Intentional community is one of the core tenants of the YAV program. During the first week of orientation, we were given this description for what it might look like and what it might mean to live intentionally with the other YAVs at our sites:
YAVs explore what it means to be a Christian community with one another and their neighbors. While some will live in housing together and others spread throughout their country, all YAVs will reflect together on their service and explore their relationship with God, the church, and their ministry in a broken world.
On November 3rd, we started our week-long border delegation to Tucson, Arizona and Agua Prieta, México to learn about the realities of broken and oppressive systems in the shadow of the physical border than exists between the United States and Mexico.
On the first night of the trip, the ABQ YAVs stayed at an intentional community called Sitting Tree in Tucson, Arizona. Co-founded by Rick Ufford-Chase, one of the orientation leaders that led our bible studies at Stony Point in August, Sitting Tree is an intentional community made up of a diverse population of families that have committed to living, struggling, and sharing together. While each family has their own living space or apartment, the community as a whole shares a meal each week and meets twice a month to coordinate issues that come up regarding common spaces, budgeting, etc… as they live in such close proximity.
I continue to be amazed at the incredible love, awareness, and sense of solidarity that I felt during our one night stay with these families. Below is a reflection that I wrote surrounding these feelings while the families were getting ready to share a meal together:
Sitting at the picnic table that overlooks the common yard at Sitting Tree, I feel like this place is the intersection of so many places I’ve been and of so many people I’ve met.
Maybe it’s not where I’m supposed to be next or what I’m supposed to do next, but who I’m supposed to meet and love and learn from next. That makes the most sense of anything to me.
Strung up lights, reverse osmosis water, line-dried clothes, the smell of community dinner on the stove. It’s humble, but enough. It’s a little chaotic, but restful and at peace.
I sit in this place and I jump back and forth in my mind to the conversations and places and people who have ultimately led me here – right here.
I think about organic hospitality and the conversations I had with Chuck Bailey and Craig Cera at Wednesday night bible study. Pienso en Don Juan y nuestras conversaciones sobre las maneras que vemos a Dios y el temor que la gente tiene para el uno del otro. I think about cul-de-sacs and the ways in which Rick Ufford-Chase challenged my perspectives. Pienso en Doña Marta y el descubrimiento del tigre del hambre y de la humildad. I think about the sense of strength and resilience and joy that I felt during the “Thanksgiving dinner” that I ate with my family in August before I left for this year of transformation.
I don’t know much about this space or much about the people who live here, but I know that it is a sacred space. And that God is very close here.
I thank God for the intentional community that I have here in Albuquerque, New Mexico this year. For a community with whom I can sit and grieve and figure out my privilege and my complacency and my hopes for this world. To quote Tucson YAV Leah Bishop, “It is so life-giving to be surrounded by people who are willing to and want to challenge white supremacy and all the related systems.”
I hope and pray that I will seek out people, instead of places or jobs, who I can learn and love and grow from next.
Read more from Taylor on her blog.
Estamos buscando a… // We’re looking for…
*Title and the two bolded quotes in the intro are credited to Paul Turounet, and his photographic representation of the migrants journey (read more at end of post). We were able to see a large-scale version of his art and installation, while in Tucson, AZ.
I entered the Southside Presbyterian Church, known by many as the birthplace of the Sanctuary Movement (read more about the movement that opposes the deportation of immigrants), to hear from Pastor Alison, which left me with the question,
“How does my faith ask me to take risks?”
// Yo entré en Southside (la Iglesia Presbiteriana), conocido como el lugar de origen o cuna del Movimiento de Santuario (lea más del movimiento que se opone a la deportación de inmigrantes), para escuchar al Pastor Alison, que me dejó la pregunta:
¿Cómo mi fe me pide que tomar riesgo? \\
The next six days of the joint YAV Border Delegation of Albuquerque, Tucson, and Austin sites gathering in the borderlands of Arizona-Mexico were ‘a quest for a greater understanding‘…
1) Of the journey and life of those of migrate here to the United States;
2) Of the systemic flaws and lack of injustice;
3) Of how my call and heart for the Latino community plays a larger role in my vocational discernment.
// Los siguientes seis días de la Delegación de la Frontera de los sitios de YAV de Albuquerque, Tucson, y Austin donde nos reunimos en las tierras fronterizas de Arizona-México fueron “una búsqueda por un mejor entendimiento”…
1) De la jornada y vida de aquellos que emigraron aquí a los Estados Unidos;
2) De los defectos sistémicos y la falta de injusticia;
3) De como mi llamada y corazón para la comunidad latina hace el papel y rol más importante en mi discernimiento vocacional. \\
Realizing that ‘we are all migrants in search of something profound and meaningful to our being‘… I entered with expectations and hopes, accompanied with the fears and questions. I expected to have my eyes and heart opened, and even broken, I hoped to see togetherness and unity of community, despite being in the land of borders, and I feared not knowing where to go after encountering everything I was about to witness and take in.
