"In heaven, will God ask for papers?"

Friday, March 30, 2012

Preferential Option for the Poor... including YOU.

Today I got to listen to a presentation about liberation theology, and as I took notes on things known as well as new ideas, I re-lived my days in El Salvador when I first learned about this subject that has stolen my heart, my thoughts, and my Google Reader feed.

In the class I'm taking with Ciudad Nueva, we are currently exploring Poverty. As we read Ruby Payne's, Framework for Understanding Poverty, we are learning about characteristics within a culture of poverty and having many "aha!" moments while comparing what we're reading with the families that we work with here on the border.

Many of our families struggle with levels of income unimaginable to some. The median annual income for our neighborhood tends to be anywhere from $15,000 to $18,000. But one thing I am learning from our studies is that money is not the only active factor in a culture of poverty. There are so many characteristics that go beyond a lack of financial resources; a lack of emotional, spiritual, physical resources and support systems fill a culture of poverty as well.

The families in our neighborhood need to be liberated from hunger, from bad immigration law, from abusive relationships, from a lack of money to pay the gas bills, from racism, from being told their stories are not legitimate, from corrupt schools...from economic, political, and social systems that continually oppress them.

But the families and youth I work with are not the only ones that need to be liberated. We all--"rich" and "poor"--need to be liberated...

...from greed.

...from selfishness.

...from ignorance.

...from despair.

...from judgement.

...from ourselves.

I love liberation theology because it forces us to first examine oppression that is actually happening; it forces us to listen to stories, to build relationships, and to fully experience reality. Solidarity is not just something we experience once and move on; as we walk in solidarity with those who are suffering--from poverty, depression, violence, etc.--we are called into a journey where oppression and brokenness might reign for now, but liberation and redemption are our Hope.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Borders and Slinkies

Wednesday night I gave a reflection about how life on the border for a middle schooler is like a slinky. The kids with whom I work are constantly going back and forth...

...moving between childhood and adulthood: that awkward time known as adolescence. Struggling with peers, school, family demands, and hormones.

...constantly switching between Spanish and English. English at school, Spanish at home, and a mixture of the two at our program. We encourage our bilingual staff and volunteers to speak English with the kids to get them more comfortable using it in conversation. We have many exchanges with me speaking English, the kid speaking Spanish, back and forth. The kids struggle with homework sometimes, and parents often cannot help with homework, because it is all in English.

...literally moving from here and there--across the border and back. All of our kids have some connection to Juarez, most have family living there. A couple of our kids actually live in Juarez and make the daily trip across the border to go to school. Other kids cannot make the trip across, even though family members can, and even though, for example, their grandpa's funeral is in Juarez. Some only get to go on special occasions. Some don't go at all anymore because of the violence.

...within their cultural identity: am I Mexican? Am I American? Do I conform to the standards of U.S. culture, or maintain the traditions of my family?

At Ciudad Nueva, we serve to build bridges--bridges between the things listed above, things happening within our kids; as well as bridges between the kids and others in the community. Between Mexican-immigrant children and white, 50-year-old, native El Pasoans; between donors who give thousands of dollars and the families making $15,000 per year; between those holding PhD's and those who are struggling to graduate high school; between the rest of the world and the border region.

My year has been full of constant back-and-forth motions from hopelessness to joy. A slinky that rarely stops moving, but that I can only hope is moving in a direction of hope and redemption rather than down the flight of stairs.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Los Nadies

by Eduardo Galeano

Sueñan las pulgas con comprarse un perro y sueñan los nadies con salir de pobres, que algún mágico día llueva de pronto la buena suerte, que llueva a cántaros la buena suerte; pero la buena suerte no llueve ayer, ni hoy, ni mañana, ni nunca, ni en lloviznita cae del cielo la buena suerte, por mucho que los nadies la llamen y aunque les pique la mano izquierda, o se levanten con el pie derecho, o empiecen el año cambiando de escoba. 
Los nadies: los hijos de nadie, los dueños de nada. 
Los nadies: los ningunos, los ninguneados, corriendo la liebre, muriendo la vida, jodidos, rejodidos: 
Que no son, aunque sean. 
Que no hablan idiomas, sino dialectos. 
Que no profesan religiones, sino supersticiones. 
Que no hacen arte, sino artesanía. 
Que no practican cultura, sino folklore. 
Que no son seres humanos, sino recursos humanos. 
Que no tienen cara, sino brazos. 
Que no tienen nombre, sino número. 
Que no figuran en la historia universal, sino en la crónica roja de la prensa local. 
Los nadies, que cuestan menos que la bala que los mata.

The Nobodies

Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that, one magical day, good luck will suddenly rain down on them - will rain down in buckets.
But good luck doesn't rain down, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever.
Good luck doesn't even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day on their right foot, or start the new year with a change of brooms.
The nobodies: nobody's children, owners of nothing.
The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way.
Who are not, but could be.
Who don't speak languages, but dialects.
Who don't have religions, but superstitions.
Who don't create art, but handicrafts.
Who don't have culture, but folklore.
Who are not human beings, but human resources.
Who do not have faces, but arms.
Who do not have names, but numbers.
Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper.
The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Peace be yours.

We've lost five kids these past few weeks. Five kids who no longer come to our after-school program. One left the country to live with his father who recently got deported. Another is being punished for not writing "long enough" letters to her mom in jail. Another three who left the shelter in which they were living without notice.

For the healing of the nations, we pray to you, oh Lord.

One of my best friends is a missionary in Nigeria. Last week a suicide bomb shook her town.

For the healing of the nations, we pray to you, oh Lord.

My friend's husband is deployed in Afghanistan. He had to use his weapon for the first time in combat last week.

For the healing of the nations, we pray to you, oh Lord.

With a tally of 80 murders in February, Juarez had the lowest homicide count since 2009.

For the healing of the nations, we pray to you, oh Lord.