(English translation below)
Es increíble cómo el tiempo vuela y lo mucho que puede pasar en ciertos periodos de tiempo. Hace 11 semanas y 2 días exactamente que empecé una nueva aventura siguiendo a mi corazón e intentando seguir los pasos y el ejemplo de quien dio su vida por nosotros.
Estoy viviendo en Tucson, Arizona siendo parte de un programa de jóvenes voluntarios llamado «Young Adult Volunteers (YAV program)» De la Iglesia Presbiteriana en los Estados Unidos, programa del que supe luego de vivir un año en Agua Prieta, Sonora haciendo parte de otro programa de servicio y qué loco ¿no? lo que hoy decidimos hacer, es justo lo que nos va a llevar hacia nuestro futuro. Esto no estaba en mis planes, pero vivo agradecida porque Dios siempre me lleva de la mano, me lleva hacia las personas correctas y abre puertas llenas de oportunidades para mí.
Durante este tiempo he tenido la oportunidad de regresar a Agua Prieta, visitar a los amigos que hice y a mi familia en la frontera, algo que sin duda me hace muy feliz.
Actualmente estoy trabajando con una maravillosa organización sin fines de lucro llamada «Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona (CHRPA)».
En resumidas palabras y desde mi conocimiento, CHRPA es un puente y un actor importante en la realización de servicios de reparación en casas de personas de escasos recursos en la ciudad de Tucson y el Condado Pima. Los trabajos que se realizan son relacionados a la plomería, electricidad, carpintería y muchas cosas más, ¿y qué creen? yo estoy aprendiendo un poquito de todo eso y aportando mis ganas de querer hacer y aprender, pero algo que quiero destacar es que además de brindar una solución a las facturas de electricidad tan altas o a los riesgos que la falta de alguna cosa puede traer a una persona mayor de edad, es que realmente importa mucho el bienestar integral de los clientes a quienes servimos, también es nuestro objetivo escucharlos o hacerlos sentir que sus necesidades o sus historias son muy importantes.
Nunca antes me vi haciendo todo lo que he hecho en las últimas semanas, reparando las llaves de una ducha, reparando o instalando nuevos boilers, construyendo rampas o escalones, subiéndome a techos para tratar de encontrar y arreglar el problema en el enfriador de la casa, usando herramientas de las que ni siquiera sabía el nombre en español, poniendo nueva cerámica en un baño… demasiadas cosas nuevas y además, en un idioma que no es mi primer idioma.
He tenido mucho cansancio físico y mental, pero estoy feliz y mi estómago se llena de muchas mariposas por lo mucho que me emociona estar haciendo todo esto, aprendiendo tanto y poniéndome al servicio de quienes se benefician con nuestro trabajo, personas que sin duda necesitan de algo que a lo mejor para mí no es tan grande pero que para ellos significa seguridad y tranquilidad, y quién no quiere eso ¿no?
Así que aquí estoy, extrañando a mi familia y a mis amigos en El Salvador, pero satisfecha por estar viviendo la vida que yo elijo y que mi corazón me dice que está bien, porque además, sé que no estoy sola y que Dios siempre cuida de mí.
Guardo en mi corazón estos versículos en Romanos 8:38-39
38 “Por lo cual estoy seguro de que ni la muerte, ni la vida, ni ángeles, ni principados, ni potestades, ni lo presente, ni lo por venir, 39 ni lo alto, ni lo profundo, ni ninguna otra cosa creada nos podrá separar del amor de Dios, que es en Cristo Jesús Señor nuestro.”
Ninguna dificultad podrá apartarme de ese amor incondicional para mí, y es por eso que descanso tranquilamente en Él.
It's amazing how time flies and how much can happen in certain periods of time. Exactly 11 weeks and 2 days ago I started a new adventure following my heart and trying to follow the steps and example of someone who gave his life for us.
I am living in Tucson, Arizona being part of a young adult volunteer program called "Young Adult Volunteers (YAV program)" from the Presbyterian Church in the United States, a program that I learned about after living a year in Agua Prieta, Sonora as part of another service program and how crazy, right? What we decide to do today is exactly what will take us towards our future. This was not in my plans, but I am grateful because God always takes me by the hand, leads me to the right people and opens doors full of opportunities for me. During this time I have had the opportunity to return to Agua Prieta, visit the friends I made and my family on the border, something that undoubtedly makes me very happy.
I am currently working with a wonderful non-profit organization called “Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona (CHRPA).”
In short and from my knowledge, CHRPA is a bridge and an important actor in providing repair services to the homes of low-income people in the city of Tucson and Pima County. The work carried out is related to plumbing, electricity, carpentry and many other things, and what do you think? I am learning a little about all that and contributing my desire to want to do and learn, but something I want to highlight is that in addition to providing a solution to high electricity bills or the risks to a person of an older age, is that the comprehensive well-being of the clients we serve really matters a lot, it is also our goal to listen to them or make them feel that their needs or their stories are very important.
Never before have I seen myself doing everything I have done in recent weeks, repairing shower faucets, repairing or installing new boilers, building ramps or steps, climbing on roofs to try to find and fix the problem in a cooler, using tools that I didn't even know the name of in Spanish, putting new tiles in a bathroom... too many new things and also, in a language that is not my first language.