// A través de darme cuenta de que “todos somos migrantes en la búsqueda por algo profundo y significativo para nuestra ser”… Yo entré con expectativas y esperanzas, acompañado con los miedos y las preguntas. Esperaba tener mis ojos y mi corazón abierto, e incluso roto, tenía la esperanza de verla unión y unidad de una comunidad, a pesar de estar en la tierra de las fronterizas, y temía que no yo sabría a donde ir después de encontrar todo lo que estaba a punto de presenciar. \\
I carried with me the hearts, personal stories and struggles of the people who’ve first-hand experienced the pains and joys of moving to the United States from Mexico, and every wall thereafter that they’ve faced…
The people that I love and care greatly for, like my best friend and her family…
My second family.
// Yo llevaba conmigo los corazones, las historias personales, y las luchas de las personas que han experimentado de primera mano los dolores y las alegrías de mudarse a los Estados Unidos de México, y cada muro que han afrontado en el tiempo después.
Las personas que amo y me importa mucho, como mi mejor amiga y su familia…
Mi segunda familia. \\
We sat quietly in the back of the Tucson Federal Courts to observe Operation Streamline – Please read A Day in the “Assembly Line” Court that Prosecutes 70 Border Crossers in 2 Hours for an appropriate play-by-play of the process.
// Nos sentamos en silencio en la parte de atrás de los Tribunales Federales de Tucson para observar la Operación Streamline.- Adjunto es un articulo que describe el proceso, se llama “Un día en el Tribunal de la “Línea de Ensamble” que procesa a 70 personas que cruzan la frontera en 2 horas”. \\
We witnessed this form of mass sentencing and deportation of young men and women, until nearly 70 passed before the judge, waived the rights, saying “soy culpable”, I sat there trying to comprehend how this is our justice system, when sure, yes, they’re guilty of entering as ‘undocumented’ and guilty of being caught.
But in reality….
‘Son culpables’ // They’re guilty of seeking refuge from their home-countries, guilty of seeking better opportunities, guilty of wanting a better future for themselves and their families, guilty of actually making it successfully across the border and through the desert, guilty of defying the ‘Prevention through Deterrence‘ strategy, which uses the desert as a death weapon and leaves immigrants guilty of surviving.
‘Soy culpable’ // And I’m guilty of having no idea that something like this even existed.
// Fuimos testigos de esta forma de sentencia masiva y deportación de hombres y mujeres jóvenes, hasta que casi 70 pasaron enfrente del juez, retiraron sus derechos, diciendo que “soy culpable”, y yo me senté allí tratando de comprender cómo esta es nuestra sistema de justicia, cuando sí, obvio que son culpables de entrar como ‘indocumentados’ y son culpables de ser atrapados.
Pero en realidad…
Son culpables de buscar refugio de sus países de origen, culpables de buscar mejores oportunidades, culpables de querer un futuro mejor para ellos mismos y sus familias, culpables de haber logrados cuando cruzaron la frontera y atravesaron el desierto, culpables de desafiar la estrategia del gobierno “Prevención a través de la Disuasión”, que utiliza el desierto como arma de muerte y deja a los inmigrantes culpables de sobrevivir.
Y yo soy culpable de no tener ni idea que algo como esto haya existido. \\
We arrived in Douglas, AZ and were hosted by Frontera de Cristo, a bi-national ministry that serves, educates, and shares immersion experiences to help individuals and groups have a greater understanding of the border realities, migration and what the world of borders represents.
After being dropped off at the nearest stop sign at the AZ-Mexico border, we walked across the border into Mexico, walked around the block and back into the United States, challenging us to observe that process – to read “Bienvenidos a Agua Prieta” and a sign which spoke about their country’s doors always being opened to welcome you, and to hear the US Border and Customs Agents say “Wow, real passports” as my group of predominately white US citizens re-entered the States, to watch the young children in school uniforms pass by, coming from school in the US and entering home into Mexico, to feel a community that lives, works, and plays on both sides everyday, to be divided by a wall as their rush-hour traffic, and to plainly see and realize just how privileged we are and how easily we’re welcomed into another country and what few questions we were asked as we returned.
// Llegamos en Douglas, AZ y fuimos recibidos por Frontera de Cristo, un ministerio binacional que sirve, educa y comparte las experiencias inmersiones para ayudar a los individuos y grupos para tener una entendimiento más profundo de las realidades de la frontera, la migración y que representa el mundo de las fronteras.
