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.

Construyendo puentes de amor, comunidad y fe

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 sentido porque 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 que nuestros 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 lugar de 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 dos comunidades 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. Muchos estudiantes 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 física que 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 y diferencias. 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 naturalmente sienten 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 sólo están 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 escuchando una platica de un pastor con la organización Reforma Evangélica de Inmigración. El pastor tuvo una 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 de Washington. Yo sabía que  iba a contar una historia sobre la reconciliación espiritual, pero yo primero 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 biblia el líder de Union de Campesinos dirigida al miembro del personal de a Dave Reichert y llorando dijo: "Hoy me di cuenta que eres mi hermano en Jesucristo, hermano me escucharas?" Y el 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 puede llevar 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 frontera porque 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 de las 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 sido donde he estado enseñando Inglés como segunda lengua para los ninos y los adolescentes en dos 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 presiones intensas 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 de mi 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 un lugar para aprender nuevas habilidades. Al mismo tiempo, he disfrutado de la utilización de mis pasiones para la educación, el cultivo de las relaciones y la comunidad y manifestar el amor de Dios en mi vida.

Building Bridges of faith, community and love


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.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

 


Students and ladies of DouglaPrieta Works. Working with the ladies of DouglaPrieta Works to have English classes for the kids in their local neighborhood has been one of the highlights of my time on the border. They have shown me how one can positively impact a community in a sustainable way through community building, education and agriculture. Los estudiantes y mujeres de DouglaPrieta Trabaja. Trabajar con las mujeres de DouglaPrieta Trabaja para tener clases de inglés para los niños en su vecindario ha sido uno de los mejores momentos de mi tiempo en la frontera. Me han demostrado cómo se puede tener un impacto positivo en una manera sostenible a través de formar comunidad, educación y agricultura.
Students at New Hope Community Center English classes. It is a true blessing to teach kids with so much laughter and joy in the children ministries with Frontera de Cristo. Los estudiantes en las clases de Inglés en la Nueva Esperanza Centro Comunitario. Es una verdadera bendición para enseñar a los niños con tanta risa y alegría en los ministerios de niños con Frontera de Cristo.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Life on the Border (La vida en la frontera)

Agua Prieta, MX on the left and Douglas, AZ one the right.

Border Education and immersion is a large ministry of what Frontera de Cristo does. Here my director and Presbyterian Co-Mission Worker Mark Adams is giving a history of the wall that separates the towns of Douglas and Agua Prieta.

My roommate Hugo and I at the Migrant Resource Center. Frontera de Cristo interns are the best!




The Cross on the Border (La Cruz en la Frontera)


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. 

 Students from Prescott College and Douglas residents holding up signs of crosses with the names of over 260 people who have died in Cochise County (Arizona) while attempting to come to the United States.