Friday, June 26, 2015

The best kids in the world!

Receiving lots of love from some of my students at my birthday party in DouglaPrieta Trabaja.

Leaving with the curiosity of a child

As I am almost about to end as an intern with Frontera de Cristo, and become a 7th grade science teacher this has made me reflect on my life here in the communities of Douglas and Agua Prieta. The truth is that I could not come up with a more beautiful life than I have here in these communities. The opportunity of working and living in such a unique and beautiful bi-national community with such loving people is a blessing everyday in my life that makes me laugh, smile, love and feel the pain of this world. I remember when I first came to the Douglas and Agua Prieta on a border delegation it was both exciting and scary. I think for most people in the U.S. when they come to visit us at Frontera de Cristo these are common feelings. I have found that this feeling of fear that we have of the border and Mexico is misunderstanding that is reflected by what we here from the media, U.S. government and politicians. And while there are problems with insecurity and violence on the border, U.S., Mexico and the world that has created an immigration and refugee crisis in this would, our reaction to these problems should not be fear. I think that is why when groups and people come to visit us at FDC they have taken the most important step and that is not letting fear prevent them from building understanding about issues.

In general, I think most people are curious to understand, learn and love people who live and look different from us, but at the same time we are also afraid of people and places that are different from us. I had to make the conscious choice to come to live on the border and not let fear rule over me. But, instead pursue my curiosity to learn and better understand the issues, people and life on this border. However, it has been the curiosity of people and kids I work with in Agua Prieta and Douglas to learn what it means to love me that is making me stay. I think this is what makes working with the children at DouglaPrieta Trabaja (DPT) so special for me is their curiosity to love and learn from other people. I know many of my students were afraid of me as a white American, but their curiosity to love and learn about other people always seems to win out in them. Because of their curiosity to come to English classes and spend time with me they have deeply blessed and taught me a lot about their culture, difficulties and how to love people. And while I can say from my perspective and their perspective it has not always been easy doing English classes at DPT, their curiosity enabled us to have the opportunity to learn and understand each other better. And my students at DPT have taught me that when we let the curiosity to learn and understand more about people rule over fear this allows us to enter relationships that overtime break down the walls of racism, discrimination and stereotypes that we hide in our hearts.

Unfortunately, I think in the U.S. fear is ruling over the curiosity to learn and better understand people who are different from us. We are continually being bombarded by politicians, media and religious leaders with messages that portray poor people, black and Latino males in ghettos, Muslims and immigrants as people we should be afraid of. For example, when we saw the large number of kids and teenagers from Central America fleeing their countries to the U.S., many politicians, the media and religious leaders used the propaganda of fear to prevent us from better understanding and knowing these children who were fleeing from gang violence, gang killings and extreme poverty. I think this is why we encounter in the scriptures the message of fearing God, because if we don’t fear God we let fear that comes from people blind us from truly seeking God’s kingdom being manifested through people of different races, cultures, religions and nationalities coming together to fight injustices, racism and suffering in the world. So as I depart from the students I have worked with at DPT I will take away from them the practice of being curious enough to learn what it means to better understand and love people across our differences and similarities.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

When Jesus spits on your eyes

So I have some very exciting news… I will be staying permanently in the DouglaPrieta area because I just received a 7th grade science teaching job in Douglas! I am very excited that God has given me the opportunity to continue working towards positive changes in these border communities that I have grown to love. It has been amazing to see where following God’s will and my own interests has taken me because a year ago I knew nothing about Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, Sonora. I feel that I am starting to come to the end of the first chapter of my life on the border, which has been full of lots of challenges, love, community, spirituality and pain.  I also feel like the blind man in Mark 8: 22-26 where Jesus spits on his eyes to give him sight and tells him not to go back into the village. Before I began serving as a YAV there were so many things in my own society and personal life that I did not see or chose to ignore, and now Jesus has spit on me through the suffering, pain, joy and love I have witnessed on the border and within the U.S. It has changed me in many ways and given me sight to injustices and my own privilege, and I know that I will never be able to go back to my old self again in the village.

