Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There IS grace and beauty in bordertown, Mexico

I love the feeling of coming home. Everyone is so excited to see me, hear my stories, and share together.
I felt especially blessed this past Sunday morning, Sunday December 26th. A few weeks ago I'd told my church I would be in town for Christmas, and would love to share about my experience thus far as a YAV with PHPC; and so I was invited to do the children's sermon for the day after Christmas! Which- most of you know, I absolutely love interacting with children, so I couldn't have been more excited!
You can listen to the service from that day, December 26 here: http://podcastphpc.org/
The sermon and the music are both really good, so I highly recommend the whole sha-bang! I'm on there being introduced at about 46 minutes into it.

Elizabeth preached on Isaiah, 63:7-9

I will tell of the kindnesses of the LORD,
the deeds for which he is to be praised,
according to all the LORD has done for us—
yes, the many good things
he has done for Israel,
according to his compassion and many kindnesses.
8 He said, “Surely they are my people,
children who will be true to me”;
and so he became their Savior.
9 In all their distress he too was distressed,
and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them
all the days of old.

Here's the scripted version of what I said (more or less).

Yesterday, you celebrated Christmas, and probably received some neat presents from your friends and family.

I want to tell you about a gift of a different sort. This is a gift you can't touch, but you can feel. You can't see it, but you can witness it. You can't own it but you can share it.

(as an aside- one of the children goes "JESUS!" really animated-ly right here)

This gift is called grace. Currently, I'm serving as a YAV, and I volunteer at a place called BorderLinks. I've witnessed a lot of grace in my time along the US/Mexico border. A good amount of wht I do while on the border is interpreting peoples' stories from Spanish to English. I hear a lot of stories about people who have been lost for days in the desert- without food or drink, abandoned by their travel companions. For one reason or another, they find themselves dropped in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. And, there to greet them are Sister Lorena and Father Neeley- with a hot plate of food, a welcoming handshake, and a place for those weary travelers to rest their head and feel some sort of safety and solitude for just a brief, passing moment. A place where no-one will heckle them, put them in hand-cuffs, no coyotes to bother them. To me, these two, Sister Lorena and Father Neeley, embody grace. They never ask, "why were you deported," "why were you imprisoned," "where is your family?"
They simply give.
They give food, warmth, and welcome. They love unconditionally.
You heard Elizabeth read from Isaiah, "in their distress, he too was distressed. And the angel of his presence saved them."
Sister Lorena and Father Neeley are those angels of presence. They share their God given gift of graciousness with others. In Spanish, there's a word for a God given gift, "don."

What are some god given gifts, "dons", you have that you can use to show God's grace to another?

I believe that you can be a sign of god's grace to others, and you can use your "dons" to share His grace. You can be the "angel of presence" spoken about in Isaiah. Here's a better example of how. Look at your hands. Hold your hands up high. Pat your friend's back. Shake a neighbor's hand. Pull someone up.
Your hands can do all of that and more. Your hands, my hands, his hands, and their hands, are vessels to share God's grace to others.

Let us hold hands and pray together.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

simpler living

"The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge but less judgement; more experts, but more porblems; more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life' we've added years to life, not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We've conquered outer space, but not our inner space. We've done larger things, not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've split the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, nut not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but have less communication. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer to quiet to kill. You can choose to listen, or hit delete." - Bob Moorehead

Dorothy Day says it much better than I can:

"One of the greatest evils of the day...is [the] sense of futility. Young people say, 'What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time, we can be responsible only for the action of the present moment. but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, just as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes"

"Love cast our fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


"We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community."- Dorothy Day

To give a bit of background: Our 1229 (what we've nicknamed our YAV house here in Tucson) community has decided to revisit our Covenant and Statement of Purpose as a community, three months into our year together. To better understand where we are each coming from as individuals, we have each taken a night to tell our stories. In sharing these, we each tried to communicate an answer to the following two questions: "What has made you who you are" and "What has been important to you in your life."

What follows is an excerpt from the journaling I did just prior to telling my own story, as I sat in the hammock trying to make a cohesive, linear, bulleted answer to those earlier two questions.

"Trying” as the operative word in that endeavor.

My experience so far here in Tucson and in Mexico has been as an ear and a shoulder. An ear for stories, and a shoulder for those to lean on. Today it is my turn to share- to tell my story, to try and make sense of it all.

In my three months here, I have been continually moved by the different faces of desperation. I am beginning to know that look all to well- the one of simultaneous confusion, hurt, loss, and fear. I see it at here in Tucson, at the Operation Streamline proceedings, on the faces of those 70 people pleading ‘guilty’ in unison. I see it in Mexico, when at Grupos Beta, a federally funded program in Mexico for repatriated migrants, on the faces of those who have just been deported- some after a few days in the US, and some after having spent almost a lifetime here. I see it on the faces of the women we speak to at a women’s shelter in Nogales, while hearing their stories of being lost in the desert, abandoned, violated.

Perhaps these moments move me because I hope that our moment together, our brief embrace, our passing conversation, can serve as a hand extended, helping to pull her upward. A passing sign of hope.

What has made me who I am are the hands that have pulled me up, when I thought I had lost all hope. Emotionally spent, desperate, angry, lost and confused- at seventeen I had no words to express myself, no inkling of how to relate to another, but Chris was there a smile, a hug, and a lifetime of patience. I was broken and falling fast- he was there with arms outstretched to catch me. He had just the right words to say, just the right mix of shoulder for me to cry on and humor to help me laugh again. Those mornings where getting out of bed was a grand feat to be accomplished were made easier knowing that I could call him for an encouraging word or a small affirmation to get me on my way.

More friends outstretched their hands. I was eventually pulled up. It’s not the desperation of that moment that resonates with me now- it’s the strength of the arms pulling me up, patient with me as I tested the waters of how to be myself again.

Five years later, when Chris passed away, I circled through the stages of grief. I crept into myself- stopped answering the phone, laid in bed hours longer, shut myself off from my friends that were trying so desperately to be there for me. There were moments of anger- with myself, with him, with everyone around me. Again there were moments when I wondered if I could smile again.

But, you know what- I did. Just like I learned when Chris extended his hand to me and helped me learn how to smile again five years earlier, friends and family continue to outstretch their hands to me, and help to lift me up.

I am who I am because of the community that supports and surrounds me, because of the community that loves me.