Despues de dejarnos en la ultima señal de pare, la mas cercana de la frontera de Agua Prieta (AZ-Mexico), cruzamos a pies la frontera, caminamos alrededor de la cuadra y regresamos a los Estados Unidos, desafiándonos a observar el proceso – Para leer “Bienvenidos a Agua Prieta” y un letrero que hablaba de las puertas abiertas de su país que están siempre abiertas para darle la bienvenida, y para escuchar a los agentes de aduana de los Estados Unidos dijeron, “Guau, pasaportes reales” mientras mi grupo de predominantemente estadounidenses blancos reingresábamos a los Estados Unidos, para observar a los jóvenes y niños en uniformes de la escuela pasan, como vienen de la escuela de EEUU y entran a Mexico, para sentir una comunidad que vive, trabaja, y juega en ambos lados cada día, para ser divida por muro que representa su forma de trafico de hora punta, y para darme cuenta como privilegiados somos y como tan fácil nos daban la bienvenida en otro país y las pocas preguntas que nos pidieron cuando volvimos. \\
We drove and walked along the United States side of the border wall for a 6-mile-stretch. With Border Patrol at my backside on an overlooking hill watching us, my face in between the bars of the wall, watching the sunset off in the Mexico horizon, I cried, as our liaison spoke about his journey accepting this wall – our wall – not only as a barrier, but as a place of encounter.
Explaining the pain and anger he once felt at the people in green and the policies that choose death as a deterrence, and the love he deeply feels for the community and people on the other side, he reminded us that this wall is built for me and by me… Urging us to take a moment holding OUR wall… The wall built for my benefit and my protection, and by my government, supported by the Border Patrol and policies that our taxes pay.
// Nosotros manejábamos y caminábamos a lado del muro en los Estados Unidos por 6 millas. Con la migra atrás de mi mientras nos miraba; mi rostro estaba entre los barrotes de la pared, mirando al atardecer en la distancia de México, y yo lloré, mientras nuestro guía hablaba sobre tu jornada de aceptar este muro… nuestro muro, no solo como una barrera, pero como un lugar de encuentro.
Él explicaba el dolor y la rabia que sentía en contra la gente en ropa verde y las leyes que estaban escogidos por la muerte como una disuasión, y también el amor profundo que siente por la comunidad y la gente del otro lado. Él nos recordó que este muro está construido para mí y por mi… nos impulsaba a tomar un momento abrazando NUESTRO muro… El muro construido para mi beneficio y mi protección, y por mi gobierno, apoyado por la migra que trabaja por mi gobierno y quienes están pagado con nuestros impuestos. \\
14 “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his fleshthe law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one . 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” – Ephesians 2:14-20
14 Porque Cristo es nuestra paz: de los dos pueblos ha hecho uno solo, derribando mediante su sacrificio[a] el muro de enemistad que nos separaba, 15 pues anuló la ley con sus mandamientos y requisitos. Esto lo hizo para crear en sí mismo de los dos pueblos una nueva humanidad al hacer la paz, 16 para reconciliar con Dios a ambos en un solo cuerpo mediante la cruz, por la que dio muerte a la enemistad. 17 Él vino y proclamó paz a ustedes que estaban lejos y paz a los que estaban cerca. 18 Pues por medio de él tenemos acceso al Padre por un mismo Espíritu. 19 Por lo tanto, ustedes ya no son extraños ni extranjeros, sino conciudadanos de los santos y miembros de la familia de Dios, 20 edificados sobre el fundamento de los apóstoles y los profetas, siendo Cristo Jesús mismo la piedra angular.” – Efesios 2:14-20
I’m still pondering the question of how my faith is asking me to take risks, but I’ve re-worded to question to “How does my faith ask me to be ‘at risk’?” after hearing insight from Pastor John Fife and how he shared that being ‘at risk’ asks you to risk your privilege in order to stand with and in support of the communities facing injustice. Because in reality, it’s not about me taking risks, it’s about those how need us to understand what it feels like to be ‘at risk’.
