need to have them now. Our plan was to start off crossing enough blankets for CRREDA, the drug and alcohol addiction center in AP. Our first time crossing a batch over went perfectly; we loaded up the car and went right across, got the green light and were good to go! So, for the second run, we thought to ourselves “we can totally carry over more blankets!” since we’d also heard that crossing used blankets over was no biggie whatsoever! (Mexico apparently has super weird rules on what you can or cannot cross over-they’re random and super inconsistent).
However, on the second time crossing, Chris and I got a red light. Still no big deal right? A Customs agent had told us that crossing used blankets in fine and there’s no need to worry. Wrong. The man who checked out our vehicle asked us the standard questions-where are you from, what are you crossing over, where do you live, blah blah blah. When he noticed the blankets he began asking questions about them. We explained that they were used blankets that were donated to us so that we could give them to CRREDA. We explained who we were and what we do, and mentioned again how they were used and we paid nothing for them and we going to make ZERO PROFIT WHATSOEVER. Our kind agent friend promptly told us to park the car and go pay a tax on bringing in goods to Mexico. The fine isn’t the problem. The problem is that a government is punishing people who are trying to help their vulnerable citizens. Their citizens who receive zero government funding, and are forced to work random jobs in the community for money so they can buy food for their center. How is this just? How is it just that a government won’t allow the crossing of blankets, clothes, health kits and more to aid the least of us, the migrants and addicts of their own country. This encounter highlighted just how incredibly broken our systems of power are and how foolish those who lead us can be.
Luckily, my second learning experience required no payment and no uncomfortable interaction with government officials. In fact, I volunteered for it! I went out with some of the men from CRREDA to do some work in the community. Our job was to clean up the trash from the recent Dia de los Muertes celebration. This is a day where people remember and celebrate their loved ones by decorating their gravesites with flowers, gifts, and favorite foods. Basically we had a looooot of trash to pick up. And we had to fight against a lot of wind. It was very frustrating. Each time we would scrape up some trash or attempt to throw it in the dumpster, the wind would pick some up and carry it right back out. No matter how hard we tried, we could not move all of the trash. There were forces out of our control at work. This taught me a lot about our work here at the border, and also the work of God’s kingdom here on Earth. While there are things we cannot control, such as wind, governments, broken systems, and broken hearts, we cannot stop working and doing our best. While we may not have been able to get all of the trash, little by little we are able to make a difference. We must work to slowly but surely change our piece of this Earth that God has given us. While we cannot control everything, we can still do our best, knowing that God is stronger than any other outside force.
Who know picking up trash could be so enlightening?