I have had a lot of physical and mental fatigue, but I am happy and my stomach is filled with many butterflies because I am so excited to be doing all this, learning so much and putting myself at the service of those who benefit from our work, people who undoubtedly need help. Something that maybe for me is not that big but for them it means security and tranquility, and who doesn't want that, right? So here I am, missing my family and friends in El Salvador, but satisfied to be living the life that I choose and that my heart tells me is right, because also, I know that I am not alone and that God always takes care of me. my.
I keep these verses in my heart in Romans 8:38-39
38 “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, can separate from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
No difficulty can separate me from that unconditional love for me, and that is why I rest peacefully in God.
(English translation below)
Durante mi estancia en el Centro de Atención a Migrantes Éxodo ha sido la adquisición de experiencia y de servicio a la comunidad migrante. En los meses que van de agosto- octubre trascurrido de este año, he podido observar que las personas migrantes traen un caso migratorio de violencia, pobreza, marginación, exclusión y de amenaza que conllevaron a la migración forzada, muchos de ellos era imposible regresar a sus países por la falta de seguridad y bienestar.
¿Por qué no te quedas donde vives? ¿Porque te aferras a salir de tu país ?
Son diferentes elementos que están entrelazados llevan a la idea de LA META ES PARTIR porque es la única alternativa que tienen.
Es conocer los diferentes problemas sociales que existen.
“un llamando a la solidaridad y empatía ”— Anahi San
During my time at the migrant shelter (CAME) it has been the acquisition of experience and service to the migrant community. In the months from August to October of this year, I have been able to observe that migrants bring cases of violence, poverty, marginalization, exclusion and threats that led to forced migration, for many of them it was impossible to return to their countries due to the lack of security and well-being.
What your opinions about why you have migrated:
Why don't you stay where you are from?
Why do you hold on the need to leave your country?
There are different elements that are intertwined and lead to the idea of THE GOAL IS TO LEAVE because it is the only alternative migrants have.
It is knowing the different social problems that exist
“a call for solidarity and empathy”—Anahi San
Decidamos a quien servir, si a la hospitalidad o a la hostilidad/We decide to whom we will serve, will it be hospitality or hostility.
109ª JORNADA MUNDIAL DEL MIGRANTE Y DEL REFUGIADO 2023 – Yadamy (English translation below)
En el marco de la Jornada Mundial del Migrante y del Refugiado, conmemorado el 24 de septiembre, el Centro de Recursos para Migrantes (CRM), ofreció un espacio para reflexionar y concientizar sobre el fenómeno migratorio en la frontera norte de México. En esta actividad participaron las personas voluntarias del CRM, los socios ministeriales de Frontera de Cristo, una familia con estancia en el Centro de Atención al Migrante “Exodus” (CAME), e invitados.
Algunos voluntarios compartieron experiencias que han vivido en el CRM; mencionaron que las personas migrantes que han pasado por este lugar, se han sentido en un espacio seguro, que al brindarles agua y alimentos, ropa y calzado, pudieron sentir la hospitalidad y la calidez en un momento de dificultad.
También se leyó el mensaje del Papa Francisco para la 109ª Jornada Mundial del Migrante y Refugiado, en este mensaje señaló que “es necesario un esfuerzo conjunto de cada uno de los países y de la comunidad internacional para que se asegure a todos el derecho a no tener que emigrar, es decir, la posibilidad de vivir en paz y con dignidad en la propia tierra”. Se recordó también que las personas son libres de elegir migrar o quedarse.
La reflexión bíblica estuvo a cargo del pastor Marcos Adams, que tomó como base el texto de Hebreos 13: 1-2; Permanezca el amor fraternal. No os olvidéis de la hospitalidad, porque por ella algunos, sin saberlo, hospedaron ángeles. En nuestro caminar, hemos sido hospedadores de nuestros familiares, amigos y seres queridos, pero muy pocas veces nos hemos dado la oportunidad de hospedar a personas desconocidas, sin embargo ese es el reto para nuestra fe, el tener una actitud hospitalaria, sobre todo a aquellas personas que no conocemos.
Mencionó que “en esta zona fronteriza de Estados Unidos y México, se pueden observar dos actitudes, una es la hospitalidad y otra la hostilidad. ¿Qué tipo de actitud estamos demostrando? ¿Nos encontramos en la región de la hospitalidad o de la hostilidad?”.
En esta Jornada Mundial del Migrante y Refugiado, somos convocados a ser defensores y defensoras de los derechos del extranjero, a los que van de paso o los que deciden quedarse, pues el mismo Jesús fue un migrante y refugiado, quien tuvo la necesidad de ser acogido y sentirse en un espacio seguro. Dice el evangelio de Juan 11;53- 56:
“Así que, desde aquel día acordaron matarle. Por tanto, Jesús ya no andaba abiertamente entre los judíos, sino que se alejó de allí a la región contigua al desierto, a una ciudad llamada Efraín; y se quedó allí con sus discípulos…Y los principales sacerdotes y los fariseos habían dado orden de que si alguno supiese dónde estaba, lo manifestase, para que le prendiesen”.