“To read the Bible is to encounter immigration. To read the Bible is to encounter the God who journeys with people—in scarcity and abundance; from death to new life. To read the Bible is to encounter the God who crosses borders. Jesus enters our human world, loving us, walking with us. When we recognize the God whose love crosses borders, we recognize the dignity of every human being. My prayer is that we don’t think of the people on the border as objects or victims, but fellow citizens in the Reign of God.” (God Across Borders)
“Para leer la Biblia es encontrar la inmigración. Para leer la Biblia es encontrar al Dios quien viaja con la gente en la falta y la abundancia, desde la muerte a la vida nueva. Para leer la Biblia es encontrar al Dios que cruza las fronteras. Jesús entra en nuestro mundo humano, amándonos, caminando con nosotros. Cuando reconocemos al Dios y su amor que cruza las fronteras, reconocemos la dignidad de cada ser humano. Mi oración es que no pensemos en las personas en la frontera como objetos o víctimas, sino como ciudadanos en el Reino de Dios “.
There’s still so much that we experienced, that I haven’t even touched on… Stay posted for Part 2. Here are some other photos from our Border Delegation.
“Solo, buscando lo escencial… Es que podremos encontrarnos.” // “Only searching for the essential… So we can find ourselves”
*“Estamos Buscando A” (“We’re Looking For”) is an account of the human cost of the various impediments — walls, fences and natural features — along the Mexico-United States border… Turounet’s little book shows things largely from the Mexican side, mostly in Sonora, which borders Arizona. It features a number of portraits of migrants or would-be migrants and written accounts of what the photographer himself saw over many years of studying their crossings. The book, with text in Spanish and English, is ingeniously put together in the form of a guidebook, the kind of thing an NGO or government might issue to people thinking of walking across. The text warns them not to do it, counseling them, instead, to seek legal means of entry. But, wise to human obstinacy and desperation, it also offers them advice on how to proceed if they must, whom to avoid, how to prevent heat stroke and so on. Alongside Turounet’s photographs are a number of illustrations by Tim Schafer. It all makes for an unforgettable act of witness in a compact package.
You can read more from Claire here
Last weekend, the five ABQ YAVs had the opportunity to tell stories at the Presbytery meeting held at Ghost Ranch. The idea of being willing, confident, and vulnerable enough to share stories is important. For many, storytelling can be what the church sometimes fails to be: a means of forming deep, meaningful, life-giving relationships. Stories are simple, but they can have a deep impact. For me, this story highlights a part of me that has been present for a long time, and a part that continues to affect how I live and process during this YAV year.
(Bethany, me, Claire, Audrey, and Ana after telling our stories at Ghost Ranch)
Here is my story of living in a state of tension:
As I pack my backpack for the day, my host mom, Doña Fátima, reminds me “Las dos fuentes más importantes de la vida son el sol y la solidaridad.” “The two most important sources of life are the sun and solidarity.”
I ride my bike down a beaten up road in rural Costa Rica. I pass fields of crops and grazing cows with spectacular mountains towering behind them. I arrive at a small pulpería, a convenient store, with a pottery workshop in the back. A man named Shaggy greets me with enthusiasm and immediately begins to teach. “We gather clay from the mountains and add natural spices to give the paint its color”, he tells me. He guides my hand as I shape the pot with an olote – an old corn cob harvested from his neighbors’ fields of heirloom corn. I rode to the town of Guaitíleach morning that week, learning each step in the process of throwing pots. Learning how a handful of fifth-generation artisans are fighting to keep alive the practices of their ancestors, the Chorotega Indians. Learning what it looks like to be a people who truly live from the sources of the sun and of solidarity.
I told this story to Luke (YAV Site Coordinator) and to Drew Henry during my interview with the Albuquerque YAV site in March. I told this story while sitting in the teachers’ lounge at the high school where I was student teaching. For the first time in over three months since I returned from my semester abroad, I told this story – Shaggy’s story.
My semester abroad was life-changing in that it forced me to see the world with wider lenses. Lenses that showed how God is so diverse and yet so the same, lenses that showed how complicit I am in a system that harms the people I now consider family, and lenses that showed me how much I have to learn. My semester abroad was an abrupt awakening, and yet I came home and immediately re-integrated myself into school-life and buried myself in my work. I didn’t make time to keep seeing with those wider lenses.
As I think about being a teacher, I often forget that some of the most impactful experiences that I have had as a student were times when there wasn’t a lesson plan, but the times when God opened up space for me to learn in a new way. It is in this realization where I feel a strong and ever-present tension.
How do I work in a system that values grades and achievement while intentionally making space for God to step in and teach? How do I encourage students to challenge and grow their worldview and not just their vocabulary or problem solving abilities? How do I learn and teach while being responsible to society and to God?
After meaningful experiences like the time I spent in Guaitíl, my initial question usually is “What do I do next?” And when I don’t know what to do – which is pretty often – I am reminded of a piece of advice I was given abroad, “Hay que vivir la lucha con alegría”, “You have to live the fight with happiness.” Maybe if I lean into these harsh truths and paradoxes with joy – realizing that is a privilege and a gift to struggle and learn – I will be able to more consciously depend on a spirit and on a God who is walking right beside me in the process. Perhaps my next step is not an action, but rather a state of being. A state of tension, of confusion, of discomfort, and of trust.