A blog about blogging

It's an interesting experience writing for this audience- an audience that includes my mother, cousins, sisters, brother and father- who have all been witness to crucial moments in my life, toppling emotional turmoil, and other stepping stones along the way; an audience that includes my college and highschool friends- who have seen yet a different side of me, been along for the ride, and at times where they may not have known, been the hands pulling me up; an audience that includes members of my church back home- those who have seen grow, but as a face in the crowd, from the bouncy three year old who went to church for skittles, to the fifteen year old who went to church for a sense of belonging, to the twenty-four year old who feels something calling her back there, but can't quite name the sensation; an audience that includes other YAVs elsewhere- perhaps looking for some sort of window into life in Tucson, or perhaps searching for some sort of reassurance that there are some other struggles and triumphs along this journey in our year together; an audience that includes some college professors, who have seen me both put forward an effort and delve deep into an academic triumph, and putter around with some words on a page to make something work that just may be good enough to turn in; an audience that includes some people whom I've met in passing, who upon hearing about what I'm doing as a YAV, feign some interest and ever-so-politely take down my blog address, who have no real inkling as to who I am, what struggles I may face, or what experiences have brought me here.

And then, dear reader, there is you- perhaps you fit one of those boxes I just tried to put you into, but perhaps you don't. You have come to my blog for reasons I can only try to know, but can't figure out- perhaps you're searching for some sort of understanding of what life has been like living in Intentional Christian Community with four others, sixty miles north of the border, in work that regularly takes me to Mexico. Perhaps you're simply looking for something to do while doing your trading at work today, and happened upon this updated blog.

No matter your intentions, I am completely understanding that I do not know them.
Point being- I need to stop writing for an audience, and start writing for myself.
I have written many drafts, saved on this little computadora of mine, that I have failed to post- usually the reasoning being one of the following "this isn't directly related to my service here, why would someone want to read this?"

Or, more typically, I write.

I write how I feel;
I write about what has made me question my faith;
I write about was has broken me.

I write for a cathartic release.

And then, read it and realize that in putting it on this blog for all to see, I'll be exposing myself. My soul will, unquestionably, be broadcast naked.
Raw and bare emotion- I've discounted those as too much for this little blog of mine.
But, if I just paint you the picture of what I'm doing here in Tucson, and how my life has been as a part of Intentional Christian Community, I'm creating a wall between my experience here and your understanding of it.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Since moving here to Tucson, people kept telling me about the "Day of the Dead" parade down fourth street. I kept hearing about what a great spectacle it has always been. And, it definitely lived up to all of that hype.
We had some friends join us before processing down the main street here in town, clad in black, covered in face paint, and carrying memories or photos of our loved ones.
The idea of celebrating and partying over death was, at times, a clash of culture in my mind. There were moments when I got so caught up in the costumes, drum beat, and walking that I failed to think about all of the people, stories, and loved ones lost who the parade was to honor.
I managed to spend the majority of my childhood and life until now without really having to face the death of someone close to me. Until recently, I was completely incapable of empathizing with someone mourning, because I'd never experienced it before; until February of last year. In a lot of ways, I feel like I've grappled with the various stages of grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. But, no matter how many pictures I looked at, or silly stories about Chris I'd share with friends and family, I never really felt capable of doing it without grief and a heavy heart.
Until last night.
Until I saw it was possible to celebrate and share stories.
Until I stepped into the procession.
Until I celebrated.
Until I shared.

After the parade and the absolutely amazing fire dancing show, my roommates and I headed home to our altar (ofrenda) that we'd created in celebration of our friends and family who have passed away, and we sat together for sharing cervezas and stories. We told stories about grandpas playing practical jokes, babies in Ethiopia, friends sharing hilarious off-color jokes, midnight TP-ing, Rangers games, and other stories of those we love who have passed away. I've spent the last two months living with those people who shared last night, and never have I felt more proud to call them my family. Sharing this experience has brought us closer together than I imagined possible, and I'm really looking forward to what the rest of this YAV year together has in store for our little 1229 Family.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gregorio's Story

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of my work with BorderLinks is translating peoples' stories. Not because the words are difficult to change from Spanish to English, or because the speaker speaks too quickly, but because it is at these moments where the speaker is most emotionally raw, most emotionally wounded, most emotionally dead- just looking for someone to connect with.

In Nogales, Sonora, there is a program called the Kino Border Initiative. It is run by a few different Catholic organizations, and it serves as a feeding program for those who have been recently deported. I have gone twice now with different delegations- once a few weeks ago with a church from Pennsylvania, and one Wednesday, with the "Rural Chaplains Association." At precisely four o'clock, the place fills up with anywhere from 40-120 people, looking for a meal and a place to get away from being mistreated for a little while. They can find that at the KBI. The priests introduced themselves, and then I introduced the Chaplains. I told those about to dine, "we are here to hear your stories, so we can tell them to our communities."

After dinner was underway a bit, Gregorio approached me. He stands at about 4'10'', and looked around the area with very cautious eyes. I could tell he was glad to be somewhere safe, and where for the first time in a while he was taken care of without worrying about being taken advantage of. He took my hand, looked deep into my eyes, and said "quiero decirte mi cuento. Lo que me paso en el desierto."
"I want to tell you my story, what happened in the desert."
Here is Gregorio's Story:
"I began walking in the desert for three days with a coyote, and the coyote told me to sit under the tree and wait as he went to look for water. He told me he would return shortly. I waited. Three hours passed, and I waited some more. The night passed, and he never returned. For the next two days I continued wandering the desert, lost, looking for food, water, or anything. Those first two days on my own I didn't find any food or water. I was dying of thirst. I drank my own urine to stay alive. On the third day of traveling on my own, I found a water troff for some cattle. The water was green and had stuff floating in it, but I was thirsty. I didn't care. It hurt my stomach a lot, but I drank it. I drank the cattle's water. I continued for a few more days on my own, thinking to myself that I was going to die alone in the desert. After walking in the desert for five days on my own, I came to a road. I stopped a man driving a truck down the road. I said to him, 'I want to go home. I am about to die. Please call the Border Patrol and have them take me back.'
"The man called the Border Patrol. They came within thirty minutes. They treated me nicely. They handed me a big bottle of water and told me, 'drink this slowly so you don't upset your body too much. Take this food, and eat it slowly too.' At this point I could barely remember the last time I'd eaten or drank clean water. He told me that when I got to jail, I'd be able to receive some medical attention, and I'd have water and food there too. I had an accident on the way, though, and there was blood in my stool. So instead of going to jail, I was taken to a hospital. They put me on IVs, and told me I was lucky to be alive. I was deported finally after a few days in the Hospital in the US (he had all the track marks from the IV up his arms), and then spent another night in the hospital in Mexico when I got back.
"I'm not going to try that again. My life is worth more than the thought of whatever is waiting for me in the US. I'm going to try and return to my family in Veracruz. My family is important to me- nothing is worth that suffering. I'm really lucky to be alive."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

After a month on the job, reflections at BorderLinks

I've been in Tucson over a month now. I've shared some stories and reflections about general thoughts that have come about in times of intentional reflection, but really haven't told you, my faithful follower, about neither the community life aspect or the site placement aspect of this YAV year- both things which are really fundamental to the experience.