De igual manera muchas personas mexicanas y de otras nacionalidades, pueden identificarse con Jesús, y sentirse a salvo al ser acogidos y bien recibidos. Por ello, desde nuestros lugares de incidencia, elijamos hoy a quién servir, si a la hospitalidad o a la hostilidad. – Yadamy
In the context of the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, commemorated on September 24, the Migrant Resource Center (CRM) offered a space to reflect and raise awareness about the phenomenon of migration on the northern border cities of Mexico. CRM volunteers, Frontera de Cristo ministry partners, and a family staying at the migrant shelter (CAME), and other guests participated in this activity.
Some volunteers shared experiences they have lived through in the CRM; They mentioned that the migrants who have passed through this place have felt a safe space that provided them with water and food, clothing and footwear, and were able to feel the hospitality and warmth in a time of difficulty.
Pope Francis' message for the 109th World Day of Migrants and Refugees was also read. In this message he noted that "a joint effort by each of the countries and the international community is necessary to ensure that everyone has the right to not migrate, that is, the possibility of having a life of peace and with dignity in one's own land.” It was also remembered that people are free to choose whether they immigrate or stay in their country of origin.
The biblical reflection was led by Pastor Marcos Adams, who reflected on the text of Hebrews 13: 1-2; Let brotherly love remain. Do not forget hospitality, because for doing that some without knowing it have entertained angels. In our life journey, we have been hosts to our family, friends and loved ones, but very rarely have we given ourselves the opportunity to host strangers, however that is the challenge for our faith, to have a hospitable attitude, especially to those people we don't know.
He mentioned that “in this border area of the United States and Mexico, two attitudes can be observed, one is hospitality and the other is hostility. What kind of attitude are we demonstrating? Are we in the place of hospitality or hostility?”
On this World Day of Migrants and Refugees, we are called to be defenders of the rights of foreigners and migrant, those who are passing through or those who decide to stay, since Jesus himself was a migrant and refugee, who had the need to be welcomed and feel in a safe space. The gospel of John 11:53-56 says:
“So, from that day they agreed to kill him. Therefore, Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but he departed from there to the region adjacent to the desert, to a city called Ephraim; and he remained there with his disciples... And the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, they should alert them, so that they could arrest him.
In the same way, many Mexican people and other nationalities can identify with Jesus and feel safe when they are welcomed and well received. Therefore, from our places of influence, let us choose today who to serve, will it be hospitality or hostility.
My year in Tucson started out really rough. I was intimidated by a lot of things and I questioned if doing a second YAV year while still deep in grief after leaving Asheville was the right move for me. I started out not really feeling connected to anything or anyone. I missed trees and grass and rain. At Christmas, I really started to miss the snow. Up until Christmas day, I didn’t feel the “Christmas spirit” at work in this holiday season. Nothing around me was bringing holiday cheer. Families were separated in detention, work was busier than ever, and the desert was the same as it had been. But on Christmas eve, we attended a candlelight service at Southside Presbyterian Church, a social justice church in town, that put on a moving Nativity play with a woman who gave birth in the desert playing Mary and the baby as Jesus. It brought an interesting perspective to the Christmas narrative, having baby Jesus played by this tiny babe born in the desert. Joseph, was absent; this “holy family” was separated at the border and Joseph was serving time in a detention center awaiting trial. He was a client of our legal aid clinic I worked for. This night brought a new meaning to Christmas and how I felt about the dessert. I spent Christmas day with my boss and her family, learning Hispanic holiday traditions and hearing stories from her wife about how the desert has changed over time. How global warming and the border crisis has really helped in shaping this place into the desecration I see, instead of the beauty and mystery that it holds.
In January and February, I threw myself into connecting more with the community and the people. I tried to make a lot of friends and get out whenever I could to go talk to people. I met so many families that had never left Tucson and got to hear about how much they loved this place. I was introduced to local food trucks, Sonoran style hotdogs, and lots of burros. This spring, in light of COVID -19, we spent a lot of time hiking and when we weren’t hiking, we were watching videos and learning more about the town we were living in, the people, and the history of the desert. We watched a documentary on biosphere 2, just up the road from us, and later we went on hikes to Marshal Gultch where I notice that the mountains hold the mystery of the dessert that is more than Tucson’s saguaros but also holds trees and running water.
My year in Tucson has really been a lesson in not judging a book from its cover. Its been a journey in not letting fear intimidate me. I was scared of moving to Tucson, of saying the wrong thing, but that ended up delaying a lot of really impactful conversations. It makes me wonder how many opportunities fear steals us from.
I have been holding off on writing this blog, in normal Katie fashion- I have been waiting and intaking a lot of information. However, seeing posts from friends and family on my Facebook, and people still struggling with the meaning of “defunding the police” has me irritated and I am tired of waiting to find the right words. So, here it is plain and simple:
This fourth of July, I didn’t celebrate with fireworks, I wasn’t decked out head to toe in American flag garb, I was wearing black. I was in mourning for a country that only ever wants to focus on the positive things about America or the drama our media feeds us. In the middle of a pandemic, I put on my face mask, packed the sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and my water bottle, and headed to the park to meet with others for an anti-4th of July protest.