When I refer to my old life self I am really talking about my old way of thinking and blindness to certain injustices and the poor. I was blind to the societal sins and my personal part in systems that deeply entrench racism, inequality, imperialism, injustice and above all cause human suffering in the U.S. and around the world. One of the many things God has spit on me to no longer be blind, is the realities and suffering of those labeled criminals and drug addicts that I had previously learned to fear, discriminate against and not feel compassion for them. Growing up with the privilege of being a white male in a middle-class family in the United States, I was mostly unaffected in the war against drugs and immigration. However, I now realize I was unconsciously affected by what I heard from my own culture, media and the government that criminalizes and demonizes undocumented immigrants and black and Latino males. As a result, I formed unconscious and racial biases against Latino and black males, and a colorblindness and lack of concern for how multiple systems like mass incarceration harm black and Latino minorities, especially in poor communities.
However, I feel that God has spit on me to open my own eyes to the realities and suffering of those labeled criminals and drug addicts that I have been taught to fear and not feel compassion for them. As Agua Prieta has a large population of people with drug addictions and people who have been deported from the U.S. for criminal charges I have encountered many men with these labels. I specifically remember one man who had been deported and was trying to cross to be reunited with his family. When I first meet him at the Migrant Resource Center (MRC) I quickly labeled him as a criminal and a person who could possibly be dangerous. I normally feel compassion for migrants at the MRC who risk their lives for a better life or to be reunited with their loved ones.  However, this man was from Texas and had certain tattoos I was familiar with in San Antonio that indicated he was probably involved with gang and drug activities. But, he was very talkative and distressed about being separated from his entire family, so I ended up talking with him and hearing a lot of his story. He ended up being a really nice guy, and I had a powerful conversation with him about racism against Latinos and immigrants in the U.S. and his efforts to be reunited with his family. Later, I reflected about how my initial judgement and lack of compassion for this really nice guy was contributing to the system of racism and mass incarceration that imprisons a large number of Latino and black men in the U.S. for drug charges, which allows them to be legally discriminated against in the U.S. or deported as felons.
This year on the border I have meet many men through the Migrant Resource Center, CREEDA (a drug rehabilitation center in Agua Prieta), church or at the barber shop who struggle as deported felons of the U.S. or with drug addictions.  In fact I have been very surprised to discover how the negative effects (more likely I was just so blind before) of mass incarceration has impacted Agua Prieta. It even affects the work I do in education with kids as a few of the kids involved in my English classes moved from the United States because a parent was deported. Despite, the difficult circumstances that these men and fathers find themselves in Agua Prieta, they have all been extremely kind and humble men who are just trying to support themselves and their families.
I have realized that I need to make a conscious effort to make sure that I treat these men with human dignity and compassion because in Agua Prieta many of these men are trapped in mass incarceration and immigration systems where there is no legal means for them to be reunited with their children, moms, dads and extended family in the United States. However, I am really excited to have the opportunity next year to influence and help prevent teenagers from going to prison and using drugs in Douglas and to instead teach them about positive things like science, caring for your community and social justice that can be used to help people and society. I am also excited that Jesus is spitting on a lot people’s eyes in the church and that churches are becoming more aware of how our mass incarceration and immigration systems are destroying lives, families and minority communities in the U.S. And while there is a long way to go into breaking the chains of mass incarceration and the brokenness of our immigration system, I am excited about the impact that the God’s and Jesus’ church can have to seek more justice in these systems. 

For more information about what PCUSA is doing about mass incarceration you can click on this link.

Monday, January 19, 2015

New blog/Blog Nuevo

Gracias por tu interes y apoyo en mi vida y trabajo con Frontera de Cristo en la frontera. Thank you for your interest and support in my life and work with Frontera de Cristo on the border. Puse algunos fotos de posadas y mi blog nuevo. I posted some photos from posadas and my new blog.
Photo and act showing how the border can separate parents from their children. Foto y acto que nos ensena como la frontera separa algunos padres de sus hijos.
A lot of fun is also had in posadas with piñatas and good friends. Tambien, nos divertimos mucho en las posadas con piñatas y buenos amigos.