So here's a bit about my work at BorderLinks.

I'm working as a Program Organizer, which means in short that I design educational trips and experiences to the border region, in an effort to give delegations first hand experience of the real issues at the Border.

Another part of my work involves editing and laying out the BorderLinks alumni Newsletter, Ver-Pensar-Actuar. Those who we work with as an organization, people that work at BorderLinks, and people that have participated in delegations are encouraged to submit reflections to be included in the publication. I really think that the newsletter better explains the sorts of delegations and experiences we facilitate than I ever could. You can check out the newsletter from the BorderLinks website- go to the borderlinks website, www.borderlinks.org, our publications, then click on "Ver-pensar-actuar", then choose "October 2010"

Or just click here and then chose "October 2010"

Happy reading!

While the newsletter doesn't give a day-to-day of my work or what an actual delegation entails, through the stories, photos, and poems, I think it paints a better picture of my experience with BorderLinks than any words I could put here.

So be sure to check out the newsletter- read the articles, reflect with the poetry, sit with the experiences other have had along the border region.

And, I'd love to hear your own thoughts and reflections, too!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

I'm sitting in a cafe right now with one of my roommates, Meredith. The following uses imagery depicting the intensity and agony of our afternoon.

Written by Meredith Wilkinson, Oct 2, 2010

I'm at Epic Cafe
It's a good day
Stevie is here.
So I have no fear.
She is great.
Like a happy date.
She has plaid pants.
Like a school dance.
She wants to be an OT.
And maybe for Free.
Probs not.
I'm a teapot.
The end.
My friend.

So, as you can see- even in the midst of a year listening for the call of the Gospel here in Tucson, AZ and learning to live simpler life, I still maintain my silly moments. Those silly moments sometimes really make my day.

Thanks, Meredith for making my day!

Monday, September 27, 2010


He fought his way up the ladder
Middle class family
Academic scholarship to Duke
Law degree from Harvard
A year abroad, broadening his horizons

Hands raw from picking corn
Skin leathering from the sun
Someday he'll be Northbound for money to send home

100% Silk shirt, on one sleeve at a time
Made in China
Thriving on espresso
Working long hours to afford it

The storm raging through the town
Taking his crop
Taking his house
Taking his livelihood

"I now pronounce you man and wife."
She's pregnant now.
Celebration for the new baby girl to be.

He gathers enough
to hire the coyote
to be guided past the border
away from the 25 feet high scrap metal

Two months until the baby's due
Wife goes to the store
Daily errands to take care of the new family, the new home

Three days pass in the desert
He's run out of water and food
His memorabilia is long abandoned

"Paper or plastic?"
She opens her wallet
A man enters, shooting

Delirious from thirst, he finds water
left in the desert by the love of strangers
he makes it through
Arrives to Iowa,
to work on the farm
Cash to send home

Ambulance sirens wail
Blood stained, gasping for breath
her life is on the line

"Migra! Migra" shouted from all over
He feels the handcuffs behind his back
Thrown in jail

"I'm sorry, we tried everything we could
The baby couldn't handle the stress.
Mom is barely hanging on

Morning comes
30 minutes with his lawyer
A "fair" trial, along with those 69 others
Sentenced to 90 days in jail

"She may not survive
and if she does, there will be permanent damage"

For trying to provide for his family
For trying to provide for her family

Two injustices
One place

Stephen Colbert Speaks Up


Thanks Miriam, for your blog post that lead me here. I think you all should listen to that clip above. It helps that its humorous, too.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Operation Streamline

On Thursday, 9/23, Ali, Jacob and I went to Operation Streamline. I took some notes while sitting in the courtroom observing the procedures with the intention to come back to them to write something capturing the experience and making sense of it.

I've tried to make sense of it. I've realized there is little to none to be found, so instead I'll copy my journal from that experience. I think my random, sporadic, initial reactions as a witness in that room will better illustrate the experience than if I were to labour days over this post to really hone in on an explanation of it altogether.

Brief explanation of what is Operation Streamline:

It's a federal program to deter people from immigrating illegally to the states by putting them on a mass trial (about 70 people on trial at once) and giving the person a jailstay and a criminal record. The intention behind it is that the person entering illegally would be so distraught after his 30-90 day jail stay and criminal record he's now received, and the threat of a felony and impossibility to ever enter the US legally if he were to do it again, that he would go and tell all of his peers not to do it as to deter them as well.

There is a smell in this courtroom. It's a mix between blatant hypocrisy and total paralytic fear. It's a hanging reminder of the overall "rotten" idea of the "Operation."

It's a wierd feeling, flood of emotion being in this court room watching these precedings. The actual set up of the room- the wooden witness benches, the leather seats for the jury, the sides for both sets of lawyers, resembles what I learned about in the textbooks in school, and my one and only prior experience in a courtroom. I was so priveleged growing up that my initial experience of a courtroom was playing- participating in Mock Trial. But the real mockery here is what's going on in front of me. "A fair and speedy trial," my ass. The defendants, yes- you read that right- defendants (usually between 40-70), fill the twelve leather seats off to the side for the jury, and the first few rows of the witness benches. Today there are around 50 people sitting in front of me, all on trial at once.
The judge asks the lawyers- "Have you each had sufficient time to meet with your client?"
One of the lawyers didn't even have time to be in the courtroom with his client right now, nevertheless to have spent the appropriate time preparing for the trial. (note- I later learned that as a part of this "operation," the lawyers are given 30 minutes to meet with their client the morning before his/her case.)
Some of the lawyers surrounding me sit shuffling papers, looking important and driven. The lawyer right in front of me, however, is playing a game on his iPhone.
The judge says "I want to make it clear to you the rights you individually have" to the group of 50 on trial, at once.
"Has anyone forced you to plead guilty?" This question got to me every time I heard it. Those on trial had been taught to answer "si" and "no" accordingly- making the precedings seem more like a play, where they're performing some memorized and practiced actions, rather than an actual trial. No one may have forced the hand of any of these men and women to plead guilty, but, coming from three-five days in the desert, being reprimanded, threatened that he will be separated from his family, one is not left with another real option.