When my roommates and I arrived at the park, there was no organizer to be found and no one seemed to know what was going on. Random volunteers were showing up with water, first aid supplies, and fliers about what to do if the police show up and the slogans we would be chanting. We casually wandered around and safely asked others if they knew what was happening, no one seemed to know, we were all just in the waiting game. So, more and more gathered and it got closer and closer to the time to start. At 2pm, starting time, 3 police officers showed up and started asking what we were doing there, who we were meeting, and what was happening- they too wanted to know who the organizers were. We didn’t know. So, the cops radioed back and forth with the station, “there are a lot of people in the park”, “no, they don’t know who the organizers are”, “yeah, yep, they are all just waiting with there signs”, No, not sure what else to do”. 5 Minutes passed and before we knew it, 12 police officers flooded the scene, breaking off in teams of two they started more questioning of the people gathered- though we still had no answers. As I scanned the park, it became clear to my roommates that the people cops were asking were white, they were young. The Police were not asking the first aid people or any of the folks passing out fliers- the people that could presumably know something.
When the cops approached us, my roommate Laura spoke up asking them why THEY were here and what they knew about this event. The officer who had just got off of a facetime call with his son approached us and said “I’m officer _____, I have a background in deescalating hostage situations and distinguishing terrorist attacks. Although today I am only here to serve and protect, we as a task force respect your Freedom of Speech and are here to support you in any way.”
It seemed that that officer wasn’t the only one supporting us, the whole march, 8 police officers walked with us and 6 police cars followed us as we chanted “defund the police”, “say their NAMES”, and “Nana AYUDAME” (Grandma help me, the last words a local Tucsonian spoke before being killed by the police force in a similar fashion to George Floyd. His story was not released until three months after the incident. Carlos Ingram-Lopez, PRESENTE!). This protest was more than a mourning of America, this was a BLM stance for change and anger for what has taken place.
Throughout the whole march, it seemed the task force followed us. I started to feel guilty of my actions, embarrassed of what I was screaming to the friendly people around us, protecting us. But then, as we took our first break from the heat and drank water, I once again noticed who the police officers were interacting with and what their role was. When I say the WHOLE task force was looking out for us, I sincerely mean the majority of officers from TPD were “watching” this protest and as we looked around, it became less of an allyship and more of a watch party. The officer with a background in de-escalation and terrorist situations wasn’t there by accident. Also, even if he was, was it necessary to have the WHOLE police force at this gathering? Were we not paying them to be out protecting people, were there not “fireworks gone wrong” accidents or serious situations they needed to be in? This was a peaceful protest for change, not a riot or looting. Yet, our freedom of speech was met with fear and intimidation.
The defunding of police, to me, means that we cut their funding. Tucson Police just RAISED their budget by 2 MILLION dollars. Which, will be used for new squad cars, paid leave, more guns, and more officers. It does not offer more training, background screening for who gets hired, or therapy for cops that have experienced trauma at work.
I was 19 years old when I had a gun pulled on me by an officer in my small town of Mason City. I was being stopped for being at the park after hours and when I got out of the car to see what was happening, I was met with the barrel of a gun and a strict speech on never approaching the cop car. Something I was unaware of and didn’t think twice about being in a small town where my Grandma was neighbors with the former chief of police and we knew most of the officers in town. However, this incident was late at night, the man could not identify if I was a threat- could not tell my color of skin. He was scared. He was open about his fear and while searching my car for drugs and asking why I was at the park, told me about his three kids and how more than anything he prays every night to be able to return safely home to them.
I am not disgusted by his fear, I am glad he was honest and I could tell he was sorry he escalated the situation. I would be fearful too with what see in the media and what evil I see in the world. But that’s why I am not an officer. Our officers need better training, less stress in the workplace, and more time to process what they go through. They need to not be victims of capitalism and treated with human dignity so that, that dignity can then be given to the citizens they protect.
As I was walking down the street yelling “DEFUND TPD” and “JUSTICE FOR BREONNA TAYLOR”, I was reminded that the shame I was feeling and the guilt- was because of my white privilege and white response. Aside from that one incident with the police, I have never been afraid of an interaction with the police, or to ask an officer for directions. I have felt safe in their care because they, feel safe around me. However, my story does not account for George, Breonna, Carlos, and the COUNTLESS other BIPOC lives lost to police violence and victims of racial prejudice.
Our police deserve and need proper training, they need support in their work, they do not need more weapons. Our officers are stressed because their presence is requested everywhere, their jobs are demanding. By reallocating funds and reimagining their jobs, we will relieve their stress and as a society push towards equal pay for equal work.
Defunding the police, will reprimand and hold racist officers accountable for their actions. Jobs could be cut; many jobs, need to be cut or more evaluated. Not all cops are racist but many live in fear. Defunding the police starts to rethink and imagine our system.
By defunding the police, we recognize that there is a problem in our leadership. Because although black on black crime is a valid acknowledgment, it misses the point. Our officers are our leaders and when our leaders show discrimination and disrespect, our community reflects these values. We cannot allow leaders to reinforce racism, we are doing that enough already.
Isaiah 64:8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
As I reflect on this passage and my YAV year, I am drawn to how long it has taken me to accept the desert. This place of death, destruction, and pain. It has taken me a long time to see the beauty here and to accept that the desert hasn’t always been the place of destruction as I see it. That there is a deep and complex history here.
