Monday, March 16, 2009

Being present

A few of us from our campus ministry group had a border emersion experience this past week. On Tuesday we drove to Douglas and participated in the weekly prayer vigil, remembering the over 300 people that have died in Cochise County since 2000 trying to cross the border into the US.

As we walk along a mile stretch leading up to the border each person holds up a cross, speaks the name of the deceased and says “presente” or you are present and we remember you. As the line of persons praying walks by you lay your cross on the curb and continue walking to the border repeating the names until all the crosses line the street. At the border Pastor Marc Adams, the Presbyterian border missioner, led the devotion. The hour-long vigil is a moving experience.

That night we had dinner with four migrants at the Catholic Church in Aqua Prieta. The parishioners from the Church cook a meal every night for whoever shows up. If the people need a place to spend the night the church has beds set up for them.

We listened to these men’s stories. They were simply looking for work. Hoping to find some way of taking care of their family. They had heard that they could pick tomatoes near Aqua Prieta. One man had ridden his bike over 3500 hundred kilometers in 59 days hoping to find work. Their stories were filled with compassion and pain. All they wanted was to be treated with some dignity by being given a chance to work. They weren’t looking for any handouts. They don’t need anyone to take care of them. They just want to work.

On Wednesday we traveled across the border again into Aqua Prieta where we visited two projects that are designed to give people in Mexico a chance to control their own destinies and to stay in Mexico.

“Café Justo” or Just Coffee is an agricultural cooperative of farmers from Chiapas in southern Mexico. Once the coffee beans are harvested they are shipped to Aqua Prieta where Café Justo roasts the coffee, packages it and then ships to customers in the US. The five-year old project is a success because the middleman is eliminated and the farmers are paid a fair price for their coffee. Everyone benefits.

For lunch we visited PermaCulture, the vision of founder Jose Gonzalez. We ate the best chili reinos I’ve ever tasted. The homegrown chilies were stuffed with chiuaua (Chihuahua), Mennonite cheese. The flavor was earthy and rich. The only thing that could have made the meal better was a cold bottle of Dos XX. We had to settle for soda instead.

Jose shared his vision of creating a place where people could grow their own vegetables; do wood working, do marketable sewing, and other creative crafts. His vision is to teach people to be self-sustaining. His vision is to change the culture of poor that live in Aqua Prieta.

Jose spoke through our interpreter. We needed the interpreter not Jose. He understood what we said and knew much more English than the four of us knew Spanish. But I didn’t need the interpreter to be swept up in the charisma of this man vision. Jose was fully present to us as he communicated more than a dream or a hope – he was glowing with vision.

It was in this moment that I got of glimpse of my relationship with God. I pray that God hears me and knows what I say. I pray for the confidence to trust that God hears me. But I struggle with hearing and understanding the words of God. However, the vision of God is communicated by the power of God’s presence. For a moment, God was present, communicating a new vision to me.

When I hear the gospel of John this morning I am struck how the work of resurrection seems impossible for the world to understand. The work of resurrection, the rebuilding of the Temple that the world has torn down, is so hard. It has taken the community 46 years and they still haven’t finished with the Temple. Jesus statement that he will rebuild, resurrect, the Temple in three days seems preposterous.

But the vision of God always seems outlandish – totally impossible. The work of resurrection is a vision for rebuilding the lives of the suffering. That’s what Jesus is showing us – resurrection work, a rebuilding of the dignity of human life is always possible – even in the face of disbelief. That’s Jose’s vision as well.

Taking the suffering world off the cross of despair and offering them hope – that is the work of resurrection.

Sometimes when I start thinking about the big issues of the world, like immigration, I get overwhelmed, almost frozen. I ask myself, what can I possibly do to solve this problem? But then I remember the words of Jesus, feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

So, our group took jeans, shoes, jackets, socks, medical supplies and money to the migrant center in Naco. And these items of mercy were being given to men sitting at the center hoping and praying to find their sister. Instead of being deported, she was randomly chosen and arrested, awaiting prosecution. The men hoped against hope that she would be deported. But, they had no idea.

I believe we are called to join Jesus in resurrection work – rebuilding the community – one pair of jeans, one bottle of water, one can of food, and one handshake at a time.

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