The first wave of 6 men completed their "fair and speedy trial," and preceded out of the courtroom- in handcuffs and with chains around their ankles, passing right past my line of sight as they exited the door to the right. The first "offender" to walk out of the courtroom was laughing hysterically. It's like he understood the joke that this process makes of our judicial system.
Another question asked by the judge to each group of 6 as they stood their "individual" trials- "Any legal reasoning why the court shouldn't accept these please of guilty?"- Yes. This isn't how our system is supposed to operate. This isn't a fair trial. I see no jury of peers.
This is disgusting. Me da asco. Right now, I regret my citizenship. I regret that my government is playing this role, and putting on this trial. I don't even understand why this system is in place at all- it is masquerading as something that follows the US court systems and procedures.

It's as far of a cry from the system I learned about in school, and how it's supposed to work, as if the 50 individuals "on trial" here today had been tazed, tortured, ripped of their dignity, and kicked over the border.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Prayer Requests

One of my roommates, friends, and co-worker, Ali, has a friend whose mom has recently been diagnosed with Brain Cancer. She asks for continued prayers for the Schuyler family. Chemotherapy has started, but the prognosis is not hopeful. I ask for your prayers for both Ali, as she tries to balance being in ministry away from her home and friends in need, and for her friend's family.
I ask for prayers for BorderLinks as an organization. That it continues to practice its mission of popular education of Border Issues, that delegations don't shy away from the opportunity to be a part of it because of the media's portrayal of Border Violence, and that as an organization altogether it continues to operate and be able to operate.
I ask for prayers for all of those who are lost, thirsty, separated from family, abused, and hungry.
I ask for prayers for the government, that it can represent and protect people and ideas rather than partisanship and money.


Prayers for those bereaving everywhere.

Prayers for those associated with "Operation Streamline." Those on all sides.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Three moments

An activity we (Ali and I) did as a part of our orientation at BorderLinks was to depict the "rivers of our lives." We were only given a few minutes to complete this task, so undoubtedly, not all of the flowing parts made it onto the drawing.

These following three moments were the first three that I thought of in terms of shaping my young life, and more-over the person I am today. Perhaps I was thinking about them because just before completing the task, I'd read the mission of BorderLinks, and it very much so reminded me of the Montessori Method. But more on that later.

So, here's to you, Mrs. Suzelle Poole, Mrs. Mary Loew, and Ms T, the Guides of my childhood.

The Golden Rule
I'm sure I remember this moment more as a dream than how it actually happened. One day in my primary class, (that's 3-6years old, for you non Montessori children), Mrs. Poole gathered us together for a Grace and Courtesy lesson. That day's lesson was the Golden Rule.

I went to Sunday School growing up, and I'm sure I'd heard it in other ways with my childhood teachers. But this particular moment sticks in my mind. I really struggled with the idea of "do unto others as you would have them do to you." I remember asking something like "but what if someone really just wants to be mean? Are you mean in return?"

I feel like I was a pretty good, nice, caring child. But, instead of reinforcing those attributes, I feel like that moment, learning the Golden Rule, served to teach me retribution. It showed me that actions are done to elicit responses and certain behaviors in other people. Instead of being nice, friendly, compassionate and loving because we want to, we do it because we want others to do the same to us.

So moment 1: The Golden Rule- I learned that others don't necessarily think with their hearts first. That others may be led by other, more selfish desires.

All throughout lower elementary, I feel like I had a timeline project to complete. I don't ever recall finishing a single one of them, but I do remember starting many. One in particular is a timeline of animals, starting with the Trilobites, and tracing evolution to Human Beings. I remember asking Mrs. Loew, "In Sunday School we learned that Adam and Eve started the world. This timeline shows that we evolved. Which is right?" Her response was, as any good Guide's response would be, very calm and collected; she said something along the lines of "well, some of those stories are believed to be metaphors, and this timeline depicts the scientific idea of evolution." To which I replied something along the lines of "Which is the right one?"
"Well, it depends on the individual"
"Isn't there a right answer, though?"

Lesson: There can be many different interpretations of "the facts."

Interview with a Superstar

This moment is, by far, my favorite.
I was probably 11 or 12 at the time, and of course, knew everything. The class had been assigned to interview someone famous. So I decided to interview Ms T, my Upper Elementary Guide (4-6th grade). I developed a list of somewhere between 20 and 100 questions. Before the interview I patted myself of the back, congratulating myself for thinking of absolutely every worthwhile interview, for being such a thorough 11 year old journalist. And, just in case I had forgotten a worthwhile question, I'd even thought of that possibility. My last question was "Is there any other question you think I should have asked that I didn't?" I thoroughly expected the answer to be "no,", of course, since I'd certainly covered all of my bases.

But, that was not the case.

Ms T responded "yes" to my last question. And I was unprepared. So I followed up with "what question did I leave out?"
"You didn't ask me what I want to be when I grow up?"

I was confused. She was a teacher. That was her title. She was grown up.

So, I asked the question anyways. I don't remember the response. But I do remember that moment being when I realized that we will always be growing, and never have to give up on learning, changing, and experiencing new things.

Who is this Stevie girl, anyways?

I want to use this blog as not only a means to communicate parts of my experience as a Young Adult Volunteer in Tucson, AZ, but also as a means for questions and conversation.

This blog will showcase lessons I've learned, stories I've heard, or sometimes just a walk through of my day. As my mom informed me, it's very "stream of consciousness." As a result, sometimes what I post will be thought through and make sense, and other times I may not realize that I'm leaving out important parts of the story- please advise me if you're lost!

I've realized not all of you reading this know my story, my background, or anything about me other than I am currently doing something with border ministry somewhere in Arizona. So here's a bit about me:

Hi, I'm Stevie. I graduated from Austin College (in Sherman, TX) with a degree Media Communication, and minors in Latin American Studies and Spanish. I'm excited to be working at Borderlinks as part of my 2010-2011 year as a PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteer. In particular, I'm looking forward to developing relationships on both sides of the border and learning in concert with the delegations I will be facilitating in my role as a Program Organizer. I am also excited to put my degree to work and broadcast the stories from the border in my work with the "Ver, Pensar, Actuar" newsletter.

I am embarking on a journey. In this next year of service with YAV I will experience new opportunities for growth, see the world in a different light, and be challenged in ways I have yet imagined. At Montreat Youth Conference last summer I felt truly moved and inspired by Rev. John Fife's accounts of working in ministry in the Tucson border area. He described the dire situations, the struggles, and the hope the immigrants had in a better life in the United States. His stories of selfless compassion and living by the greatest commandment- “to love your neighbor as yourself” called to me. Join me on my journey as I explore the call of the gospel in the social and political realities of the border area.

Please comment, question, negate, explore, and learn along with me.