It was on our first delegation trip to the US/ Mexico border in DouglaPrieta that Mark Adams shared with us how a “wall” existed before the Trump administration. That although our present administration has no issue hiding their racism and thoughtlessness, the border has been attacked for quite some time, and presidents from both sides of our 2 party system are the problem.
Later that week, we heard from Dan Millis from the Sierra Club about the issues that animals and plant species are having at the border, not understanding the disconnect that human walls have created. Species are going extinct.
At Thanksgiving, we were invited to the Sitting Tree Communities gathering. Where community members from near and far, past and present gathered together. Many in the circle shared how thankful they were for the desert. I was shocked. I did not yet see the landscape they were describing.
Earlier this week, photos started circling my Facebook from Quitobaquito. An oasis and sacred spring on the Reservation that is now drying up and the wildlife have nowhere to get relief from the brutal sun. Drying up because the government is blowing up, desecrating the sacred land around it. Putting the land, the clay, in shock. Our carelessness towards the earth and each other is making the desert the place of destruction that I see.
I came to Tucson to study Immigration and to learn about the people and families that we are harming at the border. However, the more I reflect back on what I have learned this year, the more I realize that I have learned so much more. If you would have asked me 10 months ago what I knew about our ecosystem or how considerate I was of it, I would have shrugged. However, it has been my experience biking to work everyday, hiking Mt Lemmon, discovering vegetarian dinner options, composting, and using reusable grocery bags (before COVID)- that I think have made the most unexpected impacts and deepest lessons in my YAV year. Sure, I still grumble when out Air is set any higher than 78, but in the back of my mind, I also see the ways that that change, makes a better change for the whole.
As I reflect on the systems we live in and of the space, we as humans, take up in this world, the deeper I understand how interconnected our injustices are. Women, BIPOC, Refugees, Animals, the earth, are all victims to an individualist culture that we live in where we fail to see the value and strength in community and teamwork. Our creator, the almighty potter, fashioned beautiful earth with people and insects and plants and animals, that all carry value and purpose. Part of the beauty of the earth is how diverse it is. I remember this- when we drive up Mt. Lemmon – and see the different biomes with saguaros at the base but pine trees and running water at the top.
Living in the desert, and serving as a YAV here in Tucson, studying migration and the issues of the border, has shown me first hand the destruction we as humans carry. There is a reason we are not the potter, but the malleable clay, ever-changing, and forming to be new and better people. We have the potential to be better. I am mad that this pandemic has cut off my social engagements but I am hopeful, that this time of reflection continues to strengthen our communities. The people that are stopping and stepping back from our capitalistic and work-driven culture, are starting to see, hear, and listen. I think we all, can start to as well.
The Parable of the Sower Matthew 13: 1-23
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
When I read this scripture the first time, I got very caught up in what type of seed I was. Verses 20- 21 really stood out to me. I felt connected to the seeds planted on Rocky ground. Enjoying the gifts and privilege around me, but only at a base level and not really for the long haul. Refusing to put down my roots. I entered my YAV year with a sense of theological tourism. I wanted to travel the world and escape the small community I came from. I wanted to see fun places and learn about the world, embrace the many diverse cultures. I wanted excitement and adventure. However, this year had other ideas in mind and instead of fun and adventure, I was hit with some heavy grief and experiences that challenged my privilege and questioned the things I got excited over.
The more I think about this year, the less I feel like a particular seed and the more I relate to the sower who, had one job: plant the seeds and grow the crops. But, the seeds went everywhere, there were too many outside factors around them that prevented all of the seed being planted properly in the ground. Thinking back to our year, I realize how little was in our control. Ruby’s bike accident, and COVID 19, for example… I resonate with the sower this year. I too have not really been planting my seeds, but rather, dropping them and scattering them along the path not knowing where they were ending up.
The first lesson I learned this year on the borderlands, was that you can’t ignore the pain. It engulfs you. To me, the desert had always been an image of death, despair, and pain., Even before extensively studying the issues of immigration at the border, the desert projected an image of death. At a Thanksgiving meal, we were invited to this year, I was shocked to hear so many being thankful for “the beauty of the desert”. Nothing seems to grow here, it’s hot, there are snakes… but, after MANY months and quite a few hikes, I have also come to embrace the many species of cactus, I have fallen in love with the sunsets AS WELL AS some sunrises, and although I haven’t warmed up to the many predators in the desert, javelinas are a pretty fun animal. I have also come to realize there is a deep sense of community here. In a city of half a million people, I didn’t think it was possible. But, there truly is one degree of separation between most people. Despite the tourists and snowbirds that inhabit this place, there are also some that have been here “as long as the deeply-rooted mesquite tree” my boss Lupe Castillo says. I am sad that COVID has taken away so much of our time to connect with this community. However, it has also blessed me with the reflection that stay or go, I am still a tourist here. This land was home to many others before it became a space for me. I want to remember that. To remember that as my roots continue to grow and take hold of the desert clay, I remain respectful and aware of the plants growing near me and the sacred land that was once already inhabited.
