Monday, December 14, 2009
Monday, November 9, 2009
6:00 p.m. Introductions/Dinner as we watch movies
- "Postville: When Cultures Collide" (Runtime 60 minutes)
- "Guatemala: A Tale of Two Villages (Runtime 15 minutes)
- After first reading, some context
- After second reading, reflect on a word or phrase that attracts you. Speak that word or phrase with no elaboration after silence for one or two minutes
- After third reading, reflect on the question, "Where do you see God or Christ in this Scripture verse?" Share after two or three minutes of silence.
- After fourth reading, reflect on the question, "What is God calling you to do or be today/this week through this Scripture verse?" Share after two or three minutes of silence.
- Finish with prayer for the person on your right--that they may be able to fulfill what God is calling them to do or be today/this week through this Scripture verse.
- Someone to introduce our group each time.
- Someone to take photos.
- Someone to record.
- Someone to check that we have everyone.
- Someone to offer a prayer at an appropriate time.
- Someone to thank each person/group formally.
- Someone to make sure we are staying according to schedule.
- Someone to monitor the mood of the group.
Lectio Divina (see process above) Matthew 22:37-40
9:00 a.m. Meet with Father Paul and Paul Rael, St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church, Postville, Iowa
10:30 a.m. Meet with Postville Response Team or Postville community members
12:00 p.m. Eat Lunch with Rev. Gary Catterson, Presbyterian pastor in Postville
2:00 p.m. Drive to Decorah, Iowa
3:00 p.m. Meet with Project Jubilee Organizers
5:00 p.m. Meet with John Murphy, Congressperson Braley's Dubuque office, to talk about the status of Immigration Reform legislation in Washington, D. C.
6:00 p.m. Meal and discussion with nine Guatemalan men being held in detention while the Agriprocessors trial continues.
8:15 p.m. Lectio Divina Mark 4:30-32
8:45 p.m. Evening Break
7:00 a.m. Breakfast
7:30 a.m. Lectio Divina Leviticus 19:33-34
9:00 a.m. Meeting with Davis Vasquez, Campus Minister at Luther College, Decorah
10:30 a.m. Reflection on next steps for your work in our nation's current immigration crisis.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
In solidarity: Faith group visits Decorah to learn about local faith coalition's efforts on behalf of immigrant workers
|Pastor David Vasquez|
Contextually speaking, the sentiment is apt -- the people inside the room are listening to a presentation on Decorah UMC's Sister Parish linkage with Potrerillos, El Salvador.
"The idea is to go and be a part of another person's life," they are told.
This delegation of retired and semi-retired people from First Congregational United Church of Christ in Algonquin, Ill. visited Decorah last week. Hosted by the Decorah Area Faith Coalition, the group came here as part of a study trip to learn about immigration issues and reform.
Through the Sister Parish relationship, the visitors learn, participants "travel as peacemakers, opting for and identifying with the poor, being one with Christ and thus reflecting the quality gifts of a shared spirit: a deeper faith, a broader vision, a greater understanding of important issues, and new relationships... The goal is to foster mutual understanding and a commitment to peace and justice among people" (www.sisterparish.org).
The idea of embracing a common commitment, across cultures, to peace and justice, is not an unfamiliar one among the people gathered in room 201. One of them, Rev. Michael Mulberry, pastor of the United Church of Byron in Byron, Ill., has spent time in Chiapas, Mexico and in Guatemala -- where, he tells the others, whole communities are without wage earners and heads of household because they've gone to the United States, hoping to make enough money to support their families.
"These are the places where I feel God on my skin," Mulberry says.
Having heard and read about the May 12, 2008 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid on Agriprocessors Inc., in Postville, one of the visitors, John Novak, says he "couldn't believe anything like that could ever happen... Ever since, I've been interested in finding out how it happened and why it happened."
Another visitor, Dick Elke, concurs.
"Based on things I've read, and seeing things in the media, it just appeared that there's a lot of injustice going on in immigration today," he says. "[This trip] has been extremely educational, very informative - a real eye-opener... There's a bit of me that's very angry now. I'm looking for a place to help."
Indeed, the visitors all say that's a large part of the reason they came to Northeast Iowa -- to learn how they might help, from people who've been trying to do just that.
Prior to their arrival in Decorah, the group spent time in Dubuque and viewed the film, "POSTVILLE - a pre-raid documentary," and visited Postville -- meeting with Paul Rael of St. Bridget's Catholic Church and with Gary Patterson and the Postville Response Coalition.
Once in Decorah, in addition to learning about Sister Parish, the group met with Project Jubilee organizers.
Project Jubilee is a no-interest loan program set up in Decorah to allow nine men who are being detained as material witnesses in the cases against Agriprocessors Inc. resulting from the 2008 raid, to repay the crippling debts they owe loan sharks -- debts they incurred in order to come to the United States, seeking to support their families.