It's going to be

This morning in church at Southside, we sang "Here I am Lord" AND we had ice cream afterwards.

It's going to be a good year.

Today I walked into a coffee shop down the street from my house and David Allan Coe was playing.

It's going to be a good year.

Yesterday I almost fell off of my bicycle because I was laughing so hard with good people.

It's going to be a good year.

Thursday I got to make cookies at work.

It's going to be a good year.

Helmets and salsa lessons sometimes mix.

It's going to be a good year.

It's going to be a year. A year full of challenges, stories, learning, bonding, crying, smiling, translating, interpreting, reflecting, anticipating, mixed emotions, and excitement.

A good year.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Biking tucson!

Top photo is all six of the YAV house residents' bikes together.
The middle two photos are of a community art project called the Bike Sanctuary.

The bottom photo is me and my new bike! I'll be using it as my main way to get around town.

Rules of Life

How do I want to be in daily prayer?

Be still
Reflect on concerns/hesitations and know that God is present with me during them
Rejoice in the happy moments, and recognize the joy of God's companionship in the sadness, anxst, sorrow, and hard times
Pray for others with others and alone
be intention in reflection and communication with God
The five finger prayer

What practices will I use to allow god to form me spiritually?
Reflect daily
Study the works of those who have studied before me
interpret those works and the Bible with an open mind and honest, personal reflection
Break comfortable routine
Keep an open mind to allow the Spirit and others to me me.

How will I live out me call as a Christian in a hurting world?
Have mercy
"Pray for the opressor" (MLKJ)
Live simply
"Be sign of joy and love for others" (Taize)

Some excerpts from my roommates Rules:
"Climb Mountains, dream bigger, jump higher"

"Practicing radical acceptance"

"Be a sign of joy to others. Practice gratitude"

"By the power of God, fear nothing, die daily, and practice truth"

Feeling Free

"Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still

Reflections on a time I felt truly free.

These moments of feeling free revolve around beauty surrounding me- sometimes through the people around me, sometimes through the beauty around me, and sometimes both.

a few times I felt truly free:
The car ride back from Austin with a few good friends, blasting Pam Tillis' Maybe it was Memphis.

Laying on the beach in the middle of nowhere for hours and only seeing two other people.


First photo- the Kiva style sanctuary of Southside Presbyterian Church
Middle- door to the church- First Presbyterian Church of Ossining
Last photo- our group at the marina

In the last two Sundays, I have been commissioned into service as a Young Adult Volunteer twice more.

Fifteen or so churches in the local presbytery of Stony Point commissioned groups of volunteers. Jorge, who introduced himself as George, drove Aaron (who is serving in San Antonio), Meredith, Luke and me from Stony Point to Ossining Presbyterian Church for the 10:30 worship service. Jorge was very kind and welcoming. We stopped along the way to take some photos- both of the Marina and of the scenic overlook.
We arrived at the church at 10:00 am and met Linda, the pastor. The church is big, beautiful, and full of history. It was started in 1763. During the 1970s, according to Linda, the church was in its prime- with over 700+ members filling the pews. Now attendance dwindles, and membership is around 100.
Those small numbers didn't matter though. The character of the church has been preserved. I walked into the church sanctuary with 30 other strangers, and immediatly felt welcomed. This church had never met us before, but that didn't matter, and they opened their arms to us. We were given the time normally devoted to the sermon during the service to present about the YAV program, what it means, how we got involved, and what we'll be doing while there. After the offering, we walked out of the sanctuary, down the hall, and spoke to those at the Spanish service. This was a welcome surprise for both us and the church. We, the four YAVs, didn't know there were two services at the same time at the church- one in English and one in Spanish. The church didn't know that two of us spoke Spanish fluently, and would be able to tell our story in both languages. The pews of the small chapel were packed. We sat, elbow to elbow, listening as the congregation expressed praywers of sorrow, joy, excitement, and anguish. During the open time of prayer and sharing, we were invited to share with th econgregation again. This time in Spanish. Aaron and I talked a little about the program and what we'd be doing. I tried to say that I'd be serving as a translator, but it was difficult as I had forgotten the Spanish word for translator. Aside from that little flub, I felt really encouraged and supported by this new congregation. The service was a great experience. The character and personality of the church was tremendous. But what really struck me about this expereince was the spirit of the people around us. The congregation was warm and welcoming.

The fourth commissioning was this past Sunday at Southside Presbyterian Church. Again, it was a really great opportunity to share our story with a new congregation. This time, a more local congregation with which we can hopefully get involved. The church is set up like a Kiva, which was also really neat.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Benediction from back home

"Now, as you leave this place,
May the living Lord go with you.
May he go behind you, to encourage you;
Beside you, to befriend you in obedient ministry;
Above you, to watch over you;
Beneath you, to lift you from your sorrows;
Within you, to give you the gifts of faith
and hope and love;
And always before you, to show you the way. Amen."
-Rev. Blair Monie

These words have been resonating with me throughout the week.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

"We're human beings, not human doings" -Michael Homan

"And he comes to the disciples, and finds them asleep, and said to Peter, What, could you not watch with me one hour?" (Matthew 26:40, American King James Version)

A part of our experience at orientation is Small Group Reflection time. My group has really developed a strong bond, communicates well, and has served as excellent witnesses for each other during this time. One of the girls in my small group is struggling with the very recent death of her mother. I kept wondering how can I "be" there for her. In other situations, other times my friends or family have been bereaving, I said something along these lines: "I'm here for you. I'm praying for you. Let me know if there's anything I can do."
After having listened to Lauren talk about the death of her mother, and her method of handling it, I realized something. I was doing it all wrong. It isn't about doing at all- that was my first mistake. I really just need to remind myself of when Christ was suffering, and after he finished praying the night before is death, he found his disciples asleep next to him. He was frustrated that they could not bear witness for just one night. They were not available in his moment of need. The disciples should have stayed awake, and been together with Christ moments before his resurrection.
It wasn't a matter about having the wrong things to say, it was that I wasn't a presence when I should have been. Instead of wondering what I could and can do, I need to be a presence, offer companionship.
When there is a breaking moment, a moment of struggles, sometimes just a shoulder to cry on, or a simple hug is the best medicine. Just to be together. Someone to sit and pray with.

I remember a few years ago, when I was working as youth director at First Presbyterian Church of McKinney (FPC). It was January, and I had just returned from a January term abroad. I was getting back in the swing of school and work. A friend had passed away while I was abroad, and I had felt so helpless to all of those affected because I wasn't there. At FPC, a part of the Sunday service is dedicated to prayers of the people. The blessing of the intimate congregation is that prayers were lifted verbally during the service. I lifted prayers for my friend, and for those affected by his death. I broke down. In front of my entire congregation.

