"In heaven, will God ask for papers?"

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Seeking to embody the Gospel

I realized that I have not really shared much about my placement site, Ciudad Nueva Community Outreach...so please visit the website at http://ciudadnueva.org/Site/Home.html. The site has some updating needed, but I finally watched the entire video on the home page and was reminded of our mission and purpose of dealing with usually rowdy, rude, and difficult-to-handle youth. What a blessing each and every kid is. Watch the video, and learn about this great ministry that looks beyond language differences, rude comments, economic status, past histories, family reputations...and sees these kids as human beings like the rest of us.

Monday, November 7, 2011

We are kingdom builders.

"Never again will they hunger;
   never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,
   nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne
   will be their shepherd;
He will lead them to springs of living water.
   And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’"
                                                                (Revelation 7:16-17)

Friday night I had the great privilege of attending an awards banquet/fundraiser for my housemate's work site, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center. Among the awards received that night was one for an "outstanding volunteer" given to a beautiful Catholic sister who volunteers a lot of her time at Las Americas.

In the middle of her being commended for the countless hours she spends at the detention center, where she listens to unbelievable stories of those who have crossed the border and relays them back to the office, the life-giving words of her "acceptance speech" moved me.

Even though Las Americas is not religiously affiliated, and we were sitting in the social hall of a Jewish temple, she was not afraid to voice her faith. Actually, I think she could not have said one word without voicing her faith--it radiated from her. Her words struck me as truth as she proclaimed, "We are kingdom builders."

The type of kingdom building the sister was talking about has nothing to do with "saving souls" or with adding another tally mark to the list of lost souls saved in your church's registry. The type of kingdom she was talking about was a kingdom that fully incorporates every earthly and bodily aspect, as well as every emotional and spiritual aspect of the world. A kingdom that will fully transform our world, but a kingdom that can only come about with our active participation.

Jesus constantly spoke of the "kingdom of God" throughout his ministry. But I feel that too many Christians hold a narrow view of this "kingdom" as some mysterious, in-the-clouds thing. The kingdom is often defined as the future state of the earth (and all the universe) that will come with the second coming of Christ. But this definition, I fear, has led many Christians into apathetic lives that distance themselves from the here-and-now world. If the coming of Christ is the only way to bring about this kingdom, then what do we need to do besides wait for that to happen? With their focus on what's to come, many Christians preach an exclusive message that is solely focused on a future kingdom and fail to recognize the kingdom-less reality of the world around them.

In my class, we have been talking about having a "reformational worldview"--one that captures all three Creation, Fall, and Redemption. I have learned a good point while talking about this three-fold view: if we (humans) were called to be co-creators (God gave Adam privileges of continuing the Creation process by naming the animals, tilling the earth, multiplying) and we were the primary actors in the Fall, then why won't we be co-redeemers or even primary actors in the Redemption of our world? We as Christians cannot deny the idea that Christ is the only one who can fully redeem creation, but who says Christ is going to do it alone?

We are living in a world of "already, but not yet." Christ has already come once--giving us forgiveness of sins and a promise of eternal life. But the new "kingdom" he often spoke of has yet to arrive. I believe that Christ is calling us to be "kingdom builders" in our world...helping to co-redeem this lost and fallen world. Through our work, our words, our relationships, our passions, our hands, our peacemaking...we are kingdom builders, living by the hope of a Christ who has already promised eternity. Now we get the responsibility to make this world our own by joining Him in these efforts of building this kingdom where "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Even though we cannot do it all, we can still do something to make God's kingdom come.

"Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven..."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Reality Check on this Dia de los Muertos

October 26:
"At least 2 people were killed on Monday in Juarez. Yesterday, the murder toll was at least 6--four men were killed, dismembered and decapitated and their body parts scattered around the city... In addition, a municipal policeman was killed and a man running a quesadilla shot were also victims of homicide. Diario reported the death toll as of Sunday at 113, so it is now at least 121, not counting the deaths reported today.
There have been several shocking incidents. A 5 yr old boy was injured in an attack that killed his father while the man was sleeping in his house... A pregnant woman is killed, the fetus taken from her body and then she is burned alive... A teenage boy confesses to murdering his sick parents to relieve them of their suffering..."

October 24:
"Here's my best effort at a summary of the people murdered since Friday  
October 14:One murder on October 14  
October 15 and 16: no murders, but 3 bodies found in the Valle de Juarez 
October 17: 4 murders  
October 18: Another day without a homicide  
October 19: 5 homicides  
October 20: 4 people assassinated  
October 21: 5 people murdered  
October 22: 3 executed  
October 23: 9 people killed, one decapitated...
According to my tally, the total for the month of October is now about 109, an average of about 5 people per day this month. For the year, 1,709--an average of 5.7 people per day, and since January 2008, the total number of people killed in Juarez is at least 9,708..."

Even living on the border, it is easy to forget just how many lives are being lost just across the border. Stories of shoot-outs and kidnappings still shock me, but the stats are often just numbers. Daily I receive emails from a research librarian at NMSU on her mass email list called the "frontera list"--compiled of translations and summaries of the day's headlines of the border violence. Recently they have included summaries such as those listed above.

It's not until I hear a personal story of suffering that it hits me again. I couldn't imagine working in some of the places my roommates work in--especially the one who often tells us of the stories her clients share--witnessing extreme decapitation of loved ones, fearing the risk of being killed if they don't receive asylum in the states, experiencing being trafficked...things that I could never imagine having the strength to listen to. It takes a level of de-sensitization, she explains to us, to be able to go to work everyday...or else she would just get swept up in the intense emotions and not be able to serve the clients who bring these stories.

I've heard stories of our after-school kids who have witnessed shoot-outs, been in the presence of loved ones dying, had relatives commit suicide, had parents murdered... The stories horrify me. But like my roommate, if I were to dwell on those stories, we would make no progress. But in no way do we forget the stories or the loved ones...

At this time of the year, the Mexican population is celebrating el Dia de los Muertos--the Day of the Dead. A day during which we take time to remember and honor those who have passed. On the border, it's obviously more than just lighting candles, preparing flowers, and eating special bread...it's also a reminder of the horrific circumstances surrounding how loved ones have died. How painful it must be for someone who has lost a friend, a brother, a parent, or a child to violence that is attributed to political corruption, situations of poverty, and many more avoidable consequences due to the actions taken in response to drug trade issues.

"The combination of a failed immigration system in the U.S. and unaccountable violence in Mexico has shown itself to be a deadly one for migrants. There has been a surge in the last two years of immigrants in the U.S. being deported to Mexico -- often with terrible consequences. Not only are they separated from their families, but many are killed in Mexico due to the corruption and the Mexican government's failure to provide institutional protection from violence." (Border Network for Human Rights Dia de los Muertos event page)

An excellent story that connects a personal story of a rather wealthy Mexican to the larger issues of the border: http://www.texasobserver.org/cover-story/no-safe-place

"Confronted with knowledge of dozens of apparently random disasters each day, what can a human heart do but slam its doors? No mortal can grieve that much. We didn't evolve to cope with tragedy on a global scale. Our defense is to pretend there's no thread of event that connects us, and that those lives are somehow not precious and real like our own. It's a practical strategy, to some ends, but the loss of empathy is also the loss of humanity, and that's no small tradeoff." (High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver)