Rebellions are built on hope

So it’s been awhile since I’ve blogged…sorry about that! It seems like there is either nothing to talk about or WAY too much to put into a blog. However, since Palm Sunday was yesterday and we are now in Jerusalem, I figured I’d write about Easter.

To be honest with y’all, I had TOTALLY forgotten about Easter. My housemates asked if people had plans for Easter, and I needed to clarify when it was. As someone who had always been in a church, and always aware of when Easter was, it felt really strange. It was logical though: I haven’t gone to church in a few months. My work week is normally pretty stacked with work hours, evening meetings, trips to the Capital (my nemesis) and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life. And the glory that is sleep. That’s crucial. With such packed weekdays, I really look forward to the weekends. It’s my chance to sleep in, do what I want, and not have to worry as much about serious things. Sadly, church was one of the things that fell to the side.

It’s not that Austin has zero churches or they all suck. In fact, Austin has a lot of really incredible churches in a variety of denominations and faiths. None of them really called to me though. I felt comfortable sleeping in on Sundays, or getting up early to either watch or play soccer. Sure there was guilt at first for skipping church, but I liked the things I’d do instead of church. And so my church life petered out until guess what? It’s Easter!

Easter is a odd time for me. Yes, I am incredibly thankful for the death of Christ on the cross and for all that he taught us. I understand (as much as a person can) what his death truly meant. But I also know the other side of the story, the part that isn’t mentioned much. The side that involves a rebellious young man who spoke out against the horrors of an empire. A young man who taught a radical kind of love that involved everyone, regardless of status, skin color, lifestyle, or disease. A young man who was eventually betrayed, beaten within an inch of his life, and THEN sentenced to death in one of the most gruesome manners humanity has thought of. Easter is brutal and real, a literal sacrifice for humanity. It is a little intimidating because that is where Jesus calls us to go.

Part of Easter also involves hope. I think that’s where my struggle with the event is most challenging. Sometimes, especially in this horribly broken world, it’s hard to find hope. Immigrants are branded ‘criminals’ and ‘illegals’ for migrating, one of the most basic natural rights of all things. Innocent children are killed with chemical gases. Politicians blow the shit out of other countries to defend those very children, even though they would never help them find safety in our country. State and federal governments work to erase the hard work of thousands of people and try to take away the rights of trans folks, same-sex couples, women, and anyone else they feel threatened by. Police still murder folks with little or no punishment. Native peoples see their land continually destroyed so others can make a dollar.

Our world is truly broken. It sucks. And it makes it hard to appreciate the hope that Easter and the Resurrection brings to the world. So I ask that we pray for the people of the world who cannot find hope, and for those like me who seem to become only more and more cynical. Pray for those who suffer every day and for those whose lives are at risk every day. Pray that we can live our lives like Christ, using every breath of ours to fight against injustice and pain, even if it eventually cost us our lives. Pray that we can create a new Resurrection of this world, one that is truly based on radical love.

Honestly, I don’t know how much of Easter I’ll be celebrating this year. Come Sunday, I’ll most likely be watching Chelsea take on Manchester United and wishing I had some Easter candy from my family. However, the hope will still be there. The hope of something different, of something radical. The hope of a new beginning. Regardless of where you find yourself on Sunday, try to find some of that hope. It’s what we need during such dark times.

The Border.

The Border.

[Great tunes here]

The US-Mexico border is a place that I think I know fairly well. While I was only there for a little less than a year, I believe that I was able to see a wide variety of perspectives on what the border means to various people and how they view the actual border and the greater Borderlands area. Gloria Anzaldúa, a Chicana author, describes the border as ‘una herida abierta – an open wound – where the Third World grates against the First and bleeds. And before a scab forms, it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two countries merging to form a third country – a border culture’. For those who have experienced or lived in the Borderlands, this is a perfect descriptor. It is a place that is not fully American nor fully Mexican, but a mix that is both beautiful and broken, painful yet resilient to that pain. It is a unique area, and one that is incredibly hard to describe.

This past week, I was able to go back to Agua Prieta, Mexico, my home for a year, and experience life at the border once again. Though I had been there before, and experienced that life many times, it was still a powerful and impactful time for me. The journey we went on was the same as so many that I took last year, but I was not the same person. Last year I spent many of the times with the mentality of work, that this was my job and once I left my job I left the challenges and hurt at the workplace. I believe that was the way that I was able to cope and get past the many things I saw that went against my beliefs, both faith-based and political, and as a way to get through each day. Though I was still able to see the beauty of the people I lived with and the work I did, I knew that if I strayed too deeply into the pain of the area I may not be able to get out of it.