Reverend Blacklock walked over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. He joined the congregation together for an impromptu moment of praye. In that moment, with FPC as my witness in my faith journey, I felt so incredibly supported. The congregation, and in particular, John, had been there for me.

As I begin to begin this journey, I keep wondering what I'll be doing. As I just recently received my official title and work description- An Outreach & Communications Delegate for BorderLinks. I'm pretty excited about the work, the action, and the excitement concerning the situation. But this relationship with Lauren, and bearing witness to her own struggle, and wondering what I can do, remind me that that shouldn't be my primary approach to the experience. I need to remember her struggle and suffering, and Jesus' struggle and suffering, and remember to be a witness to the situation first. The relationships are primary and the rest will come. Without honest interpersonal interaction, the rest doesn't matter anyways.

In reference to the quote in the title- Michael Homan is the pastor at Lauren's church at school.

It's all about me.

The six volunteers from Grace Presbytery. From left to right- Adrienne (N Ireland), Tad (Chicago), Laura (Guatemala), Edward (N Ireland), Lauren (New Orleans), and me

Before boarding planes and heading off to the 16 different sites around the world, all of the 2010-2011 Young Adult Volunteers meet in Stony Point, NY for orientation. Being an obnoxiously proud Texan, I wondered what a retreat center in Noo Yo-ahk could be like. What could be inspiring about a place just an hour outside of the Big Apple.

In short: everything

In long:

Stony Point is, from what I can tell, a small town seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Even though Manhattan is less than an hour away from here, it seems like the lifestyles are worlds apart. I'm sitting under the shade of just one of the many green, beautiful and big trees around the campus. There's a small cemetery toward the back of the property, with graves dating back to the mid 1800s. What really floors me about this retreat center, and how it stands out to me against others, is its honest commitment to its mission. There are gardens throughout the property, with plots of squash, tomatoes, and more. Much of the food is cooked with the locally produced food. The center does a good job, no, an excellent job of using fresh, local, healthy ingredients and preparing the delicious and creative dishes from scratch. There is a family staying here that was homeless prior to being at Stony Point. Just another example of how Stony Point extends its mission beyond being a retreat center.

I began this post during orientation, but am finishing it now after a week in Tucson-

This is only the second time that all of the Young Adult Volunteers, both national and international, have had a joint orientation. As I'm about to embark on a year in Tucson, AZ, but regularly heading south to Mexico, I feel like the joint orientation was very successful. There were moments, even, where I really felt like the orientation could've been all about me. Rick Ufford-Chase, one of the founders of BorderLinks, is the director of Stony Point. There's a YAVA (Young Adult Volunteer Alumnus) here who served at BorderLinks in her year in Tucson. Throughout the week I was able to converse with those two and learn more about what is going on in Tucson, and the different obstacles and experiences each faced along the way. The orientation, altogether, was very well organized to get just the right amount of information in a good amount of time. By the time Monday the thirtieth got here, I was ready to get on that plane and head to whatever adventures await in Tucson.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No day but today...

A reflection of part of the experience in Stony Point, NY, for orientation.

Isaiah 44:19- "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow" (or maybe that was better said by Fleetwood Mac)

The first day of orientation, as outlined on our ever so thorough schedule, was discernment 101. I spent an entire 4 days discerning in Louisville, KY back in March. How on earth was there more to be done.

Hah. Little did I know...

Discernment 101 talked, again, about the notion of "being, not doing," and what that means as a part of being a Young Adult Volunteer. As Janet continued discussing aspects of our upcoming experience, and frames of mind by which to understand them, all I could think about was the song from the musical RENT- "No Day but Today." As she continued talking, and as we followed in discussion with our small groups, I could not escape the constant hum of that song in the background of my mind. The experience of being a YAV, as I'm told, largely releys on "being" and not "doing." I was told this 2,000+ times, or so it felt, during discernment weekend at Louisville Seminary. I heard it said so much that I never thought about what it meant. But, this Discernment 101 served to speak to me. I understand that a good portion of my upcoming year will not entirely be clear to me until I am stepping off of the bus in Nogales, Mexico, or leading a group for the first time, or really until I get comfortable in the placement in the first place. The experience will develop day to day.
As we split into our small groups and continued talking about different ways to be and not do, I continued hearing the words, notes, and verses of the song from RENT, as if it were on repeat.

"There is no future, there is no past, we live each moment like our last.

"Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.

"There's only us. There's only this. No day but today."

This is now the theme song for my upcoming year.

Choo Choo

One thing that is spectacular about this experience is the immediate sense of community it creates. Since arriving at Stony Point, I've felt comfortable, cared for, and at peace. I think of thin places- places where God's presence seems so near and touchable. Stony Point, like Montreat, Mo Ranch, and Lake Titicaca, is now a thin place for me. I really felt God touching me personally last night, sitting in my room with house mate and friend Jacob, and friend Laura. Yesterday, my Great Aunt passed away from a battle with pneumonia. She was 84 years old and died in peace. My cousin had let me know, and just after I found out I started telling stories about how my Great Aunt, about how at times she served like the perfect spice that made the family soup go from mild to delicious. About how she was a very strong and charismatic woman. I told stories like: when my cousins and I were little, we remembered our parents telling us about how she had been hit by a train. Well, when I was 4 years old hearing this, I didn't understand how she could survive an encounter like that with a train. But, she did.
Now, in the 20 years I'd known about my Great Aunt's accident, I'd never known if it was true, or what really happened. It had become a family Tall Tale.
Fast forward 20 years from the 4 year old me listening to the tall tale. I'm talking to my cousin Cindy about her mom, and that story comes up. I'm sure I'm missing some details here, but what I remember is that Aunt Betty was driving along in her 1969 car. This car had been her dream car, and sometime in the 70s or 80s she'd finally bought it. There was no stop light, no stop sign, no signal of an oncoming train. They collided on the tracks. She was saved by the sturdy, 1969 frame of her car. Instead of her car crushing around the train, like most of the modern cars at that time would have, it hit just in the right spot of the sturdy car, and the car spun off of the tracks, saving her life.

Just as I finished telling this story to Laura and Jacob, a train passed nearby and whistled.

Now everytime I hear a choo choo, I'll think of my Great Aunt Betty, and all the character that she brought to our family.