Leslie Sand and Dave and Brenda Carlson, all of Decorah, talked about Project Jubilee with the delegation from Illinois.
"We know they're going to be deported," Sand says, in reference to the nine men. "We wondered, 'How can we help them have something to go home to?'"
Sand described the conditions of the loan program and provided an update on repayment progress -- noting that one of the men owes a remaining balance of only $660 on his loan, and explaining that all the men continue to make payments on their loans.
Don Schmidt, a retired UCC pastor from Algonquin, says he was touched by the commitment of area residents who raised money and awareness with the loan project.
"I salute you folks; this is a wonderful thing you've done and are doing," he says. "With your enthusiasm, you're bound to affect other people."
But Dave Carlson says it's a two-way street.
"This community has given a lot," he says. "But [the nine guys] have given us more."
Faith coalition member, Decorah UMC's Rev. Carol Kress, agrees. "It's changed us as a community," she says about the experience of befriending the nine men. "We're different people, now."
Rev. David Vasquez
and immigration reform
Before heading home to Illinois, the group met with Pastor David Vasquez from Luther College, whose presentation brought socio-economic history and analysis into a dynamic conversation with scriptural texts and teachings.
"Today, we have the largest number of people on the move in the history of the world," Vasquez notes -- between and among countries, and within the U.S., itself.
At the same time, though, outdated and inappropriate U.S. immigration laws -- laws that have always been created, Vasquez says, "to reflect a particular interest on the part of the culture" and that were changed as different groups started coming into the country, over time -- have failed to keep in touch with economic reality.
At a time when a broader shift in the US finds people moving away from rural areas into cities, and when Iowa is facing a tendency to train people and send them off to other states (according to a study commissioned by the University of Iowa), Postville has demonstrated a reversal of those trends.
But, says Vasquez, complicated and out-of-touch immigration laws are disrupting and crippling communities like Postville, even as they are trying to find a way forward.
And we should not forget, says Vasquez, that immigration is nothing new.
"Every single character in the Bible is an immigrant," he says. "Something happens in the immigrant experience that exposes us to the Divine."
Furthermore, these encounters, involving the unfamiliar as they tend to do, can give rise to fear.
In the Bible, Vasquez says, "every time a human being has an encounter with the Divine, one phrase is repeated: 'Do not be afraid.'" In national political life, "the moment we begin to make our national decisions out of fear, we become really stupid."
The Church, says Vasquez, as the voice of the Divine in daily life, has to become involved in the movement for immigration reform. The consequences of not doing so, he says, are dire.
"We will lose our soul if we don't participate in this," he says. "Our children will know if we acted in a way consistent with our values and our faith, or if we were fakes."
Thursday, September 3, 2009
What does justice served feel like? I've never been involved in a lawsuit, let alone one in which I was on the winning side, but some of you may have, so you may be able to respond to this question more adequately than I.
Whatever justice feels like, I think I've experienced some of its feelings, however, this past week, with some surprising good news from Guatemala. As many of you know, I have been doing short term mission work in Guatemala since 1988, through the civil war (yes, with armed soldiers harassing us) and in years following it (yes, with armed soldiers harassing us). During the Civil War, almost one million indigenous Guatemalans (we call them “Mayans,” you know, the ones who built the pyramids of Central America) were murdered, disappeared (that's a verb in this case) or forced to flee the country. Guatemala is roughly the size of Tennessee, and had a population at that time of eleven million people. So, if that number of people lost would be transported to the United States, it would be equivalent to losing to violence about 28 million people.
I have made friends with, supported and advocated for some of those indigenous Guatemalans who lost family members, and/or those who themselves were tortured and/or raped, suffering all manner of unspeakable brutality, but who survived. It's been thirteen years since the Peace Accords were officially signed. There have been numerous excavations of mass graves where massacres occurred and meticulous record keeping of the dead so ill-regarded by their own country. There have been numerous identifications of perpetrators by indigenous victims or family members of victims. There have been numerous stays, blocks, intimidations and murders of forensic scientists, attorneys, and judges who have tried to pursue justice for victims. This year, this month, is the first successful indictment, prosecution and sentencing of one military leader involved in any of the atrocities perpetrated by the Guatemalan government and its mercenaries, aided by our USA government (yes, the USA was involved; some of us knew it before the official evidence, then the Freedom of Information Act of 1996 revealed the evidence).
Felipe Cusanero was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 150 years' imprisonment for the disappearances (i.e., murder) of six indigenous persons in the village of Choatalum in the Guatemalan state of Chimaltenango. The 150 years represents 25 years' penalty for each of his six victims (that we know of). (Another military man was convicted in 1999 of dozens of killings but none of those was termed 'disappearance,' which is an added layer of criminality.)