Despite my seeds ending up everywhere this year, few managed to avoid the rocks, thorns, and birds in order to properly be planted. The seeds I have planted this year are ones of awareness. Awareness of the privilege I carry as a tourist with a passport. Awareness of the injustice all around me all the time. Awareness of the issue of immigration and humanities history as a migrant people. Awareness of the greed and misconception we allow ourselves to play into by not being agents of ourselves. Awareness of the systems that benefit me at the costs of those around me.
I also have planted seeds of action this year. I refuse to be the silent oppressor. I am learning what it means to have a voice and eventually, I will have to open up to the lesson of confrontation. I have spent this year, realizing that despite being young, privileged, and most of the time spacey, I do have thoughts, opinions, and ideas, that are worthy to share. This, this is where I see God, God is the sun that provides light to the seeds and warmth for them to grow. There to watch and look over them, but has no active role in their care. We have to be the ones to provide the seeds with water and to take them out of the sun every now and again. We are our own agents, set forth with our goal of planting an orchard.
In my understanding, God doesn’t care where the seeds are planted, just that a few, continue to grow.
40 Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of the prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of a righteous person 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple- truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.
Hello Southside, I want to start by saying thank you, for giving me this time to share and to be here with you all this Sunday, on Immigration Sunday. I am excited to share with you my reflections and how I am feeling about this idea of “welcoming others”, no matter who they are.
“Welcome the stranger”, “treat others the way you want to be treated”, “love thy neighbor”
These are all phrases that I have heard since I was little. To me, I feel they are the backbone of church and ministry. Yet, these last few years, they sound like hypocrisy. How many exceptions do we make to what stranger we accept, what neighbor deserves our love, or who we should treat well?
These are the thoughts that have consumed my YAV year and made me question my place in the world and where my vocation will take me. Serving as a YAV, one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn AND constantly be reminded of this year, is that as a YAV I am wanted but not needed. I am a stranger and a tourist in this place. I am welcomed and accepted but not necessary. I am loved, but this is not my home. My year in Tucson has taught me so much and made me reflect a lot on what home is and what it means to be comfortable somewhere. As opposed to other places I have lived and been to, Tucson has made me think about what it means for a culture to welcome someone and what it looks like when that person is different from me or different from the community around me.
As many of us know, the church has a complicated past with mission work. We as YAV’s have lots of quotes from our year written on paper in the walls of our house.
One of them reads: White saviorism, like colonialism, assumes that Black Indigenous People of Color need white people to save them. Without white intervention, instruction, and guidance, Black Indigenous people of color will be left helpless. That without whiteness, the BIPOC community who are seen as below and less than white in the white imagination, will not survive. It puts BIPOC in the position of helpless children who need to be saved by the supposedly more capable and wiser white people”. This quote was shared with us during our Delegation to the border by AmyBeth Willis, the original quote is from Layla Saad.
To me, this quote is the embodiment of how the church started and sometimes continues to enact mission. We as people of God get excited about taking a vacation somewhere and “making our souls feel happy” by serving those we see as the “less fortunate”. We spend a week fixing something then, leave no direction on how to sustain our work when we leave because it is expected that other “saviors” will be back for their vacation and to fix the problem again.
When I read the scripture for this week. I was consumed by this idea. I first felt guilty over being welcomed, then I felt uncomfortable with how “rewards” were included in the work of the Lord. Do we as God’s people only do work for a reward? What is with this hierarchical system? Welcome the prophet, receive the prophets reward, welcome the righteous, receive the same, give EVEN a cup of water to “the littlest of these– meaning the poorest…. And surely you will receive some kind of reward. Time after time… this is how I read the scripture. I was confused and hurt by how even the “word of God” could be so prejudiced. When Alison asked if I wanted to change scripture passages, I was close to doing so. But, scripture isn’t meant to come easy. It is meant to be struggled with. This is a text that recorded and upheld the values of a culture from the dawn of time. And just like my YAV year, it is meant to push and grow into something more. So, bear with me as we all do like YAV’s do best and “lean into the discomfort”
I came to Tucson fully aware of this stereotype of the “white savior” and it was eerie to me, how much easier fundraising was when I said I was going to the US/ Mexico border instead of when I went to the “brewing capital of the world” last year to study poverty. Even with the backlash of helping “illegals” enter and “steal our jobs”, my fundraising went much better. It seemed like less of a “vacation” and more “charity”. Therefore, even more uncomfortable.
I can’t help but assume that this mindset is partially due to the fact that I am a young white woman who has come to “do God’s work”. I can’t help but feel guilt over how welcome I am. Guilt because my whole year here has been studying and observing the ways we as a system, a government, and as a people, refuse to accept the people both native and needing of this land as refugees. How can we tell a person that has been here “as long as the deeply rooted mesquite tree” that we have no space for them or that our American government controls their ancestral land? How can we as a collective people, continuously allow for people to die in the desert and shoot holes in both their bodies and water jugs when all they are after is a free life away from violence, harm, and war. Or, maybe they just want to reunite with their families. How can our government tell people that have been here for 30 years, never convicted of a crime, and profiled while driving, that they don’t belong? How can we as citizens continue to respect and uphold the systems that uphold this hatred?
I believe it is because we refuse to see it. We don’t believe it. We make EXCUSES for it. It does not affect those in power, so why pay attention?
