"In heaven, will God ask for papers?"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sin Fronteras

To have hope
Is to be a courier of God
And courier of men and women of good will,
Tearing down walls, destroying borders,
Building bridges.

When I signed up for the Border Servant Corps, I did not expect to live less than a mile away from Mexico. I can see the lights of Juarez, Mexico, from my window at night, and I glance at its neighborhoods down the street every morning.

Though we live very close to the border, Thursday we got up close and personal. We traveled out of the Juarez-El Paso metropolis a few miles, where we met a few yards away from the border fence with a worker from Border Patrol. He gave us a good run down on the purpose of the BP and what they do, including things I had never heard about, including rescue-type missions in the desert and the canals, where they have trained medical teams that search for those migrants "left behind" and get them medical attention before proceeding with the legal stuff. I didn't expect to hear that. He shared many honest and positive things about the border, but I am still critical about BP and its actions. All I've ever heard were harsh stories about abuse and unmerciful BP officers, as well as the sad separation between families that have the hardest time either leaving Mexico or fear to return to Mexico because of fear to never be let back into the US. But you can't categorize an entire group by just one side of the story, right? I'm still learning.

As soon as we were finished speaking with the BP, we approached the fence where two women were waiting for us on the other side. They were friends of our program, often visited in their community by people coming down on border immersion trips. But because of the increase in violence in Juarez and the risk of having a large group of US people in their community, it has been decided that the best conversation location is at the fence. 

We heard about their community, their struggles, their families. It was a great conversation, full of Spanish and English, with local kids nearby kicking around rocks, sticking their fingers through the fence, and whispering about us. They were very kind women who are doing great things for their community, and whose love for others and for God was evident in their words. But perhaps the best part of our time at the fence was how we ended our time there.

We had been warned by our BP friend that we shouldn't actually touch the fence or stand right next to it, for suspicion that we were trading items. But that did not stop us from sticking our fingers through the chain links, holding onto each other, and closing in a circle of prayer. It was simply the Lord's Prayer, but at that moment when were connected to each other, there was no language barrier, no fence...nothing but our praise and petitions to the One in whom there are no borders. 

Paul once said, "For I am convinced that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God." I am also convinced that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God we find in our neighbors. Especially not a 15-foot "climb-proof" chain-link fence.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A peaceful goodbye

It's been a week since I gave Pine Ridge a final wave and the last campers left. Even though camp is done, it has been a great week, full of random sleepovers, fun shopping adventures, and joyful lunches with close friends. Soon I begin a new journey. Tomorrow I will begin the 22-hour drive to El Paso, Texas, where I'll step into a year-long term serving with the Border Servant Corps (http://www.borderservant.com/).

I'm not sure if it's because I have not given myself much time to think about this upcoming year, or if I'm still just overwhelmed and excited by the amazing summer I just had, but I don't feel all that bummed, nor super excited, to be leaving tomorrow. And my goodbyes have not seemed that difficult.

Don't get me wrong, it has been fantastic to spend time with so many people who have absolutely blessed not only this past week but also my entire life. But I think the contentment I have been given right now is due to what I have learned about the One we call Creator this summer.

There is a concept in Lakota spirituality that I heard a lot this summer and it always quickened my brain gears and tightened my heart muscle. Mitakuye oyasin. "All my relatives." It's the idea that everyone is your relative. Your uncle, your brother, your grandma, your best friend, your classmate...but also the trees, your dog, the wind, the sun... All of us are related. I think what I love most about this phrase is not only the idea that we are all connected, but that we are all connected by the Great Spirit who has created us.    

Something God has gifted me this summer is a new awareness of the Divine in everyone--in every single person I encounter. "All of you are sacred" is something we heard every week from one of our speakers. Everyone is sacred. Everyone has a piece of the Holy in them. Whether or not a person is aware of the Divinity within them is not important; what's important is whether or not we recognize that person as sacred and holy. Can we allow the simple fact that a person is sacred--a child of God--inspire how we treat them, with respect and compassion?

How easier it would be for us to serve one another, to love one another, to actually follow the commands of the one many of us call Savior...if we could just recognize the Holy in every person we encounter, rather than judge, condemn, or cringe away from them.

God is in the dozens of Pine Ridge kids whom we hung out with every day this summer--including the young teenagers who come from confusing, abusive, and emotionally draining homes, as well as the five-year-old girl who called me a dumb ass after drawing Justin Beiber incorrectly. God is in the many old friends, close friends, and mentors that have entered my life and who I got to spend a small amount of time with this week. God is in this puppy lying next to me and who will probably have the hardest time saying goodbye to me tomorrow. God is in the people I will meet on Sunday and live and grow with for the next year or two.

So I remember that everyone I have met and will meet is my relative. Everyone is sacred. Everyone is a child of God... and these ideas are giving me an enormous amount of gratitude, joy, and peace, even amidst the goodbyes.