Thanks, God, for the thin places and choo choo trains.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Site Placement


check them out: www.borderlinks.org

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Check your worries at the door, please

A big part of being a Young Adult Volunteer, is being rather than doing. The phrase was used so much at Discernment week in March, that it became like a hum in the background. It stopped affecting me. But, as the moment approaches rapidly where I bid adieu to the 24 years calling Dallas home, I've began to ponder the what I've come to understand as the motto of YAV- "being not doing"

There have been moments since accepting my call to serve where I have worried about the upcoming year-
What will I be doing?
Will I like Tucson?
Can I get accustomed to riding a bike everywhere?
How will my five roomies and I get along?
What if I can't find good mexican food?
Who will I call when I get lost, since my two go-to people, Greer and Emily, won't know my city?
How do I make my mom's green beans without a pressure cooker?
Will I get arrested?
And more seriously and more importantly- will I get comfortable in the new experience?
Again, Matthew 6:34 rings in my head: "Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own." It was sitting at dinner the other day with a good friend when I felt a sense of calm overwhelm me. All of the sudden "being, not doing," began to make sense. I'd gotten back in town that day from two weeks in Montreat, and to say I was a bit tired would be quite an understatement. While I was excited to spend an evening with Greer and Brandon, I was worried I'd be too tired to be very lively at dinner. However, As soon as I saw them, it was as though I'd hit a second wind. We almost immediately fell into pace catching up on everything, chatting, and choosing the perfect pizza toppings. It was sitting across the table from them, just focusing on the conversation rather than all of my mental to-do lists, that I felt like things were falling into place as they should. I felt like the Big Guy Upstairs had worked through my friends to remind me of Matthew 6:34. To me, enjoying the moment and cultivating relationships is what I anticipate will be the cornerstone of this upcoming year. A year of "being rather than doing." I'll try to check my worries at the door, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back to the Beginning

And no, I don't mean Genesis or dinosaurs.

A few weeks ago I set off with the wonderful youth of PHPC as a sponsor for their annual trip to Montreat, North Carolina, for the senior high youth conference. We all piled into the charter bus to begin the two day trek east. Some may think a two day bus trip with 30 other people is not the best way to spend a Saturday evening, but I found it very much fun. There's really nothing else you can do when on a bus for so long but hang out, relax, put your feet up and literally enjoy the ride. We stopped overnight in Memphis, Tennesee (Now's the perfect place to insert my favorite pick-up line ever--> "are you from Memphis, because you're the only ten-I-see!"), enjoyed some DELICIOUS Corkey's barbeque to the near point of food coma, had some devotionals, and napped on the gym floor before taking off for another day of enjoying the ride. After a much anticipated journey, and a few stops and hang-ups along the way, we arrived safely to one of the most beautiful places in the world- Montreat, NC.

So here's where the title, "Back to the Beginning" comes into play. Throughout highschool and college, I toyed with the idea of longer term mission work, but pretty much just left it as a thought in the back of my mind. Maybe later, I'd tell myself. I'd develop some reason why right now didn't work. My favorite- "Let Oprah do it." (Check out the Maybe Later Campaign at www.youtube.com/watch?v-aYQy-0bz7tI for other awesome reasons to wait 'til later.) But last year, while sponsoring those wonderful youth I mentioned earlier at Montreat, I heard John Fife preach about his work in border ministry. It was sitting in Anderson Auditorium, surrounded by 1200 lost and found youth, that I felt like this preacher was speaking just to me. My trip this year to Montreat really re-grounded me in the push I felt to be a part of something bigger than me. A year has passed since I heard John speak about his work, and time has faded my memories of his specific stories and encounters. The one thing I do remember is his passion about his work. To me, he served as a model of how to love unconditionally, and to really love one's neighbor as oneself.
This year the theme of the conference was "In These Waters." Like the year prior, it was a fantastic conference. The keynoters, worship leaders, and leadership team all were amazing, and I felt like they really had a nack for connecting with their audience. There were metaphors for each day- flowing waters, troubled waters, water of life, calm waters; but for me in my too many years of attending, sponsoring, and small group leading at conferences, it has never been so much about the words said, but the actions they promote, the relationships that are formed, and the overall sense of purpose that is reconfirmed in all of the people attending the conference. That is why I continue to return as an adult sponsor, even if the conference isn't for me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Not only will I be living in a new place, I'll have some new cooking mates!

Here are some recipes that are coming with me/that we have tried as a YAV family:
Tried September 1, 2010. Somewhat successful

This recipe was developed after a long day, with the few ingredients we had around the house, in an attempt to quickly feed the six of us.

2 bags broccoli cuts (frozen)
lots of olive oil
6 cloves garlic
pasta shells/lasagna noodles (because that's what we had)

Boil water for shells. Cook the 12-14 minutes. While the shells are cooking, sautee the garlic and broccoli in the olive oil. Once the shells are cooked, drain, add your broccoli sauce creation. Enjoy!

Not sure how this was made, but we had a delicious cous-cous casserole. It combined cous-cous, brocoli, green beans, italian seasonings, and cheddar cheese.

I topped mine with some black beans and chili powder.


Sunday, July 11, 2010


Can be made out to Tucson YAVIM, and sent to:
Linda Marshal
716 S Lucinda Dr.
Tucson, AZ 85748

You can also send them, with my name and ECO number in the memo line, to the PCUSA office.

Halfway mark!

So in my experience with anything that is long term, which really just comes from (semi) long distance running and a previous year abroad, its the first half of the effort that is the most difficult. I guess you could say four years in college is a semi-long term adjustment as well. In the first half I find myself figuring out the routine (or in the case of running, the steps and adjusting to the surroundings and elements), growing accustomed to what is occuring, and building up momentum to stay in it for the long haul. In some ways, this has been the case with fundraising. The only other time I've really set out to raise money was selling Girl Scout Cookies and doing Fundraisers to offset the cost of other trips and experiences. I've done some fundraising here or there with other organizations, but never for something directly benefiting me; so, its been a learning experience. I am continually floored by the support and enthusiasm of my peers and people who have heard me speak about my upcoming experience. Its great to know so many people are energized about this upcoming year. I'm over halfway to my fundraising goal for the year already!

Yesterday, a few of my friends hosted a fundraising soiree benefitting me and another friend, Laura, who is going to be a YAV in Guatemala. What started out as a small get together turned into over 50 people coming out- and all to support the two of us! Another friend, Tad, who is going to Chicago, came to the fundraiser as well. It was a neat opportunity to share our stories with friends and acquantances, and to spread the word about what it means (or what we understand it to mean) to be a Young Adult Volunteer).

Check out Laura and Tad's blogs, which in just over a month will be updated with their respective adventures living the Gospel in Guatemala and Chicago, respectively.