My year with Keep Tucson Together has shown me time and time again how complex our immigration system is. Laws and policies are continuously written to manipulate justice. I have heard many of our volunteer attorneys and long time volunteers share the ways in which this system is confusing to THEM. These are BRAINIACS with degrees and years of research to fall back on. If they have trouble understanding all the logistics, how do we even begin to think that a person could go through our immigration system alone? Last year, 22,677 cases of individuals, families, and children, went through the Tucson Immigration court system. Of those cases, 98% went without a lawyer. 18,059 of our neighbors, families, and individuals fleeing violence went into court unaccompanied. My work with Keep Tucson Together this year has shown me that cases that are “won” by the court are few and far between. Even WITH representation, it is hard to “win” over the government and convince the judge that these cases are more than a file, that these individuals are more than their assigned “alien identification number”. Our government makes the hoops one has to jump through for naturalization and citizenship impossible. Even in doing the process correctly, you are criminalized and punished. The first time I heard that folks pleading asylum are often not eligible for bond I was outraged. These are people that have followed our systems “rule” came “legally” through the Port of entry instead of “sneaking in” and are then often obtained by ICE and given a record. They are then branded with the term alien and are ineligible for bond therefore are trapped in the death camps we have created during this pandemic- I mean—- they are held in respective detention centers.
The process of dehumanization around immigration is strong, we know we are doing wrong by NOT welcoming the stranger. We KNOW that these strangers have every right to be here and are our neighbors, friends, and siblings in Christ. However, we let fear drive us to hatred and we accomplish this by not seeing the human inside the individual. Instead, these people are given nasty labels like “illegals” “aliens” “drug lords” and “thieves”. We refuse to think of them in truth, as the neighbors, victims, and PEOPLE that are here. Because that would mean we were wrong and our government lies and our world is broken. That would mean I as a white person would have to change my lifestyle. I as a white person would then become overwhelmed and shut down, instead of adjusting to the change.
If we were to really stop, and think about things….
Who are “Americans” to stand on stolen soil and tell a person they are not welcome? When did this stolen soil become “ours” to dictate and manage? How can “we” tell a refugee, there is no room for you here and you cannot come in? When that is LITERALLY how 75% of Americans came here?
As Christians, we are given one task- to love your neighbor. If Tucson, a city of half a million people has taught me any more lessons, it’s that even in a city this big, you know everyone through one degree of connection. We are all neighbors, we are all siblings in Christ. We are all commanded to love one another.
Southside knows these issues better than anyone, this stereotype of the church, of saviorism, and of the harm we as an organized religious body have done. Y’all, more than any other church that I have seen, are a church that has strived to revert its witness and reconnect with the roots of this land and its culture. Every service holds the culture of Tucson in its heart. Every time we listen to the blessing in the O’Odham language or hear the word of God brought to us in Spanish, we are rebelling against the systems and rejecting the social norm of “whiteness” that is mistaken for “civilized”. WE are holding space for visitors to feel welcome. Visitors of all kinds, not just the young white female before you. Honored, as I am to be here.
Every time my site coordinator introduces herself to a group, she says that she lives in the unceded land of the Tohono O’odham that is now named Tucson. I am in awe with the way she says it every time she says it because it takes me back to the stories I have heard from Guadalupe Castillo this year, it reminds me of the hike I went on with you all to Baboquivari, the fear of getting stuck in the “birth canal”. It reminds me of the culture and the ancestors that inhabited this place. I reflect on the ways that I have been welcomed into this desert land with open arms, from a group of people that should have every reason to push me away. Yet, they didn’t. I have received true hospitality in Tucson. And it makes me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because everything in my education would say that scripture is referring to “the little ones” as the community I have strived to be a part of. When really, as I saw Mayra in the Christmas pageant or was led by Gil through the spiritual journey at Baboquivari, I was welcomed by the prophets. I have been the one that was given a cold cup of water. While my community, the government I thought I was a part of, is blowing up water jugs in the desert and denying even a lukewarm drink after a perilous journey to the prophets that deserve it most. These are the people of God because just as Jesus, they know what it means to be an outcast and unwelcomed.
I know most of you already understand and know of the issues I was just introduced to and have begun grasping this year. Issues of hatred and division. I appreciate the way you have taught me, been patient with me, and called me into La Lucha. Still, I wonder if there are takeaways in my reflection that could be beneficial to you. In closing, I wonder what kind of reflection you can do over the word hospitality? Do you welcome others the way Jesus would do, with open arms and the best intentions? Or, do you hold fear and resentment at times? Do you roll up the windows when driving past Santa Rita park, or do you roll them down and say hello to your neighbors? Do you speak to the whole room when you speak to people or just the ones you are comfortable with? Is there a way to help the 98% of asylum seekers and neighbors that stood alone last year in court? Can you afford to even offer a cup of cold, to a traveler passing by? What makes you comfortable, and what discomfort should you try leaning more into?