This week was different though. It was a time where I was not working (thought I sorta did by translating), and was able to more fully step into the experience of the border. I was able to really witness and be a part of what goes on in that world, and more fully see how I have caused some of that pain and suffering, and how the pain doesn’t stop there, but continues as you go farther into a country that relies on mass incarceration, deportation, and fear to create literal and metaphorical borders in our communities, churches, and homes. And I’m going to be honest with you, it was rough. It brought up a lot of feelings that I had suppressed, and caused me to critically look at my life, my faith, my work, and how I have using those things to create real change and peace for the Borderlands, wherever they may be. But it also gave me a lot of motivation to continue the fight alongside people in marginalized communities, people who are directly impacted by US immigration, by our border ‘security’ apparatus, and for those people who are impacted by the many borders we have in our towns and cities.

So I encourage you to look at the borders in our world, and see what they try to separate. It may be that you live next to a literal border, whether it is between two different countries, or two states, or even a highway or railroad track that tries to keep people apart. It may be that we have borders within ourselves that separate us from people who are different than us because they look different, worship differently, love differently, or simply think differently. I challenge you to look at those borders and think of ways to get around, under, over, or through them, to create a unified community that is about love and reconciliation and hope.

To end, I want to go back to Chance the Rapper. He’s been in my ears a lot recently, and his music has done so much to help me process, think, and heal during difficult times. ‘Blessings’ is top of the list. It’s a beautiful song, and has an amazing thing happen during it. He speaks of the wall of Jericho falling and obstacles in life. In the background you hear the literal sounds of a wall falling and it brings tears to my eye every time. And this is crucial to hear in our times. Please remember that every wall WILL come down. Sometimes it just needs our help.

Well…

Hey everyone! Sorry it’s been a while since I lost blogged. As you may know, I am NOT good at keeping up with my blog. It’s really hard for me to blog and can just be a pain at times. Then you throw in moving to a new city, having a new community, a new job, and trying to keep moving forward, and it seems like there isn’t much time for blogging. Oh well. I’ve got an update (kinda) so check it out. And while checking it out, check out this great song by Chance the Rapper (it’s fitting for a Sunday).

Honestly, I’m not really sure where this blog is going to go. My first month or so in Austin has been amazing. My roommates and I (all 11 of us) live in a great location close to delicious restaurants, bars with cheap beers, all while still being in our own little relaxed bubble on Austin Pres. Seminary’s campus. I’ve found cool people to play football (soccer) with on a weekly basis, an awesome place to go bouldering, amazing organizations to participate and work with, SO many taco stands, and have really enjoyed living with my new community. Moving to a new city and having new everything can be really exciting and fun.

But, moving to a new place can also be a bit overwhelming. I don’t really know where the best stores are, or the best places to eat (though I’m figuring that out quick). I’ve been dealing with Texas road infrastructure (rough) and with Texas drivers (rougher). I’ve been trying to balance creating community with my roomies while also investing in relationships with other YAVA (YAV alum), co-workers, and random people I meet while doing random things (normally football related). Then we add in trying to get normal amounts of sleep, be active, take time for myself, and do lots of little adult things (like finding a place to get a haircut-why’s that so hard??). And then, on top of all of this craziness, I’ve been both to New Mexico for YAV transition retreat (more about that later?) and back to South Carolina for my grandfather’s funeral. It really can get overwhelming and be a challenge.

While it has been a bit of a wild ride, I’ve also realizing that this is kind of what life looks like for me now. It’s full. It’s overwhelming. It’s exciting and fun and exhausting and emotional. It brings me to great heights but also kicks me down low. However different it may be from past years, I’m sensing that this is what I want my life to look like. A life that is vibrant and colorful and breaks me down so I can rebuild into something fuller and more alive. It may exhaust me at times, but I can’t really think of anywhere else I’d rather be right now. So I’m going to guess that that’s a good sign and something that I should be happy about. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Life Update!!!

Hello everyone! I just realized that I haven’t blogged in a while and haven’t kept my readers (the 5 that I have) updated on my life and what’s next. As many of you know, I recently finished up a year as a Young Adult Volunteer, where I lived on the US-Mexico border. Living, serving, and seeing life on the border had a very profound effect on me. That, combined with discerning things through the YAV program, helped me get a little bit on insight into what I feel called to do. As you know, moving forward takes many steps, and I have figured out my next one!

 

This upcoming year (starting already) I will be participating in the YAV program once again. However, I will be in a new location! For the next 11ish months I will be living and serving in Austin, Texas. I will be working with an organization called Grassroots Leadership, which is a non-profit that works to end for-profit incarceration and reduce our reliance on criminalization and detention. Private prisons (for-profit) are something that I learned about and saw a little bit of while I was living on the border. Many of those migrants mistreated by our immigration system end up in private prisons, which have subpar living conditions, and are used to create profits, not to care or rehabilitate people who are deemed criminals. While the Department of Justice did recently release a statement saying that they would be no longer using private prisons, that change will not happen over night. There are also still many local and state private prisons that need to be shut down or improved. While with Grassroots Leadership, I will be helping with their trainings for people who wish to visit or learn more about detention centers, doing research on the existing system, and participating in various actions to raise awareness of these issues. I am very excited for this new phase in my life and for all the things I will witness, learn, and explore while living in Austin and working with Grassroots.

 

As with this past YAV year, I am asking for your support of my time in Austin. To start off with, I would love prayer for my new environment and work that I will be doing. While I am incredibly excited about this upcoming year, I am also nervous. Transition and new surroundings can be very challenging and nerve-wracking, so prayers for my new roommates and myself are greatly appreciated. I would also welcome any and all financial support you could provide. Each YAV is required to fundraise at least $3,000. If you are interested in supporting me through prayer, or financially, here is a page on my blog which explains all the possible ways to support me. I would also encourage you to follow my blog, which I will be using to update everyone as to what I am doing, how I am growing, challenges, and life here in Austin. (Insert blog link and fundraising link) I would also like to give a shout out and HUGE thank you to Fort Hill Presbyterian Church for helping me with my fundraising for a second year in a row. This church is truly amazing and I am so thankful for them helping raise me and instill the base values that I still follow to this day.

 

Here’s to a new chapter. Let’s make it a good one.

Words.

Hey everyone. Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while. What with work and finishing to pack in Agua Prieta, our final retreat in Tucson, and a busy day traveling, I didn’t really find time to blog.

Luckily I’ve been home for a week or so, and have had the opportunity to catch up and rest some. Granted, I still have not unpacked everything and my room is a mess, but we all go at our own pace right?

While at home this week, I’ve had plenty of time to think. I’ve thought about a lot of things: how green it is in SC, how many trees we have, what restaurants I’ve missed (in Clemson and Agua Prieta), what to unpack/pack, and many other things. But what I’ve been thinking about most is words.

During this YAV year, especially on the US-Mexico border, words were important. Speaking both English and Spanish, it seemed like words were always on my mind (Is this the right translation? What exactly does that word mean? Did I just royally screw up and translate apples to bananas?). Needless to say, words were everywhere. And it was tough.

Don’t get me wrong, I like talking to people. However, sometimes it just seems a tad unnecessary or uncomfortable for me. Small talk just isn’t my thing. And huge conversations about feelings and needs and issues always made me (and still do to a degree) feel uncomfortable. It’s a struggle.

But this year, I’ve learned to appreciate words and even began to use them. I’ve found out how polarizing and hurtful words can be, and how they can also be used to heal the soul. I’ve seen how words can be used to express joy or weakness, pain or excitement, and how that expression is powerful.

A quote I hear a lot is “Preach the gospel, and when necessary, use words”. I really like this quote because that’s how I like to share the news of Christ. I like doing things, a physical act, to show that love. No words necessary. But this past year, I’ve learned that while we should preach the gospel with our actions, words play a pivotal part as well. Yes, action is fantastic, but you will have to rest at sometime. That is a perfect time for a story, a conversation, or a joke to get people interested or invested. And this shouldn’t just be about the Gospel. Words can be used to motivate others, to teach them, to help raise them up. Words can be empowering and create movements. Words can lead to actions and change. Words are used to give voice to the action, to raise awareness and to show others that they too have voices.

So let us work to use our words as well as our actions to help create change in this world.

Living in the Shadows

Hey everybody! Sorry it’s been such a long time since my last update/blog. A lot has been going on, and I’m also bad at sitting and blogging about what’s been going on. Luckily though, I’ve got a couple of blogs coming up, so hopefully that makes up for the past months.

About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Tijuana as a chaperone for a week-long mission trip. We were invited by our friend Nathan to go with the youth of his church in Sahuarita AZ. We were going to Tijuana to stay at a shelter for women and their children who had experienced domestic violence. While there we would do some light construction work, spending time with the kids and their mothers, playing games and doing different activities with them. I could probably write multiple pages describing all that we did and the whirlwind of emotions that I experienced during that week. But I’m just going to focus on our last day (because let’s be real, who wants to hear about my emotions?).