Tad, a 2010-2011 YAV to be in Chicago--> http://thopp.blogspot.com/

Laura, a 2010-2011 YAV to be in Guatemala--> http://guatstheword.blogspot.com/

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Grace Presbytery, in the I think quarterly meeting, officially commissioned the six young adult volunteers in mission for the upcoming calendar year- Tad Hopp (Chicago), Edward Lewis (N Ireland), Lauren Rampy (New Orleans), Laura Amlin (Guatemala), Adrienne Stanley (N Ireland), and me! It was a really neat step on the journey of my upcoming year as a YAV in Tucson. Everyone I spoke to about Tucson was really supportive and excited about my upcoming experience there.

I'm so glad I made the journey to Temple, TX to attend the service and be recognized. It just makes it that much more official and real that the six of us are about to go off onto exciting adventures in being!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Flyer Highlights

Stevie Demarest
Young Adult Volunteer
Tucson, AZ 2010-2011
ECO# E051440

About Tucson
Population: 541,811
18.4 % of the population is below the poverty line

Contact Information

Ursuline Academy of Dallas, 2004
BA from Austin College, 2008
Major: Media Communications
Minors: Latin American Studies, Spanish

Church Affiliation
Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church
9800 Preston Road
Dallas, TX 75230

Why I Want to Serve as a YAV

I am embarking on a journey. In this next year of service with YAV I will experience new opportunities for growth, see the world in a different light, and be challenged in ways I have yet imagined. At a conference last summer I felt truly moved and inspired by the keynoter’s accounts of working in ministry in the Tucson border area. He described the dire situations, the struggles, and the hope the immigrants had in a better life in the United States. His stories of selfless compassion and living by the greatest commandment- “to love your neighbor as yourself” called to me. I wanted to be a part of this, and very soon I will be a part of this. I will be exploring the call of the gospel in the social and political realities of the border area.

How Can You Support Me? With…

• Your prayers: Pray for me and for the people with whom I will work this year.
• Your interests in my year of service: Follow my experience through my newsletters posted at www.pcusa.org/missionconnections, or through my blog at http://desertwindsyav.blogspot.com/. Also, please contact me with any questions or comments about my YAV year.
• Your financial gifts: Give a tax-deductible gift. Please consider pledging an amount, given as a one-time gift or in installments of the course of my year of service. Complete and return the Covenant of Support form to me. Checks, made out to The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) can be sent to Presbyterian Remittance Processing; P.O. Box 643700; Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. Be sure to put my name and ECO# in the memo! You may also give by credit-card at www.pcusa.org/give or www.pcusa.org/yav.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fundraising Update!

Donations are beginning to come in! I'm so excited that other people are supporting me. It's always uncomfortable asking for money. I feel like with this experience, its more a matter of sharing my story and the stories of other YAVs, and others will get interested. Prayers, thoughts, and the rest will come.
Thank you, PHPC Godspell (and Sunday School and the Bible) performances for so effectively teaching me:
"Don't worry about tomorrow, for today has enough worries of its own. Don't ask 'what am I to eat, what am I to drink'" Then, in the PHPC Godspell version, somebody asks "But what am I to eat" and in unison everyone replies

"Don't ask that!"

I now have another story to personify that verse to me- the thoughts and prayers and donations that are pouring in in support of my upcoming YAV year!

Thanks so much!

Friday, April 23, 2010


Hi friends.
In addition to your prayers while I'm abroad, I have fundraising goals. In the previous posts and mailings, I gave an address for the National YAV office. I ask that instead of sending financial donations there, you send them directly to the organization with which I'll be working, to avoid a 5% surcharge. Make them payable to Tucson YAV site, and mail them to
Linda Marshal
716 S. Lucinda Dr.
Tucson AZ, 85748

you would still write my name as a part of the memo line.

Thanks so much friends!

Fundraising Beginnings

I figured asking for money would be awkward, uncomfortable, and full of many blank responses, or responses such as "why would you do such a thing?"

But it hasn't been that way at all. I sent out quite a few mailings with a flyer (that is really pretty, and once I figure out how I'll show you what it looks like), and a letter explaining what I'm doing. The main purpose of me sending these flyers/letters wasn't to ask for money, I feel like that will come, but to spread the word about what this little group of young people is doing. I think YAV years, and other organizations/opportunities like it are pretty neat, but also like hidden gems. So now there are a good amount of people that know just a little more about my story about becoming a Young Adult Volunteer. Also, I have been completely floored as to the response. I've gotten so many texts, emails, phone calls, etc. asking for more details, saying they'll be thinking of me, and telling me about the donations they want to make!
I do think that in the letter, even after my five times reviewing it, I forgot to say what to do with the pledge form. Oops. Even with that not being on there, people are still going out of their way to figure out the details, and to support me! Also- if you're reading this thinking "man, I really thought Stevie would want me to know more about this, but I didn't get a flyer" just send me your address! I'll be sending another mailing out soon.

On another note... today marks FOUR MONTHS until we leave for NY for orientation. This is so exciting.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Perhaps a pretty flyer will entice you

Why I want to be a YAV:
I am embarking on a journey. In this next year of service with YAV I will experience new opportunities for growth, see the world in a different light, and be challenged in ways I have yet imagined. At a conference last summer I felt truly moved and inspired by the keynoter’s accounts of working in ministry in the Tucson border area. He described the dire situations, the struggles, and the hope the immigrants had in a better life in the United States. His stories of selfless compassion and living by the greatest commandment- “to love your neighbor as yourself” called to me. I wanted to be a part of this, and very soon I will be a part of this. I will be exploring the call of the gospel in the social and political realities of the border area.

How Can You Support Me? With…
• Your prayers: pray for me and for the people with whom I will work this year.
• Your interests in My Year of Service: Follow my experience through my newsletters posted at www.pcusa.org/missionconnections, or through my blog at http://desertwindsyav.blogspot.com/ (you're already here- bookmark me!)
• Your financial gifts: Give a tax-deductible gift. Please consider pledging an amount, given as a one-time gift or in installments of the course of my year of service. Complete and return the Covenant of Support form to me. Checks may be mailed to the address on the form, or you may give by credit-card online at www.pcusa.org/give or www.pcusa.org/yav

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The First Try

I'm about to officially "accept" my position to serve as a YAV in TUCSON, AZ for the 2010-2011 year. The official email is just moments from being sent. Tucson really feels like a good match for me. After a weekend in Louisville, KY, meeting other "yav-cans" and the site coordinators for the international sites, it became really clear to me that a lot of really neat stuff is happening world-wide. I knew I'd be happy at any of the 16 or 17 sites that there are. I already can't wait to be in the swing of things in Arizona, and read other YAVs blogs from other sites.