These are the questions we should think about. And I can’t think of a better time to have immigration Sunday, the day after some have celebrated America’s birthday. A time where we can reflect on not just the current migrant and the ways we are dismissive of them. But, of all the immigrants that have come before them and built the country that we pledge allegiance to. Few, belong on this land, the unceded Tohono O’odham land. Yet, we have claimed it and decided who comes in and who is welcomed. It’s time to reimagine our “welcome” and to see that as Christians and people, we are connected and we are meant to travel, to learn, and grow. And to be together, as equals.
link to the whole service
To the God of all creatures big and small, we strive to welcome the visitor, whether we are comfortable with them or not, whether they look like us or not, whether they think like us- or not. Whether our visitor be a prophet, of righteousness, or a little one in need of a cool drink, we strive to welcome them, as you have done for us. God of love, help us share your love and spread it- through our hearts, our minds, our feet, and our hands- the ones that serve you.
July begins the final month of YAV. Just 4 more weeks until my YAV term has come to a close. Many people are asking about what reflections I have on this last year of my life. What am I taking with me?
But how do I sum up the last year of my life into a nice picture for everyone to see? How do I make all the moments make sense? All the interactions with CHPRA clients, the days when I’ve come home from work exhausted and yet fulfilled, the moments of laughter with my housemates, the moments of deep raw emotion too. All the good, bad, draining, fulfilling, inspiring, loving, hard, and growth moments.
I don’t think I can sum up any year of my life into a conversation. Much less this one.
Living in Tucson for the last year has been so impactful. So fulfilling. So educational. So life changing.
I can think of takeaways, but that phrase feels strange to me because that makes it seem like there is a concrete thing I am taking with me. That isn’t how I feel at all. I feel like I am leaving from this experience with a trail behind me that I have already walked and a trail in front of me. This is just a moment of change in the journey of my life, but not an ending.
Thinking of this as a journey reminded me of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. A poem that I used to love when I was in high school.
A camp I went to as a kid showed us a video every summer based around this poem. It was a classic at camp. Many of us long time campers knew all the words. The message of the film was that in order to curb global warming and have a good earth to live on, we need to take the road less traveled. Go against the norm to “all the difference.”
That is the message that I am reflecting on most as my YAV experience is coming to an end. I don’t want to go to a post YAV life that is fitting into the norms of society. These norms uphold systemic inequalities and I don’t want to be passive in these systems.
It seems like most people would agree that there is a lot of brokenness everywhere right now. But that brokenness doesn’t just fix itself. It requires work through analysing biases and injustices on personal and systemic levels. And it requires the work of going against the grain. Being open to new ideas. Refusing to participate in this brokenness.
The road less traveled isn’t easy but it is so worth it to have human rights and equality for everyone.
I believe we need radical changes to have justice for all people. And that requires all of us taking the road less traveled. We all have to go against these norms and put in the time to create a better world for each other. Post YAV, that is exactly what I want to do. My takeaway is the same one that I learned at camp as a teenager: keep taking that road less traveled because it does make a difference. And that difference is needed.
The 2020-2021 TB Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) wrote the following message to share their own reflections and thoughts on the current moment. The TBYAV Board supports the YAVs' raising their voices. As a board, we are committed to focusing on broader issues of racism and need to engage in more conversation & discernment around the call specifically to defund the police. We are doing more learning, discussion, and reflection on dismantling structural racism as a board and look forward to sharing our own thoughts and reflections later this summer.
The cruel murder of George Floyd is not an isolated incident of a Black life being taken at the literal hands of the police, using their bodies, their knees, to crush the last breath out of this man's life. The same way Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and many other Black lives are taken, many of whose names we will never know. These murders are connected and a direct result of years of systemic racism and slavery in this country.
As a program we firmly stand with our Black siblings leading the uprising against police and state sanctioned violence. We are committed to recognizing the role each of us plays in systems of white supremacy and oppression through implicit biases and failing to speak up against racism.
Murder is a sin. Police brutality is evil. Staying silent is to side with the oppressors. The revolution currently happening is against white supremacy as a whole. We are committed to listening to and learning from Black people, personally analyzing the biases each of us carry, actively speaking out against racism, and standing in solidarity.
We support the movement to defund the police and abolish the prison system. These programs are over funded, over militarized, and racially unjust. There is no justice in our current justice system. Money needs to be redirected from prisons and policing to education, healthcare, and social work that provides resources to people and communities that need them most.
We support the direct action in the streets that is leading to conversations about change. We are grateful to the leaders of this movement for leading the change and we are committed to supporting the change that our Black siblings are striving for. We recognize words are not enough and action must be taken: Reparations must be paid, Black voices must be amplified, and we must all engage in hard conversations to address how we each benefit from white supremacy and how we can stand against these injustices.
Dismantling white supremacy is an ongoing process. We strive to continue to be better allies and accomplices to all Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), recognizing that we will mess up and need to be called in by those we are oppressing. However, we cannot rely on only our BIPOC siblings to hold us accountable. We must be accountable to ourselves through analyzing our implicit biases and hold all white people accountable to destroying racist practices.
We recognize that the foundations of the United States are based in keeping upper class, white people in power. These ideals are oppressive to us all. White supremacy tells us who is worth listening to and who is valuable in our society. Although we have benefited in some ways from this oppressive system, we also know that benefiting from the oppression of others dehumanizes us and keeps us from being fully free. We believe all people are valuable for simply being human and we are committed to fighting for changes to express that value. We commit to doing all that we can to enact change that benefits all people. Until there are systemic transformations and create a future to benefit everyone, and until we end white supremacy, no one is free.