To read more of Taylor's stories, click here.
October 24, 2017*This weekend, we had the opportunity to attend the Presbytery Meeting (of Sante Fe) hosted at the beautiful Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM. We were also able to partake in Story Telling, as we told a small story that focused around our discernment into this year of service. Below is the story I shared…*
“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” – Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love
I used this quote at the end of my discernment process, in a blog-draft I was writing to detail and capture my reflection and thoughts.
The one about Answering God’s Call, as I asked my dad if this quote sounded to bold to accompany the announcement that I had just accepted my YAV year placement to Los Angeles, California, where I’d be serving the population of people experiencing homelessness.
Yep, Los Angeles. I knew then, that God doesn’t call us to be comfortable, hence why I had intentions to go and serve at Skid Row. But I hadn’t quite experienced what it meant to put myself in situations where I’d be in trouble if God didn’t actually come through.
I wrote this quote before my plans got turned upside-down, before I got the call two weeks after graduation that informed me I would not be going to Los Angeles as a YAV and that I’d need to start the discernment process again.
Two of my spiritual mentors shared words of healing and affirmation throughout that day:
The first was: “Your change of location, does not mean a change of call from God.”
And the second was: “The Lord gives you a vision, the Lord kills the vision, then the Lord gives you the faith for the vision.”
In the moment, each of those were great and profound.
But, it wasn’t until I found myself telling another mentor later that day that “what makes me the most disappointed is all the hope and anticipation I had in going to Los Angeles, that was no longer anything… like I had really envisioned myself there, in that community, serving those people,” and in that very moment in the middle of sharing that, I was mentally picturing the notes that I had written at church the very day before.
“Living with Expectations VS. Living in Expectancy”
Expectations represent the hope and anticipation, which have an end-value, like all those real things I had imagined and was also really hung on up.
When actually living in expectancy, requires an authentic level of surrender and faith in the unknown.
And from that moment on, I had a change of heart that has brought me here to New Mexico and has affected how I’ve answered the countless “Well, what are you expecting now? What are you hoping for?” questions since then.
This experience has allowed me to be present in the journey, filled with peace and trust in the moments of uncertainty, and the ability to recognize the times where one truly needs to embrace the need for surrender…
The importance of learning to be comfortable in it – in the midst of situations, where the average person IS afraid we’d be in trouble if God didn’t come through.
For more stories from Claire's blog, click here
*This past weekend, the other YAVs and I were prompted to share our experiences on how we decided to become Young Adult Volunteers at the Presbytery of Santa Fe meeting in Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. Below is the story I wrote and shared.*
“We are here; We are here for all of us. We are here for all of us. That’s why we are here.” I’m standing in a giant worship space in Montreat, North Carolina with about 1,000 other people, all joining in praise through this song. I had just learned about the YAV program and felt strongly about researching more into this ‘Year of Service’. “We are all here for each other”. I let these words seep into my being and in this moment I simultaneously found the most profound strength, courage, and peace. I felt the parts of my mind that laid dormant before this moment, now opening to new possibilities of serving God by serving each other and felt a realignment happening with my purpose of being. We are all here on this blessed earth, living together and influencing one another way more directly and consequently than we will ever understand.
“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Another song comes forth from the crowd, bringing forth within me this courage and strength to follow God where God knows to take me. Was it merely a coincidence that my relationship with God and the alignment within my mind, body, and spirit is at it’s healthiest, most pronounced that it’s ever been, right as I am learning of the Young Adult Volunteer program? Was God already preparing me for this year of service that will undoubtedly impact and transform the rest of my life, before even a day goes by after learning of this program?
When I arrived back home from this retreat, I immediately grabbed a whiteboard and marker from my room and wrote these two phrases down from these songs, in order to remember these realizations and continue to live energetically with the Great Spirit.
Fast-forwarding 7 months later, after the interview process with Luke and being accepted into the Albuquerque site; after surviving student teaching and graduating with a Bachelor degree in Music Education; and after saying final goodbyes to my loved ones, I attended the final service at my Church, before heading off to orientation for the YAV program. There I was, sitting in the pews, reminiscing of how this church, how these people have played such a dynamic role in helping me to become and realize who God is calling me to be, when suddenly, I hear a familiar tune rise amongst the congregation, “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” What an affirmation to hear this message from God, that all is well and all will be well. I was, and still am, right where I need to be, completely and overwhelmingly present with the Divine Spirit.”