On the last day, we went to see the wall between the US and Mexico that is goes into the Pacific Ocean. Being along the wall is always a conflicting time for me. It causes many different emotions (fear, anger, sadness) and causes a lot of thinking to go on in my head. This time at the wall was no different. IMG_2131

Every time I go to the beach, it makes me incredibly happy. The sound of the ocean always relaxes me. Being out in the sun makes me feel content. And seeing the vastness that is the ocean always blows my mind. It reminds me of all of the fun times I have had with my family and friends at the beach. I can’t think of one unhappy time I’ve had at any beach, for which I am incredibly thankful. This time was weird though, seeing the wall running right through the beach and out into the ocean. I thought back to all of the trips I had taken to the beach, all of the laughter and fun I had there, and the great memories it had given me. However, being there at the wall, I thought about what it would have been like to have a giant sign of division and fear there in all of my memories. How different would my memories be if this wall had been there at my beaches? If during my vacations, there was always a wall there in the background, unmoving. I’m sure we all have those places that are special for us, those places where we have only good memories, where we experienced joy and happiness. Whether they are the beach, or in the woods, a certain town or home, we have special places. Now imagine having something there that separated you from those memories. Or turned them into something fearful. All of these thoughts ran through my mind as I walked along the beach.

Then, as we walked down the beach, we ran into the families that we had been spending the past week with. They had the opportunity to leave the shelter and go to the beach for a bit of fun. It was amazing to see them laughing and playing in the ocean, screaming and enjoying the freedom of being outside. They were so happy and truly loving life, even in the shadow of this border wall. It nearly brought me to tears of joy to see these kids and their mothers having fun, laughing and spending time together. Yet it also broke my heart that people in communities all along the border have grown accustomed to the view of this wall. They live their lives in the shadow of this wall and do yet their best to live as they can.  We as human beings can learn a lot from these wonderful people. We live in a world that has a lot of sadness. There is fear, hatred, loneliness, discrimination, and challenges going on everyday. The news if filled with unhappy things that do their best to scare us and bring us down. My hope is that we can be more like these families I got to spend a week with. That we may be able to find the joy and laughter during times of sadness, and learn to love even in times of hatred and fear. Though there is a lot of wrong is this world, I hope we can try to recognize and share the joy that is there also, and learn to step out of the shadows of our dividing walls and embrace all that our world has to offer with hope.

Sister

While you read, check out this great song by John Butler Trio.

According to Facebook and social media, National Sibling Day recently happened. It was sometime last week (you can tell how much attention I paid to it). I didn’t post anything (like many of my friends) describing how great and phenomenal my sister Lisbeth is, with lots of old pictures of sentimental things, A) because that’s not really my style and B) because my sister doesn’t need a Facebook post to let her know how I feel and how awesome/badass/slightly terrifying she is. She knows she’s a boss. Since moving to the border, I obviously haven’t gotten to see her as much as usual or as much as I like, but we still can talk and know what’s going on in each others’ lives, for which I’m thankful.

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How I like people to think my sister and I interact

Fast forward a couple of days to our weekly prayer vigil. Like I’ve said, we gather weekly to remember those who have died trying to cross the desert into the US here in Cochise County. At the end we have a time of sharing over three crosses, praying for them and their families. This time there was a cross that struck me particularly hard.

Her name was Virginia Lizbeth Mejía Mejía.

Wow. It got me. Though Virginia spelled Lizbeth differently from my sister, it still was incredibly close to home. Virginia had been born a couple of years before my sister, and had sadly lost her life much earlier than was necessary. Seeing her name made me think again of how grateful I am to still have my sister, to still be able to have her presence in my life. I can call her with questions. I can text her, and get reminder texts from her about whose birthday it is and who recently got engaged or pregnant. I even get to visit her in a few weeks. I am incredibly lucky and happy to have her still in my life.

It also made me remember all of the people who no longer have that person they can reach out to. They have lost families members; brothers, sisters, moms, dads, cousins, the list goes on. This doesn’t just apply to migrants either. This is something that people every single day and everywhere the world over experience. I can only imagine what that must be like. It helped me realize that we are all somebody’s sibling. That jerk that cut you off in traffic. That annoying person who got the last slice of pizza. That ‘illegal alien’ that came to the US to support their family. Or comes here to be reunited with their sibling. Remember that regardless of how you feel towards someone, we are all a son or daughter, a brother or sister. We all have family that we love and wish to spend time with.

So try to treat that jerk who cut you off a little more kindly than yelling and giving them the bird. Try to be considerate to the person who got the last piece of pizza even though you wanted it. Try to show compassion to those who are risking their lives for a better life. And make sure you tell your people that you care about them.

Happy National Sibling Day Lisbeth. Sorry it’s late.

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And no, y’all will never be as cool as us.