All the wonderful volunteers of Migrant Resource Center. Todos los voluntarios de Centro de Recursos para inmigrantes que hacen un muy buen trabajo.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Posadas and Immigration

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.

Las Posadas y la inmigracion

Feliz Año Nuevo  y espero que les pasara bien de vacaciones. Me gustaría dar las gracias de nuevo a todos los que generosamente me han apoyado, el programa Tucson Borderlands YAV y Frontera de Cristo por encima de mi tiempo en la frontera. Una de las cosas que estoy muy agradecido es la comunidad bonita que tengo en la frontera de Douglas y Agua Prieta. Ha sido una bendición de conocer a tanta gente genial que hacen Douglas y Agua Prieta como en casa para mí. Al igual que muchas personas que he venido desde muy lejos para estar en la frontera, pero muchas personas han abierto sus vidas a mí, me ha mostrado hospitalidad y me aceptó como de la familia.

El mes de diciembre ha sido uno de los meses más ocupados para mí, que fueron llenados con muchas posadas. Para aquellos que no están familiarizados con las posadas es una celebración en México para recordar el viaje de María y José, que se vieron obligados a abandonar su hogar y no podía encontrar un lugar de refugio o de refugio cuando llegaron a Belén. Es una tradición que la gente abrir su casa y mostrar hospitalidad a los demás tal y como María y José estaban en necesidad de hospitalidad durante el nacimiento de Jesús. Compartir este tiempo con la gente en la frontera fue una experiencia muy especial y una gran celebración de la bendición de la comunidad que tengo en la frontera. Sin embargo, también hubo un momento que realmente me ha permitido reflexionar sobre cómo yo muestro hospitalidad y aceptación a otros, especialmente extranjeros e inmigrantes como María y José.
La lucha de María y José con Jesús como inmigrantes realmente me ha impactado este año porque encuentro muchas similitudes con la crisis actual de la inmigración en la frontera hoy, sobre todo cuando estoy mirando y orando por cruces de inmigrantes que murieron en el condado de Cochise y hay muchas personas con los nombres de María y José. Así, mientras que en esta temporada de Navidad fue un momento para celebrar todas las bendiciones que tengo, sino que también fue un tiempo para reflexionar sobre las tragedias de la inmigración en la frontera.

Hacer voluntario en el Centro de Recursos para Migrantes, junto con mi trabajo de enseñar clases de inglés este año, conoci a muchos inmigrantes y aprendí acerca de sus vidas y el dolor que han sufrido como inmigrantes. Hay muchas formas en que se encuentran en el Centro de Recursos para Migrantes, sino para toda la frontera México / Estados Unidos es una cruel realidad que separa familias. No creo que yo podría describir un inmigrante promedio en el Centro de Recursos para Migrantes porque todos son personas muy particulares con historias de vida especiales, pero he encontrado que muchos tienen una fuerza interior que les permite reír, sonreír y esperar a pesar de su dolor, separación de la familia y la incertidumbre en sus vidas. Muchas veces en el Centro de Recursos para Inmigrantes hay muchas limitaciones en lo que podemos ayudar a los inmigrantes que no sean de conectarlos con los recursos como la vivienda, la alimentación y la localización de los familiares. Pero, he encontrado el voluntariado en el Centro de Recursos para Inmigrantes me da la oportunidad de escuchar las historias y conocer la vida de los inmigrantes.