I try to imagine what it must have been like to be sitting in that court room among victims and families of victims. I try to imagine what they must have thought and felt as they observed and heard legal proceedings, wondering, at any point, the trial would, again as in hundreds of times before, be halted or thwarted by the powers that be. I try to imagine what they must have thought and felt as they thought about the years Felipe Cusanero has been able to live all these years, as a criminal on the lam in broad daylight, while they endured the pain of grief over lost loved ones. I tried to imagine what they must have thought and felt when the verdict was delivered and the sentence pronounced.
I realize I cannot. What I feel -- so many thousands of miles away, in an entirely different and much safer political context -- is much gratitude, relief, vindication. But I know it would take Jesus Himself to enable me to actually feel what they must have felt. It would take Jesus Himself for me to know true compassion, from the Latin com paseo, which means “to feel with.” Still, what I do feel is indescribable. All I know is that it feels very, very good.
How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?
Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the
lowly and the destitute. - Psalm 82:2-3
The above quote from one of the five participants in our trip to Postville and Decorah comes as a result of the wonderful job Mike Mulberry did in setting up the agenda for us and taking us to meet some very committed and exciting folk who have been involved in the drama of the raid and the aftermath.
Our decision to make this trip came as a result of a seven week study of the immigration issues during Lent of this year during which we looked at where we or our ancestors came from, the Bible as the Immigration handbook, DVDs on the subject, NAFTA, immigration laws over the past 100 years +, and what is happening now in immigration reform.
We were deeply moved by the way people and churches faced the challenge of the immigration raid on the Kosher meat processing plant in Postville late last year. Their efforts to help the women and children left behind and suffering from the harassment and their work with the nine witnesses from Guatemala who have been detained for five months and now await the trial and are deeply in debt. The emotional cooperation between the churches and with in the community was very inspiring.
We urge others to learn about these people and the undocumented workers and work for immigration reform just as we intend to do.
If you are interested in taking a two to three day delegation yourself, please contact Rev. Mike Mulberry, email@example.com or call him at 815-234-8777.
We are excited to announce that registration is open for a unique immersion experience in Chicago. For three days this fall we will learn about the realities of the immigration debate from those who live them daily. The tentative agenda includes:
- Lodging at San Adalberto United Methodist Church, a congregation providing sanctuary to immigrants under deportation orders as an act of civil disobedience. Flor Crisostomo, currently in sanctuary there, will host us;
- Participation in a weekly prayer vigil with deportees headed to the airport for immediate deportation;
- A visit with day laborers and a nonprofit which supports justice for immigrant workers;
- A meeting with representatives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
- Worship/Reflection opportunities, cultural events, and suggestions for how to take action for justice in the immigration system.
The delegation is sponsored by BorderLinks, an organization on the US/Mexico border which has been providing immersion experiences for over a decade. This delegation will inaugurate the "Beyond the Border" series: experiences with immigrants around the USA. Leadership of the delegation will be shared between BorderLinks staff and local partners in Chicago.
The November delegation is open to individuals or small groups, but space is limited. If your group of 13+ people (high school age and up) would like to book the entire delegation, please contact the BorderLinks office as soon as possible.
Dates: Thursday, November 12 through Sunday, November 15, 2009. The trip begins and ends in the late afternoon.
For more information, please contact the BorderLinks office in Tucson, AZ at 520-628-8263 and ask for the Education Department.
Faculty Trip Leader: Chris Smith
Assistant Leader: Don Christensen
In Country Trip Leader – Teresa Ortiz – Mexican educator from the Twin Cities who lived and worked in
Estimated Price: 20 participants - $1750 15 participants - $1875
Airfare and trip expenses included, this price does not include course tuition.
Description: Until the Spanish conquest over 500 years ago, the country we know as
Deadline For Initial Refundable Deposit: September 15, 2009
This trip is open to UTS students first, and then we always welcome guests. If you have further questions please call Chris Smith at 651-255-6128 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Name ______________________ E – Mail ________________________
Telephone ___________________ Address ________________________________
For guests, will you please send your $200 deposit made out to United Theological Seminary, and the simple form above into Adam Pfuhl, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, 3000 Fifth Street Northwest, New Brighton, MN 55112
- At some point in the process you will need to pay a $225 audit fee
- If you are not an alum of the seminary, and you have not enrolled
as a non degree student before this trip, you will need to fill out
a non degree student application form at some point as well
3. If you are a clergy person you will have the opportunity to take the
course for professional continuing education
You do not need to take care of anything right now except the initial deposit and turning in the basic information above to Adam Pfuhl.
- ► 2010 (15)
- ▼ December (3)
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- Musings from Rev. Michelle Prentice-Leslie
- Algonquin UCC travels to Postville and Decorah, Io...
- Join a BorderLinks Delegation to Chicago this Fall...
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