Una de las cosas más dolorosas que veo so n inmigrantes hablando de la forma en que se separan de sus hijos y familias. Conoci un joven de mi edad que andaba con un amiga de la infancia de su ciudad natal en el estado de Puebla. A medida que estos dos jóvenes eran de mi edad y le encantaba hablar y reír nos hicimos amigos rápidamente. Emigró de su ciudad natal en México a la ciudad de Nueva York cuando era un adolescente en busca de mejores oportunidades. Allí comenzó una nueva vida (probablemente se convirtió en el residente más simpático de Nueva York) y tuvo un hijo. Sin embargo, cuando se encontró en una situación muy difícil, ya que él había regresado a México por razones familiares, y ahora fue separado de hijo de dos años de edad que vivía con su hermana. Como él era una persona de fe en Dios tuvimos una conversación acerca de nuestra fe en Dios, que me mostró lo mucho que estábamos tan similares y tan diferentes. Como los adultos jóvenes que comparten una fe cristiana, hablamos de cómo Dios nos da fuerza y esperanza en desafíos de la vida y nuestro deseo de seguir la voluntad de Dios en nuestras vidas. Sin embargo, las preguntas que me hago acerca de  la voluntad de Dios en mi vida son tan diferentes de las preguntas que mi amigo estaba haciendo.

He sido bendecido por Dios con una gran familia, la infancia, muchas habilidades y talentos y una gran educación. La pregunta entonces para mí ha sido cómo puedo servir a Dios ya los demás y hacer cambios positivos en un mundo roto con mi regalo, la educación y las pasiones. Es una pregunta que creo que mucha gente se pregunta, sino una cuestión no todo el mundo tiene el privilegio de llevar a cabo. Siento que mi amigo también era muy inteligente y talentoso, pero su pregunta acerca de la voluntad de Dios en su vida me hace darme cuenta de cómo este mundo y nuestras sociedades pueden ser tan diferentes y simplemente injusto. Como ya había intentado sin éxito dos veces para cruzar la frontera, que estaba empezando a cuestionar la voluntad de Dios en su vida. ¿Fue la voluntad de Dios para él para tratar de cruzar el desierto para estar unidos con su hijo en la ciudad de Nueva York? ¿O se trataba de regresar a su ciudad natal, pero a costa de estar lejos de su hijo sin saber cuando volverían a reunirse. Cualquiera de estas opciones no parece muy ideal para mí y vi la tristeza y el dolor en los ojos de mi amigo cuando hablaba de ser separado de su hijo. Pero, el miedo y la dificultad de cruzar la frontera de nuevo para el improbable caso de que esta vez se podría cruzar con éxito para unirse con su hijo también se estaba convirtiendo en un sueño irreal. De cualquier manera no creo que un Dios que nos ama profundamente y pueblo unido como yo y mi amigo bajo la vida de Jesucristo tiene este imagen de la división, la muerte y la desigualdad para la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México.

Sin embargo, después de vivir en esta frontera, en las comunidades de Douglas y Agua Prieta, creo que Dios me ha ensenado una pequeña muestra de la belleza y el amor que siente por esta frontera. Pensaba en esto cuando vi una de las más bellas puestas de sol en mi vida sobre las montañas al oeste de Agua Prieta. El desierto de Sonora es un gran ejemplo de la belleza y el carácter sagrado de la creación de Dios, pero la gente y los gobiernos de ambos lados de la frontera han convertido a esta hermosa creación en una pesadilla y el lugar de la muerte para tantos inmigrantes. También he visto la belleza de cuando las comunidades y las personas se juntan por las culturas y países diferentes,  unidos por el amor de Dios, un borde y se preocupan por sus semejantes. Sin embargo, al igual que muchos lugares en este mundo este fin y la belleza pueden estar distorsionados por las drogas, la falta de oportunidades de empleo, la violencia y la pobreza en la frontera. La buena noticia es que Dios siempre ha estado presente aquí en esta frontera trabajando en las vidas de las personas rotas y defectuosas si son de México o Estados Unidos. Y él siempre estará presente en esta frontera y desierto trabajar con nosotros para crear y preservar la belleza y el amor que siente por esta frontera.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

October Blog/Blog de Octubre

Thank you for your interest in my blog and life. This time my October blog is in English and Spanish. The English blog is below the Spanish blog. Gracias por tu interes en mi blog y vida. Esta vez mi blog de Octubre tiene un version en ingles y espanol. El blog en espanol esta antes del blog en ingles.